With all the change that has come our way the last few years, I decided in 2022 to pick three areas to focus on in which those changes have been particularly pronounced – AI, economics and finance, and geopolitics. And man – were there some fascinating reads in those categories!
It was a real challenge to narrow it down to a top 10, but here is a selection of great reads from a banner year!
It’s worth noting that, unlike in other years, I particularly prioritised recent releases, given how quickly things have been shifting since the pandemic in each of those three areas.
As always, leadership and fiction always play a role in my reading, and then there are a few miscellaneous reads.
Whether you’re looking for some books to delve into during holiday downtime, or interested in shaping up your 2023 reading list, I hope you find some intriguing selections below!
In no particular order, my top 10 reads from 2022 were –
(along with publishers’ intro text from Amazon)
1 – The Age of Unpeace: How Connectivity Causes Conflict (Mark Leonard – 2021)
“We thought connecting the world would bring lasting peace. Instead, it is driving us apart.
In the three decades since the end of the Cold War, global leaders have been working to create a connected world. They’ve integrated the world’s economy, transport and communications, breaking down borders in the hope of making war impossible. In doing so, they unwittingly created a formidable arsenal of weapons for new kinds of warfare.
Troublingly, we are now seeing rising conflict at every level, from individuals on social media all the way up to full-blown war in eastern Europe. The past decade has seen a new antagonism between the US, Russia and China; an inability to co-operate on global issues such as climate change and pandemic response; and a breakdown in the distinction between war and peace, as the theatre of conflict expands to include sanctions, cyberwar and the pressures of large migrant flows.”
2 – This is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality (Peter Pomerantsev – 2019)
“When information is a weapon, everyone is at war.
We live in a world of influence operations run amok, a world of dark ads, psy-ops, hacks, bots, soft facts, ISIS, Putin, trolls, Trump. We’ve lost not only our sense of peace and democracy – but our sense of what those words even mean.
As Peter Pomerantsev seeks to make sense of the disinformation age, he meets Twitter revolutionaries and pop-up populists, ‘behavioural change’ salesmen, Jihadi fan-boys, Identitarians, truth cops, and much more. Forty years after his dissident parents were pursued by the KGB, he finds the Kremlin re-emerging as a great propaganda power. His research takes him back to Russia – but the answers he finds there are surprising.”
3 – What We Owe Each Other: A New Social Contract (Minouche Shafik – 2021)
“What does society owe each of us? And what do we owe in return?
Our answer to these inescapable questions – known as the social contract – shapes our politics, economic systems and every stage of life, from raising children and going to school to finding work and growing old. Yet today, many believe that this contract is not working for them.
Economist Minouche Shafik examines societies across the world and demonstrates that the urgent challenges of technology, demography and climate require a major shift in priorities. This vision-changing book shows us the way to a new model that provides mutual security and opportunity – a social contract fit for the twenty-first century.”
4 – Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men (Caroline Criado Perez – 2019)
· Your phone is too big for your hand
· Your doctor prescribes a drug that is wrong for your body
· In a car accident you are 47% more likely to be injured.
If any of that sounds familiar, chances are you’re a woman.
From government policy and medical research, to technology, workplaces, and the media. Invisible Women reveals how in a world built for and by men we are systematically ignoring half of the population, often with disastrous consequences. Caroline Criado Perez brings together for the first time an impressive range of case studies, stories and new research from across the world that illustrate the hidden ways in which women are forgotten, and the profound impact this has on us all.”
5 – Madam Secretary: A Memoir (Madeleine Albright – 2013)
“A national bestseller on its first publication in 2003, Madam Secretary is the riveting personal story of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. For eight years, during Bill Clinton’s two presidential terms, Albright was an active participant in some of the most dramatic events of our time—from the pursuit of peace in the Middle East to NATO’s humanitarian intervention in Kosovo. In this thoughtful memoir, one of the most admired women in American history shares her remarkable story, including thoughts on her upbringing in Czechoslovakia and her role as a wife and mother, and provides an insider’s view on global affairs during this period of extraordinary turbulence.
Madam Secretary offers an inimitable blend of Albright’s warm humor, personal recollection, and riveting insight on events that shaped our nation and our world.”
6 – The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (Jonathan Haidt – 2012)
“Why can it sometimes feel as though half the population is living in a different moral universe? Why do ideas such as ‘fairness’ and ‘freedom’ mean such different things to different people? Why is it so hard to see things from another viewpoint? Why do we come to blows over politics and religion?
Jonathan Haidt reveals that we often find it hard to get along because our minds are hardwired to be moralistic, judgemental and self-righteous. He explores how morality evolved to enable us to form communities, and how moral values are not just about justice and equality – for some people authority, sanctity or loyalty matter more. Morality binds and blinds, but, using his own research, Haidt proves it is possible to liberate ourselves from the disputes that divide good people.”
7 – The Future of Money: How the Digital Revolution is Transforming Currencies and Finance (Eswar S. Prasad – 2021)
“A cutting-edge look at how accelerating financial change, from the end of cash to the rise of cryptocurrencies, will transform economies for better and worse.
We think we’ve seen financial innovation. We bank from laptops and buy coffee with the wave of a phone. But these are minor miracles compared with the dizzying experiments now underway around the globe, as businesses and governments alike embrace the possibilities of new financial technologies. As Eswar Prasad explains, the world of finance is at the threshold of major disruption that will affect corporations, bankers, states, and indeed all of us. The transformation of money will fundamentally rewrite how ordinary people live.
Above all, Prasad foresees the end of physical cash. The driving force won’t be phones or credit cards but rather central banks, spurred by the emergence of cryptocurrencies to develop their own, more stable digital currencies. Meanwhile, cryptocurrencies themselves will evolve unpredictably as global corporations like Facebook and Amazon join the game. The changes will be accompanied by snowballing innovations that are reshaping finance and have already begun to revolutionize how we invest, trade, insure, and manage risk.
Prasad shows how these and other changes will redefine the very concept of money, unbundling its traditional functions as a unit of account, medium of exchange, and store of value. The promise lies in greater efficiency and flexibility, increased sensitivity to the needs of diverse consumers, and improved market access for the unbanked. The risk is instability, lack of accountability, and erosion of privacy. A lucid, visionary work, The Future of Money shows how to maximize the best and guard against the worst of what is to come.”
8 – Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence (Kate Crawford – 2021)
“What happens when artificial intelligence saturates political life and depletes the planet? How is AI shaping our understanding of ourselves and our societies? In this book Kate Crawford reveals how this planetary network is fueling a shift toward undemocratic governance and increased racial, gender, and economic inequality. Drawing on more than a decade of research, award-winning science, and technology, Crawford reveals how AI is a technology of extraction: from the energy and minerals needed to build and sustain its infrastructure, to the exploited workers behind “automated” services, to the data AI collects from us.
Rather than taking a narrow focus on code and algorithms, Crawford offers us a political and a material perspective on what it takes to make artificial intelligence and where it goes wrong. While technical systems present a veneer of objectivity, they are always systems of power. This is an urgent account of what is at stake as technology companies use artificial intelligence to reshape the world.”
9 – Cheap Speech: How Disinformation Poisons Our Politics – and How to Cure it (Richard L. Hasen – 2022)
“With piercing insight into the current debates over free speech, censorship, and Big Tech’s responsibilities, Richard L. Hasen proposes legal and social measures to restore Americans’ access to reliable information on which democracy depends. In an era when quack COVID treatments and bizarre QAnon theories have entered mainstream, this book explains how to assure both freedom of ideas and a commitment to truth.”
10 – Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy (Cathy O’Neil – 2016)
“We live in the age of the algorithm. Increasingly, the decisions that affect our lives – where we go to school, whether we get a loan, how much we pay for insurance – are being made not by humans, but by mathematical models. In theory, this should lead to greater fairness: everyone is judged according to the same rules, and bias is eliminated.
And yet, as Cathy O’Neil reveals in this urgent and necessary book, the opposite is true. The models being used today are opaque, unregulated, and incontestable, even when they’re wrong. Most troubling, they reinforce discrimination. Tracing the arc of a person’s life, O’Neil exposes the black box models that shape our future, both as individuals and as a society. These “weapons of math destruction” score teachers and students, sort CVs, grant or deny loans, evaluate workers, target voters, and monitor our health.
O’Neil calls on modellers to take more responsibility for their algorithms and on policy makers to regulate their use. But in the end, it’s up to us to become more savvy about the models that govern our lives. This important book empowers us to ask the tough questions, uncover the truth, and demand change.”
And honourable mention to…
11. Gambling on Development: Why Some Countries Win and Others Lose (Stefan Dercon – 2022)
“In the last thirty years, the developing world has undergone tremendous changes. Overall, poverty has fallen, people live longer and healthier lives, and economies have been transformed. And yet many countries have simply missed the boat. Why have some countries prospered, while others have failed?
Stefan Dercon argues that the answer lies not in a specific set of policies, but rather in a key ‘development bargain’, whereby a country’s elites shift from protecting their own positions to gambling on a growth-based future. Despite the imperfections of such bargains, China is among the most striking recent success stories, along with Indonesia and more unlikely places, such as Bangladesh, Ghana and Ethiopia. Gambling on Development is about these winning efforts, in contrast to countries stuck in elite bargains leading nowhere.
Building on three decades’ experience across forty-odd countries, Dercon winds his narrative through Ebola in Sierra Leone, scandals in Malawi, beer factories in the DRC, mobile phone licences in Mozambique, and relief programmes behind enemy lines in South Sudan. Weaving together conversations with prime ministers, civil servants and ordinary people, this is a probing look at how development has been achieved across the world, and how to assist such successes.”
And here is the full list by category:
- The Algorithmic Leader: How to Be Smart When the Machines Are Smarter Than You (Mike Walsh – 2019)
- 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity (John C. Lennox – 2020)
- The Genius Makers: The Mavericks Who Brought AI to Google, Facebook, and the World (Cade Metz – 2021)
- Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans (Melanie Mitchell – 2019)
- Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men (Caroline Criado Perez – 2019)
- The Alignment Problem: Machine Learning and Human Values (Brian Christian – 2020)
- Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence (Kate Crawford – 2021)
- Futureproof: 9 Rules for Humans in the Age of Automation (Kevin Roose – 2021)
- Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy (Cathy O’Neil – 2016)
- AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order (Kai-Fu Lee – 2018)
Economics and Finance
- Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism (Mariana Mazzucato – 2021)
- She’s On The Money (Victoria Devine – 2021)
- I Will Teach You To Be Rich (Ramit Sethi – 2020)
- The Future of Money: How the Digital Revolution is Transforming Currencies and Finance (Eswar S. Prasad – 2021)
- What We Owe Each Other: A New Social Contract (Minouche Shafik – 2021)
- Gambling on Development: Why Some Countries Win and Others Lose (Stefan Dercon – 2022)
- The World For Sale: Money, Power and the Traders Who Barter the Earth’s Resources (Javier Blas and Jack Farchy – 2021)
- Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization (Branko Milanovic – 2016)
- Restarting the Future: How to Fix the Intangible Economy (Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake – 2022)
- Freakonomics: Revised and Expanded Edition (Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner – 2020)
- The Age of Unpeace: How Connectivity Causes Conflict (Mark Leonard – 2021)
- Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, The United States, and the World (Allison, Blackwill, and Wyne – 2013)
- This is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality (Peter Pomerantsev – 2019)
- Liberalism and Its Discontents (Francis Fukuyama – 2022)
- Dancing on Bones: History and Power in China, Russia and North Korea (Katie Stallard – 2022)
- Madam Secretary: A Memoir (Madeleine Albright – 2013)
- Fascism: A Warning (Madeleine Albright – 2018)
- The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (Jonathan Haidt – 2012)
- On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (Timothy Snyder – 2017)
- Cheap Speech: How Disinformation Poisons Our Politics – and How to Cure it (Richard L. Hasen – 2022)
- Managing Leadership Anxiety: Yours and Theirs (Steve Cuss – 2019)
- Liminal Thinking: Create the Change You Want By Changing the Way You Think (Dave Gray – 2016)
- A Non-Anxious Presence (Mark Sayers – 2022)
- How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie – 1936)
- The Power of Positive Thinking (Norman Vincent Peale – 1952)
- Holding the Calm: The Secret to Resolving Conflict and Defusing Tension (Hesha Abrams – 2022)
- The Power of Negative Thinking: And How it Can Be a Powerful Route to Joy, Success and Satisfaction (Oliver Burkeman – 2019)
- The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact (Chip Heath and Dan Heath – 2017)
- The Self-Aware Leader: Play to Your Strengths, Unleash Your Team (John C. Maxwell – 2021)
- Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team is Waiting For (Jonathan Raymond – 2016)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling – 1998) [re-read]
- Harry Potter and the Prison of Azkaban (J.K. Rowling – 1999) [re-read]
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J.K. Rowling – 2000) [re-read]
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling – 2003) [re-read]
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling – 2005) [re-read]
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling – 2007) [re-read]
- Anton Chekov’s Short Stories: A Selection (Anton Chekov)
- Leaf by Niggle (J.R.R. Tolkien – 1945)
- The School for Good Mothers (Jessamine Chan – 2022)
- The Enchanted Wood (Enid Blyton – 1939) [re-read]
- Will (Will Smith and Mark Manson – 2021)
- Vaxxers: A Pioneering Moment in Scientific History (Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green – 2021)
- How Happiness Happens (Max Lucado – 2019)
- Live No Lies (John Mark Comer – 2021)
- Forever Employable (Jeff Gothelf – 2020)
- Hero On A Mission: A Path to a Meaningful Life (Donald Miller – 2022)
- Marketing Made Simple (Donald Miller – 2020) [re-read]
You can find the lists from previous years here: