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2023 Reading List

Shashi's learning journey through reading.

Introduction

My 2023 reading list was seeded with a large pile of recommendations from friends in my “usual genres” - business, innovation, science fiction. A change in my employment at the beginning of the year gave me a long sabbatical, which I used for a professional walkabout and to challenge myself in many directions. I read genres I’ve never attempted, including poetry, climate science, DEI, and politics. I read books to unlearn processes and habits that no longer served. And I read books to give myself a framework for what’s to come. Each has a section below.
My Reading Lists usually live on but Coda made it much simpler to build an interactive reading list and summarize the data. was subdivided by genre, showing each book has a summary card, rating, recommendation, and review. In 2023, I’m going to show you the most impactful books to me, by theme. We’ll end out with a section where you can browse all my books, or if you’re hardcore, check out the tab! You can read more of my writing on my website, !

TLDR

My Top Reads for 2023

The Neo-Generalist
by
Kenneth Mikkelsen
: An incredible book framing out how people like me migrate between Deep Specialist and Broad Generalist, depending on the project and context. This book is a framework for understanding Generalist careers and reframed how and why I work. Recommended by John Tigh and I highly recommend to any “switch hitter” out there.
Termination Shock
by
Neal Stephenson
: A wild primer on Climate Science told in Hard Science Fiction, as only Neal Stephenson could. You’ll learn more about the math and tech by examining a future where climate’s gone mostly wrong.
The Creative Act
by
Rick Rubin
: A philosophical guide to preparing yourself to channel creativity and give it to the world. It’s so good I rationed out its passages, as there will only ever be one first read.
The Promise of a Pencil
by
Adam Braun
: The journey of one man to make a difference, by opening schools to children who would otherwise never be touched by education. Deeply personal for me. Recommended by ChatGPT.
When McKinsey Comes to Town
by
Walt Bogdanich, Michael Forsythe
: A horrifying book about the damage McKinsey consultants have wrought upon the world. Every unethical practice you can think of from the past 30 years (outsized exec pay, insurance non-payouts, etc.) can be traced back to McKinsey influencing Corp Execs. Eye opening in every sense of the word.
Hidden Potential
by
Adam Grant
: Another amazing read by Adam Grant, this time focused on untapped potential in all of us. Learn how to spot and encourage its growth, with lots of tools/examples. Must-read for anyone interested in their own personal growth.
Making it So
by
Sir Patrick Stewart
: The personal history of the actor that brought one my personal heroes to life- Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise. His humble roots, troubled relationships, and deep passion for performance, are well known. Hearing the stories woven together in his own voice was incredible.
The Kuiper Belt Job
by
David D. Levine
: A heist novel by my friend David Levine. Unforgettable characters, a world in which humanity is easily space-faring, and adventure rolled into one. And an Indian Aunty main character. I loved every second of this book.
They Called us Enemy
by
George Takei
: A bio about George Takei, someone whom I respect greatly from the Star Trek pantheon. This graphic novel about his experience in Japanese internment camps was so harrowing, I couldn’t put it down. Very much recommended to those who feel “it can’t happen here.” It did.
I Seem to Be a Verb
by
Buckminster Fuller
: New in 1970, this rare art book was essentially Buckminster Fuller’s Myspace page. Wildly imaginative in format and content, you’ll find prescient messages and styles tucked into the oddest of places. Look for a “hidden message” written down the center of each page right side up and upside down. I learned of this book in a podcast of a startup founder.

TLDR: Show Me All the Covers

All the Details!

Want access to everything? Read on to see my insights.

By the Numbers

81
Completed
6
Abandoned ​
48
Owned by Me


21
Genres
5 Book Formats
8
Author-Friends

12088
Pages
10890
Minutes
(
181.5
hours)

megaphone
I am currently reading
0
books.
I experimented with more than one format, adding non-fiction graphic novels and more summaries on the Blinkist app. Sometimes I read books in more than one format to stoke my interest or to compound my time (listening while driving, for instance). Here’s the breakdown of my 2023 Reads by format:
2023 Books by Reading Format
2
In 2022, I read 12 genres. In 2023, I diversified to
21
genres, specifically adding art, poetry, education, DEI, and climate science. The latter two genres helped me on a learning journey for Board seats or employment. See the breakdown here:
2023 Books by Genre
2

Most Impactful by Theme

Innovators Bookshelf

For 2024, I’ve set a goal to become an author myself. I’ll be writing about my experiences in Corporate Innovation, writing the book I wish I had had when I started on that path in 2010. I keep a reading list, the , on my website. These six books will be added:
Strategic Business Transformation
by
Mohan Nair
: How to create lasting innovation as a servant leader, written by friend and mentor Mohan Nair. This is the missing manual to innovating with principle inside any large corporation. I’m looking forward to more by this author!
Disrupt Disruption
by
Pascal Finette
: Another great read for corporate innovators. How to spot potential disruption and navigate it. Lots of practical tips, to use in conjunction with other methods. I’d pair this with “Think Again” by Adam Grant.
The Neo-Generalist
by
Kenneth Mikkelsen
: An incredible book framing out how people like me migrate between Deep Specialist and Broad Generalist, depending on the project and context. This book is a framework for understanding Generalist careers and reframed how and why I work. Recommended by John Tigh and I highly recommend to any “switch hitter” out there.
Hidden Potential
by
Adam Grant
: Another amazing read by Adam Grant, this time focused on untapped potential in all of us. Learn how to spot and encourage its growth, with lots of tools/examples. Must-read for anyone interested in their own personal growth.
The Goal: Introduction to the Theory of Constraints
by
Dwight Jon Zimmerman, Dean Motter, Eliyahu Goldratt
: A graphical intro to the Theory of Constraints, a management philosophy positing that any system's performance is dictated by a few key constraints, and that effectively identifying and managing these bottlenecks is essential for significant improvement. Must-read for anyone tasked with continuous improvement.
I Seem to Be a Verb
by
Buckminster Fuller
: New in 1970, this rare art book was essentially Buckminster Fuller’s Myspace page. Wildly imaginative in format and content, you’ll find prescient messages and styles tucked into the oddest of places. Look for a “hidden message” written down the center of each page right side up and upside down. I learned of this book in a podcast of a startup founder.

All Things Octavia Butler

Early this year I discovered the works of Octavia E. Butler, whose body of science fiction works moved me deeply both in their epic scope, confrontation of body autonomy, afrofuturism and humanism. I learned her books Parable of the Sower and Kindred are staples of college Lit classes. I read 12 of her 14 books before learning she had passed in 2006. I’m saving Fledgling and Survivor for the future. I can’t put into words how much her works have affected me. Most of her work is science fiction literature on the order of A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller. I highly recommend her works to anyone who appreciates humanistic science fiction, less about mechanization than how far humankind may go.

Creative Fire

Early in 2023, I embarked on a professional sabbatical / walkabout to figure out what’s next. One outcome is that I wanted to restore my creative writing voice, which I lost during the pandemic. I had been speaking in Intel’s voice and TYE’s voice so much, I kind of forgot what I sounded like. Several books have guided me on this journey.
Conversations With Octavia Butler
by
Conseula Francis
documents a series of interviews with Octavia Butler, preserving some of her history and creative process. She had so much wisdom about how to write, but her mindset for getting started resonated with me. Ms. Butler envisioned an internal source of creativity, an internal well of ideas, filled by reading many diverse streams at once. She emphasized the necessity of actively creating with these inspirations to prevent stagnation- too much consumption leaves little energy for creation.
The Creative Act
by
Rick Rubin
pushed this notion further, suggesting artists are nature’s channel, and highlighting the importance of creating the right conditions for creativity. Complementing these,
The War of Art
by
Steven Pressfield
introduced me to the concept of Resistance, a force that impedes creative expression, teaching me to name and confront this obstacle.
You Are an Author: So Write Your Book Already
by
Matt Rudnitsky
challenged me to face Resistance and to actively channel my Creative Voice, to write a book in the short form, providing a curated list of tools and process. Lastly,
The Neo-Generalist
by
Kenneth Mikkelsen
gave me the vocabulary to explain how I operate with the flexibility of transitioning between specialization and generalism. Together, these books have significantly shifted my approach to overcoming writer’s block, embracing my neo-generalist tendencies, and the importance of tempering consumption with creation. In 2024, I’ll be focused on writing the book I needed early in my career, tentatively titled “Creating Unstoppable Innovation.”

Climate Science & Sustainability

To prepare for a job interview in Climate Tech Incubation, I read several books on Climate Science. If you’re interested in the key points, Greta Thunberg’s book is a collection of essays summarizing her key points about the size of the problem, holding leaders accountable, and the urgency of bold/transformative action. Fiery, but where was this coming from? A graphic novel I picked up,
Climate Changed: A Personal Journey through the Science
by
Philippe Squarzoni
, explains the facets of the compounding problems in visual format. This was both compelling and approachable- well worth the 4 hours needed to read it cover to cover.
Taking on the Plastics Crisis
by
Hannah Testa
was one young person’s experience and guide to taking action. To see fire turned into action underscored the conviction that GenZ has for the climate crisis. Politics aside, these three are excellent ways to learn the issues.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

I’ve been asked to take a leadership role in one of my Board positions. I realized I could name the issues, but I didn’t have a deep understanding of them. I asked for recommendations covering disability, gender, race, LGBTQ, foster experience, and corporate DEI programs. Couple of things to point out- The Pocket Change Collective published most of these books written by prominent DEI voices. They are quite short- less than 100 pages each- and provide a glimpse into the lives of marginalized people. My favorite was “Beyond the Gender Binary” an eloquent examination of gender fluidity. I gauge the quality of books partly by how uncomfortable they made me feel. This series delivered discomfort in spades. Read them to inhabit marginalized people’s lives, if for a moment.
Demystifying Disability
by
Emily Ladau
is singly one of the best books I’ve read on disability issues and perspectives. “Not about us, without us” is one of the most powerful mindsets I took from this.
DEI Deconstructed
by
Lilly Zheng
is the only one I didn’t finished. Lots of excellent vocabulary and frameworks but there was too much to actually implement. I put this aside for later.


What’s Next?

My yearly reading lists are a labor of love and self-education. You don’t have to read
90
books in one year to benefit, but you should start with some goals. Here’s what I do every year:
Set a goal to learn something new. This can be dabbling in a new field or to gain depth in something I already know or combine several things in one area. In 2023, I chose to learn about Climate Science and DEI.
Select 1-5 books to start
Choose one that already interests you, no matter the format. Graphic novels/Comics DO COUNT! I have several on my list!
Choose at least one book far outside your comfort zone. For me, this was poetry and psychology.
Ask for recommendations. I seek them out from friends, family, librarians, and other professionals.
Read, but also reflect. For 2 hours of reading, I spend at least 10 minutes reflecting and writing my thoughts. A great way to internalize what you read is to summarize or write the key points in your own words.
Setup a account to track your books and progress. You can track progress and write your thoughts as you go along. You’ll also get recommendations from Goodreads itself!
Bonus: Share your thoughts and reflections online. Writing is the best way to clarify your own thinking.
Bonus: If you want to create your own reading list, copy this document by clicking/tapping here: ​
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Reviews by Genre

If you got to this point, congratulations! There is a lot of material here :) This tool will allow you to parse my 2023 books by genre and rating. Have a look at all
90
books on my list. If you want to see the raw data, go to .
Select book genre(s) using this control.
NonFiction
+1
Filter by my personal rating (defaults to all):
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Want the highest-rated Innovation books? Slide here:

The Boys
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A memoir by Ron and Clint Howard and one of the most wholesome and positive books I read this year. Ron Howard has brought us iconic characters (Richie Cunningham, Opie) and movies (Field of Dreams, Apollo 13). Clint brought us so many troubled, quirky characters, including several favorites from Star Trek (Balok!). Film and performance are the Howard family business and this book describes in detail their father’s journey as a performer in westerns, then as mentor to Ron/Clint as they emerged as child actors, and to advisor as his kids took ever greater career leaps. There’s a bit of the usual drama - Clint was no angel and experienced his share of substance abuse - but on the whole the book is a lovingly written tribute to the family. Well worth a read to gain insight into the Howards and how they put principle first.


Octavia’s Brood
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I recently discovered OEB's work and inhaled it all in the span of four months. Big mistake- I'm left hungry for more of her work, that will never come. Reading the works of those inspired by her is a gift unto itself and this book delivered. Like any anthology, there were hits and misses. The hits- particularly Lalibela, Runway Blackout, Kafka's Last Laugh, and Aftermath - wormed their way into my psyche and asked me what I could be doing to effect change. My favorite piece was "The Only Lasting Truth" by Tananarive Due, which drew a thread between all of OEB's works and gave me a frame to discuss their importance and themes with friends. + The style and compositions were all different, but the thread of Change made each of these feel spiritually connected to OEB's work. + Discovering Levar Burton's own SciFi story was a special joy. + The essays made this book for me. - Some stories felt incomplete, like the first 50% of a larger narrative. That felt jarring.


Conversations With Octavia Butler
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I inhaled all except the last of Octavia Butler's works in early 2023 and then started on every book about her work and life. This collection of interviews over the course of her career covered much of the biographical material included in her books, but slowly revealed her motivations and world view. A few gems: + Writers must read a lot to "fill your well" of ideas, but must withdraw from that well occasionally. + Master writing about how you feel first, then write about real experience. That will prepare you to write how others feel about fictional experiences. + We have all these myths, and we believe in them without even recognizing they're there. We just act on them.. and that's liable to be our downfall. + Tolerance, like any aspect of peace, is forever a work in progress, never complete, and if we're as intelligent as we think, never abandoned. Put in the terms of Oliver Burkeman's Four Thousand Weeks, Tolerance should be everyone's atelic activity. - The only slight negative was the repetitiveness of some stories. Given the minimal editing, I suppose that's understandable. Mirroring her own life, the book ended abruptly and on a slightly sad note. I wish I had discovered her work when she was alive and when I could have sat with her for a conversation. This book left me longing for more of her work, which is no longer possible. A must-read for fans of her excellent work.


The Age of Selfishness
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Quick, easy read in three parts: an overview of Ayn Rand’s life, how her followers influenced US policy, and the ensuring chaos of the Financial crisis of 2008.
Ayn Rand pitted her social circle against each other in a terrible zero-sum game for her attention. This worldview embedded into Alan Greenspan.
Alan Greenspan rose to become the head of the Federal Reserve and brought Randian concepts into government policy. This resulted in the removal of long-standing banking regulations, which lead to “innovative financing” that resulted in the 2008 crash.
“The age of selfishness” began after the banks were re-capitalized with government funds. Gains were privatized, loss was made public. The final section deals with wealth disparity and how idealogical differences have become magnified as a result.
I’ve been reading a lot more nonfiction graphic novels to quickly spin up on subjects new to me.
The thread: Think Again - almost like an illustration for that book.


The Lady From the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick
⭐️⭐️⭐️
I abandoned this book because it isn’t really about Milicent Patrick, as much as the author’s obsessions with the former. The author uncovers tantalizing evidence that Ms. Patrick was the actual creator of the monster in the eponymous movie, but that material is sparse. This is really three books in one- a sparse bio of Milicent Patrick’s life, a memoir of the author’s journey in researching the book while becoming a filmmaker herself, and a scathing commentary on sexism (and credit stealing) in the movie industry. Until I understood this, I was frustrated by the book’s constant diversions. That said, my friend Carl recommended this book after having met the author. I loved the movie and was intrigued that there may have been more to the back story. I re-engaged with this book after reading other sources and primarily because I could listen to it in my car. I don’t think I would have given it another chance in print format, due to repetitive scathing commentary. What happened to Ms. Patrick was grossly unfair, but reading/listening to the same ideas phrased 15 ways was a little excessive for me.


The History of Science Fiction
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Searching for Indian Science Fiction Authors in the early 2000s (Samit Basu)
Where I learned I’m nowhere near as well-read in Science Fiction as I thought.
History- origin in the 19th Century, Pulp magazines (low-quality print/low-quality ideas?)
Exploring Inner spaces vs. Conflict
USA: Invasion
UK: Ideas / 1st Contact
History of publishing
Women in the last 20 pages
“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” - Philip K. Dick


The Promise of a Pencil
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Recommended
My friend Franck challenged me to find an author who has walked the path I want to walk. And to ask ChatGPT to find them for me. With a few simple prompts, ChatGPT recommended this book as the confluence of servant leadership, underserved communities, deep tech, and mentorship.


The Harvard Psychedelic Club: How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age for America
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I picked this up on a whim after it was suggested on Goodreads. This is one I couldn’t put down, largely because I already knew where it was heading, but was intensely curious who got us there and how.
Timothy Leary’s advocacy and antics put off structured research on therapeutic effects of LSD for an entire generation.
Weil and Smith exposed Leary and Alpert to elevate their own reputation. Betrayal?
Weil’s journey starts with best intentions and leads to hawking therapeutic products like infomercials.
Alpert’s journey takes him to discovering his own depravity and impostor syndrome through indian spirituality.
Smith was the least memorable of the four.
The author’s own journey and reasons for documenting the lives of these four men were given in the final chapter of the book. I found his own experiments with LSD and the effects on his life and motivation for writing this book almost more compelling than the larger than life figures he documented. I actually wanted much more of this.
Aldous Huxley was contemporary with all of these people and influenced the direction of their lives through introductions and support. Fascinating.
Overall a fun, engaging read. Knocked off a star because after a time it felt repetitive- not sure if that was due to writing style or just that the subjects kept getting into the same kinds of trouble or both. Take it for what you will. Worth a listen for those who are curious about the history of psilocybin and LSD experiments and why they are forbidden today (written in 2023).


Making it So
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Recommended
An honest, emotional look into Sir Patrick Stewart's rise to fame from humble roots in working-class Yorkshire. I picked up this book for love of his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Gurney Halleck, but loved hearing about his journey on stage in his own voice. + "The role is within you already. You just need to let it out." Sage advice for anyone experiencing impostor syndrome. + No big insights like you see in other memoirs, nor many life lessons. Initially I was left wondering what message he was conveying, but as he chained his experiences together, I built my own "lessons learned." Step outside yourself to discover a new truth. Take chances even if the value/ROI isn't clear. Nurture professional relationships into lifelong friendships, chosen family. + Learning about his pandemic Shakespearean sonnets was a revelation. - Chapters sometimes ended abruptly, with bizarre anecdotes.
It's fair to say I wanted this book to mostly be about the characters I loved. The reality is that those characters made Patrick Stewart famous and gave him the platform to perform on stage- his first and brightest love. Not all of us have the immense talent and skill, but we can all build such a platform, stitching together experiences that remove us from our personal comfort zones. This is well worth a read to see how Patrick Stewart did it. Do yourself a favor and get the audio book or Audible version. It's absolutely worth hearing this in his own voice.



Abandoned Reads

genre:
NonFiction
The Schoolhouse Gates

I picked this book up three years ago based on a podcast with the author. Starting with an intriguing premise- an examination of the modern school system at the intersection of education, legal rights, and technology - the author examines the role of schools in shaping the lives of students and the extent to which the law can limit or expand their rights. The book delves into landmark Supreme Court cases that have influenced the landscape of public education in the United States, analyzing their historical contexts, legal arguments, and implications for students and educators.
Driver raises crucial questions about the balance between school authority and individual liberties within educational institutions. From issues of free speech and expression to privacy rights and disciplinary measures, the author provokes educators to reflect on their responsibilities, boundaries, and the potential impact of their decisions on students' lives.
Through an exploration of significant court cases, such as Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District and Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, Driver emphasizes the importance of fostering an environment where students can engage in open dialogue, exercise their rights, and develop critical thinking skills. He encourages teachers to be cognizant of the power dynamics at play within the school system and to be mindful of how their actions can shape students' experiences and future prospects.
I abandoned this book because the writing style made reading it a chore, rather than a delight. I asked ChatGPT to summarize the important points above. I still believe this book contains important ideas. In the future, I’ll seek to learn from podcasts or direct author interaction rather than reading his long-form content.


genre:
Self Improvement
Failure Rules

Book about the author’s lived experiences with failure and rebounding. Lots of great stories from worlds I’ve never inhabited, but ultimately the advice was the same as I’ve heard elsewhere. I may revisit this later, but there are others I’d like to complete first.
Embrace failure
Learn from failure
Share your failure
Fail forward
Celebrate failure


genre:
Hard Science
Welcome to the Microbiome

I really wanted to like this book, but after finding two factual errors in the first chapter, I skimmed it and put it down. Other reviews call out good key learnings. I ended I using those to revisit specific passages in the book. This is the only reason I gave it three stars. + Lots of good information. Use other reviews to locate it. - Very little actionable information for anyone seeking to optimize their microbiome. - Poorly edited, with visible, glaring mistakes.




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