Read your way to greatness!

As summer approaches (I hope…) I thought it would be a great opportunity to write about a few books I have read this year that I think you might enjoy...

As summer approaches (I hope…) I thought it would be a great opportunity to write about a few books I have read this year that I think you might enjoy reading.  Hopefully, it’s not too late to request one or two perhaps for Christmas.

In my inbox on Monday, I received an email from the global consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, titled “2023 is a year for the (business) books”.  It went on to say “you won’t meet a successful leader who isn’t in constant pursuit of knowledge and personal development.  The best leaders consistently carve out time in their busy calendars to read—and you all should, too, if you have ambitions.”

Well, I know all readers of BusinessDesk are ambitious, here are a few of my best reads and why I think you should read them too.  At best, if the rain keeps on coming this summer, you’ll have something to do inside!

Elon Musk’s biography, by Walter Isaacson, needs no introduction as to what it’s about!  Remember the very same author wrote the famous biography of Apple’s Steve Jobs back in 2011 and has written about all sorts of famous people including Leonardo Da Vinci and Henry Kissinger.  Reading “Elon”, I was amazed to learn he has eleven children!  He is hands-off with his children which might be because his Father was tough on him / Elon while he was growing up.  He went to a special camp as a boy in South Africa that was like Lord of the Flies, and it clearly made a lasting impression on him.  Musk’s “demon mode” which according to the mother of three of his children, Grimes, is a mind-set that “causes a lot of chaos.”   She also insists that it allows him to get a lot of things done.

Speaking of getting things done, quite literally, “How Big Things Get Done” by Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner is an interesting book written by a consultant to a number of large project managers.  He writes about the Brooklyn brownstone apartment in Cobble Hill that started as a minor kitchen renovation that ended up costing the owner’s nearly US$1.3 million and caused them three years out of their house.  With the New Zealand highly inflated renovation market I’m sure many readers can relate.  At the end, he outlines a checklist of tips as to how you can avoid any problems relating to projects big or small.  These include good budgeting, opting for modular designs over 100% new and bespoke and hiring a great team of people to complete the task at hand.

“Chip Wars: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology” by Chris Miller came out last year but it was only this year that I finally had time to read.  Thank you Reuben from our trading desk for lending it to me!  I have to admit it’s rather heavy going and slow to start out but does give some fascinating insight into the development of the global semiconductor industry.  The sheer complexity of the supply chain is what fascinated me the most.  Many companies design chips, however, there is a much smaller pool of companies that actually produce these chips.  The key technology that is used in chip production is called lithography and only one company in the world makes the machines that can do this with the necessary precision: ASML.  In turn ASML does not make the components of these machines, so they have cultivated a network of firms across the world that only supply them and often are the only firm in the world that do what they do.

On the lighter side and probably my best read of the year, I read Michael Finkel’s remarkable tale of Stéphane Breitwieser, who is “perhaps the most successful and prolific art thief who has ever lived.”   “The Art Thief, A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession” is the story of a young Frenchman who stole works of art across Europe because…well, he fancied them and ended up with a treasure trove of artifacts valued at $2 billion!  His only tool was a Swiss army pocketknife.  What’s more, because he wasn’t trying to sell the works, he just loved living with them, it took investigators a long time to actually catch him.  And then once he was caught, his house had nothing in it when it was searched – many of the works were found in a nearby river or at the side of the motorway.

I listened to the audiobook of The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (of “A Gentlemen in Moscow” fame) that I highly recommend.  It’s a great yarn of a road trip from Nebraska to New York over the course of ten days in 1954. It certainly makes you want to jump in your Ford Mustang and go cruising across America.  And if you want something easy to read over summer which is a rollicking good tale, pick last year’s edition of #1 New York Times Bestselling author, Daniel Silva, Portrait of an Unknown Woman. I have read all of his books, but this edition chronicles the latest tale of Gabriel Allon, the part spy part art restorer and why it made such an impression is that it gives you graphic detail on all these amazing places in Europe and then New York and the Hamptons on the trail of an art forgery network.  You won’t want to put it down. I liked it so much, I gave it as a present to a private equity bigwig and was pleasantly surprised to hear she loved it too

So, there you have it, my list of great books to read over the summer.