2022 edition

What we’re reading: book recommendations from tech leaders

20 December 2022

On the hunt for an intriguing summer read? We asked some of Australia’s leading scientists, technologists and engineers for holiday book recommendations.

Girt by David Hunt

Recommended by Katherine Woodthorpe FTSE, President-elect of ATSE

A hilarious yet informative synopsis of Australian history which doesn’t paper over just how appalling the first British colonists were, but it will still have you laughing out loud.

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

Recommended by Cordelia Selomulya FTSE, Professor, School of Chemical Engineering and Associate Dean of Research, Faculty of Engineering, UNSW

I highly recommend getting the audiobook version as an immersive exercise on the message, which is partly about active listening and leaving preconceptions behind when interacting with strangers! Gladwell employs his extensive experience in running a successful podcast series (Revisionist History) to craft an engaging story-telling, touching on contemporary topics (the death of Sandra Bland, the trial of Amanda Knox, the Stanford rape case, etc) and historical case studies. Original audio clips, interspersed with re-enactments, are used to present his argument on why things unfolded the way they were. You may not be in complete agreement with all his takes, but it does offer interesting insights into how one may misconstrue another’s intent by ignoring context – social, cultural, or others, which can lead to devastating outcomes.

Converge by Dr Catherine Ball

Recommended by Dimity Dornan AO FTSE, Founder, Chair and Board Director, Bionics Queensland

Dr Catherine Ball has envisioned the future for our ‘Children of Tomorrow’. A leading scientific futurist and tech influencer, she has combined her considerable understanding of current technologies with predictions of where they are heading, and how these will shape our future. Dr Ball is global visioneer to the XPRIZE, an advisor to the Schmidt Ocean Institute and an Associate Professor at Australian National University. Dr Ball is adept at interesting young people in STEM and is a staunch advocate for women in science and technology. She is the founder of the highly popular World of Drones conference. I would recommend this book to everyone who cares about inspiring a generation of technologists and creating a wonderful future for all mankind.

The First Astronomers: How Indigenous Elders read the stars by Duane Hamacher with Elders and Knowledge Holders

Recommended by Professor Marcia Langton AO FTSE FASSA, Associate Provost, University of Melbourne

Between the covers of this extraordinary book is a detailed account of the science behind Indigenous star knowledge. Rarely is a book of such importance published. The idea that the only true science is that of Western thinking must be consigned to history. Those who read this book will understand why.

Transitioning to a Prosperous, Resilient and Carbon-Free Economy edited by Ken Baldwin and others

Recommended by Professor Ken Baldwin FTSE, Inaugural Director of the ANU Energy Change Institute

As a bit of a plug, I would recommend the book that we’ve just published with Cambridge University Press: a comprehensive manual for decisionmakers and policy leaders to address human-induced climate change, including both climate change mitigation and adaptation, with a forward by former Australian Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull.

Where You Are Is Not Who You Are by Ursula M Burns

Professor Karen Hapgood FTSE, Deputy Vice Chancellor Research, Swinburne University of Technology

Ursula was the first Black female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. This memoir of her life and working her way up from a mechanical engineer to the top of Xerox is fascinating. Her frank analysis on effective working culture and diversity is amazing.

The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell

Recommended by Dr Sue Keay FTSE, CEO of Robotics Lead at Oz Minerals and Chair of Robotics Australia

I’d recommend this for understanding some of the real-world challenges of adopting technology, and why a compelling vision and the “best” technology do not always meet with success.

Farmers or Hunter Gatherers? By Peter Sutton and Keryn Walshe

Dr Michael Robertson FTSE, Acting Director of Health & Biosecurity at CSIRO

A thoughtful critique of the Dark Emu debate by two experienced anthropologists that adds further richness to mainstream understanding of the relationship between First Nations people and landscape and food procurement. Dr James Johnson FTSE CEO of Geoscience Australia The Narrow Road to the Deep North Richard Flanagan This book comprises a set of sub-plots, stemming from the experiences of WWII Australian prisoners of war in Burma, that interweave perfectly at the end. One of the best novels I have read.