IMPACT magazine

What we’re reading: book recommendations from tech leaders

15 December 2021

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

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All We Can Save, edited by Ayana Johnson & Katherine K Wilkinson

Recommended by Professor Emma Johnston AO FTSE, Dean of Science at UNSW
A thoroughly inspiring anthology of more than 40 women’s writings about various aspects of the climate crisis. It’s got anger, courage, and solutions – almost everything we need to save all that we can.

Silence, by Thich Nhat Hanh

Recommended by Professor Alan Wong, winner of 2021 Clunies Ross Award for Innovation
This book talks about the importance of setting aside some time each day to not think about anything and let our minds rest. The simple practice of silence or “do nothing” can do a lot of good to our minds.

Under a White Sky, by Elizabeth Kolbert

Recommended by Adjunct Professor Leanne Kemp, Winner of the 2021 Clunies Ross Entrepreneur of the Year Award
A hopeful read about the future of humanity and how innovation plays a role in the next generation conscious understanding of the importance of community, planet and people.

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The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion; by Eliot Brown & Maureen Farrell

Recommended Dr Sarah Pearce FTSE, Low Telescope Director at the Square Kilometre Array
A fascinating book following how office company WeWork promoted itself as a tech start-up, rose to be worth tens of billions, and then fell as the marketing met reality.

Herding Cats Revisited, by Dr Geoff Garrett AO FTSE and Professor Graham Davies FTSE

Recommended by Professor Joanne Daly FTSE, Strategic Advisor at Datalytics
This light-hearted read gives sage advice on leading research teams and research institutions, and why they are rather different to other teams and institutions. Quotes and anecdotes make it fun to read and easy to dip in and out of. Recommended for any aspiring research leader.

Educated, by Tara Westover

Recommended by Professor Willy Zwaenepoel FTSE, Dean of Engineering at the University of Sydney
A must-read for anyone interested in furthering higher education for people from less privileged backgrounds, which also sheds a light on where Trumpism comes from.

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The Weirdest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous, by Joseph Henrich

Recommended by Richard Bolt FTSE, Principal at Nous Group
Who’d have thought that the Catholic Church’s marriage and family policies weakened kinship ties, grew individualism, seeded impersonal markets, and rewired our brains?

Billion dollar loser, by Reeves Wedeman

Recommended by Professor Hala Zreiqat AM FTSE FAA, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Sydney
This book questions the justice and equality of the illogical risk taken to establish startups in the US.

The Rock of Tanios, by Amin Maalouf

Recommended by Dr Anna El-Tahchy, winner of 2021 ICM Agrifood Award
What am I reading? Little Red Riding Hood was the first that came to my mind – I was reading it for the nth number of times to Luna, my three-year-old, to encourage her to sleep! But to be more professional, I recommend The Rock of Tanios by Amin Maalouf, out of nostalgia. It takes me back to the origin.

Fire Performance Analysis for Buildings, by Robert W Fitzgerald and Brian J Meacham

Recommended by Dr Kate Nguyen, winner of 2021 Batterham Medal for Engineering Excellence
For any professionals working with risk assessment of buildings relating to fire hazards. Like Anna, I also did think about my little one: she’s obsessed with The Elves and the Shoemaker and even asked if I can my change job from an engineer to a shoe designer! The CRC project I’m leading is upcycling cladding waste into products like shoes and prefab panels, so maybe one day I can make that pair of shoes for my daughter.