It’s time to pull on a big jumper, get a hot chocolate and find a reading nook asap. Autumn is bookworm season, so find some inspiration in what the ECI team are reading this season:
Just Kids, by Patti Smith
Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, is really a tale of the relationship between muse and artist. The book charts the course of her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and how they influenced each other throughout the trials and tribulations of trying to make it and remain true to themselves. You don’t need to be a big Patti Smith fan – and I certainly wasn’t before reading it – to find yourself enthralled by what it was like being in New York during the 60s and 70s, the hangover from the Warhol-era, and the ins and outs of the Chelsea Hotel. It’s a love letter to fashion as expression, to the creative impulse, to those that you lose, and to New York itself.
Native Son by Richard Wright
If you could somehow merge Brett Easton-Ellis’ American Psycho with Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, I imagine Native Son by Richard Wright would be the outcome. Written in 1940 and set in 1930s Chicago, the novel follows a young black man called Bigger looking for a way out of poverty, struggling not to succumb to the despair of his predicament. At times a tough and unsettling read, the novel paints a stark picture of racial tensions in Depression-era America and builds multi-faceted characters that feel eminently real and modern. Despite the terrible decisions Bigger makes, the reader is left wondering whether he really had autonomy – could Bigger have avoided his fate, or was he simply fulfilling white America’s collective expectation for a man of his standing (and race)? I haven’t read a novel for a long while which hooked me as much as Native Son did and left me so completely exhausted by the emotional rollercoaster it took me on.
How to Decide, By Annie Duke
Having read Duke’s first book, Thinking in Bets, back in 2020, I thought I would pick up this guide to making better choices. It will come as no surprise to my colleagues on the Commercial Team who joined me for Poker Night, that I have enjoyed the books of Duke, a former professional poker player and now decision scientist. While Thinking in Bets is all about thinking probabilistically, How to Decide does an effective job of laying out a practical guide for how to make better decisions in complex situations both personally and professionally. The guide is particularly helpful in considering biases and deploying tools and a framework that forces consideration of all facets of the decision to be made. It has great applicability to my role at ECI, and perhaps most importantly, keeps me a step ahead in the next Commercial Team poker game.
Women vs Capitalism, by Vicky Pryce
Subtitled, ‘Why we can’t have it all in a free market economy’, Pryce’s book looks at how free market capitalism is wired to prevent equality. An economist’s take on gender equality is fascinating, if a touch depressing, as it highlights that the most pressing issues around the pay gap, the glass ceiling and obstacles to women working, simply won’t be solved by market forces alone. Pryce evidences some areas which require intervention to be solved, such as women being penalised for having children in a way that men aren’t, ongoing bias due to hirers overvaluing traits like their own, and prevailing attitudes around women not wanting the same roles as men. While the book doesn’t provide any silver bullet, there are lots of suggestions such as a basic income to recognise work in the home, the importance of flexibility of work arrangements and the benefits of a quota system. Even sceptics would consider this book food for thought, and for the rest a potential call to arms for a future which can’t be left to simple market dynamics if progress is to be made.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin
I wouldn’t have normally picked up this book as it is based on something I don’t know very much about (video games!) but it was recommended by a friend who is a far more avid reader than me, so I decided to give it a go. It’s about two kids who meet in a hospital gaming room and the sense of escape that gaming gives them, and how they come together later in life to collaborate on a video game. Zevin is a very compelling storyteller and the book is an interesting commentary about the role of technology in our lives and how it interplays with the human connection. It also highlights the dynamic of creative collaborative relationships, the parallels with other relationships, and the excitement and challenges it brings.