Gift Guide: The best non-business books for 2021 recommended by VCs

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We’re huge reads here at Nerdshala, which means we love collecting yearbook recommendations and sharing them with you all.

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Left Folding For With Our Own Danny Crichton more luxurious pasture, the Exchange crew decided to take over the task of collecting and sharing book suggestions this year. To collect a broad sample, we asked venture capitalists to share their favorites from the year — not only the books, minds they wrote this year, but what they read in 2021, they wanted to shout out — and split the list into two parts. divided.

Today we are discussing those books whose main focus is not on business. Tomorrow, we’ll flip the script and consider recommendations that are business-focused. Today there is a loose fiction focus, and tomorrow a nonfiction focus, but segmentation by content type wound up being the most sensible way to parse our collected recs into two neat parts.


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In all, we had over 80 unique recommendations, with many titles receiving more than one approval. It may not surprise you to learn that some science fiction titles were popular with the technology investing crew.

Before we get to the list, a note that next year we’ll be asking founders to contribute. This year, we approached data collection in a somewhat ad hoc manner. Next year, we will be smart, create a form and let more people join in.

Regardless, let’s talk about the best non-business books from some of the more influential business people in the startup industry. (Plus, the exchange will be paywall-free today and tomorrow so everyone can read. You can still sign up for Nerdshala+ to continue reading the exchange through Friday.)

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Most Recommended Non-Commercial Books of 2021

There was less overlap than we anticipated, but we found some common notes. Let’s start with them:

Project Hail Mary, by Andy Veiro

From the author of “The Martian” (very good) and “Artemis” (also very good), “Project Hail Mary” is a science-fiction romp that includes the things Weir is known for in his previous projects, namely the problem. Solution and Space. If you liked “The Martian,” you’ll dig “Project Hail Mary.”

With regard to the recommendations, Jake Chapman, a managing partner at Alpha Bridge Ventures; Zach Koelius, a managing partner at Coelius Capital; And ted dillonAll approved, an operating partner of Clean Energy Ventures.

four winds And Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The final titles in our Most Recommended section come from a single author. Investor of Costanoa Ventures amy cheatham We have been given two selections from the same author, so we are including them here as a pair. Both are historical novels, which are bound to impress you in one way or the other.

According to the author’s website, “Nightingale” is being turned into a film, and has appeared on several bestseller lists. While we are not familiar with her work, Cheetham has given us a writer we were hoping to uncover with this project.

Recommendations we can support

Next, let’s dig into the books that received single recommendations from venture capitalists, but that we’ve read ourselves and can therefore support.

on writingby Stephen King

Vertex Ventures’ Tessa Cheno She lends her support to “On Writing”, saying it is “an oldie but goodie” that she has read several times and that “the people writing in our portfolio” read too.

As a living writer, we can confirm that “On Writing” is a good read. It is challenging in the sense that it demands the reader choose an example of how to approach it in a rule-breaking manner. If you want to be a better writer, and therefore a communicator, it is worth every minute you can give it.

Similarly, Mark Forsyth’s “Elements of eloquence” – Recommended by Dillon – probably worth consuming.

pieces of earthby Adrian Tchaikovsky

Sandhya Hegde, a general partner of Unusual Ventures, has sent this recommendation. Alex recently read the book after becoming acquainted with Tchaikovsky for its “Children of Time” and “Children of Ruin” titles.

“Shards of Earth” is cool in that it brings new flavors to the space opera genre. If you enjoy space romps that take the reader through civilizations and star systems, you’ll love the book. But the concept of art plays a bigger role than you might expect, giving the book’s detractors a different period than the worst in the realm of science fiction.

broken earth trilogy, by NK Jamesin

By this point, you may have had some of Gemini’s work, as her profile has grown quite a bit in recent years. His “Legacy Trilogy” is straight-up magic, as is his collection of short stories, “How Long Is ‘Black Future Month?”

But his perhaps best work is the “Broken Earth Trilogy”, recommended by Redpoint. Emily Mann, Imagine a world where the planet itself is a rival, and where magic and technology mix so intensely that we can’t remember reading anywhere else. The books are worth buying as a trio and binge. Don’t just put social events on your calendar. Once you start the chain, you won’t want to do anything else.

Pearl, by John Steinbeck

Thanks to Techstars kevin liu To recommend “The Pearl,” gave us a chance to wax about Steinbeck. While we’re most familiar with “Canary Row” and “Tortilla Flat,” there’s no need to stick to their lighter works—nor the great film adaptations of “East of Eden” and “Of Mice and Men.”

Given its central theme of greed, “The Pearl” is a good entry for this list. Which, you know, is a very important part of investing.

three-body problem, by Cixin Liu

Eclipse Ventures Partner Jason Canafelli Tossed it into the mix. Honestly, you should read the entire “Reminiscences of Earth’s Past” trilogy, of which “The Three-Body Problem” is the first work.

The saga goes to the question of first contact, species protection, we can take science to a day or more. The first book is amazing. The second book in the series spends time asking questions about humanity itself, while the third book plunges the reader into the strange that it becomes almost philosophical at times. That said, the final book in the series, “Death’s End,” is one of Alex’s favorite books, period. It’s just flat-out bonkers good.

a man called Owe, by Frederick Backman

We are adding our support to this particular title, noting that one of our peers read and liked it. So, here’s another vote with Aziz Gilani of Mercury Fund Nodding your head and agreeing.

“Owe” is not a book about a happy person, the mind; It’s about a thunderbolt. But that fact doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, we admit. Given the popularity of this book, you can find a copy of it almost anywhere.

ready playerby Ernest Cline

Here was a surprise! Brian Ascher of Venrock threw “Ready Player Two” into the mix, which made us sit back and remember what happened when we read “Ready Player One,” a book that’s Metaverse-y and long ago even made into a movie. You can skip the movie.

Regardless, Asher cited the book’s “illustration of AI and neural links” as “very current”, adding that “apparently Mark Zuckerberg also liked the book.”

While “Ready Player One” had some problems, it has become a book that many people have read. So, in terms of cultural significance, perhaps “Ready Player Two” would reach a similar position. That means we should probably read it.

missing half, by Britt Bennett

one more Cheetham Recommendation, Alex read it as part of a book club. The book centers around twins, race, and America’s failures to move beyond its racist roots as a nation. If you want to see the world from a different perspective then this is a time worth reading.

the coverby Eliot Peppero

Vote through veil hawker, who also liked “Project Hail Mary”. So you will not be surprised to know that it is also in the science-fiction genre. To tackle climate change and politics, “Veil” is an interesting attempt at a future, but one that is Earth-centric. Don’t expect warp drive.

You may know the paper from their active social media accounts. Frankly, since reading “The Veil,” Alex has meant reading more papers, so consider this little blurb a reminder of her to do so.

Other Recommended Non-Commercial Books

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