Inspiring Innovation: 2020 Summer Reading List

The faculty, staff, and mentorship network at the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology have compiled a list of 10 fascinating and applicable summer 2020 reads for any innovator or entrepreneur!


(Looking for more reading? Check out our 2019 Summer Reading List!)

Artificial Intelligence: A Guide For Thinking Humans by Melanie Mitchell (Book Cover)

Artificial Intelligence: A Guide For Thinking Humans

By Melanie Mitchell


Recommended by Shomit Ghose, SCET industry fellow and lecturer


Melanie Mitchell separates fact from fiction in this sweeping examination of the current state of AI and how it is remaking our world. Mitchell answers some of the most urgent questions concerning AI today, while exploring the profound disconnect between the hype and the actual achievements in AI. 

Through her writing, Mitchell provides a clear sense of what the field has accomplished and how much further it has to go. This frank, lively book is an indispensable guide to understanding today’s AI, its quest for “human-level” intelligence, and its impact on the future for us all. A must-read for budding entrepreneurs trying to understand the future of our tech-enabled society!


Influential Product Manager by Ken Sandy (Book Cover)

Influential Product Manager

By Ken Sandy (UC Berkeley SCET Faculty)


Recommended by Stephen Torres, SCET industry fellow and lecturer


Ken Sandy, a 20-year veteran in the consumer internet industry, distills his experiences over the years into lessons that will empower entrepreneurs to act like pros when it comes to understanding: how to behave in different stages of the product life cycle, how to align teams in order to influence people, and how to navigate priorities, trade-offs, and key objectives to ensure product and start-up success.


“Every startup founder should read this book! Not only does it explain product management fundamentals, but it also dives into concepts, mindsets, actions, and behaviors that will help any founder as they search for product-market fit.” 

 Stephen Torres, SCET industry fellow and lecturer

The Black Swan (Book Cover)

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

By Nassim Nicholas Taleb


Recommended by Ricardo San Martin, Director of Alt. Meat X-Lab 


In his world-famous novel, renowned statistician Taleb analyses how the impact of black swan events (unpredictable and extremely rare events, such as the Wall Street crash, the internet, and most recently, COVID-19) is huge and how such events are impossible to predict. Yet, after a black swan event takes place, humans always try to rationalize it. Through his writing, Taleb persuades us to ignore the ‘experts’. This book is a must-read for everyone as it teaches us how to stop trying to predict everything, but to rather open our eyes and take advantage of such uncertainty. 

“I think one of our biggest limitations as humans is that we are unable to see what we are not used to seeing. This pandemic is a great example; not even the "experts" saw what was coming.

The book makes me reflect on how to deal with the unexpected. My quest is to learn ways to pay attention to apparently hidden signs that can tell us when a perfect storm is gathering.” 

– Ricardo San Martin, Director of Alt. Meat X-Lab

Talking To Strangers (book cover)

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know

By Malcolm Gladwell


Recommended by Stephen Torres, SCET industry fellow and lecturer


Through a series of encounters and misunderstandings – from history, psychology, and infamous legal cases – Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual adventure into the darker side of human nature, where strangers are never simple and misreading them can have disastrous consequences. An entrepreneur often encounters unforeseen circumstances and comes across dozens of new people – investors, co-founders, employees, and customers.

Gladwell uses stories of deceit and fatal errors to cast doubt on our strategies for dealing with the unknown, challenging us to rethink our thinking during uncertain times (such as the pandemic)! 

Innovation Engineering (Cover)

Innovation Engineering: A Practical Guide to Creating Anything New

By Ikhlaq Sidhu (UC Berkeley SCET Faculty)


Innovation Engineering is a practical guide to creating anything new - whether in a large firm, research lab, new venture or even in an innovative student project. As an executive, are you happy with the return on investment of your innovative projects? As an innovator, do you feel confident that you can navigate obstacles and achieve success with your innovative project?

The reality is that most innovation projects fail. The challenge in developing any new technology, application, or venture is that the innovator must be able to "execute while also learning". Innovation Engineering, developed and used at UC Berkeley, provides the tactical process, leadership, and behaviors necessary for successful innovation projects. This book is a must-read for entrepreneurs, who can apply this framework to make their start-ups a success!

The Ride of a Lifetime (Cover)

The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company

By Robert (Bob) Iger


Bob Iger, the CEO of the Walt Disney Company, pens a wonderful memoir of leadership and success. The executive chairman of Disney, Time’s 2019 businessperson of the year, shares the ideas and values he embraced during his fifteen years as CEO while reinventing one of the world’s most beloved companies and inspiring the people who bring the magic to life. 

Iger does a wonderful job of explaining what it is like to be a CEO: the struggles, the decisions, the constant worries. He also concludes the book with a list of what he calls “lessons to lead by”, which contain extremely perceptive pieces of advice for all budding entrepreneurs aspiring to create the biggest companies of the future! If you dream of being the CEO of a large company, this is a must-read!

That Will Never Work (Book Cover)

That will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea

By Marc Randolph 


Marc Randolph, the co-founder and first CEO of Netflix, reveals the incredible untold story of how Netflix went from concept to company. Randolph demystifies the world of Silicon Valley start-ups. He reveals the various ups and downs Netflix faced as a startup, and how he approached every obstacle and worked with his team to overcome it.

Randolph walks us through how his leadership helped create and define Netflix’s culture and laid the groundwork for revolutionizing how we consume media content. An engaging read that will engross any budding entrepreneur and innovator!

Good Economics for Hard Times (Book Cover)

Good Economics for Hard Times

By Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo 


Renowned MIT economists, Banerjee and Duflo, won the Nobel Prize in Economics last year. Their latest book talks about cutting-edge research in economics, but written in a way that makes economics accessible to the average person. Their latest book takes on inequality and political divisions by focusing on policy debates that are at the forefront in wealthy countries like the United States. Through the book, they make an extremely persuasive case for intelligent interventionism and a society built on compassion and respect.

It’s important for future founders to understand the current political-economic landscape of the world. Understanding inequality is a must so that entrepreneurs can invent products for everyone, not just the 1%.

The Infinite Game (Cover)

The Infinite Game

by Simon Sinek


Simon Sinek, New York Times bestselling author, applies game theory to explore how great businesses achieve long-lasting success. He argues that building long-term value and healthy, enduring growth (a.k.a. playing the infinite game) is the only thing that matters to your business. A must-read for budding entrepreneurs to understand how to build companies for the long-term and win the ‘infinite game’!

Moonwalking With Einstein (Cover)

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

by Joshua Foer


If you’re looking to work on a new skill, you could do worse than learning to memorize things. Foer is a science writer who got interested in how memory works, and why some people seem to have an amazing ability to recall facts. He takes you inside the U.S. Memory Championship—yes, that’s a real thing—and introduces you to the techniques that, amazingly, allowed him to win the contest one year. This book is a must-read for a future CEO who will have dozens of things on their plate and difficulty remembering everything that is going on!