Desert Island Reads

At System1 we love books. We love them so much we went and wrote one – download the PDF for free here. So asking the team for the books that have been inspiring them lately seemed like a great idea.

Here are the recommendations we got. If you’re looking for inspiration for your next read, hopefully you’ll find something here. (And if you pop round for a meeting, ask to borrow our copies..!)

Gabriel Aleixo, Managing Director – LatAm

My suggestion is not really a light summer read, nor a new book, but I want to mention it as I really love this book:

Guns, Germs, and Steel  by Jared Diamond: This is a fascinating book that sets out to explain why the world we live in is the way it is. Prof. Diamond proves that environment, and pre-existing conditions played a massive role in shaping the way human civilization evolved. It debunks any racial or cultural theories with an impressive and vivid collection of facts, data, making sense of very complex sets of causes and effects that shaped our world.

John Bishop, Vice President

Frenemies (The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business and Everything Else) by Ken Auletta has been a fascinating read so far this summer!

Tom Ewing, Head Of Communications

The Mushroom At The End Of The World by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

Japanese foodies will pay thousands of dollars for good quality matsutake mushrooms. Tsing’s book is the story of how they get them. It’s also a book about supply chains, hustlers, environmental management and what happens to landscapes after big business abandons them. Sometimes fascinating, sometimes frustrating, but highly original.

Will Goodhand, Commercial Director

The Anatomy of Humbug by Paul Feldwick

Explains how we’ve got to where we’ve got to with advertising and advertising research. The meta story is the dominance of System 1 in everyone’s behaviour never mind their methods!

How Not to Plan by Les Binet & Sarah Carter

This is not just how to plan, it’s how to do marketing full stop. Rammed with common sense and debunking nonsense whether it comes from pseudoscientific pedants or bullshit-bingo-playing stakeholders (if ‘stakeholder’ isn’t already on the bingo card!).

Eleanor Harrison, Senior Associate

Outliers by Macolm Gladwell

One of the most interesting books  I’ve ever read. Based on the idea that true “outliers”, or people who enjoy success in their chosen field (be it sport, business, etc), are people whose circumstances and context have enabled them to excel. The book is made up of different stories explaining how birth dates, the economy, culture and ethnicity all contribute towards being an outlier. It also gives examples of how these things can create negative outliers.

Colin Jenkinson, Creative Director

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Knight

The crazy journey of how Nike was built in the early years between 1962 – 1980. Written with Knight’s shyness and single-minded belief to make it happen at any cost. Showing what it takes to build one the world’s most successful and emotional brands.

John Kearon, CEO

Best business book I’ve read recently – so much so I gave a copy to each of the Leadership Team and the Board. ‘Sensibility-warning’, it’s very West Coast Vulture-Capital in tone [still good though, if you can aim-off for that] – ‘The Hard Thing about Hard Things’ by Ben Horowitz

Celia Nishio, Senior Client Director

Lately the one for me was Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It is curious and interesting while giving me a wider perspective of how human beings evolved through physical, cultural and at the end System 1 way (even not saying any word related to System1!).

Mike Riley , Vice President

Out of Our Minds by Ken Robinson – A well written and enjoyable read with tons of great stories that also makes a profound and powerful argument for rethinking education for a world that needs to unlock each person’s creative talents.

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt – Great blend of psychology/BE with politics and morality.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini – Written way before the behavioral economics boom, this book lays out a lot of the key findings of the young field in an approachable and applicable way.

Jocelyn Simon, Vice President, Head of Innovation

I’ve always liked “Switch” by Chip and Dan Heath and recommend it as the footnotes version of Thinking Fast and Slow (since that book is notoriously difficult to get through!). It’s really great at illustrating the main principles of S1 thinking.

I’m also reading “Shoe Dog” which is the biography of Phil Knight, creator of Nike. A good reminder that “business is war without bullets” and “you get remembered by the rules you break”!

Cheng Wee Wang, Senior Client Manager

Sapiens! (by Yuval Noah Harari) It’s a great conversation starter given how popular it is at the moment, but also, it’s highly relevant to anyone and makes you question the things you always assumed were true or ‘just is’.

Orlando Wood, CIO

I’m devouring Hit Makers by Derek Thompson – “the science of popularity in an age of distraction”. It’s full of fascinating anecdotes and examples of how popular things got that way. More often than not, the answer is Fluency – something about them felt familiar or easy to ‘get’. A great popular science book – expect a full write-up later.


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