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Book recommendations from Fortune’s 40 under 40 in finance

September 8, 2020, 11:00 AM UTC

An examination of the character traits and challenges faced by four U.S. Presidents from one of America’s most prominent historians; a Wall Street Journal bestseller about the mysteries of group behavior; and one of the most influential books about the power of motivation.

Here is a selection of book recommendations from this year’s 40 Under 40 in finance.

Serve to Win by Novak Djokovic

The discipline, drive, and sacrifices required to win—and to consistently stay at the top—resonated with me in Novak Djokovic’s Serve to Win. I was struck by how analogous dedication and drive in the athletic world is to the business world. I think that people who mightily succeed in business are “corporate athletes.” Persistence, mental strength, and the will to never give up are must-haves. —Akshay Naheta, senior vice president, investments, SoftBank Group

Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin

To me, great books hit you at the right time with inspiring and enriching content. Last January I read Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin about the lives and challenges of four U.S. Presidents. (I’m a history geek.) She shows the parallels between the challenges each encountered, and the similar character traits and values it took each President to overcome them. This perspective on the fundamental principles of great leadership—the commitment to doing what’s right, even when it’s hard, and the deep responsibility for people—came just as COVID hit the world and our organization. I’ve been reflecting back on that book a lot over the past six months. —Nir Bar Dea, cohead of the investment engine, Bridgewater Associates

The End of Diversity As We Know It: Why Diversity Efforts Fail and How Leveraging Difference Can Succeed by Martin N. Davidson

The best book that has helped my career is The End of Diversity As We Know It by Martin N. Davidson. This book taught me that promoting and pursuing diversity in the workplace shouldn’t be a priority only because every it’s the right thing to do, but it should also be a priority because increasing diversity and inclusiveness ultimately makes the firm more competitive and successful over the long-term. I am the executive sponsor of our firm’s multicultural diversity and inclusion network, and I encourage all of the leaders to read this important book to help elevate our mission. —Paul Shoukry, chief financial officer, Raymond James

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

During my first job, our manager gave it to all the new analysts to read. I found its techniques of breaking dreams into goals, goals into tasks, and tasks tracked to completion extremely simple yet effective. What appears to be a very low-tech solution—when adhered to consistently and habitually—allowed me to keep track of all the threads going on at work and in life and dramatically decreased the likelihood of me dropping the ball, missing the deadline, remaking the same mistakes, or losing sight of where I’m going. It showed me that seemingly complex maneuvers can be nothing more than a sequence of simple steps, and made me that much more effective as a person. The best part: The method doesn’t ask you to accomplish something impossible like increasing your IQ or changing your personality, which may or may not even matter anyway; the method is something anyone could employ if he sets his mind to it, and it directly translates to more accomplishments every day. —Bill Pang, portfolio manager, Millennium Management

The First 90 Days, Updated and Expanded: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael D. Watkins

The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins has been an ongoing help in my career. It is a reminder of the importance of listening and learning when joining a new organization or taking on a new role. While solutions may seem obvious when you are new, I like to understand the organizational history and reasoning before identifying quick and longer-term wins. The First 90 Days provides a helpful framework for managing through a transition. I use it as a resource whenever I am making a transition, even within the same organization. I find it so helpful that I give a copy to everyone who becomes a manager in my organization. —Keia Cole, head of digital experience, MassMutual

Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, and Orlanda Ruthven

Portfolios of the Poor—a financial study of hundreds of families living in Bangladesh, India, and South Africa—was a game-changing read for me early in my career. It explained the mental models of money that heads of households must develop to navigate the reality of scarce income and limited cash flows. It clearly laid out the premise that Tala’s ethos builds upon: People who are poor lead thriving, nuanced financial lives that simply aren’t captured by the current financial system. Equipped with flexible access to liquidity and the right set of financial tools, these individuals can transcend poverty and catalyze global economic growth at the community level. —Shivani Siroya, founder and CEO, Tala

Who: Solve Your #1 Problem by Geoff Smart and Randy Street

I learned early in my career that every organization—large or small—is the sum of its people. Hiring the right team members is paramount. After navigating some classic pitfalls in an unstructured hiring process earlier in my career, reading this book about interview best practices was a paradigm shift for me. Today, I am grateful to work alongside an extraordinary team that is aligned in its values and mission to invest in diverse entrepreneurs from all across the country who are reimagining the future and helping to make the seemingly impossible, possible. —Anna Mason, partner, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund

The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future by Steve Case

This book covers how we are in the “third wave” of the Internet and why today’s technology entrepreneurs in particular are driving the transformation of how future generations will interact with technology. Additionally, he addresses the “rise of the rest” phenomenon, which is the idea that venture capital will gravitate toward cities that have not been the traditional tech hubs. Case actually visited Fattmerchant’s Orlando office during Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Road Trip. 

During his visit, he shared some statistics that struck a chord and ignited a new goal for my career: 75% of all venture capital goes to California, New York, and Massachusetts, and only 1% of capital goes to companies with minority female founders. I experienced this challenge firsthand as a female founder of a payment technology company, but hearing this number shook me to the core. I was able to defy these odds with a mix of a winning strategy, a great team on my side, and a healthy dose of relentlessness. But so many women face this struggle as well. I’ve made it my mission to help other women grow successful businesses and change the fact that less than 2% of female founders ever hit $1 million in revenue. —Suneera Madhani, founder and CEO, Fattmerchant

Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative by Edward R. Tufte

I read this book for the first time at Princeton and have implemented its teachings ever since. A simple, concise visual representation of information always helps to communicate information better than a complicated one, whether a drawing of a military plan or a draft of a company’s investor presentation. —Kyle Corcoran, executive director, technology investment banking, Morgan Stanley

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick M. Lencioni

It addresses some hurdles that may reduce efficiency in teams, despite being made up of highly talented individuals, and has been a source of inspiration. I especially like it because it is not full of bullshit advice like “hire the best.” Everyone realizes that, but how do you hire the best? This book is really concrete and helpful. —Sebastian Siemiatkowski, cofounder and CEO, Klarna

The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story by Michael Lewis

I read The New New Thing by Michael Lewis before I started at NEA over a decade ago, and coincidentally, I reread it recently. Despite coming out to the Bay Area for college, I had very little idea of the history and lore of Silicon Valley. When I first read it, it felt like such hyperbole, but it gave such a fascinating view of the driving force behind the innovation economy, the founders and teams building disruptive startups. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a great foundation for understanding that venture investing is all about the founders we support; they are the (complicated) heroes. It also helped that the book featured quite a few of my NEA partners that I have had the pleasure of working closely with! Now having been in the venture industry for over a dozen years and rereading the book, I realize that it wasn’t hyperbole at all. —Rick Yang, general partner, New Enterprise Associates

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

This book changed how I think about potential and growth—both in business and in life. It demonstrated to me why it is important to recognize that there are two mindsets—fixed and growth—and how important it is to orient around a growth mindset.

I witnessed this firsthand when I was studying for the GMATs to enter business school. On my first attempt, I didn’t practice at all. And unsurprisingly, I bombed the test. Luckily, I had my husband to remind me that I had taken quite the fixed mindset and I needed to work for it. I wasn’t bad at math or test-taking—I simply hadn’t tried. Needless to say, the next round (after much hard work) went much better. Similarly, as a first-time CEO, I often have to flex muscles I’ve never used before. Applying that growth mindset allows me to understand that jumping into something new or uncomfortable is not a bad thing. It is an opportunity to learn and grow. —Cameron Peake, cofounder and CEO, Azlo

The book that has helped me most in my career is Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck. This book emphasizes that nothing is fixed—not intelligence, not capacity, not skill set. Everything can grow and develop over time. Mindset reminded me that while certain things come easier, I can accomplish and learn anything with hard work and dedication. The book made me confident to take on new challenges and unforeseen opportunities, and has shaped the way I view my career. —Diana Avila, global head of banking and expansion, TransferWise

The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Living by Randy Komisar

A book that had a big impact on me was The Monk and the Riddle, written by Randy Komisar, a professor of mine at Stanford. It’s about life and approaching the topic of purpose. The book centers on the idea that there is no single path. It’s about the journey itself. It encourages the reader to ask “why” to challenge their motivations for doing something. He brings up the idea of an extended life plan—the concept that somehow people think we’re going to do something now that might not be good but will enable us to do what we want in the future. But that mindset replicated over time means one never gets to living the life they want. I read the book at a time in my life where I was very goal-oriented, and it gave me perspective that took many years to settle in and become a part of how I live. —Josh Reeves, cofounder and CEO, Gusto

Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

Start With Why illustrates how great leaders think alike and go about their approach in ways that are high impact and inspirational. I have found this approach to management and leadership incredibly helpful. —Chris Grose, managing director and COO, technology investment banking, JPMorgan Chase

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

The book explores why some countries are rich and others are poor. During my time living and working in Ghana, South Africa, and India, early in my career, Professor Diamond’s historical perspective on this question influenced a lot of my thinking on how countries might be able to generate economic transformations where there had historically been constraints. —Sarah Cannon, partner, Index Ventures

Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries by Safi Bahcall

A recent read that really resonated with me is Loonshots by Safi Bahcall. Particularly in my role pioneering new market structures, I find Bahcall’s insights—from comparing phase transitions in science, for example the process of a solid to liquid, to real-world business examples of firms transforming their markets—intriguingly relevant to innovation in the financial markets. Incumbent firms must exist in many phases concurrently, protecting their profitable business lines while also disrupting them to ensure their ability to thrive and grow in the future. —Amy Hong, managing director and head of market structure strategy for the global markets division, Goldman Sachs