10 good reads for 2024

My favorite books about tech and business

Peter A. McKay
4 min readJan 28, 2024
Photo by Tom Hermans via Unsplash

Sometimes you have to step back from day-to-day headlines to see the bigger picture. In that spirit, I have been meaning to share some book picks with you for a while.

So here we go. In no particular order, here are my 10 favorite titles that I’ve read over the past 12 months regarding technology and business:

  • Number Go Up by Zeke Faux: Since the Crypto Winter of 2022, there have been several books delving into what went wrong, the excesses that predated the collapse, and so on. This is one of the better ones, by an investigative reporter for Bloomberg News.
  • The Fiat Standard by Saifedean Ammous: This book is a followup to Ammous’s earlier touchstone, the Bitcoin Standard, which explored how and why bitcoin could someday become the basis of the global economy. With the Fiat Standard, he sort of turns the frame inside-out, exploring what’s wrong with the conventional money we use everday. In some ways, I think that approach might be even more compelling to newbies.
  • Easy Money by Ben McKenzie and Jacob Silverman: It’s no small statement to say this is an even more stridently crypto-skeptical take than Zeke Faux’s book. In this one, a TV actor and a financial journalist team up to explore the last bull market and the worst of its bad actors. While I don’t ultimately agree with the authors’ blanket dismissal of the industry, I do think books like this are worth a read to get outside our own echo chamber. It’s the only real way to understand the perceptions and very real obstacles to mass adoption that exist — and thus address them. Also, the part where the U.S. government rather ham-handedly tries to recruit the authors as informants was pretty entertaining. 😂
  • Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport: A great guide to engaging intentionally, not mindlessly, with our smartphones and other tech tools. Yes, they can enrich our lives in some ways. But sometimes you also need to put your phone down and go outside for a walk. Newport wants to help you strike that balance.
  • The Economic Weapon by Nicholas Mulder: A great history of how sanctions came to be used as an alternative to conventional warfare, beginning in earnest after World War I. That conflict was supposed to be “the war to end all wars,” with sanctions used afterward as a major tool that would supposedly prevent a repeat. But then we did eventually have a repeat, of course. Useful context for any present-day situation where sanctions are still used by the U.S. or other powers, often with mixed results at best.
  • There are No Accidents by Jessie Singer: Essentially a book-length rant we all probably need to hear. Singer points out that systems are designed on purpose by humans, who often consciously trade safety for cost savings on a spreadsheet. When such decisions result in real bloodshed later, is it really accurate to call that an “accident?”
  • Fire Weather by John Vaillant: Gripping narrative about a massive 2016 wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alberta, fueled by climate change. The town also happens to be an energy extraction boomtown, which puts it in the odd position of being both beneficiary and victim of fossil fuels. Bottom line: This is one of the best books I’ve ever read about climate or the energy industry, rivaled only by Daniel Yergin’s early-90s Pulitzer winner The Prize.
  • Traffic by Ben Smith: An insider-y look back at the early 2000s arms race in digital media among sites like HuffPost, Gawker, and BuzzFeed, where Smith was editor in chief. Fascinating and hilarious in places. Who knew Disney CEO Bob Iger could strategically drop an f-bomb like that?
  • Smart Brevity by Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen, and Roy Schwartz: A great book on effective written communication for our era of smartphones and short attention spans, by top leaders at the news site Axios. Their methods have applications well beyond journalism, though.
  • War at the Wall Street Journal by Sarah Ellison: Will admit I was extremely late to pick up this title, published in 2010, about Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of the venerable business newspaper in 2007. That’s because I was a Journal reporter at the time, so I lived through the event firsthand. Back then, who needed to wallow in it even more? For the sake of history, though, this book is excellent, with insanely thorough reporting. (Which didn’t surprise me, knowing the previous work of my old colleague Sarah Ellison.) Will essentially use this book as an FAQ in the future whenever friends and family ask me about the merger. My new standard answer will be: “Just read Sarah’s book.”

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Peter A. McKay

I publish #w3w, a newsletter about decentralization. Former Head of Content & Writer Development at Capsule Social. Other priors: WSJ, Washington Post, Vice.