Best Books of the First Quarter of 2021

Pretty sure I’ve read more books in the last three months than I have in my entire life. The infinite number of books that I can sink my teeth into at any given moment has definitely been a great comfort during this time. Photo by Seven Shooter on Unsplash

Best Books of the First Quarter of 2021

Pretty sure I’ve read more books in the last three months than I have in my entire life. The infinite number of books that I can sink my teeth into at any given moment has definitely been a great comfort during this time. I’m definitely more drawn to fiction, but have found as my startup picks up steam, I am at the bottom of an uphill battle to learn as much as I can (so as not to seem inept), which has led me to some great business books.

Fiction

Piranesi

Came across Piranesi when I was perusing the Women’s Prize for Fiction picks for this year. If you’re looking to be completely dropped into a world that is unfamiliar yet wildly intriguing, look no further than Piranesi. Though quite short for a fantasy novel, the protagonist is on the naïve side of sincere trundling along in a world that we piece together alongside him. I think the less you know about this book going in, the better, as it really is the element of surprise that makes it so magical. Unlike anything I’ve read in a really long time.

Transcendent Kingdom

Another Women’s Prize for Fiction nominee, Transcendent Kingdom was written by an author I’ve been following since Homegoing, which was one of my all time favourite debuts over the last few years. Transcendent Kingdom is about race, identity, family and the painful interplay between the three. It brought me to tears on several occasions. The novel follows Gifty a fifth-year neuroscience student at Stanford School of Medicine, as she studies reward-seeking behaviour in mice to understand addiction and depression after her brother’s death to opioid addiction a decade earlier. The writing is truly exquisite and I’ve found myself thinking about this book every week since.

Open Water

A good friend of mine tweeted about Open Water before it came out and the description led me to instantly preorder it and wait for its arrival with anticipation. Open Water is set in London and is about finding young black love, how it can take you by surprise and the difficulties in navigating the vulnerability required to sustain it. It reminded me how much I love books so clearly steeped in the London that I know and love. The music references littered throughout the book are stunning and here’s the official playlist, which I’d highly recommend.

Business

The Mom Test

Aside from Lean Startup, The Mom Test is the most recommended book to me since becoming a startup founder. Instinctually all business owners know that they should be talking to their customers. It's easy to get so excited about your own product and ask the wrong questions, which means that often these customer conversations do more harm than good. The author maintains that customer questions to ask are about your customers’ lives, problems, cares, goals and constraints. As Fitzpatrick astutely notes,

"It boils down to this. Your aren’t allowed to tell them what their problem is, and in turn, they aren’t allowed to tell you what to build. They own the problem and we own the solution."

Succinct and full of great insight, this book is a must-read for all startup founders at any point in their journey.

Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love

On a similar note to Mom Test, Inspired is about the disparity between run of the mill product teams and truly great product teams. The author, Cagan has extensive experience as a product leader at HP and Ebay and, it shows. Cagan provides extensive insight into how to effectively structure product teams. I do a deeper dive into this book in my latest blog here, if Inspired sounds like you’re cup of tea.


Overall this was a great few months of reading and I've been loving a few recommendations from the BookTube community to find new authors.

Here are a few channels I've been enjoying:

  1. Noelle Gallagher
  2. sunbeamsjess
  3. Jack Edwards

You can find some of my earnest and stream of consciousness Goodreads reviews here and my Twitter here.

See you on my next roundup in July.