Summer’s here, bringing long days, warm nights, and hopefully some downtime to catch up on relaxing reads or learn something new. If you’re looking for something fun, or a bit more business-minded, to read, watch, or listen to, a16z’s Fintech partners have put together a list of recommendations, which span recent hits to older hidden gems.
Partner Marc Andrusko recommends Trust, Hernan Diaz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2022 novel that weaves together four disparate narratives that revolve around the publication of Bonds, a successful novel by a 1930s Wall Street tycoon. He also recommends The Anthropocene Reviewed, author John Green’s 2021 nonfiction collection of essays seeking to dole out star ratings for our current geological era and humankind’s activities within it. Topics include the Taco Bell breakfast menu, Canada geese, and the QWERTY keyboard.
General Partner Anish Acharya recommends Intellectuals and Society, a 2012 philosophical work from Thomas Sowell that examines the true social, political and cultural impact of intellectuals and the incentives that guide their thinking. For fun, he recommends Stephen King’s 2022 novel Fairy Tale, which follows 17-year-old Charlie as he learns his elderly neighbor’s shed hides a portal to another world.
General Partner David Haber recommends 2021’s nonfiction history The Last Kings of Shanghai, which explores two Jewish families who migrated to Shanghai from Baghdad in the early 19th century and helped set the stage for China’s present place in the world.
General Partner Angela Strange recommends Moneyland, investigative journalist Oliver Bullough’s 2019 nonfiction book about how the world’s elite (and criminal enterprises) launder money—and how they are abetted by both countries and states that purposefully design obfuscated financial structures to generate revenue for themselves, as well as the unintended consequences of legal systems (in countries that might surprise you). The book leaves you with a better appreciation of why, despite so much investment, so few money launderers are actually caught.
Partner Seema Amble recommends 2016’s Narconomics, an eye-opening nonfiction book by Tom Wainwright that dives deep into the economics of the drug trade, from Andean cocaine fields to Colorado pot shops. Seema also recommends Genius Makers: The Mavericks Who Brought AI to Google, Facebook, and the World, Cade Metz’s 2021 book that uncovers how artificial intelligence went from a niche research topic to widespread integration in many of the platforms and services we use every day.
Partner Gabriel Vasquez recommends Discipline is Destiny: The Power of Self-Control, the second book of author Ryan Holiday’s Stoic Virtue series. Published last year, Holiday’s book uses historical examples and cautionary tales to outline the benefits and personal well being that can come with achieving self-discipline.
Partner Joe Schmidt recommends the 2013 nonfiction book The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters, which tells the story of the few wildcatters who staked their careers on the potential they saw in fracking, as well as Sam Walton: Made in America, the 1993 biography of the founder of Wal-Mart.
Marc Andrusko recommends the podcast Founders, hosted by David Senra. Every week, Senra reads the biography of an influential entrepreneur, like Bernard Arnault or Andrew Carnegie, and finds actionable ideas listeners can use in their own endeavors. For a lighter listen, Marc also recommends the podcast SmartLess, which is co-hosted by the actors Sean Hayes, Will Arnett, and Jason Bateman. Each episode features a mystery guest invited by one of the hosts to share stories, advice, or some improvised humor.
Gabriel Vasquez recommends Revolutions, a podcast from Mike Duncan that delves into the political revolutions that have shaped our world. Though Duncan hasn’t released new episodes in a while, years of podcasts, and many different revolutions, are still available.
David Haber recommends watching the “State of GPT,” an explainer video with OpenAI Researcher and Founding Member Andrej Karpathy, from May’s Microsoft Build conference. The session breaks down how ChatGPT and GPT models in general work. For a less-technical, more old-school watch, he recommends The Old Man, an FX on Hulu thriller that stars Jeff Bridges as an on-the-run ex-CIA operative being chased by John Lithgow’s FBI Assistant Director.
Seema Amble recommends The Night Manager, a 2016 limited series adaptation of a John le Carre novel, in which a night manager at a luxury hotel in Egypt (Tom Hiddleston) is recruited to infiltrate an arms dealer’s inner circle. Seema also recommends Fauda, a 2015 action show created by Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff that they based off of their experiences in the Israeli Defense Force. It follows a unit commander and his team, racing to head off impending terrorist threats amid interpersonal drama.
David Haber, Seema Amble, and Joe Schmidt all recommend Net Interest, a weekly newsletter written by former analyst and hedge fund manager Marc Rubinstein that covers trending topics in fintech, banks, investing, and other areas of finance. In particular, Joe recommends two specific editions of Net Interest: an in-depth exploration of investor Charles Schwab, and a deep dive into mortgage fintech company ICE.
Gabriel Vasquez recommends The Diff, a tech and finance newsletter written by Byrne Hobart and Darius Mortazavi that showcases a notable company, event, or trend every week. Each post includes five links to stories that help illustrate long-term trends.
Marc Andrusko recommends Through the Noise, a newsletter written by Alex Banks that aims to help readers get smarter on AI, startups, and capital. He provides examinations of companies and business practices, along with analysis of the firehose of tech news.
Whether you’re an AI neophyte or expert, we recommend checking out a16z’s AI Canon, a curated list of papers, blog posts, courses, and other resources we’ve relied on to get smarter about modern AI.
We also recommend reading the first two installments of our series on how fintech companies can simplify their funding strategy, as well as our deep dive into the credit landscape of Brazil and our frameworks for how fintech companies should think about pricing at different stages, the tradeoffs to consider as pricing evolves, and how to assess whether your pricing model is working.