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  • Writer's pictureMichael Goettler

2023 Holiday Reading List

2023 Holiday Reading List

With the holidays upon us, one of my favorite things to do alongside spending time with my family is reading about new and fascinating subjects or sometimes revisiting the world as seen through the eyes of one of my favorite authors. Literature is the closest thing we’ve invented as a species to simulating one’s lived experience, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m pleased to share a short roundup of the interesting perspectives I’ve come across in the past month.

The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race

#1 The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson

Not many objective fact-finders can compete with Walter Isaacson. The former CNN CEO, who became a household name when he published a best-selling monograph on Steve Jobs in 2011,  has also published books on Benjamin Franklin, Henry Kissinger, Albert Einstein, Elon Musk, and now Jennifer Doudna, in his latest book “The Codebreaker.”Doudna, a Chemistry Professor at UC Berkeley, and her research partner Emmanuelle Charpentier were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020 for their breakthrough invention of CRISPR, the “genetic scissors” that are key in developing potential genetic-editing treatments, including recently approved breakthrough treatments for sickle cell disease and potentially many more treatment and potential cures. 

One of the major ethical questions Isaacson raises in The Codebreaker is: “How can gene editing technology be used ethically and to the benefit of patients everywhere?” 

A great book and excellent food for thought about the future of Pharma for Good: The Codebreaker by Walter Isaacson.

Alexander the Great's Art of Strategy: The Timeless Leadership Lessons of History's Greatest Empire Builder

#2 Alexander the Great's Art of Strategy: The Timeless Leadership Lessons of History's Greatest Empire Builder by Partha Bose 

While watching the new Napoleon movie over the weekend, I was reminded of a book I read a few years ago and thought of revisiting another famous Western strategist and general, Alexander the Great.

By the time he was 30, Alexander the Great had defeated the Persian Empire and claimed a swathe of land that stretched from the Eastern brim of the Mediterranean to the Himalayas. Alexander the Great's Art of Strategy: The Timeless Leadership Lessons of History's Greatest Empire Builder by Partha Bose explains in detail not only how Alexander may have approached certain problems but also breaks down modern business leaders, media moguls, and tycoons who amassed fortunes and empires of their own by studying this legendary historical figure. 

Bose draws comparisons between Ted Turner’s media empire (the eccentric owner of CNN has a bronze bust of Alexander the Great in his office) to the battlefield decisions of  ‘Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf, the general who led the US to a swift strategic victory in the 1991 Gulf War. Other parallels to major business success stories include Dell, Walmart, and the Washington Post. Admittedly, this book isn’t hot off the press (2004) - yet I found it was still a great read to revisit, even though the world has changed much since the book’s publication, its strategy and leadership lessons are timeless. 

Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict with China

#3 Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict with China by Michael Beckley and Hal Brands

Today, 82% of Americans now hold an unfavorable opinion of China - the highest ever recorded by Gallup - who recently left China for some reason after that stat was published. From an unbiased standpoint, this book serves as a very good backdrop for one possible way things might go in the years ahead in Sino-US relations. 

In Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict with China, political scientists Hal Brands and Michael Beckley anticipate an increasingly hostile relationship between the US and its once-largest trading partner. This read should be taken with a grain of salt. It offers many compelling reasons that explain our trajectory with the Asian superpower in late 2022 and serves as a warning of a potential future, but that future certainly isn’t written in stone.


I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in reading about various perspectives on international relations. It offers a thought-provoking analysis of the tension between the two nations.

Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity

#4 Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity by Peter Attia, MD

How to live a longer, healthier life is a topic of interest among people of all ages, including myself as I am solidly in my 6th decade of life now. Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity by physician Peter Attia and co-author Bill Gifford is a valuable reminder to prioritize health – before it is too late. The book highlights how vital it is to be proactive in addressing health problems and finding the proper balance between health and life’s various pleasures. 

The authors outline health goals for each decade and touch on techniques for optimizing exercise, sleep, and tools to address emotional and mental health. Dr. Attia’s goal isn’t to tell readers what to do but instead to help them learn how to think about long-term health and create the best, personalized plan. One of my favorite aspects of the book was that it promotes the fact that our fates are not set in stone, and we can become anything we wish to be with the right plan and roadmap. 

This book is a valuable resource for anyone who feels the need to make a healthier lifestyle change and wishes to have access to effective resources to live a longer, happier, and healthier life. It is perfect timing as we all consider our New Year’s resolutions for 2024.

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