Best Books of 2023: SX Speaker Series

Every week in our Conference Community Newsletter (CCN), we mine the minds of some of the best and brightest speakers headed to Austin in March.

Covering a wide range of topics, including thoughts on the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), this series gives the SXSW community an inside view into what our participants are thinking.

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Since it’s time for year-end lists, here’s what some of our favorite speakers had to say on the best book they read over the last year:

Dr. Alex Schnell | Nat Geo Women Who Run the (Storytelling) World
"Still Life by Sarah Winman stood out in the past 13 months for its modern twist on A Room with a View. The novel beautifully unfolds the lives of a group of misfits navigating relationships and love in unconventional ways, offering a fresh perspective on love, family, and heartache."

Anthony Gellert | Mentor
"Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidara. It amplifies my number one piece of advice to entrepreneurs: the idea is not enough; you need to work very hard after you launch. In the book, we see that a few good recipes and a nice restaurant interior is not enough. Great restaurants succeed only after extraordinary measures by their owner and staff."

Beth Collier | Wanderlust Crossroads: A Nomad and Expat Meet Up
"Six Days in August by David King. It's a fascinating story of a robbery in Sweden that led to the term “Stockholm Syndrome.” It gave me insights on Swedish culture, history, and the importance of curiosity — and interrogating those things we’re sure we know."

Beth Hartman | Investing in Our Oceans: Navigating Uncharted Waters:
"My favorite book this year was The Emerald Mile which describes the history of the Colorado River over the last few hundred years, focusing on the dynamics between boaters and the hydropower industry in a very compelling narrative."

Carla Borsoi | Brain Health Meet Up:
"Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-first Century. One of those anthologies where every contribution is good or great. The writing styles are as varied as the perspectives. I blew through this in just a couple reading sessions, super hungry for this work and fully sated with the contributions."

Dave A. Liu | Changing Faces: Media Representation and the Path to Positive Portrayals of Facial Differences:
"I loved Cixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem because it captivates with its mind-bending blend of complex science, intricate characters, and a plot that makes quantum physics seem like a page-turner. Also, he and I share the last name!"

Heather Malenshek | The Rural-Urban Divide and How Brands Can Make a Difference:
"The Overlooked Americans by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett. It relates to a subject that we are very focused on at Land O'Lakes – Rural America and how it is undervalued despite the incredible value it has in putting food on our table."

Margaret Richardson | DEIB's Future in Business After Affirmative Action:
"Poverty, By America by Matthew Desmond. In this accessible and breathtaking book Desmond clearly and effectively examines the policy choices that form the bases of American poverty. Importantly, he also lays out how different choices could largely address the economic inequities that are undermining the strength of communities across the United States."

Mark Miller | Song Stock Exchanges Are Coming - Should You Buy In?:
"Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono. The book provides a fresh framework to pull the best out of a diverse group of people in workshops and meetings."

Matthew Carlson | Using Drawing to Collaborate, Innovate & Learn:
"I recently finished The Extended Mind by Annie Murphy Paul, which talked about all the ways we think outside of our brain, using our environment, partners and collaborators, and memory systems to extend, enhance and expand our cognition and creativity."

Dr. Ramani Durvasula | It's Not You: Navigating & Healing From Toxic Relationships:
"What My Bones Know by Stephanie Foo. It is a wrenching memoir of her experience of Complex Trauma, something we rarely hear from an Asian writer — and she breaks through model minority myths and her painful story, by taking us through her experience of finding treatment that works for her. She is a beautiful writer, and takes us through the complicated maze of culture, intergenerational trauma, and how trauma is held in our bodies and not just in the story of "what happened.” I recommend it to all survivors of complex trauma."

Skot Waldron | From Maker to Manager: A Creative Leader's Journey:
"A New Kind of Diversity by Tim Elmore. The Multi-generational tug-of-war is a reality in the workplace. We have the two largest generations (Boomers and Millennials) in full force battling for how things were vs how things are. This book sheds a lot of light and understanding on why this is happening and how to tackle it."

Sue Sisley, MD | Man vs. Nature: The Commercialization of Psilocybin Medicine:
"My favorite books have been addressing the research that we do around psychedelic assisted therapy so of course Michael Pollen’s book how to change your mind and Brian Muraresku’s The Immortality Key."

Will Glazener | Mentor:
"Resilience by Eric Greitens. It is an applied approach to stoicism in the modern day."

Zsofia Kollar | What is the Value of Human Waste?:
"How to Blow Up a Pipeline: Learning to Fight in a World on Fire by Andreas Malm. Offering a counter-history of how mass popular change has occurred, from the democratic revolutions overthrowing dictators to the movement against apartheid and for women's suffrage, Malm argues that the strategic acceptance of property destruction and violence has been the only route for revolutionary change."

We hope you've enjoyed this edition of the SX Speaker Series!

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Photo by Tico Mendoza

By Hugh Forrest