Rodney Zemmel

Senior Partner, McKinsey

Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else
by Jordan Ellenberg

Jordan is a geometry professor who happens to be a terrific writer. This book takes some concepts in geometry (or in basic math that you probably didn’t realize were geometry) and explains their relevance to everything from winning games to combating mosquitos to designing fair elections. It also serves as a great introduction to some of the concepts behind machine learning and an interesting reminder that machine learning is largely 19th-century math souped up by rapid processing and modern visualization.

Blockchain Chicken Farm: And Other Stories of Tech in China’s Countryside
by Xiaowei Wang

The title caught my eye, and this is certainly a unique read. It’s about the impact that technology has had in rural China—in places a celebration and in part quite dystopian. I don’t personally support the “technology will subsume humanity” view, but it’s good to read something from the other side of that debate.

Call It Sleep: A Novel
by Henry Roth

This book had been sitting on my shelf for years, and I never picked it up. I think it was either my father’s or my wife’s father’s. I read it because Fran Lebowitz mentioned it in the documentary series Pretend It’s a City and because it was so deep in the pandemic that I had read everything else. It’s a stunningly original novel that might be the best thing I’ve read about the immigrant experience to New York City. It was also published in 1934 but not discovered by critics until 30 years later, which seems inconceivable today.

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It takes a village to curate amazing lists from this rather busy group of leaders from all over the world. We would like to thank Kris Coratti, Chantal De Soto, Rimjhim Dey, Melanie Newman, Joellen Perry, and Jayne Rosefield for their help.

Within McKinsey Global Publishing, Eleni Kostopoulos led the effort to make this year’s list come alive, with collaboration and support from Mike Borruso, Nancy Cohn, Victor Cuevas, Torea Frey, Mary Halpin, Drew Holzfeind, Kathleen O'Leary, LaShon Malone, Philip Mathew, Janet Michaud, Kanika Punwani, Sarah Thuerk, Duane Tomaszewski, Petra Vincent, and Nathan Wilson.

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