Summer reads: a banker's dozen

Nothing says summer like a good book. As we hurtle toward the holiday period, ANZ board members and executives have shared their top reads with BlueNotes.

From biographies and behavioural economics to Italian fiction, here's a banker's dozen of great picks to add to your summer (or winter up north) reading list.

" Terrific read, amazing insights, historic, contemporary and thought provoking. Wow."
Shayne Elliott, ANZ CFO and incoming CEO


The Great War for Civilisation, by Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk was the Middle East correspondent for the Independent Newspaper for more than 20 years. He was an on the ground war reporter in the Iraq war and saw the troubles in Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, Israel and right across the Middle East.

This is a collection of his best writing, his experiences and insights into the Middle East, a region I am fascinated by after living in Egypt for six years. Terrific read, amazing insights, historic, contemporary and thought provoking. Wow. This is a book that makes you think.

What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About the Business of Life, by James Kerr

I loved this book. Yes I love the All Blacks but this isn't about Rugby or New Zealand. It's about what makes a great team.

It's about the importance of purpose in life, character, integrity, humility and trust. It's about life and I found it inspiring on a personal and professional level.

It's a great insight into some of the themes I think will be extremely relevant in building ANZ to be the best bank in the world.


Monash: The Soldier Who Shaped Australia, by Grantlee Kieza

A very interesting story about an amazing leader whose life was not perfect but whose aspirations were immense and work ethic considerable.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Dr Yuval Noah Harari

I have read many reviews of this book and am intrigued by how Dr Harari tackles the biggest questions of history and of the modern world, namely, who we are and where do we came from.

And something extra from the incoming CEO - Australian and New Zealand Bank, by S J Butlin

The history of ANZ from 1821 to 1951. Essential reading for an incoming CEO.


Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande

This is a highly recommended book about ageing with dignity and self-respect at a time when lives are longer and the end can be challenging.

Nora Webster, by Colm Tóibín

I am a huge fan of Tóibín's writing – it is beautiful, simple and compelling - so I always look forward to the next book. This came out in 2014 but I haven't got to it yet.


In Praise of Idleness: A Timeless Essay, by Bertrand Russell and Bradley Trevor Greive

I'd never heard of Bradley Trevor Greive until I read a review of this book and he's one of Australia's best-selling authors.

I think the theme of Russell's book is very important – it is a philosophical argument that's quite fascinating. And Bradley Trevor Greive is a really pithy writer.

The Menzies Era, by John Howard

I've been meaning to read this for a while and I'm very interested in political biographies in leadership – it's a strong theme. The reviews – from both sides of politics – have been very good for this book.


Nudge, by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

Great insight into behavioural economics, which shows by knowing how people think, we can design choice environments that make it easier for people to choose what is best for themselves, their families and their society. This will help us better understand and serve customers.

My Life on the Road, by Gloria Steinem  

Insightful biography and inspiring memoir from one of the world's leading female journalists, organisers, activists and speakers.


All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

A young boy in Germany with a shock of white blond hair and a passion for radios; a young blind girl in France with a father who creates miniature towns. They barely meet but their intertwined story is sensitively written and reminded me that even in the futility of war there is always the possibility of finding light in the dark.

My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante

Everyone has been raving about Ferrante's Neapolitan set of novels about the lives of two women who grow up in a small village near Naples – the four books (the last one was just released) cover their full lives.

I'm halfway through and loving it. Wonderful attention to detail on how we feel about friendship (even as young children). I'm definitely going to read the set on my January Indian Pacific railway trip from Perth to Sydney. Four days and three nights – loads of time to indulge in all those books on my Kindle. 


Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945, by Rana Mitter

China's history is highly illuminating and helps our understanding of its present and future. As an ally in our greatest national strategic peril in our short history, we ought understand our common approach at this time.

The Revenge of Geography “What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate, by Robert Kaplan

Kaplan writes riveting overviews and travel monologues with incisive insights into history which is my first love. This will be an informative and conjectural discourse I am sure – where next will crazy boundaries finally collapse to write create and pain as religions, regional and economic necessity collide?


Business books are definitely not my thing on holidays. During the year I accumulate unread books on my bedside table so I've prioritised two, focussing on very different periods of artistic creativity and bohemia.

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In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and Modernism in Paris, by Sue Roe

The title is self-explanatory I guess but at the beginning of the last century - in an incredible period of creativity - a small community of artist

s in Paris led by Picasso and Matisse effectively gave birth to modern art.

M Train, by Patti Smith

The New York poet, musician, writer and artist rose to fame in the punk era of the late 70s. This isn't a memoir but a record of her life today in New York - a 100 years after Picasso and Matisse in Montmartre.

Leigh Cohen is a contributing editor at BlueNotes

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

editor's picks

09 Dec 2015

How risk at ANZ has changed: Mike Smith

Ian Rogers | Editor, Banking Day

Departing ANZ CEO Mike Smith says attitudes toward risk at ANZ have changed significantly in his time at the bank.

09 Dec 2015

Smith: GFC helped ANZ in Asia

Ian Rogers | Editor, Banking Day

The global financial crisis, which placed enormous pressure on banks around the world, provided an opportunity for ANZ to expand its presence in Asia faster than departing CEO Mike Smith thought was possible at the time, he says.

11 Dec 2015

The big, big data of bees

Helen Clark | Freelance journalist & former Asian correspondent

We've had an internet of things for a decade and pretty soon we'll have a big data set of everything, too. Combine those with insects and you get a particularly ambitious and impressive Australian CSIRO-led global project essentially studying the big data of bees. Why? Because they continue to die in record numbers and we still don't know why.