The 26 best books to read if you want to disrupt US healthcare, according to top young leaders in the $3.6 trillion industry

  • Healthcare can be a complicated field to jump into, whether you're a scientist, a medical professional, or an entrepreneur. 
  • We asked the nominees for Business Insider's list of 30 leaders under 40 who are working to transform healthcare what book they'd recommend to leaders just starting out in the industry.
  • Here are their top picks. 
  • For more stories like this, sign up here for Business Insider's daily healthcare newsletter.

The $3.6 trillion US healthcare system is complicated. 

Getting up to speed on how healthcare is delivered and paid for is no easy task. 

We asked the people on Business Insider's list of 30 leaders under 40 who are working to transform US healthcare for book recommendations. In particular: What's one book that they suggest to everyone who wants to understand healthcare?

The ones they picked range from books written by doctors and surgeons like Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee and Dr. Atul Gawande to books detailing the success or failure of new startups.  

Here are their top picks.

"Where Does It Hurt? An Entrepreneur's Guide to Fixing Health Care" by Jonathan Bush with Stephen Baker

Recommended by Artem Petakov, 38, CEO of Noom. 

"I like that one as an introduction to healthcare," Petakov said. 

Buy it here. 

"Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup" by John Carreyrou

Recommended by Elitza Theel, 37, the director of the Mayo Clinic's serology lab for infectious diseases.

"That book basically is what should never happen," Theel said. "I think it was really eye opening for me that something like this could ever happen in the United States. And I think it's a good example of why laboratories around the country are certified — why they focus so much on validating and proving the accuracy of their test before offering it for clinical use."

"We strive to not be her," Theel added, referring to Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes. 

Buy it here. 

"Emotional Agility" by Susan David

Recommended by Nicole Gaudelli, 36, head of gene editing technologies at Beam Therapeutics.

Having emotional agility is key to managing people, especially at a growing startup, Gaudelli said. 

"Having command of how you're coming to work, showing up, working as a team, is a skill that people need to focus in on when they really want to dive into biotechs, especially ones that are young and trying to build up, because it's constantly changing," Gaudelli said. "There is constantly people coming in, you have to adapt." 

Buy it here.

"The Death of Cancer" by Dr. Vincent T. DeVita Jr. and Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn

Recommended by Josh Cohen, 28, Amylyx co-CEO. 

"It's the story of the war on cancer and some of how drug development worked in the very early days of the FDA," Cohen said. "In a way, it's very different from how we make drugs today, but it gives a lot of ideas.

"It's also quite exciting, some of the advances that were made during that time," Cohen added. 

Buy it here. 

"A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution" by Jennifer Doudna and Samuel Sternberg

Recommended by Janice Chen, 29, cofounder and chief technology officer at Mammoth Biosciences.

"Technology has this tendency to kind of get ahead of us," Chen said. "But we just have to make sure that we continue as a community to have these discussions to understand what is right and what is good for humanity. Those are difficult questions. And Jennifer touched a lot on that in her book." 

Buy it here. 

"Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World" by David Epstein

Recommended by Dr. Lily Peng, 37, group product manager at Google Health.

"It's not healthcare specific, but the idea of how doctors and AI can be helpful to each other I think is really, really poignant there," Peng said.   

Buy it here.

"Chasing My Cure" by David Fajgenbaum

Recommended by Kevin Heyries, 38, cofounder of AbCellera.

"I remember when I was in doing my PhD, doing a postdoc, it's research: it's super fulfilling, it's cool, it's great," Heyries said." But maybe you lose a bit, the connection with the actual potential benefits of what you're doing. I think this book reminded me that quite a bit."

Buy it here. 

"Being Mortal" by Dr. Atul Gawande

Recommended by Julia Hu, 35, CEO of Lark Health. 

"I thought that was a very touching book," Hu said.  

Buy it here.

"Complications" by Dr. Atul Gawande

Recommended by Dr. Sachin Jain, 40, CEO of SCAN Health Plan. 

Buy it here. 

"The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation" by Jon Gertner

Recommended by Matt Hollingsworth, 33, Carta cofounder. 

Buy it here. 

"Catastrophic Care: Why Everything We Think We Know About Health Care is Wrong" by David Goldhill

Recommended by Dr. Iman Abuzeid, 35, Incredible Health CEO and cofounder.

"It makes a very strong argument, which I strongly believe in, that the customer service aspect of healthcare is missing," Abuzeid said. "Patient experiences are supposed to be front and center."

"But now just given the astronomical costs and so on — and the fact that there's non-healthcare participants now entering healthcare, like Walmart and Amazon —  the competition is going to force players in healthcare to innovate," she added.  

Buy it here. 

"The Rise and Fall of American Growth," by Robert J. Gordon

Recommended by Dr. Nate Gross, 36, CEO of Doximity.

"They take two different perspectives, one a little optimist, a little pessimist on industrial revolutions and how they've affected workforces," Gross said. "How much temporal pain is there? Does it lead to greater growth in the long run? Really tough questions that I don't think there's any right answer to, but there are a lot of concerns with things that society has been experiencing through incredible leaps in AI and automation and things like that that will will the next revolution behave the same way. Will it leave anyone behind that? If we can be more intentional now won't get left behind. I think that's one of our bigger societal challenges."

Buy it here. 

"How Doctors Think" by Dr. Jerome Groopman

Recommended by Katherine Ryder, 38, founder and CEO of Maven.

"At the end of the day, you actually have to understand the providers who are delivering the healthcare," Ryder said. "Everyone's a patient, so that you can probably understand, or a family member who was a patient, but not everyone obviously is a doctor or a healthcare provider."

Buy it here. 

"Reinventing American Health Care" by Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel

Recommended by Jay Desai, 39, CEO of PatientPing.

"What he does is he starts with the employer-based healthcare system," Desai said, referring to Emanuel. "He does a really good job giving a tour from how the system was designed to the ACA."

Buy it here. 

"Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" by Yuval Noah Harari

Recommended by Anna Huyghues-Despointes, 32, head of strategy at Owkin. 

Buy it here. 

"The Emperor of All Maladies" by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee

Recommended by Sabah Oney, 38, chief business officer at Alector and Ciara Metcalfe, 37, a senior scientist at Genentech.

"I really enjoyed, 'The Emperor of All Maladies,' not just because you learn a lot about cancer, but you also learn a lot about the forces that are involved, both political, economic, and everything else around it that can actually really shift the focus of a whole country or whole world to solve one thing that, has been plaguing us for 5,000 years," Oney said. 

It might feel that science isn't progressing when looking at shorter timelines, but when looking at the whole history of diseases like cancer, it's easier to get a good view of how far we've come, he said. 

"I take a lot of encouragement from that, that what happened in cancer is going to happen in neurodegeneration too. Because we're now putting the resources in, it's just the timeline, is not going to be one year."

Buy it here.

 

"Ending Medical Reversal" by Dr. Vinayak Prasad and Dr. Adam Cifu

Recommended by Dr. Safiya Richardson, 35,  an assistant professor at Northwell Health and primary care doctor.

"It blew my mind," Richardson said. "It's amazing to me because I'm a young doctor to think about all the terrible mistakes that we made, not that long ago." 

"It's just a really good reminder that doctors are not magic or gods," she added. "We have to do things that are evidence-based. We really do." 

Buy it here.

"Deep Learning for the Life Sciences: Applying Deep Learning to Genomics, Microscopy, Drug Discovery, and More," by Bharath Ramsundar, Peter Eastman, Patrick Walters and Vijay Pande

Recommended by Mary Rozenman, 39, chief financial officer at Insitro.

"It really just goes through the history of machine learning and the biological context for folks who're on the tech side," Rozenman said.  

Buy it here.

"An American Sickness" by Elisabeth Rosenthal

Recommended by Dr. Andrew Le, 33, CEO of Buoy Health. 

Buy it here.

"Just Mercy" by Bryan Stevenson

Recommended by Dr. Utibe Essien, 35, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

"That book really just changed the way that I think about my work," Essien said. "Bryan Stevenson, his story about getting proximate with his clients is really what changed, how I think about my patients as well."

Buy it here. 

"Unscaled" by Hemant Taneja with Kevin Maney

Recommended by Holly Maloney, 35, managing director at General Catalyst. 

"My colleague's book, 'Unscaled,' is brilliant," Maloney said. "Definitely a must-read!" 

Buy it here.

"Zero to One" by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters

Recommended by Rich Horgan, 28, founder of Cure Rare Disease. 

"It's really hard to take something from zero to one, but it's easier to go from one to two. I'm somewhere in between the zero and the one, I feel like we are closer to the one and let me tell you it's a painful, painful trail," Horgan said. 

"This idea of starting something from nothing is really difficult, but the book lays it out nicely," Horgan added. "It's not necessarily a step-by-step answer, but it made me think more about the mental construct and the lens to think of something like what I'm doing through."

Buy it here.

"The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine is in Your Hands" by Dr. Eric Topol

Recommended by Erik Cardenas, 38, a tech leader at Amazon Care. 

"There's a lot of good themes in that book that really resonated with me, but it really comes down to consumerism in healthcare," Cardenas said. "I find it very interesting to see how we could really use technology to distribute knowledge in healthcare, to really make patients more partners than just simple consumers that consume what a doctor tells them."

Buy it here. 

"The Antidote: Inside the World of New Pharma" by Barry Werth

Recommended by Manny Simons, 38, CEO of Akous. 

"There are very few companies that have done what Vertex has done: started from scratch and continued to grow as a self-sustained company," Simons said of the book, which details the trajectory of Vertex Pharmaceuticals as a sequel to Werth's first book "The Billion-Dollar Molecule," about Vertex's founding.

"To have somebody who was embedded at the earlier stages and then come back later, you get a real appreciation for how complex it is, how many people need to be involved," he said. "It spans even as big as Josh Boger's role and his vision was, how the company grew beyond him."

Buy it here. 

"The Billion-Dollar Molecule" by Barry Werth

Recommended by Justin Klee, 29, Amylyx co-CEO.

"He does a really great job of capturing what it's like being at a small biotech and the challenges," Klee said of author Barry Werth. 

Buy it here. 

"The Impatient Dr. Lange" by Dr. Seema Yasmin

Recommended by Danielle van Manen, 39, COVID-19 vaccine project leader at Johnson & Johnson.

"Epidemics are not only about doctors and science, it's also about how you listen to your patients, treat your patients, and try to be inclusive," van Manen said. "This book is more than only a biography, and more than an HIV history, it's everything, and it shows how driven some people can be."

Buy it here. 

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