The most recommended books about meritocracy

Who picked these books? Meet our 7 experts.

7 authors created a book list connected to meritocracy, and here are their favorite meritocracy books.
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Book cover of Lost for Words

Shane Joseph Author Of Circles in the Spiral

From my list on the writing life.

Who am I?

I have been a writer for more than twenty years and have favored pursuing “truth in fiction” rather than “money in formula.” As author Edward St. Aubyn quotes: “Money has value because it can be exchanged for something else. Art only has value because it can’t.” I find books about writers are closer to my lived experience and connect me intimately with both the characters and their author.

Shane's book list on the writing life

Shane Joseph Why did Shane love this book?

A comedy that exposes “prize-based meritocracy” in the literary profession, where prizes lead to best-sellers, where sponsors influence outcomes to promote their own image instead of works of artistic merit, and where writers sell their souls, and bodies, for that elusive prize. The literary stereotypes are present: nymphomaniacal ingenues, insomniacal agonizers, paradoxical theorists, opportunistic editors, and self-published authors with money to burn – all weaving and bobbing around each other to gain personal advantage.

St. Aubyn presents this story in elegant prose, moving the plot brilliantly, while exposing the underbelly of the literary establishment, in which the result of all this finagling is mediocrity.

By Edward St Aubyn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lost for Words as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Each of the judges of the Elysian Prize for literature has a reason for accepting the job. For the chairman, MP Malcolm Craig, it is backbench boredom, media personality Jo Cross is on the hunt for a 'relevant' novel, and Oxbridge academic Vanessa Shaw is determined to discover good writing. But for Penny Feathers of the Foreign Office, it's all just getting in the way of writing her own thriller. Over the next few weeks they must read hundreds of submissions to find the best book of the year, and so the judges spar, cajole and bargain in order that…

Book cover of Principles: Your Guided Journal (Create Your Own Principles to Get the Work and Life You Want)

Somi Arian Author Of Career Fear (and how to beat it): Get the Perspective, Mindset and Skills You Need to Futureproof your Work Life

From my list on preparing you for the digital era.

Who am I?

I'm Somi Arian, a tech philosopher, award-winning filmmaker, author, LinkedIn-Top-Voice, and the founder of InPeak, a Web3 education and professional networking platform. My background in Philosophy of Science and Technology informs my role in society as a 'Transition Architect.' My documentary, The Millennial Disruption, featuring industry leaders, won three international awards. My book, Career Fear (and how to beat it), addresses the future of work and the skills we all need to survive and thrive in the age of Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain. As a speaker, I give talks and workshops internationally on the impact of technology on society, the business landscape, the future of work, Web3, NFTs, the Metaverse, and blockchain technology.

Somi's book list on preparing you for the digital era

Somi Arian Why did Somi love this book?

In this book, Ray Dalio shares the invaluable knowledge he has gathered throughout his career.

He believes that principles of life, management, economics, and investing can all be systematized and understood like machines. With hundreds of practical lessons that revolve around his principles of "radical truth" and "radical transparency," Dalio highlights the most effective ways for individuals and organizations to make decisions, approach challenges, and build strong teams.

He also describes the innovative tools that his firm uses to bring idea meritocracy to life, including "baseball cards" for employees that distill their strengths and weaknesses and computerized decision-making systems that make believability-weighted decisions.

While the book provides novel ideas for organizations and institutions, Principles also offers a clear, straightforward approach to decision-making that Dalio believes anyone can apply, no matter their goal.

By Ray Dalio,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Principles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Ray Dalio, the legendary investor and #1 New York Times bestselling author of Principles—whose books have sold more than five million copies worldwide—comes a guided reflection journal that empowers readers everywhere to develop their own principles for success in work and life.

“Principles are fundamental truths that serve as the foundations for behavior that gets you what you want out of life.” —Ray Dalio

In his #1 New York Times bestseller Principles, legendary investor Ray Dalio introduced millions of readers around the world to the unconventional approach he developed as the founder and builder of Bridgewater Associates, the largest…

Book cover of The Aristocracy of Talent: How Meritocracy Made the Modern World

Dag Detter Author Of The Public Wealth of Nations: How Management of Public Assets Can Boost or Bust Economic Growth

From my list on how we as societies can thrive in challenges ahead.

Who am I?

I advise private and public sector clients on the unlocking of value from public assets. After a few years in investment banking in Asia and Europe, I was asked to lead the comprehensive restructuring of Sweden’s USD70bn national portfolio of commercial assets—the first attempt by a European government to systematically address the ownership and management of government enterprises and real estate. This experience has allowed me to work in over thirty countries and serve as a Non-Executive Director. Ultimately sharing the collective experience in two books written together with Stefan Fölster—The Public Wealth of Nations—which was awarded The Economist and Financial Time’s best book of the year, as well as The Public Wealth of Cities.

Dag's book list on how we as societies can thrive in challenges ahead

Dag Detter Why did Dag love this book?

Would you rather that your local football team or even the national team was selected through family ties or political connections? How did meritocracy—the idea that people should be advanced according to their talents rather than their birthbecome the world's ruling ideology? Why is meritocracy now under attack from both right and left? Adrian Wooldridge shows what transformative effects it has had everywhere it has been adopted, especially once women were brought into the meritocratic system. He also shows how meritocracy has now become corrupted and argues that the recent stalling of social mobility is the result of the failure to complete the meritocratic revolution. Rather than abandoning meritocracy, he says, we should call for its renewal.

By Adrian Wooldridge,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Aristocracy of Talent as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'This unique and fascinating history explains why the blame now being piled upon meritocracy for many social ills is misplaced-and that assigning responsibilities to the people best able to discharge them really is better than the time-honoured customs of corruption, patronage, nepotism and hereditary castes. Wooldridge upends many common assumptions and provides an indispensable back story to this fraught and pressing issue.' Steven Pinker

'The Aristocracy of Talent provides an important and needed corrective to contemporary critiques of meritocracy. It puts meritocracy in an illuminating historical and cross-cultural perspective that shows how crucial the…

Book cover of Q

Caraline Brown Author Of The Candlelit Menagerie

From my list on set in a post apocalyptic future.

Who am I?

I love writing historical fiction. I enjoy the research and creating long-lost worlds filled with little-known historical accuracies that intrigue my readers. It is no surprise then that I enjoy reading about the future - the other side of the coin. I always find it interesting to see how writers create a post-apocalyptic society. What was the catastrophic event? (TCE) What caused it and how do the different characters react to adversity when their old world is taken away from them? Inevitably they have to survive in the new system but will they have learned their lesson or will they return to their old ways?  

Caraline's book list on set in a post apocalyptic future

Caraline Brown Why did Caraline love this book?

What happens when you take the meritocracy to extremes and you can only access the best of food and housing etc when your Q is the highest? Dalcher creates an interesting future world, damning of social engineering and genetic manipulation, and reminds us that it was less than a hundred years ago that certain war-hungry fellas (and a few women) salivated over thoughts of a perfect Aryan race. A great page-turner but with a few ‘Deus ex Machina' plot twists with which I’m still struggling. Nevertheless a very worthy read.

By Christina Dalcher,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Q as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'Terrifyingly plausible' Louise Candlish
'Devastating and brilliant' Woman & Home
'Thought-provoking' Alice Feeney
'Shocking . . . A powerful tale' Cosmopolitan
'Timely' Kia Abdullah


It begins as a way to make things fairer. An education system that will benefit everyone. It's all in the name of progress.

This is what Elena Fairchild believes. As a teacher in one of the government's elite schools for children with high 'Q' scores, she witnesses the advantages first-hand.

But when Elena's own daughter scores lower than expected,…

Book cover of The Tyranny of Merit: What's Become of the Common Good?

Paul Collier Author Of The Future of Capitalism: Facing the New Anxieties

From my list on how to renew our divided societies.

Who am I?

Our societies have become increasingly polarised, both materially and psychologically. Our youth are riven with anxieties. Most people expect their children’s lives to be worse than their own. This reflects a staggering failure across business, politics, and public institutions. Fortunately, an intellectual revolution has begun that is resetting our course: you can become part of it. My own life has straddled these increasingly bitter tensions. My parents left school at 12, and we lived in a city whose industry moved to Korea so the jobs evaporated. The lives of my relatives collapsed, but by fortune’s wheel, I became a professor at Oxford, Harvard, and Paris. We can reverse such cruel divides: I want to share what I have learned from my work and my life to show how we can do it.

Paul's book list on how to renew our divided societies

Paul Collier Why did Paul love this book?

Tyranny is the landmark book that is moral philosophy’s contribution to the inflection point. Its fundamental concept of ‘contributive justice’ magnificently supersedes Rawls’ dated ‘distributive justice’. To give you a glimpse of two profound works, Rawls invoked some moral gymnastics involving a hypothetical withdrawal from society to a veil of ignorance about a hypothetical lottery of how a hypothetical national cake might be cut up. Sandel places us firmly back in our society and focuses on the agency needed for the moral duty to contribute to the baking of our national cake. Sandel, again at Harvard, is the most famous philosopher in the world, his superb online lectures have been so downloaded that they have triggered complaints from lesser philosophers fearing redundancy. Tyranny will shift your moral compass, but don’t be scared.

By Michael J. Sandel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tyranny of Merit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


The new bestseller from the acclaimed author of Justice and one of the world's most popular philosophers

"Astute, insightful, and empathetic...A crucial book for this moment" Tara Westover, author of Educated

These are dangerous times for democracy. We live in an age of winners and losers, where the odds are stacked in favour of the already fortunate. Stalled social mobility and entrenched inequality give the lie to the promise that "you can make it if you try". And the consequence is a brew of anger and frustration that has…