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Twelve Books I Enjoyed in 2020

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I’m a book junkie - I read over 100 in 2020! Here’s 12 books that I think are worth checking out.

Personal development

Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty – Mindfulness, purpose and connection, without the woo-woo. My favourite reflections from this one were around the power of intention - it’s not your actions and choices that are good or bad, it’s what motivates those actions and choices.

Standout quote: “I wish” is code for “I don’t want to do anything differently.”

 

Burnout: The Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski – A science-based, game-changing expose of the danger of accumulating stress over time, and a path forward. I’ve recommended this, or the podcast interview with Brene Brown to everyone I know.

Standout quote: “Turn toward that self-critical part of you with kindness and compassion. Thank her for the hard work she has done to help you survive”

 

Leadership

Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam M. Grant – An encouraging read on the power of generosity and contribution. Everyone is better off, when we give - because we increase the whole pie, not just our slice of it.

Standout quote:Being a giver is not good for a 100-yard dash, but it’s valuable in a marathon.”

 

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown – My most-gifted-to-clients book. Do more of the things that make you awesome and a whole lot less of everything else. I love this one because it’s not just platitudes, it’s full of useful steps to actually cut out some of the stuff that’s causing you grief.

Standout quote:When people make their problem our problem, we aren’t helping them; we’re enabling them.”

 

Upstream: How to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath – This should be required reading for all aspiring strategists and managers. A compelling, plain language explanation of systems thinking, packed full of helpful examples about how we can ask better questions and solve problems more meaningfully.

Standout quote: “The postmortem for a problem can be the preamble to a solution.”

 

Politics and society

Poverty Safari: Understanding the Anger of Britain’s Underclass by Darren McGarvey – One of my favourite books of all time. Scottish rapper Darren McGarvey tackles what I think is the most critical next frontier on diversity and equality – class. Funny, poignant and thought-provoking.

Standout quote:…the conversation about poverty is usually dominated by people with little direct experience of being poor.”

 

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About The World (And Why Things Are Better Than You Think) by Hans Rosling – Even when things are really bad, they’re actually much better than they used to be. Packed with data, insight… and hope. Which I think we could all do with a bit of, right now.

Standout quote: “Forming your worldview by relying on the media would be like forming your view about me by looking only at a picture of my foot.”

 

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt – A brilliant read on how values and opinions work (that I’m still processing!) At a time in history where it’s easy to write off decisions that don’t make sense to us, or to think other people are idiots, The Righteous Minds offers a framework for useful empathy.

Standout quote: “Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second.”

 

Thinking

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip and Dan Heath - This book is a great step-by-step guide to halt decision-making behaviours that get us into trouble and think more clearly. It’s not an in-depth academic read, and some of the suggestions are a bit simple… but like most simple things, it works.

Standout quote: “Success emerges from the quality of the decisions we make and the quantity of luck we receive. We can’t control luck, but we can control the way we make choices.”

Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking by Matthew Syed - Diversity isn’t a trendy nice to have… it’s a critical guard against the danger of sameness. Excellent read that takes a stab at my personal bug-bear: diversity dressed up as charity.

Standout quote: “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”

 

Fiction

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart - The 2020 Booker Prize winner. A gripping novel exploring how class, addiction and childhood experiences shape lives and society. I read this in a single day, because I couldn’t put it down!

 

Standout quote:Sadness made for a better houseguest; at least it was quiet, reliable, consistent.”

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins - A beautiful read that tells the tale of a mother and her son fleeing certain pain for an uncertain future. Thought-provoking, exceptionally well-researched and a beautiful insight into what sits behind impossibly difficult decisions.

 

Standout quote: “Despite everything, he likes being alive. Lydia doesn’t know whether that’s true for herself. For mothers, the question is immaterial anyway. Her survival is a matter of instinct rather than desire.”