I believe in the transformative effects of books. Personally I’ve witnessed how a book can inspire a different perspective and move me to action. Are you making the most from the incredible knowledge we have at our fingertips?
Which books to read?
I’m an avid reader and yet, I still feel there is not enough time in the day to read as many books as I want. So I have to be discerning with the books I read. I look closely for recommendations and I don’t stay around for long with books that don’t capture my attention. Yes, often I’m dipping in and out of books too for the info I’m craving at that moment. I try to search for a range of books and throw fiction books into the mix too (although most of these recommendations are non fiction).
It’s like a fireside chat with an incredible mentor…
I love non-fiction books as it feels like you are getting personal mentoring from leaders from every part of the globe hearing about their research, influences, perspectives and ideas. What a wonderful pleasure to be able to access their thinking and ideas. Some are leadership focused and others are focused on mindset, personal transformation and rituals.
My top 10 book for 2020
Ok, so here are the parameters, I’ve limited this list to books that have come out in 2019 or 2020, not books that I’ve discovered that have been published before then (because that would be an even longer list). I’ve also tried very hard to keep it just to 10!
So within those constraints here are my favourite books for 2020.
Disclosure: This blog contains affiliate links. I hope you enjoy the books that inspire me!
My first among equals pick goes to…
1. Manifesto for a Moral Revolution by Jacqueline Novogratz
How I would really love a real fireside chat with Jacqueline Novogratz!
Jacqueline Novogratz is a true pioneer of our times. She is the founder of Acumen, a global community of socially and environmentally responsible partners dedicated to changing the way the world tackles poverty. Wow – what an incredible aim!
How did she do it? She shares her own life journey in this book as well as many of the changemakers that Acumen has invested in over the years and I absolutely delighted in learning from her and their experiences. It’s the type of book that inspires you to do better, think bigger and keep trying.
This is a super wise read. Her insight into creating systems change to empower our most disadvantaged fellow human beings brings to light just how important human dignity is.
If you are looking for leadership ideas and strategies to do good in the world, this book is an absolute MUST!
2. The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Activities Into Soulful Practices by Casper ter Kuile
This was such a captivating read.
Author, Casper ter Kuile is a thoughtful and entertaining writer. This book is light yet deep. It explores how we can add layers of meaning and connection into our lives which is suffering from disconnection, loneliness and …. He explores how you can transform your daily habits into practices that create a sacred foundation for your life. He explores four areas of connection – to self, to others, to the natural world and with the transcendent.
Casper has an intriguing background; he is a Ministry Innovation Fellow at Harvard Divinity School after growing up in a secular family in England! He co-authored a white paper called How We Gather which explores the ways we come together in the modern world for life long endeavours to build community, seek purpose, be accountable and serve others.
3. Untamed by Glennon Doyle
This is the book we all needed in 2020. Glennon has such a down to earth tone about her that makes her reading accessible to everyone.
This book encourages us all to really trust our inner voice and stop adhering to the expectations of everyone else. Who would you be if you had full permission to truly live the life you want? This book is a wake up – dig beyond your social conditioning and live life according to your rules.
With so many memorable metaphors that instantly become part of your vocabulary…you’re a cheetah and we can do hard things! This is the first book I’ve read of Glennon’s memoir series and I really enjoyed it.
4. Big Friendship by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
Often when we explore relationships we are mostly talking about intimate relationships, family relationships or work relationships. This book explores friendships!
Our close friendships can mean so much in our life but rarely do we delve into how we can foster these relationships over a long time. How do you overcome different life stages, geographic moves and more generally the ups and downs of life.
I loved reading this part-memoir of the author’s own friendship together, exploring the history of friendships and how we can make the most of our friendships in our lives. It brought to my attention just how important these relationships are in my own life and how I can cultivate them more mindfully. To all my big friends – thank you!
5. Be Fearless by Jean Case
Jean Case is the CEO of the Case Foundation (a philanthropic foundation supporting social entrepreneurs driving change) and also the first female Chairwoman of National Geographic Society in its 131 year history.
She shares her incredible experience working as and with changemakers, compiling the approaches and strategies to be fearless in your approach in transformational change.
I love the stories she shares, both of incredible changemakers from around the world as well as her own stories of how she lives her life.
6. Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World by Layla Saad
This is a truly brilliant book.
I first came across Layla a few years ago following the conversations about race globally especially when her work was confronting white educators. This piqued my interest as a facilitator of programs working with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds including people of colour.
I love how she has set out this book as a 28-day challenge. Make no mistake, each day is deeply confronting work, but this is the work we must do to overcome the white supremacy. White supremacy work is not just for unhinged fringe groups, everyday people like you and me must commit to it and share our part in a system we were born into to ensure we don’t continue it.
I love how Layla shares that she wrote this book to be a good ancestor (how wise is this?!) and by reading this book, you do your part in being a good ancestor too.
7. Thriving Mind: How to cultivate a good life by Dr Jenny Brockis
This is the book we truly needed this year and that was even before COVID hit!
Now more than ever we need to focus on how to thrive in our modern life and Jenny has lots of practical strategies – backed by evidence based research – to help us do that. This book speaks directly to the challenges of modern living, loneliness, stress, lack of connection and mental health.
She writes about happiness and engaging all of our emotions, enhancing our energy, mood and resilience as well as harnessing the powers of connection and relationships. I am really lucky to call Jenny a friend in real life and she is the real deal!
8. Humour, Seriously: Why humour is a superpower at work and in life by Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas
Both these authors are so interesting in their fields of study that I’m surprised I hadn’t come across them before. Dr Jennifer Aaker is a behavioural psychologist, and Professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, teaching courses on innovation, the power of storytelling and purpose. Naomi Bagdonas is a Stanford lecturer and a professionally trained comedian. She has designed and facilitated innovation workshops for the boards and leadership teams of Fortune 100 companies.
We have also experienced how humour can shift the feeling in different situations – make us relax, be vulnerable or make down barriers. Yet, this book really explores how it can be useful in a business context. Given our businesses are moving into the age of creating an experience for the customer (and our employees), I enjoyed being stretched to think about how I can use humour more. Full disclosure – I’m not the funniest person around but I definitely enjoy hanging with funny people. This book really breaks it up and gives easy ways to start thinking and seeing the world in a humorous way!
9. Becoming by Michelle Obama
This memoir is pure delight to read.
Like many people, I adore how Michelle carries herself, standing as a role model in society. It’s her character, her empathy, her intelligence and her ability that draws people to her. It was a privilege to read more about her journey. Very inspiring.
This has been out for a little while now and it certainly is a chunky book, but beautiful stories that will lift your spirits for sure.
10. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
I want to finish my list with a fiction novel. I believe fiction can be just as insightful as non fiction. Just like my non fiction favourites, there have been novels I’ve read, seemingly just at the right time, that have changed my outlook on life.
I did get a chance to read a few novels this year including this absolutely superb book by Elizabeth Gilbert. (Side note – Reese Witherspoon has a great online book club recommending mostly novels each month – check it out) Being a theatre lover, I was in awe of the depth of research and understanding used to bring to life in a thoroughly entertaining way. I love the themes and questions that she exposes in this book; the role and place of a woman, women’s sexuality and how we respond differently to men and women.
The characters and how they live their lives can definitely be confronting to the reader even 80 years after the period we are reading about!
Of course, these were just my absolute favourites! Something in me makes this such a hard blog post to publish because there are always so many other books worth reading and mentioning…RBG, David Attenborough, Barack Obama, Julia Gillard to name just a few. Maybe I’ll set different parameters next time and share my favourites within particular subjects such as leadership or diversity in the future.
An important realisation
You know, when you start to collate all the books you are reading and have read, you start to get an understanding of which voices you are listening to and perhaps, more importantly, which voices you aren’t hearing. I definitely like to read female stories and perspectives as well as perspectives that are going to challenge my point of view on the world. Looking at my own list, I’m keen to read some more Aboriginal authors in 2021 and found this fantastic list which will help me guide my choices!
Well that’s it for now. I would love to hear your top reads for 2020 too!