It has been said by many authors that books are never finished, just abandoned. Listed below are some books that I read over the last 12 months that I’m really glad that, as a reader, I didn’t abandon. For each, I have included a link to a more detailed review (just click on the title of each book).
If one ever needs a reason why it’s important to support good quality journalism, this would be it. The book provides an amazing insight into a world most of us know very little about. While much of it highlights the darker side of human behavior, it also includes the stories of some inspiring people who dedicate their lives to improving the lives of others, including Rebecca Gomperts, founder of Women on Waves. By books end, I can guarantee that you will be less likely to complain about working conditions in your current job. If you don’t have time to read the book, check out this interview with the author.
The Anarchy by William Delrymple.
Though at times I found it difficult to follow due to the vast array of characters and my lack of knowledge of the history of India, this is a really important work that documents the rise and fall the East India Company, the world’s first corporation. One could argue that the company’s single minded pursuit for profit and power, without due consideration for harms caused by their actions, is not too much different from the behaviors of some of the more powerful multi and transnational corporations around today. If you don’t have time to read the book, check out this interview with the author.
The Attention Merchants by Timothy Wu.
A fascinating insight into the tactics used by media organizations and governments throughout history to attract, and in the case of media organizations, on-sell, our attention for profit. Those of you who, like me, are concerned about the harms, both on an individual and societal level, caused by what Tristan Harris refers to as the “predatory business models” of the big social media platforms, will really enjoy reading this book. If you don’t have time to read the book, check out this interview with the author.
How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan.
I have been a big fan of Michael Pollan ever since I read The Omnivores Dilemma, which has informed much of my thinking on food. In a very balanced and nuanced way, he charts the history of the research into the therapeutic benefits of psychedelic drugs such as LSD and psilocybin, as well as an insight into why they are still, unfortunately, criminalized and demonized in many parts of the world. His descriptions of, and insights from, his own psychedelic journeys are alone worth the price of the book. Click here for an interview with Michael Pollan on the Making Sense podcast.
A Guide To the Good Life by William B. Irvine.
Before I Iistened this interview with the author and read this book, I had never even contemplated developing a philosophy of life. Drawing on the teachings and writings of the ancient Stoics, this immensely enjoyable and thought provoking book provides an array of ideas and strategies to help us all live a happier and more fulfilling life. A book I’m sure I will keep coming back to again and again.
My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk.
16th century murder mystery set in Istanbul that will have you guessing right to the end. Those of you who enjoy hanging out in cafes will love the descriptions of all the happenings taking place inside the now famous Ottoman coffeehouses.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Set at the time just prior to and during the Second World War, this beautiful piece of literature tells two parallel stories; one of a blind French girl living with her father, and a gifted German orphan who is recruited into the Hitler Youth. Very easy to see why it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015.
On the reading list for 2021 (click on the title for reviews)…
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Democracy in Chains – The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Nancy MacLean
Transcendence: The New Science of Self-actualization by Scott Barry Kaufman. through the Making Sense podcast, which you can listen to here
Into the Magic Shop by James R. Doty MD. Click here to listen to an interview with the author on the Making Sense podcast.