2020 has been a year like no other. Not only is the world suffering a deadly pandemic, racial tensions have been heightened, the environment continues to suffer and political leaders are vying for votes. Yikes. On reflection, it certainly has been a huge year.
Looking forward, we can take the lessons learned from 2020 and apply them into the future. It’s this thought that prompted us to look at lessons that have been learned from events that have happened in the past. We’ve found six great books that do just that. Sit back and get ready to be taken on a wild history ride.
‘In the past, for reasons I try to explain, I’ve often felt I had to be careful in public, like I was up on a wire without a net. Now I’m letting my guard down.’ – Hillary Rodham Clinton.
For the first time, Hillary Rodham Clinton reveals what she was thinking and feeling during one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history. Now free from the constraints of running, Hillary takes you inside the intense personal experience of becoming the first woman nominated for president by a major party in an election marked by rage, sexism, exhilarating highs and infuriating lows, stranger-than-fiction twists, Russian interference and an opponent who broke all the rules. This is her most personal memoir yet. In these pages, she describes what it was like to run against Donald Trump, the mistakes she made, how she has coped with a shocking and devastating loss, and how she found the strength to pick herself back up afterwards. With humour and candour, she tells readers what it took to get back on her feet – the rituals, relationships and reading that got her through, and what the experience has taught her about life. She speaks about the challenges of being a strong woman in the public eye, the criticism over her voice, age and appearance, and the double standard confronting women in politics. She lays out how the 2016 election was marked by an unprecedented assault on democracy by a foreign adversary. By analysing the evidence and connecting the dots, Hillary shows just how dangerous the forces are that shaped the outcome, and why Americans need to understand them to protect their values and democracy in the future. The election of 2016 was unprecedented and historic. What Happened is the story of that campaign and its aftermath – both a deeply intimate account and a cautionary tale.
We’ve highlighted this book on the blog before and believe it is important to include again. The Guardian newspaper credits Yuval Noah Harari with making serious non-fiction cool again. In his earlier books, the surprise bestsellers Sapiens and Homo Deus, he explained the history of humanity and the rise of civilisation in terms of evolutionary psychology. Now Yuval Noah Harari looks at the present. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is a collection of essays about the big issues – AI and automation, Fake News and populism, religion, climate change – and how we can manage their impact on our lives. His talent at combining unexpected ideas into dazzling observations makes this a thought-provoking yet accessible read that helps us make sense of these uncertain times.
In August 1765 the East India Company defeated and captured the young Mughal emperor and forced him to set up in his richest provinces a new government run by English traders who collected taxes through means of a vast and ruthless private army.
The creation of this new government marked the moment that the East India Company ceased to be a conventional international trading corporation, dealing in silks and spices, and became something much more unusual: an aggressive colonial power in the guise of a multinational business. In less than half a century it had trained up a private security force of around 260,000 men, twice the size of the British army, and had subdued an entire subcontinent, conquering first Bengal and finally, in 1803, the Mughal capital of Delhi itself. The Company’s reach stretched relentlessly until almost all of India south of the Himalayas was effectively ruled from a boardroom in London.
The Anarchy tells the remarkable story of how one of the world’s most magnificent empires disintegrated and came to be replaced by a dangerously unregulated private company, based thousands of miles overseas and answerable only to its shareholders. In his most ambitious and riveting book to date, William Dalrymple tells the story of the East India Company as it has never been told before, unfolding a timely cautionary tale of the first global corporate power.
Three hundred and fifteen years after its founding, with a corporate Mogul now sitting in the White House, the story of the East India Company has never been more current.
Democracies can die with a coup d’etat or they can die slowly. This happens most deceptively when in piecemeal fashion, with the election of an authoritarian leader, the abuse of governmental power and the complete repression of opposition. All three steps are being taken around the world and we must all understand how we can stop them. From the rule of General Augusto Pinochet in Chile to the quiet undermining of Turkey’s constitutional system by President Recip Erdogan, Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt draw insightful lessons from history to shine a light on regime breakdown across the 20th and 21st centuries. Based on years of research, they present a deep understanding of how and why democracies die; an alarming analysis of how democracy is being subverted today; and a guide for maintaining and repairing a threatened democracy, for governments, political parties and individuals. History doesn’t repeat itself. But we can protect our democracy by learning its lessons, before it’s too late.
Cunning, instructive, and amoral, this controversial bestseller distills 3,000 years of the history of power into 48 well-explicated laws. Law 1: Never Outshine the Master. Law 3: Conceal Your Intentions. Law 7: Get Others to Do the Work for You, but Always Take the Credit. Law 15: Crush Your Enemy Totally. Law 33: Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew.
These are the laws of power in their unvarnished essence; the philosophies of Machiavelli (The Prince), Sun-tzu (The Art of War), Carl von Clausewitz, Talleyrand, the great seducer Casanova, con man Yellow Kid Weil, and other legendary thinkers and schemers. They teach prudence, stealth, mastery of one’s emotions, the art of deception, and the total absence of mercy. Like it or not, all have practical applications in real life.
Each law is illustrated with examples of observance or transgression drawn from history and featuring such famous figures as Queen Elizabeth I, Henry Kissinger, Mao, Alfred Hitchcock, P.T. Barnum, Haile Selassie, Catherine the Great, and Socrates. Convincing, practical, sometimes shocking, this book will fascinate anyone interested in gaining, observing, or defending against ultimate control.
The relationship between Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republican and Democrat, Christian and Jew, western rancher’s daughter and Brooklyn girl, transcends party, religion, region, and culture. Strengthened by each other’s presence, these groundbreaking judges, the first and second to serve on the highest court in the land, have transformed the Constitution and America itself, making it a more equal place for all women. Linda Hirshman’s dual biography includes revealing stories of how these trailblazers fought for their own recognition in a male-dominated profession; battles that would ultimately benefit every American woman. She also makes clear how these two justices have shaped the legal framework of modern feminism, including employment discrimination, abortion, affirmative action, sexual harassment, and many other issues crucial to women’s lives. Sisters-in-Law combines legal detail with warm personal anecdotes that bring these very different women into focus as never before. Meticulously researched and compellingly told, it is an authoritative account of changing law and culture, and a moving story of a remarkable friendship.
Oh how we love a good podcast, and we know you do too so imagine our crazy exciting geeking out levels when our favourite podcasts recommend a book! We have rounded up six must read books that have all been mentioned in recent episodes of some of our top podcasts.
Buckle yourself in because once you’ve had a read you’ll want to pop your headphones on and have a good old podcast binge.
From their broad experience on the world stage in politics, economics and global not-for-profits, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Julia Gillard have some strong ideas about the impact of gender on the treatment of leaders. Women and Leadership takes a consistent and comprehensive approach to teasing out what is different for women leaders. Almost every year new findings are published about the way people see women leaders compared with their male counterparts. The authors have taken that academic work and tested it in the real world. The same set of interview questions were put to each leader in frank face-to-face interviews. Their responses were then used to examine each woman’s journey in leadership and whether their lived experiences were in line with or different from what the research would predict. Women and Leadership presents a lively and readable analysis of the influence of gender on women’s access to positions of leadership, the perceptions of them as leaders, the trajectory of their leadership and the circumstances in which it comes to an end. By presenting the lessons that can be learned from women leaders, Julia and Ngozi provide a road map of essential knowledge to inspire us all, and an action agenda for change that allows women to take control and combat gender bias. Featuring Jacinda Ardern, Hillary Clinton, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Theresa May, Michelle Bachelet, Joyce Banda, Erna Solberg, Christine Lagarde and more.
In a year when South Korea announced that its new robotics museum will be built by robots, and French cheese terrorists put a camembert through every French MP’s letterbox, The Book of the Year returns with another dose of barely believable yet bona fide facts and stories from the past twelve months. Each week for the past five years, Dan, James, Anna and Andy, the creators of the award-winning, chart-topping comedy podcast No Such Thing as a Fish, have wowed each other and millions of listeners with the most astonishing trivia they have learned over the previous seven days. Now, once again, they have scoured the newspapers for hidden gems, and transformed another year’s worth of weird and wonderful happenings into one uplifting book that you won’t be able to put down. Discover how TV channel Hallmark has so many new Christmas movies that it will now start airing them from July. Be amused to learn that a thousand people were hired to attend a rally in Kiev to protest against the practice of hiring people to attend rallies. Share the excitement of the scientists who discovered that more attractive monkeys have smaller testicles. Revel in the news that Carlsberg launched a new advertising campaign admitting it is ‘probably not the best beer in the world’. Feel a little sympathy for Ariana Grande, who got a Japanese tattoo she intended to say ‘Seven Rings’ but that actually ended up reading ‘small charcoal grill’. From ecologically minded Birmingham drug dealers to dodgy Belgian petanque players, The Book of the Year 2019 is an eye-opening tour of yet another incredible year you didn’t know you’d lived through. Imagine what the 2020 version will be like!
This long-awaited memoir from one of Britain’s best-loved celebrities (a writer, broadcaster, activist, comic on stage, screen and radio for nearly forty years, presenter of QI and Great British Bake Off star) is an autobiography with a difference: as only Sandi Toksvig can tell it. ‘Between the Stops is a sort of a memoir, my sort. It’s about a bus trip really, because it’s my view from the Number 12 bus (mostly top deck, the seat at the front on the right), a double-decker that plies its way from Dulwich, in South East London, where I was living, to where I sometimes work – at the BBC, in the heart of the capital. It’s not a sensible way to write a memoir at all, probably, but it’s the way things pop into your head as you travel, so it’s my way’. From London facts including where to find the blue plaque for Una Marson, ‘The first black woman programme maker at the BBC’, to discovering the best Spanish coffee under Southwark’s railway arches; from a brief history of lady gangsters at Elephant and Castle to memories of climbing Mount Sinai and, at the request of a fellow traveller, reading aloud the Ten Commandments; from the story behind Pissarro’s painting of Dulwich Station to performing in Footlights with Emma Thompson; from painful memoires of being sent to Coventry while at a British boarding school to thinking about how Wombells Travelling Circus of 1864 haunts Peckham Rye; from anecdotes about meeting Prince Charles, Monica Lewinsky and Grayson Perry to Bake-Off antics; from stories of a real and lasting friendship with John McCarthy to the importance of family and the daunting navigation of the Zambezi River in her father’s canoe, this Sandi Toksvig-style memoir is, as one would expect and hope, packed full of surprises. A funny and moving trip through memories, musings and the many delights on the Number 12 route, Between the Stops is also an inspiration to us all to get off our phones, look up and to talk to each other because as Sandi says: ‘some of the greatest trips lie on our own doorstep’.
What if we could improve our ability to predict the future? Everything we do involves forecasts about how the future will unfold. Whether buying a new house or changing job, designing a new product or getting married, our decisions are governed by implicit predictions of how things are likely to turn out. The problem is, we’re not very good at it. In a landmark, twenty-year study, Wharton professor Philip Tetlock showed that the average expert was only slightly better at predicting the future than a layperson using random guesswork. Tetlock’s latest project – an unprecedented, government-funded forecasting tournament involving over a million individual predictions – has since shown that there are, however, some people with real, demonstrable foresight. These are ordinary people, from former ballroom dancers to retired computer programmers, who have an extraordinary ability to predict the future with a degree of accuracy 60% greater than average. They are superforecasters. In Superforecasting, Tetlock and his co-author Dan Gardner offer a fascinating insight into what we can learn from this elite group. They show the methods used by these superforecasters which enable them to outperform even professional intelligence analysts with access to classified data. And they offer practical advice on how we can all use these methods for our own benefit – whether in business, in international affairs, or in everyday life.
In July 2015, a young black woman named Sandra Bland was pulled over for a minor traffic violation in rural Texas. Minutes later she was arrested and jailed. Three days later, she committed suicide in her cell. What went wrong? Talking to Strangers is all about what happens when we encounter people we don’t know, why it often goes awry, and what it says about us. How do we make sense of the unfamiliar? Why are we so bad at judging someone, reading a face, or detecting a lie? Why do we so often fail to ‘get’ other people? Through a series of puzzles, encounters and misunderstandings, from little-known stories to infamous legal cases, Gladwell takes us on a journey through the unexpected. You will read about the spy who spent years undetected at the highest levels of the Pentagon, the man who saw through the fraudster Bernie Madoff, the suicide of the poet Sylvia Plath and the false conviction of Amanda Knox. You will discover that strangers are never simple. No one shows us who we are like Malcolm Gladwell. Here he sets out to understand why we act the way we do, and how we all might know a little more about those we don’t.
There are plenty of books out there on how to survive a zombie apocalypse, all-out nuclear war, or Armageddon. But what happens when it feels like the world is ending every single time you wake up? That’s what having anxiety is like – and How to Survive the End of the World is here to help. Or at least make you feel like you’re not so alone. From helping readers identify the enemy, to safeguarding the vulnerable areas of their lives, Aaron Gillies examines the impact of anxiety, and gives readers some tools to fight back, whether with medication, therapy, CBT, coping techniques, or simply with a dark sense of humour.
And as promised…here’s your list of podcasts to happily binge.
In this thought-provoking talk, writer and podcaster Lucy Clayton examines the power of ordinary people in extraordinary outfits and describes how we can repurpose fashion in service of political expression.
Today, girls are moving from dreaming to achieving. More are attending and completing school, fewer are getting married or becoming mothers while still children, and more are gaining the skills they need to excel in the future world of work. Girls are breaking boundaries and barriers posed by stereotypes and exclusion, including those directed at children with disabilities and those living in marginalized communities. As entrepreneurs, innovators and initiators of global movements, girls are leading and fostering a world that is relevant for them and future generations.
Heroines and female villains outnumbered heroes and male baddies in a literary poll of memorable children’s novel characters in the UK marking World Book Day last year. Six of the top 10 heroes voted for were female, including Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games series while seven out of 10 villains were female. This made us wonder just who is next in the stakes for amazing heroes for our children.
Here’s a few titles that we found with some pretty marvellous heroes for our children to admire.
What if the princess didn’t marry Prince Charming but instead went on to be an astronaut? What if the jealous step sisters were supportive and kind? And what if the queen was the one really in charge of the kingdom? Illustrated by sixty female artists from every corner of the globe, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls introduces us to one hundred remarkable women and their extraordinary lives, from Ada Lovelace to Malala, Elizabeth I to Serena Williams. Empowering, moving and inspirational, these are true fairy tales for heroines who definitely don’t need rescuing.
Volume 2 is coming out in time for the festive season you can have a look at the preview here.
In the Little People, Big Dreams series, discover the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists, to scientists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream. Rosa Parks grew up during segregation in Alabama, but she was taught to respect herself and stand up for her rights. In 1955, Rosa refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Her decision had a huge impact on civil rights, eventually leading to the end of segregation on public transport. Rosa was described as “the mother of the freedom movement.” This inspiring story of Rosa’s life is moving, and approachable for young readers.
She Persisted is for everyone who has ever wanted to speak up but has been told to quiet down, for everyone who has ever tried to reach for the stars but was told to sit down, and for everyone who has ever been made to feel unworthy or unimportant or small. With vivid, compelling art by Alexandra Boiger, this book shows readers that no matter what obstacles may be in their paths, they shouldn’t give up on their dreams. Persistence is power. This book features: Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, Virginia Apgar, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, Sonia Sotomayor—and one special cameo.
Get to know celebrated Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the first picture book about her life as she proves that disagreeing does not make you disagreeable! Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent a lifetime disagreeing: disagreeing with inequality, arguing against unfair treatment, and standing up for what’s right for people everywhere. This biographical picture book about the Notorious RBG, tells the justice’s story through the lens of her many famous dissents, or disagreements.
Young Charlotte is a filmmaker who loves everything that s black and white, including spiders, penguins, and the old movies that she sees with her dad at the Golden Theatre (where the floors are sticky). With her camera at the ready wherever she goes, she finds inspiration for movies everywhere she looks. But when her colourful parents and colourful classmates just don t get her, she is ready to give up until a lucky encounter with a film curator at The Museum of Modern Art in New York changes her perspective. Inspired by the films she sees at MoMA and stories of other pioneering directors, Charlotte gets to work. And it is hard work but when her movie finally premieres at the Museum, Charlotte is thrilled to be doing exactly what she loves best. A follow-up to Frank Viva’s “Young Frank, Architect” and perfect for film lovers, aspiring directors, and artists of all stripes, “Young Charlotte, Filmmaker” is an inspiring tale.”