Books I Read in 2017
52 Books in 52 Weeks
At the end of 2016, I was burned out and tired, and really looking forward to a few weeks of sun and rest over the Christmas holiday (perks of Southern Hemisphere living!).
Last year, I stumbled across Rachel’s summary of books she read in 2016, and I committed myself to a rather audacious new year’s resolution (at least for me): read 52 books over the course of the year. I’ve got a chapter to go in my 52nd book, so I’m calling it a win.
I committed because I love reading. But I often fill my time with much less noble pursuits (Netflix, damn you and your automatic next episode feature). So I promptly cancelled my Netflix account, whipped up a list of books I’ve been meaning to read, and got to work. For those who inevitably claim they simply do not have time to commit to as many books as I have this year, dear reader, let me gently direct you to Ellen’s article, which steeled me for my personal Everest: the most books I’ve read in a year in my life, thus far (52). I’ve followed Rachel’s format because I enjoyed the mini-reviews and notable quotes she included in hers. I hope this inspires you to read!
My top picks for the year were, hands down, Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed, and Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. However, I read many good books, and I hope you’ll find some gems in here to enjoy over the next year.
The List, in chronological order:
The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis — I’ve always liked Lewis’s work, and after being exposed to tidbits of Kahneman’s work, I looked forward to reading this one. Surprisingly, what I found interesting in this book wasn’t the story of the creation of behavioural economics (although there’s enough of that to whet any armchair pyschologist’s appetite), but rather the unusual mind — or shared mind — of Tversky and Kahneman which created it. In typical Lewis’ fashion, he captures not only the complexity of human mind — but the human relationship intrinsic to its discovery.
“People are not so complicated. Relationships between people are complicated.”
Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Choinard— I’m a Patagonia junkie. But even I didn’t anticipate just how much I would love this book. The book reads at times like a mission statement, at others like a lovingly told origin story, and still others handbook for building companies and products that people love while changing the world. Particularly good were the product design principles Patagonia adhere to. This is a must-read for anyone in product design, or who wants to change the world for the better through business.
We can hardly continue to make the best outdoor clothing if we become primarily an “indoor” culture. So we seek out dirtbags who feel more at home in a base camp or on the river than they do in the office.
— This book pressed me to consider what we are making, and where people are most comfortable in their natural habitats.
Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller — While I didn’t love the writing, what I did love about this book is the question Miller tackles — is God culturally relevant? “I had more significant spiritual experiences at Reed College than I ever had at church,” writes Miller, “One of the things I cherished about Reed was that any time I stepped on campus I would find a conversation going about issues that mattered to me.” I’ve had a growing conviction this year that my faith calls me to action, and particularly, activism — so this book resonated with me.
I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn’t resolve. I used to not like God because God didn’t resolve.
Too much of our time is spent trying to chart God on a grid, and too little is spent allowing our hearts to feel awe.
The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership by Bill Walsh — I love a good sports book, and Bill Walsh’s transformation of the 49ers is part sports tale for the ages: taking them from the worst team in the league to winning 2 Superbowls, and part management handbook. As the title suggests, the book outlines Walsh’s philosophy that excellence pursued for its own sake yields winning results. What I didn’t expect was Walsh’s own account of his own burnout at the end of the book—a rather sobering reminder that success doesn’t keep you warm at night.
If you were lucky enough to receive a 49er paycheck, it meant you were part of an organization that had high expectations of itself and of you, whether you were a superstar or a secretary, manager or maintenance man, athlete, executive, or head coach. Those expectations, of course, went beyond ethics and attitude to specific performance standards and actions.
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller — Picked this up on the recommendation of a friend after reading Blue Like Jazz. I loved the connection Miller makes with Robert McKee’s acclaimed book on screenwriting, Story, and the idea that we are all characters in our own stories, and the purpose of a good story is character transformation. If we aren’t facing conflict, we aren’t living “good stories.”
People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen.
The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from Ideo, America’s Leading Design Firm by Tom Kelley — A business book with practical advice. What a concept. Much like Let My People Go Surfing, The Art of Innovation is a story about creating the conditions for creativity to thrive by looking inside the walls of IDEO.
IDEO was like hanging out with your friends on summer break.
Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg — I started this in 2016 and didn’t finish it, then picked it up again this year to finish it off. To be honest, I’m kind of over the ‘productivity’ narrative. I liked Duhigg’s first book (The Power of Habit) but this one wasn’t nearly as memorable. There are certain chapters that stood out, notably the one about how Saturday Night Live created the conditions for productive creativity — but by and large, it read like a less memorable version of Malcolm Gladwell’s books.
Saturday Night Live has been held up as a model of great team dynamics. It is cited in college textbooks as an example of what groups can achieve when the right conditions are in place and a team intensely bonds.
Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock — I’ve followed Laszlo Bock’s work with interest over the last few years, especially as he’s spoken up regarding unconscious bias in the hiring process at Google. Google’s concept of ‘people ops’ (vs human resources) is one that I’d love to see more creative companies adopt, so it was nice to get under the hood of how they tested various policies inside Google to maximise people’s wellbeing and productivity. I’ve read and re-read Laszlo’s words, and used it as a model for some of our own hiring practices — particularly what he says about applying science to the art of hiring.
The goal of our interview process is to predict how candidates will perform once they join the team. We achieve that goal by doing what the science says: combining behavioural and situational structured interviews with assessments of cognitive ability, conscientiousness, and leadership.
The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle— Recommended by Grace, this is a fascinating fly-on-the-wall account by Tyler Hamilton, Lance Armstrong’s teammate, of what went on within the team at the height of Armstrong’s career, and how it all came crashing down. It gives insight into the mentality on the Tour. Reading this in the same year that I watched Icarus was fascinating.
You spend your life working to get to the brink of success, and then you are given a choice: either join in or quit and go home. What would you do?
The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly — I did not enjoy this. Self-proclaimed ‘futurists’ at the best of times try my patience, but in this one I found zero evidence for Kelly’s predictions, which are vague and platitudinal. It took all my willpower to finish this book.
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Knight — Picked this up as a fan of the Nike brand. What I found most interesting was the company’s history of (and reliance on) borrowing money to keep the business afloat. It really is a story of creative accounting and careful business management to build a global business. I didn’t like it as much as Let My People Go Surfing (and I’ll be honest — I don’t like Nike nearly as much as I like Patagonia), but as a runner I was particularly interested in the company’s roots in the Oregon running community.
Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance by Matt Fitzgerald — Only a running nerd would pick up (and enjoy) this book, but I am, so I did. Takeaway: if you’re at your peak racing weight, you’ll probably be hungry most of the time (an aside — I am not at peak racing weight, and that’s just fine with me — I have a job, relationships I care about, and other priorities that are more important than my racing times).
Whatever you do — whether it’s cycle, run, swim, or engage in all three — you need to do it a lot. How much? Train as much as you can without breaking down, burning out, or losing your job or spouse. If motivation is your limiter, then train as much as you can while still enjoying the training process. 😳
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin — Recommended by Andy, I read this because Navy SEALs are masters at 1) discipline and 2) teamwork, which is critical to creative work. What I took from this book was how important true delegation is (actually handing over responsibility to people, not trying to stay involved in everything — it’s just not possible and it doesn’t allow others the opportunity to step up and lead). Worth reading if you lead creative teams.
After all, there can be no leadership where there is no team.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami — As a runner, this has been recommended to me several times over the last few years. I found it beautiful, if a bit slow. If you’re a runner, it will resonate.
When you see runners in town it’s easy to distinguish beginners from veterans. The ones panting are beginners; the ones with quiet, measured breathing are the veterans. Their hearts, lost in thought, slowly tick away time. When we pass each other on the road, we listen to the rhythm of each other’s breathing, and sense the way the other person is ticking away the moments. Much like two writers perceive each other’s diction and style.
Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by H.G. Bissinger — Like much of America, I fell in love with the Friday Night Lights television series. When I found out it was a book, I had to read it. Bissinger’s writing is incisive, beautiful, and deep. It’s a commentary on small towns, football, racism, the public school system, and the American Dream.
No connection in all of sports was more intimate than this one, the one between town and high school.
What pride they had in Odessa came from their very survival in a place they openly admitted was physically wretched. It was still a place that seemed on the edge of the frontier, a paradoxical mixture of the Old South and the Wild West, friendly to a fault but fiercely independent, God-fearing and propped up by the Baptist beliefs in family and flag but hell-raising, spiced with the edge of violence but naive and thoroughly unpretentious.
Odessa also evoked the kind of America that Ronald Reagan always seemed to have in mind during his presidency, a place still rooted in the sweet nostalgia of the fifties—unsophisticated, basic, raw—a place where anybody could be somebody, a place still clinging to all the tenets of the American Dream, however wobbly they had become.
Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf — Picked up on a recommendation from a girlfriend. While the book has been met with ire by some (as an aside, can we get over our cultural squeamishness around the word vagina?), I found it refreshing, honest, and interesting. Wolf explores the mind-body connection and how it impacts women’s ability to express themselves creatively. Specifically, Wolf describes the vagina and the brain as one network or system that form the gateway to female self-knowledge and consciousness, mediating creativity and transcendance. This book me consider the impact of environmental stress, sexist language, and sexism on the soul and psyche of women.
We are continually told to “just relax” about such demeaning language, but there are good reasons, related to the power of such words to represent sexually threatening acts that can wreak “multisystem dysregulation” upon us, why we physiologically can’t.
Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself by Rich Roll — Grace turned me onto Rich Roll’s podcast and this book. I love reading about athletes and Rich Roll’s transformation from alcoholic to endurance athlete is inspiring. An easy read. May inspire you to take up an endurance sport.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler — Recommended to me by Sunil, this was outside of what I usually read (2017 was my year of trying fiction on for size) but is a beautifully written story about an unusual topic. I won’t give it away, but there’s a major twist in here.
First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Story about Anxiety by Sarah Wilson — I wanted to like this a lot more than I actually did. It’s about time someone wrote a candid book about anxiety. The flaw with this book is that it’s not quite sure what it wants to be: memoir or chronicle of interviews with doctors, psychologists, and wellness experts. Still, if you’ve ever dealt with anxiety, this book is an answer to the question of “What is anxiety?” and “Am I the only one?”
A Mind of Your Own by Kelly Brogan, M.D. —Picked this after becoming aware of the bias doctors have in prescribing women pyschoactive drugs (1 in 4 women are prescribed pyschoactive drugs, compared to 1 in 7 men). Brogan’s background as a doctor formerly treating post-nasal depression with antidepressants and her (new) holistic approach to treating to depression is interesting, but some of her recommendations may come across as something that only the privileged can access (solutions like drinking filtered water, expensive vitamins, going Paleo, etc).
This isn’t just about mental health; it’s about how mental health is a manifestation of all that your body is experiencing and your mind’s interpretation of its own safety and power.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy — Apocalyptic literature is not my cup of tea. Damian and Olivia recommended this very highly, so I took a risk and plunged into what is a very dark book (and lent me a copy — thanks Liv!). Still, this tale — of a father and son making their way through what’s left of the earth was completely spell-binding. Warning: Proceed with caution. McCarthy uses words to paint haunting images that will be burned in your memory forever.
You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.
The Nix by Nathan Hill— Jo, Damian, Grace Palos and Sunil were reading this before I read it, and it was getting a lot of buzz in the media, so I picked it up. What I enjoyed most was the concept of the Nix — the things that you love most will one day hurt you the worst. It reads like a literary Love Actually — different story threads crossing over, connecting and snagging on one another to form a beautifully messy protrayal of family, love, friendships, and trust.
When he told Faye about the Nix, he said the moral was: Don’t trust things that are too good to be true. But then she grew up and came to a new conclusion, which she told Samuel in the month before leaving the family. She told him the same story but added her own moral: “The things you love the most will one day hurt you the worst.”
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari — Picked this up as an entertaining airplane read and wound up thoroughly enjoying the depth of research Ansari delved into to answer the question: what is modern romance?
Marriage was an economic institution in which you were given a partnership for life in terms of children and social status and succession and companionship. But now we want our partner to still give us all these things, but in addition I want you to be my best friend and my trusted confidant and my passionate lover to boot, and we live twice as long.”
The Circle by Dave Eggers — A page-turner. James recommended this and I think the word he used to describe it was “salacious.” An apt description. This is the story about a young recruit to a Google-esque tech company who’s eyes are open to It’s an easy read but brings up very real concerns about transparency and privacy in the age of Google and Facebook. As is often the case, the book is far better than the movie.
The Circle had 90 percent of the search market. Eighty-eight percent of the free-mail market, 92 percent of text servicing.
Ready, Player One by Ernest Cline — A book I thought I’d like more than I did. My expectations were high as it seems to have ‘cult’ status as a book — potentially for the 80's references which are littered throughout the book. We read this for Book Club at For The People and my takeaway was: it’s entertaining, but there’s no deeper meaning to it. It’s a story — nothing more, nothing less.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson — Grace recommended this (thanks Grace!) As an over thinker, I care way too much about what others think. This was a good reminder that caring too much about too many things will only result in page. As an interesting aside, I met someone who went to Manson’s book launch and was disappointed by the lack of his bravado and profanity Personally, I think Manson’s best tool is his writing — not everyone is a public speaker. This work lives best on a page.
The key to a good life is not giving a fuck about more; it’s giving a fuck about less, giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important.
Don’t Buy It: The Trouble with Talking Nonsense about the Economy by Anat Shenker-Osorio — The comms major in my loved this book. Shenker-Osorio cuts through jargon, unclear messaging and misinformation and suggests a new, clear way of persuading the public. Talking about the economy, Shenker-Osorio argues, is a losing battle. We have to use metaphors and frames that people can understand, in order to win. This book shows us what they are and how to use them.
The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.
Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes — Read this on Ashly’s recommendation after a conversation about the fact that in order to see step changes in how women are represented in the media, we need more women starting businesses. If you don’t read the book, Shonda Rhime’s TED talk and graduation speech are also a good place to start. This book inspired me to start saying yes to more things in 2017 — and so far that’s been a very good thing.
Losing yourself does not happen all at once. Losing yourself happens one no at a time.
If you want crappy things to stop happening to you, then stop accepting crap and demand something more. — CRISTINA YANG, GREY’S ANATOMY
The Answers by Lacey Catherine — This book had potential but fell off about halfway through. After reading this book and observing my reaction to it think I’m getting better at picking what a ‘good story, well told’ means (hat tip Robert McKee for the phrase). This one had a good premise: the protagonist, Mary, plays the role of Emotional Girlfriend in the “Girlfriend Experiment” run by a wealthy actor who has hired scientists to build and maintain the perfect romantic relationship through a cast of women who play specific roles in his life — but falters and falls short of a story well told, or one with a deep human truth to it.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card — Before reading this book, I would have told you that sci-fi is not my thing. This is a superbly written book that is part dystopian future, part leadership parable. When gifted 6 year olds are the hope of humanity in the face of an alien invasion, all ‘normal’ protocol goes out the window and Ender learns strategy, war games, and leadership in Battle School — where things aren’t always as they appear.
He could see Bonzo’s anger growing hot. Hot anger was bad. Ender’s anger was cold, and he could use it. Bonzo’s was hot, and so it used him.
Everybody thinks Hitler got to power because of his armies, because they were willing to kill, and that’s partly true, because in the real world power is always built on the threat of death and dishonor. But mostly he got to power on words, on the right words at the right time.
Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World by Rutger Bregman — Everyone should read this book. Bregman calls universal basic income “an idea whose time has come,” and breaks down America’s (fraught) history with universal basic income experiments (we were a whisker away from instituting a UBI in the ’70s) and calls for bolder, more radical ideas to change the world. Should be required reading for anyone who isn’t satisfied with the world as it is right now.
Like humor and satire, utopias throw open the windows of the mind.
I’ll have What She’s Having: Nora Ephron and the Three Movies that Changed Romantic Comedy by Erin Carlson — I fell back in love with Nora Ephron this year after watching a documentary on her (Everything is Copy). Slightly before my time but standing the test of time, her voice is clear, strong, snarky and delightful all at once. Reading this behind the scenes piece on some of her most notable work isn’t for everyone but for fans of Nora — it’s a delightful read.
The Ephron woman, even at her most Pollyanna, makes us feel less alone in a man’s world — and inspires us not to give up.
Her body of work is an eternal reply to the questions ‘Are women funny? Can women direct?’ Everything she did was unbelievably elegant, hilarious, and warm — basically everything anyone aspires to when they’re writing a romantic comedy, but I don’t think anyone will ever do it as well as she did.
Crazy Salad and Scribble Scribble: Some Things About Women and Notes on Media by Nora Ephron — After reading about Ephron, I went straight to the source. I loved Crazy Salad most of all, but Ephron’s take on journalism is equally fresh and, I imagine for those in the profession, would be highly entertaining. Crazy, was, for me, such an entertaining read because it speaks to Ephron’s keen insight on gender, gender politics, and feminism.
Washington is a city of important men and the women they married before they grew up.
Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown — My friends know I refer to Brene as simply that: we’re on a first name basis. This book, like all of her others, felt like sitting down with a wise, gentle, and at times, sassy friend.
Belonging so fully to yourself that you’re willing to stand alone is a wilderness — an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching.
Collective effervescence is an experience of connection, communal emotion, and a “sensation of sacredness” that happens when we are a part of something bigger than us. Durkheim also proposed that during these experiences of collective effervescence our focus shifts from self to group.
When the culture of any organization mandates that it is more important to protect the reputation of a system and those in power than it is to protect the basic human dignity of the individuals who serve that system or who are served by that system, you can be certain that the shame is systemic, the money is driving ethics, and the accountability is all but dead.
Lost Boy by Christina Henry — I’ve always loved J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, and in particular, the character of James Hook (better known as Captain Hook). I picked this one up while I was sick with the flu and it was a deeply entertaining reimagining of the background of Jamie and Peter.
Together wasn’t something that Peter understood, not really. He liked all the boys to be in one group, but he didn’t like sharing and he certainly didn’t like it when the boys banded together to do anything without him.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood — I committed the faux pas of watching the TV series before reading, but still relished the telling of this dystopian tale. My first introduction to Atwood, and I’ll certainly be reading her again in the future. My favourite thing about Handmaid’s Tale is how masterfully she traverses between past and present to illustrate how a dystopian future like Gilead could occur (for example, the freezing of women’s bank accounts, ordering women home from their jobs, etc.).
I guess that’s how they were able to do it, in the way they did, all at once, without anyone knowing beforehand. If there had still been portable money, it would have been more difficult. It was after the catastrophe, when they shot the president and machine-gunned the Congress and the army declared a state of emergency. They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time.
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed — What do you do when you fall out of love, lose a loved one, can’t pay the bill, fall in love, have babies? You write to Sugar — the once-anonymous advice column called Dear Sugar in literary magazine, The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild. Had this one recommended to me by a dear friend Emma, and cannot say enough good things about it. Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of these letters, and they truly are tiny beautiful things. Reading this book feels like curling up on the couch of a dear friend and pouring out your heart for encouragement, support, and advice. My favourite letter in the book is a letter to a young woman who wants to write, but worries that her gender will set her back. That she’ll write “like a girl.” Strayed’s advice is FIRE. 👇
So write, Elissa Bassist. Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.
Torch by Cheryl Strayed— After Tiny Beautiful Things, I wanted to explore Strayed’s writing in more detail. Torch is her debut novel, and Strayed’s voice — which I fell in love with in Wild, and Tiny Beautiful Things — is evident here. A story about two children who lose their mother to cancer, it’s about love and loss and ultimately — a thinly veiled memoir of Strayed’s own life. Beautiful and poignant.
Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by James L. Wilson — As a former D1 athlete, 8 time marathoner and half ironman dabbler, I had this book prescribed (yes, prescribed) by a naturopath who wanted me to consider that maybe I was pushing myself too hard physically (probably true). This book made me consider how much we expect of our bodies with the stress and pace of modern living (and a mild endurance sport addiction).
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green — I love John Green’s writing and I don’t care who knows it (for those not in the know — John Green’s audience tends to be young adults). Beyond telling tender and poignant sotires, Green is a master crafter of visual metaphors and beautiful sentences. So when I heard that he had written a book with a protagonist who suffers from OCD (which Green has said he suffers from, as well), I knew it would be a worthwhile read, and boy was it.
I looked up at him and smiled, but I could not cinch the lasso on my thoughts, which were galloping all around my brain.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott — Best book I read all year. Lamott’s book is beyond practical, in-the-trenches advice on writing from plot (don’t force it), to dialogue (listen to your characters), to misbehaving characters (treat them like you would your unruly 3 year old), this book addresses a question that drives writers mad with anxiety, insignificance or the crushing burden of responsibility: ‘Why does our writing matter?’
When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but the singing can change the hearts and the spirits of the people who are together on that ship.
American Pyscho by Brett Easton Ellis — I picked up this book on a bit of a whim because I’ve long been fascinated by the marketing of American Pyscho the musical, and the character Brett Easton Ellis crafts in yuppie, status obsessed pyschopath Patrick Bateman. Warning: graphic doesn’t even begin to describe this book. As Bateman loses his grip on reality, he describes, in horrifying detail his rape, murder, and worse of women, schizophrenically interspersed with his detailed observations about fashion, brands, and restaurant meals. When I say it is graphic, that’s not a strong enough description of how disturbing it is. I cannot fathom someone putting the words together to describe the things that Ellis describes, and it is worth noting that this book was published amidst significant controversy. Disturbing material aside, Ellis’s work is a fascinating study in creating a character whose very hypothetical existence evokes a visceral response in the reader.
Is evil something you are? Or is it something you do?
I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes — A recommendation as a “quick, fun read” from my flatmate, this was a welcome transition from the gore of American Pyscho. The pace was one of the things I like about this book. It does read like a screenplay — descriptive, nimble, and visual. However, I found the novel’s Islamophobia sensationalist. Call me cynical, but it seems like a convenient (and commercially savvy) hook for a novel that was written for the express purpose of making its way to a major motion picture in America. What I enjoyed in pace came at the sacrifice of character development: Pilgrim’s character felt sacrificed at the altar of pace and plot. This made the end of the novel less satisfying. Perhaps it will play better on screen.
Hegarty on Advertising by John Hegarty — OK. I’m going to level with you. There’s good advice in here. But it reads exactly like you think a book titled “Hegarty on Advertising” and written by a guy called Hegarty, would read. Still, good nuggets.
I define creativity as an ‘expression of self’. You cannot create great work unless a little bit of you goes into it, be it your heart, your soul or your beliefs.
The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Thrap — Twyla Tharp is a working creative: a world class choreographer. Her advice is practical, fresh, and eloquent. What I took from Tharp’s book was the importance of embracing what she so articulately calls the paradox of creativity. She gives practical exercises, habits from her own life, and from the creative people in her own life that she admires. I recommend this to anyone exploring their own creative habit.
“In order to be habitually creative, you have to know how to prepare to be creative, but good planning alone won’t make your efforts successful; it’s only after you let go of your plans that you can breathe life into your efforts.”
A Manhattan writer I know never leaves his apartment without reminding himself to “come back with a face.”
Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace by Jessica Bennett — This was a fun read. Jessica Bennett is a badass. Find out more about her here. If you’ve ever experienced insidious sexism (here’s Bennett’s description: it’s watching a man instictively turn to a woman to take notes in a meeting, or being mistaken for the admin when you’re actually the one in charge. It’s being talked over in a group setting, over and over again, or having your idea attributed to someone else (more often than not, a dude) — you’ll want to read this book. It’s the answer to the question women around the world have asked: “Did anyone else see that? Or is it just me?” Yes. We see it. And this book has the strategies to combat sexism and dismantle the patriarchy.
“The law cannot do it for us. We must do it for ourselves. Women in this country must become revolutionaries.” — Shirley Chisholm, the first AFrican American woman elected to teh US Congress
sub-tle sex-sim / n.
The kind of sexism that makes you wonder, ‘Am I actually just crazy?’ (No, you are not.)
Bitch Doctrine: Essays for Dissenting Adults by Laurie Penny — I knew I wanted to read this book after I read Laurie Penny’s article, “Why Women are Better of Single.” Laurie Penny writes articulately and passionately about feminism, inequality, gender fluidity and more in a collection of essays. Penny’s voice is snarky and yet hopeful — she argues for justice and equality, yes, but also for kindness and humour.
Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities by Rebecca Solnit — This was recommended to me when I was doing some work with an Australian union. Solnit, a writer, historian and activist, explores social change, insurrection, hope and disaster — and make a compelling and beautiful case for hope as a commitment to act in a world whose future remains uncertain and unknowable.
The Firestarter Sessions: A Soulful + Practical Guide to Creating Success on Your Own Terms by Danielle LaPorte — I started this book over a break from work and didn’t finish it. Having a few days off at the end of this year and refocusing my intentions for next year made it the perfect time to get back into it. It’s a more spiritual version of What Colour is Your Parachute, with worksheets and activities to do as you work through what success looks like for you. This book is best read with a glass of wine and a notebook. Not for you if you’re not into self-reflection — but a lot of fun if you are.
Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits by Debbie Millman — Started this book last year off the back of Damian’s recommendation that I check out Debbie Millman’s podcast. She is a tremendous interviewer and is thoughtful, intelligent and articulate. This book helped me put language to what branding is. Highly recommend if you work in branding or design.
The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson — I told Grace I wanted to read a book about the civil rights movement and she recommended this one. Emmett Till was a 14 year old African American who was brutally murdered in 1955. The he brutality of his murder, his mother’s role in drawing newspaper attention to the crime (of which his killers were acquitted) served to cement Till as an icon of the Civil Rights Movement. Reading this book made me realise that history is often sanitised of the gory and unpleasant details of violence, racism, and evil — but it also gave me hope in the power of people, communities, and movements to create meaningful change, which felt like a fitting note to end 2017 on.
Thanks for reading, and happy reading in 2018.