Reading list 2021

Last year I managed to read 21 books. I’d like to hit 20+ again this year. I usually buy my books from my local indy but I sometimes read in the early morning or late in the night when it is dark hence some kindle titles.

  1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie finished 8th January 2021. Kindle. I really enjoyed this story. I liked the descriptions of Nigeria and the US and the tales weaved around the main character.
  2. Ways of Seeing by John Berger finished 13th January 2021. Paperback ISBN 9780141035796. A short series of essays which were interesting and have me going down a rabbit hole on art forms and artists. Sadly the book layout is poorly designed and crammed which made it a tough read.
  3. How Women Rise: Break the 12 habits Holding You Back by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith finished 31 January 2021. Audio book. My first ever audio book. I started listening at 1x speed but it sounded too clunky so I tried 1.5x which sounded much better strangely. I always like books on learning more about yourself and others so this fit nicely. Lots of useful tips provided across 12 habits. It helped me to reflect on how I can ensure I support women in my organisation and try to avoid common pitfalls.
  4. Culture is bad for you by Brook, O’Brien and Taylor finished 18 February 2021. Paperback ISBN 9781526144164. How strongly I recommend it: 10/10. I had this book on my long list of things to read but totally forgot to order it at the launch. Thankfully, Sara told me to get it quick snap. In short this book is a must read for any of us who work in the cultural sector and want to know why despite many years of trying, we aren’t yet for everyone. The authors split the problem domain into the creation and consumption of culture. Then through academic research explore how class, gender and race are impacted by our current structures and how this in turns leads to more of the same problems. Ouch. Having the problems lead out so clearly really made me sit up and think how can we REALLY help turnaround. No spoilers but it is safe to say it needs many different people, orgs and policy reform. I’d rather be part of the solution than the problem and this will be a much thumbed through book in the next few years.
  5. Atomic Habits by James Clear finished 28th February 2021. Kindle format. How strongly I recommend it: 8/10. A good short read that gives you plenty of “That’s common sense but I’ve never thought of it like that” moments.
  6. Donut Economics by Kate Raworth finished 14th April 2021. Kindle format. How strongly I recommend it: 9/10. Apparently Economists make the world go around so I thought i’d find out more. Kate does a really good job of not only explaining the lay of the land but provides lots of examples of what can be done to do better.
  7. The Art of Relevance by Nina Simon finished 25th April 2021. Paperback ISBN 9780692701492. How strongly I recommend it: 9/10. I’ve been a big fan of Nina’s work for years and I was kindly gifted this book by Phil Walker. Through a series of case studies Nina takes you a journey to understand how you must change. In summary Nina says “We need to matter more to more people” and I couldn’t agree more.
  8. Black and British : a forgotten history by Davis Olusoga finished 24th May 2021. Audio book version.
  9. The Brutish Museum by Prof Dan Hicks finished 19 June 2021. Hardback ISBN 9780745341767. How strongly I recommend it: 10/10. A really strong book that I found difficult to read at points as I have family from Ghana and the brutal stories are alarming.
  10. The Power of Us: How we connect, act and innovate by David Price finished 14th July 2021. Paperback ISBN 9781800191198. How strongly I recommend it 8/10. I liked having UK examples not just USA case studies in the book. Putting aside how the case study companies began, I liked the variety of how people first is good business. I had the chance to join a group session asking David questions the day after finishing the book and was inspired by seeking out others to help you improve.
  11. Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters by Richard Rumelt finished 1st August 2021 on kindle. How strongly I recommend it 7/10.This books is referenced by so many other books I felt I had to read it. I liked the main premise of actively thinking about thinking to avoid common pitfalls.
  12. Women & Power by Mary Beard finished 7th August 2021. Hardback ISBN 9781788160605. How strongly I recommend it 8/10. As the back of the book says ‘You can’t easily fit women into a structure that is already coded as male; you have to change the structure.’
  13. The Art of Statistics – learning from Data by David Spiegelhalter finished 19th September 2021. Kindle. How strongly I recommend it 8/10. A really solid introduction to the fundamentals of data, weakness and communicating. I use data every day and this book has been helpful for me to start focusing on data quality. I would add to my pile of books for anyone who relies on data. An example is I’ve been asked to consider changing museum opening times within the day and it’s easy to fall foul of assumptions.
  14. Business Model Generation By Osterwalder and Pigneur finished 14 November 2021. Isbn 9780470876411 paperback. This is a re-read from about 10yrs ago. I’ve used the core framework many teams but it’s good to brush up on some of the detail as we are set to use across the organisation.
  15. Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain by Peter Fryer finished 18 November 2021. Kindle. This is a re-read from my youth. Essential reading to learn about black people’s contribution and struggle over 500 years.
  16. Mad Mobs & English Men by Steve Reicher and Cliff Stott finished 5th December 2021. Kindle ISBN 9781780335322. A brilliant short book that focuses on the 2011 riots that happened in London and other UK cities. They challenge the idea that the riots are just about crimmials smashing stuff up for the fun of it or looting. Race and class, police approach and policy are all part of the melting pot. I would highly recommend.
  17. Broken Greek by Pete Paphides finished 14 December 2021. A great story about Pete growing up in Birmingham that mixes music, his family business and lots of detail. I had the opportunity to meet Pete at the Museum the day I finished too.
  18. Bullshit job by David Graeber finished 20th December 2021. Kindle ISBN 9780241267363. Following a successful article about the topic here comes the book. A good reminder that lots of jobs exist for many reasons that don’t add value.
  19. Flipping keys by Cesar Pina finished 22 December 2021. Kindle. A short read about Cesar’s journey from the streets and prison to becoming a huge business. I always like these origin stories and came across him via Instagram.
  20. Many Voices One Song by Ted J. Rau and Jerry Koch-Gonzalez finished 29th December 2021. Paperback isbn 9781949183009. A manual about using sociocracy to share power in groups. Having been on a workshop on the topic I’m eager to try this at Birmingham Museums Trust.

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