I got some good reading in this year. I wanted to clock 40 books as a goal but didn’t quite get there. Thirty five is pretty close and it is more about the journey of growth than simply ticking off a “books read” checklist.
Some are re-reads that I often go back to, and some are wonderful new finds that will likely become things I go back to in coming years. I also managed to finish the Dune books which was great as I’ve been chipping away at them for over a year now.
Great for teaching: Powerful Teaching. Great principles on how we learn. This (with Make It Stick) has been invaluable. They have informed much of how I have taught in the last year: Specifically, using active recall and spaced repetition to help build memory by interrupting the forgetting curve.
Great for seeing possibility in your job and some really interesting ideas on leadership and creativity: The Art of Possibility. Really enjoyed this. In a tough year it was good to read about changing your frame of reference. Focus on the possibilities surrounding you instead of the normal measuring and comparing your life to others.
I love the idea of giving people an “A”, as in grading them an “A”. Here the idea is to see the person’s potential and treat them like they’re that person already:
“When you give an A, you find yourself speaking to people not from a place of measuring how they stack up against your standards, but from a place of respect that gives them room to realize themselves. Your eye is on the statue within the roughness of the uncut stone.”
- Mosses are pretty amazing. Who knew? They’re so integral to the health of forests and ecosystems and, despite their incredibly simple structure, have evolved some marvellously complex ways to thrive in their habitats.
- Feynman, apart from being an amazing scientist was also interested in safe cracking and loved pranking his colleagues. He talks about his career, teaching and learning, and his role in the Manhattan Project among many other things.
I came upon these two books along different pathways at roughly the same time and many of the ideas and stories overlap.
The Checklist Manifesto focuses more on using checklists to help avert error and gives many examples from aviation, medicine and engineering.
Blackbox Thinking gives examples from aviation and medicine too but delves more into why we like to cling to our ideas when we’re wrong and why using failures to learn from is a great way to progress.
Great for being organised, goal setting and just general tracking of things you do: The Bullet Journal Method. I bullet journaled for a while…pen on paper vibes…and really enjoyed it. I eventually binned the pen and paper idea for portability sake but kept the ideas. Definitely worth a read if you need organisation help. This with Getting Things Done by David Allen has informed a lot of how I plan.
Great for learning a bit about setting your culture as a leader: What you do is who you are. Learn from the Haitian slave revolution, prison inmates, Genghis Khan and the Bushido Code of the Samurai as Ben Howard sets out nine ideas to help set culture.
Best for getting a handle on Greek mythology: Mythos. It’s crazy funny and at the same time so well written. It’s Stephen Fry at his best. So many words have their origin in the name of the various Greek gods and it was great to make those connections: Gaia / Geology, Phobetor / Phobias and Brontes / Brontesaurus to name a few.
- Loved The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. Short, touching, wise.
- Circe was awesome. Another wander into Greek mythology, this time though, the author has novelised the story of a lesser-known character quite a bit while staying within the overall story.
- Ikigai is all about living a long and happy life. It has little bits of wisdom from Okinawa in Japan, where many centenarians live, such: “Eat until your 80% full.” I so didn’t get that right over Christmas!
If I had to reduce this to five books I’d like to keep and give the rest away:
- Powerful Teaching
- Black Box Thinking
- Gathering Moss
- The Art of Possibility
- The Boy, The Mole, the Fox and the Horse
What books impacted you in 2020? What would be your top five books to keep?