6 books to give some hope in the dark

24 Feb

Though the day job is keeping me very busy, I’ve been just about keeping up with reading a book a week – a solid mix of crime fiction, literary recommendations and non-fiction of interest. Given the generally bleak tone and context we appear to be living in, in a Trumpian Brexit-y world, I thought it might be worth sharing some books that can provide some inspiration, some ideas and, to steal the title from one of them, some hope in the dark. Enjoy – and do suggest your own recommendations below.

1) Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit – a wonderful book which, despite being more than 10 years old, resonates perfectly with today’s polarised world. She advocates hope and critical thinking, for activism to be fun, and to not be sidetracked by perfectionism or by the scale of the challenge. Great stuff.

2) Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman – of course, this Dutch historian has recently gone viral with his ‘speaking truth to power’ video at Davos, but he has plenty of interesting ideas beyond just higher tax rates. Indeed, the aspects of this book that I enjoyed most were those where he was discussing how to change the broader economic system in terms of what we view as ‘progress’ and in how we think of as employment & ‘efficiency’. A dose of optimism.

3) We Should All Be Feminists and Dear Ijeawale (or a Feminist Manifesto in 15 Suggestions) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – both short and succinct books, which have their initial grounding in a TED talk, these are a compelling read on why, simply, we should all be treated equally. The latter book, written to a friend’s daughter, is particularly good in being practical and forward-looking. One for you, your husband/wife, and your son/daughter alike.

4) Grit by Angela Duckworth – I’ve recommended this before, but it still stands the test of time, and in a world where people bang on about moonshots and scaling unicorns, it reminds me of the importance of persistence and commitment allied to purpose. The research behind the maxim that ‘we overestimate what we can achieve in the short term, and underestimate what we can achieve in the long term’. Keeps you keeping on.

5) No is Not Enough by Naomi Klein – the title says it all, really; this is Klein’s take on the rise of Trump, particularly, and she is compelling on how this relates to ‘brand’ especially. The book then gradually turns to how we can all react, respond, rebel, convene and make practical progress – because, well, just saying no is not enough.

And a bonus fictional read to inspire and provoke:

6) Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata – a wonderfully weird, funny tale about a woman who doesn’t fit into society (as other people define it) but does feel perfectly at home working in a convenience store. It has much to tell us about social norms, being inclusive, outwardly-imposed ambition, and focusing on health and happiness. Highly recommended.

[You can read the reviews of all of these and more on the Dogeared Man blog; see most recent reviews here]

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