Like in 2017 and 2018, the whole team at Obelisk Support is contributing to a 2019 book review to inspire your future reads. Each one of us was asked to nominate one (or more) book(s) they had really enjoyed reading in 2019 and to explain why they recommend it. We hope that you will find reading inspiration in this list and that through our book recommendations, you will get to know us a little bit better. In our own words, here are our favourite books for 2019.
As a team supporting our partner charity Spark21 and The First 100 Years project, we are thrilled to support FIRST: 100 Years of Women in Law. Marking the centenary of the 1919 Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, FIRST tells the story of women in law in their first 100 years of practice. From early campaigners through to the first women solicitors, barristers, magistrates and judges, the book tells the often untold stories of the pioneers, reformers and influencers who paved the way, revealing the barriers they faced, their challenges and triumphs. It offers a unique insight into how women have made their way in a profession still dominated by men and looks ahead to the prospects for women in law in the next 100 years.
The book I’ve read this year which has stayed with me most is Wild by Cheryl Strayed. It is raw in both a literal sense, involving a young woman hiking 4,000 km through the unforgiving but breathtaking scenery of the Pacific Crest Trail, and figuratively, as she reflects on the loss of her mother and the subsequent tailspin her life took. It reminds us that some scars, physical and emotional, may never fade, or even stop hurting, but they nevertheless make us who we are.
I recently read Phantoms in the Brain by V.S. Ramachandran which explores the weird and wacky ways in which the brain makes sense of the world, particularly surrounding phantom limbs and how the brain can manufacture its own form of reality to deal with trauma. I am always drawn to non-fiction books about psychology and the brain, I also really enjoyed reading Henry Marsh’s books this year — Do No Harm and Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery.
I’ve been reading quite a lot of Agatha Christie lately – for no other reason than it is great plots with great writing. I’ve been through pretty much been the whole collection one by one. The ABC murders and Death on the Nile are some of my favourites.
More Than Enough | Claiming space for who you are (No matter what they say) is the book that definitely did it for me this year! It’s a book about black girl magic and what happens when we claim our space in our personal and professional lives. There are so many experiences that Elaine has that black women can identify with and it was great to read a book where you are constantly nodding your head in agreement or laughing out loud because you had the same experience. In a world where you don’t often see yourself reflected back at you, especially in the workspace, this book was uplifting and affirmation to keep going and to surround yourself with allies (who don’t need to look like you!).
Superior: The Return of Race Science by Angela Saini was also a game changer for me. It shows how race is a human construct and how there is no science behind it but it’s really more scientists trying to twist the science to promote racism, thinking we’re all stupid enough to believe their lies. The book dissects the historical and political roots of race, why scientists can’t seem to look beyond it, and the disturbing ways in which scientific racism still exists today.
I really liked This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay. It is an easy read and very funny in parts, although I understand some have found his writing to be rather tasteless and disrespectful. It is uncomfortable reading at times, but I have to admit that I really enjoyed the humorous insights into his daily life; why he loved it his job and what lead him to ultimately leave the profession.
My pick is How To Have A Good Day: The Essential Toolkit for a Productive Day at Work and Beyond by Caroline Webb. This has been out for a couple of years but every time I read it (and I do keep coming back to it), I pick up a new tip to build into my working day. Caroline Webb makes the science behind effective work behaviours easy to digest and focuses on the practical; sharing relatable anecdotes and case studies that help you put her sound advice into practice.
I read mostly nature non-fiction and really enjoyed Outpost: A Journey to the Wild Ends of the Earth by Dan Richards. Traveling around the world from a cabin in Iceland to a research station in the Utah desert designed to prepare astronauts for life on Mars, Richards searches for remote traces of human habitation on the edge of wilderness. For each of the places, the author interweaves why he picked this particular spot, how he eventually got there and human history that make these places special. The book is a wonderful armchair travel book for outdoor lovers.
In a different style, I also enjoyed Man vs Ocean by Adam Walker. Beyond the inspiration – Adam Walker is the first British man to have swam the famously tough Oceans Seven challenge – it helped me get in the spirit of training for my long-distance swim across the length of Windermere this year.
Since I couldn’t pick only one, here are the three books I enjoyed most in 2019:
- Love Your Lunch by Bec Dickinson: This book has made me look forward to my lunch each time, when I do have time to prep in advance that is. I love that the recipes are simple and clearly outlines which are vegetarian, vegan, gluten free etc for those of us with dietary requirements.
- Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon: If you’ve hit a creativity wall in your career or life, give this book a try. I’ve found it inspiring, funny and beautifully designed with such a simple concept. My favourite quotes from the book “Don’t wait until you know who you are to start making things” and “Be nice (the world is a small town.)”
- Natural Remedies (Try It!) By Laurel Vukovic: I really got into natural and organic beauty this year. Natural Remedies (Try It) is a great starting point for beginners wanting to lead a more holistic lifestyle with 1001 remedies on natural beauty, health, home care and pet care. The recipes are short and to the point with usually less than 10 ingredients needed.
My book choice 2019 – Scott Mariani – Star of Africa/Devil’s Kingdom two part series. The Ben Hope character provides for good escapism and fast-paced novels, perfect for unwinding! Not everybody’s taste I’m sure, but I have read about 16 now so good for me. If you enjoy the Jack Reacher novels from Lee Child, you’ll love these!
Note: If you can’t source these books from your local bookstore, you can order them via Hive.co.uk that supports independent bookshops with every single sale they make.