Making Work, Work

Our Favourite Books For 2019

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.

Team choice

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 that supports independent bookshops with every single sale they make.

Obelisk In Action Trending

Legal500 Award for Obelisk CEO, Dana Denis-Smith

The year 2019 starts on a high note for Obelisk Support CEO and founder of The First 100 Years project, Dana Denis-Smith, after 2018 saw her voted LexisNexis Legal Personality of the Year. On 6 February 2019, she received an Outstanding Achievement in Legal Services prize from the Legal 500. The Legal 500 UK Awards recognise and reward the best in-house and private practice teams and individuals, with over 50,000 interviews conducted to ascertain the winners.

Taking place the same evening as the 20th anniversary reception of LegalWeek by Hyde Park (which we at Obelisk Support also attended), the Legal500 UK Awards in the heart of the City of London was a great gathering of ‘winners’ and got together the key players in the sector – across the profession from in-house to law firms and barristers chambers – for a night of celebration.

Gender Equality in the Legal Profession

At the Legal500 UK Awards 2019 last night, the Legal500 made a public commitment to the promotion of diversity in their rankings and encouraged firms in the room to put forward more women and people from minority backgrounds for consideration.

Legal500 UK Editor, Georgina Stanley, said that if firms do not put forward women and people from minority backgrounds then they “risk being an echo chamber for the status quo”. In an industry where gender balance remains a big issue, all of us legal professionals also serve as role models for future generations of women.

They showed their support for the centenary of women in the legal profession this year by awarding all the Outstanding Achievement Awards to women: Penelope Warne (CMS), Julia Salasky (CrowdJustice), Nilufer von Bismarck (Slaughter and May), Sharon White (Stephenson Harwood), Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia LVO (Payne Hicks Beach), Sandra Wallace (DLA Piper), and Dana Denis-Smith of Obelisk Support and the First 100 Years project.

Interestingly, all the awards for women were given by men. Surely, an area to improve on in the future.

Outstanding Achievement in Legal Services: Dana Denis-Smith

Every member of the audience received a booklet upon arrival listing 2019 winners, booklet which included a feature on the women being recognised for their outstanding achievements in legal services. This is what the feature on Dana Denis-Smith read:

“As the founder and CEO of Obelisk Support and as the founder of the First 100 Years project, Dana Denis-Smith has put her desire to help women succeed in law at the core of her professional life. The former lawyer and journalist founded Obelisk Support in 2010 to help City lawyers – especially mothers –to work flexibly around their family and other commitments, while simultaneously providing businesses with flexible access to lawyers. The company now serves clients including BT and Goldman Sachs. In 2014, she founded the First 100 Years project to chart the history of women in law and celebrate their achievements. 2019 marks 100 years since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 was enacted, allowing women to enter the professions.”  

Reflecting on her award, Dana Denis-Smith says, “I was extremely pleased that the Legal500 put the spotlight on women in law and was very honoured to be in the company of some incredible women leaders of the last 25 years.”

Legal500 Award Ceremony

Legal 500 Award Ceremony 2019

This year’s Legal 500 award took place in the magnificent 14th-century Great Hall of Guildhall in London, a medieval jewel of architecture with stained glass windows. The turnout was fantastic, a lot of smiles and tinkering glasses. The Legal 500 team took the stage expressing how we should promote diversity within our legal teams, especially individuals from BAME backgrounds.

Partner Charity: Save the Children

Legal 500 awards

It was a delight to have the Legal500’s partner charity, Save the Children at the awards. The silent auction included a Darth Vader portrait as well as a £400 red wine set (lawyers know their wines), and whoever contributed to the charity could see how their contributions helped the children thanks to a virtual reality stand showcasing real-time contributions. It was truly a heart warming and eye-opening experience.

2019 Winners

We were thrilled to see familiar names in the cohort of 2019 winners, including many clients such as Linklaters in Corporate/Commercial, Goldman Sachs in Banking, BT in CSR & Employment, Ocado and ASOS in Retail and O2 Telefonica in Telecoms.
We were also very proud to see names associated with Obelisk Support’s partner charity, The First 100 Years, including Sandie Okoro of the World Bank.

Congratulations to them!

For a full list of winners, click here.