January 23rd marks Reading Day 2021; a time when we can celebrate the books that inspire us, make us laugh, make us cry and ultimately, change the way we think. It’s easy for me to compile a list of such books, mainly because I’m the real-life Matilda, a child that grew up with their head buried in a book and a fringe covering almost all of my eyes as I read. But as it wouldn’t be fair to just put my top 10 favourite Roald Dahl classics, I wanted to know what the StatusCake team’s favourite books were and most importantly, why. Sometimes it takes a different perspective to get inspired so I hope you find your inspiration here.
Help Me by Marianne Power
I’m one of those people that is constantly looking for guidance from self-help books. There’s something comforting about someone telling me everything is going to be okay if I just do what they tell me to (even though I rarely do anything that they tell me to). This is why Help Me is such a great read – Marianne Power, like me, invests lots of her time reading self help books and waiting for them to change her life without actioning any of their suggestions. But Help Me follows her journey where she does EVERYTHING the self help books ask of her with sometimes hilarious, sometimes heart-breaking and mostly life-changing results. I loved it.
Give it a read: Help Me
The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley
Recommendation by Hemm, Head of Tech
I think the book does a good job of reminding us that we are a lot better off than we were in past times, in terms of wealth, diet/nutrition, life expectancy, medicine, intelligence/education.
It gave me the mindset that things will still continue to get better despite the difficulties we face as individuals, families, communities, countries, and as a world. I must stress though, that these points are only really valid to me (and maybe people in the same position as I am).
Give it a read: The Rational Optimist
The Lucifer Effect – Phillip ZImbardo
Recommendation by Dan, Head of Customer Success
This is a fascinating book and the main life lesson that I took away from reading would be that conformity is not always the best choice, something that I feel applies in both society and business. Thinking outside of the box, even if it challenges a higher authority, is something we should always value and promote to some extent.
Give it a read: The Lucifer Effect
The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono
Recommendation by Mario, Head of Partnerships
It inspired me because it’s a message of hope and how a person can do their bit to change the world for the better which is something I think we can all relate to. More than anything, it’s a very relevant book for today’s climate change crisis especially, and it makes me hopeful that we can help even in small ways to prevent this crisis from becoming even worse.
Give it a read: The Man Who Planted Trees
Recommendations by James, CEO
The COVID pandemic has sent shockwaves through all levels of society. It is not just the loss of loved ones, friends, and colleagues. COVID impacts our mental and physical well-being, it impacts our financial security, but it has also exposed and accerbated some of the big societal issues that we were already struggling with – whether poverty, gender and race equality, biodiversity and climate change.
In all of this bleakness I think we need some hope, and reasons to be optimistic. My books for 2021, and I’ve chosen two as the themes they discuss dovetail neatly into one another, do just that.
Human Kind by Rutger Bregman
In the first, Human Kind, Rutger Bregman makes the argument that although much of modern thought teaches that we as humans are selfish and driven by self-interest this isn’t the case. That when we look more closely at human development our instinct is actually to cooperate. To trust rather than distrust.
Bregman argues that we need to reshape how we think. And that by thinking the worst of others, impacts how we think of our fellow humans, and it also shapes our political and economic discourse for the worse.
Instead if we believe in human kindness and altruism – quite simply, if we believe that overwhelmingly people are good, that belief can act as a foundation for true change in society.
This belief in good humans, that we as a society are programmed to cooperate, is captured in Utopia for Realists, also by Bregman.
Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman
Utopia for Realists puts forward the case that it is possible to construct a society for good which is truly visionary and is bold, but is also ultimately deliverable. That milestones in our society, such as the end of slavery, were once seen as as utopian fantasy.
As such Bregman suggests, without getting into hackneyed left-wing or right-wing arguments, that those ideas that appear utopian now, such as a guaranteed basic income, can become a reality in our lifetime. And with the impact of COVID being felt most, by those who have least, perhaps that is a cause for a glimmer of optimism.
In a world that is increasingly polarised and partisan on all manner of issues, with each side being increasingly angry and frightened of the other (all of which is often played out and amplified on social media) cynicism is often the theory of everything. Changing your mindset can not only help shape your view of the wider world, but help you in your everyday life – in your relationships at home, and at work. It can hopefully lead to a brighter path in 2021, your green light at the end of the dock.
Give them a read: Human Kind and Utopia for Realists