Sixteen non-fiction books. Give or take. That's what I managed this year.
I was looking back at 2021, when I managed to read 22 books. I called 2021 a funny sort of year. Which just shows you that it's better not to know what is in front of you.
War in Ukraine. Three British Prime Ministers. More Chancellors than I can remember. Astronomical energy prices. High inflation. Record numbers of people relying on food banks. General strikes. Heat wave after heat wave. Eighteen degrees in November. The gender pay gap widening. Record numbers of women leaving or wanting to leave the workforce or their place of work.
I have read an unusually high number of fiction books. And have stayed away from books that were adding to the anger, frustration and general weariness of the news.
Instead I have found the books below a source of insight, transformation and hope.
Here is my Top 5 of books I've read in 2022. What would be YOUR Top 5?
REFUSE to CHOOSE - Barbara Sher
I'm a massive Barbara Sher fan.
As a fellow multi-passionate her books have always felt like a home-coming. They have provided me with recognition, total aha-moments and truckloads of inspiration and loads of useful tools to help manage the busy inner and outer life of - what Barbara Sher calls - a Scanner.
Barbara Sher's book Refuse to Choose is all about people who are 'Scanners'. People who can't choose between a number of interests. People who are good at everything they decide to do. We're a special breed. Generalists, instead of specialists. In a world where being a specialist is rated higher. Interested in everything. At the same time. Or in sequence. Of course, there's not only one type of Scanner. No, instead you may want to do many different things and want to move on as soon as you've mastered it (a Serial Master), never to return to the topic again. Or you may find yourself returning to the same (many) things, over and over again (a Sybil). But what's really exciting in this book is how Barbara Sher explains how to shape your career. What your particular type of Scanner should consider when creating your career. On top of some great tools to start ordering your projects, your ideas, your thoughts. I was always going to like this book. And I literally read it in 2 days. There's so much in it though, that I'm going to have to return to it. Not once, not twice, but over and over again. My only regret? That I didn't buy this earlier! Much, much earlier.
The Gifts of Imperfection - Brene Brown
Had you given me this book 10 years ago I would have been a whole lot less receptive. Now? Every single 'guidepost' in this book hit me straight in the gut. If we start with the 'easy' ones: the ones on creativity (guidepost #6) and meaningful work (guidepost #9). If you have been reading some of my writing you will KNOW that this was always going to strike a chord. Take another one: the one on perfectionism (guidepost #2). BANG! Straight in the gut. Just a quote: 'Life paralysis refers to all of the opportunities we miss because we're too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect. It's also all of the dreams that we don't follow because of our deep fear of failing, making mistakes, and disappointing others.' Recognise anything in this? Because I most certainly did *cough, just spent 25 years doing the 9 to 5, only, cough*! Another one: Letting go of ... Productivity as Self-Worth. Wow. That one HURT! If you have ever found yourself on a Sunday afternoon looking around for something, ANYTHING, to do, because otherwise you think of yourself as a useless lazy so-and-so, it'll hit you hard (guidepost #7). And finally, just for fun, cultivating laughter, song and dance (guidepost #10). Have you ever sung songs at the top of your voice, totally out of tune and had loads of fun doing it (even if your family was walking around with their hands over their ears - or perhaps exactly BECAUSE that's what they were doing)? Or danced a *mum dance* looking like an idiot? Yeah? Keep doing it! Is what Brene Brown tells us. So, if you asked me if this book is worth reading, what would I say? Absolutely. Do it! But only read one chapter at a time, and build in proper recovery time after each, is what I'd say. You can't say you haven't been warned!
Untamed - Glennon Doyle
I read many great reviews, and the odd grumpy one. Which is exactly why I read it back in 2020. And read it again in 2022 (also to review it with the Pick 'n Mix Book Club)
In this book Glennon Doyle describes how everyone is caged. Caged by how we are brought up, by our own (or other people's) beliefs. How we continuously breathe in toxicity in the form of sexism, racism and violence. How we try to escape it and numb ourselves with booze, drugs, sugar and consumerism.
Whilst we are already whole underneath it all. Ready to escape our cages.
This book gives a personal account of that journey. From caged to untamed. From stuffed into boxes to wild.
A lot of great learning in this book. Yes, focused on women, but with a lot of lessons for all of us.We are all caged, by society, by our upbringing, by our own (outdated) beliefs of who we ought to be. Time to become who we always were.
Four Thousand Weeks - Time Management for Mortals
our thousand weeks. Give or take. That's all you've got. And if you're reading this you've already used a fair few of those.
Believe it or not, despite the title, it is actually a very uplifting book.
Because it deeply questions how we want to 'use', control and manipulate time. How we see time as something separate to ourselves. Something we can beat by working harder and smarter. By trying to get to the end of our To Do list quicker.
The truth is, we can't. We can't manipulate time.
If we try to finish our To Do list we (ironically) only help to fill it up with even MORE to do. If we get irritated about how long a task takes, then that's down to us, because tasks take the time they take.
And - most crucially - who has actually come up with this idea that time is something we have to 'use'? How come time is now equivalent to money? And who has decided and made this idea enter our collective consciousness that - if you don't 'use' your time constructively - you are 'wasting' your (or worse, your employer's) time?
There are some massive learnings in this book. But the biggest one is this: Your time here is finite. Make sure you do things that are meaningful. And say 'No!' to everything else.
Oh, and also, in the grand scheme of things, chances are that what you will do, will disappear into insignificance. Don't strive for a level of remarkable-ness that is unattainable. Instead, decide which next step is the most important, and do that.
And THOSE are messages that are both sobering and liberating at the same time. Great book.
Joanna Barsh works for McKinsey and for the last 10 years she has worked with and interviewed leaders. She has set up her Centered Leadership courses which are based on the principles in this book.
What it comes down to is that for us to be a 'Centered Leader' there are a number of things that need to be in place:
We need to do something that feels meaningful to us, that makes use of our strengths.
We're going to have to reframe how we are experiencing and responding (rather than reacting) to situations.
Connection and community is key, and for that a thorough look at your network is key (and boy, is this an insightful chapter!).
You'll need to become courageous (and vulnerable) in your story telling.
And of course, last but not least, you're going to have to look after yourself. Manage your energy.
It's a lot, this book. Written in a deceivingly simple way. But I bet that there are chapters in here that hit you straight in the gut. That - when you do the exercises - will make abundantly clear what your focus should be. In your quest to become that Centered Leader.
Do YOU have three books on the go at any one time? A To Read list on your laptop? Are you ACTIVELY discouraging people to add to your To Read list?
In other words, do you LOVE reading? Why not join BOOK CLUB in Pick 'n Mix - the FREE community for creative, multi-passionate women (it's FREE!)?
Tineke Tammes is an ICF credentialed Career Coach, who supports professional women in making successful transitions to careers of Freedom, Flexibility and Fulfilment! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler. Oh, and she knows a bit about change management too.