You know what? I was reading back my blog on the 'Top 5 books of 2021'.
You know what I read?
'2021 has been a funny sort of year. It's been frustrating, and good. Endings and new beginnings. Hellos and goodbyes. And lots and lots of terrible things on the news.'
So, at risk of repeating myself. 2023 has been a funny sort of year. You know the rest.
Book-wise, what's been different to 2021? I've read fewer books!
Fewer fiction books notably. Which I will correct in January for my 'fiction only' month.
But in this blog, I will be sharing with you my Top 6 books of 2023. Why six? Who knows.
Fix the system, not the women - Laura Bates
It took me SIX WEEKS to read this book. (And believe me, that's a LOT). Why?
Because it raised my blood pressure with every chapter. I got angrier and angrier and a little bit despondent with it as well.
I am, of course, talking about 'Fix the system, not the women' by Laura Bates.
The book talks about the ingrained institutional sexism and misogyny in education, the media, the police, politics and the judiciary.
How violence by men on women and girls lives on a spectrum, starting with micro-aggressions and with innocent-enough sounding comments, and ends with rape and murder.
How the system is against women. How we should fix the system, not the women. Because it never was the women who were at fault. And it's not the women's duty to fix it. It never was.
It's a great book. And it should be read by everyone. In the police, the media, politics, schools, ... well, just by EVERYONE. One chapter at a time. You know, for the sake of your blood pressure.
If you don't do politics, politics will do you - Niven Postma
'I can't do office politics. I just want to do my job and go home'. I've heard my clients say it more than once.
Well, Niven Postma has bad news and good news.
The good news? You can LEARN office politics.
The bad news? You're going to have to. Because it's not going to go away. And it's actually VITAL to you being successful at work.
I - finally - finished this book after having bought it early on in year. It's not even that long. But absolutely, totally BURSTING with goodness giving me more than one epiphany.
1. What the difference is between friends and foes, adversaries and allies.
2. Why you shouldn't waste your time on an 'empty suit'
3. Stakeholder engagement is not an exercise you only do once, and only for your work.
4. Do. Not. Become. The. Problem.
5. And that you can only apply a strategy AFTER you've decided what you WANT.
Oh, and that office politics is the ability to influence people so that you can get stuff done at work. (THAT doesn't sound so bad, does it? It is what you're already doing, all day every day, anyway. Right?)
If only someone had given me this book twenty years ago ...
The Renaissance Soul - Margaret Lobenstine
Do YOU have twelve tabs open on your computer? Are you starting a new project before you've finished the last one?
You may well be a Renaissance Soul!
Now, you may have heard of it as a Scanner, a multi-potentialite, a multi-passionate, a polygloth. The last one I've added to the collection was a 'poly-mind'.
Someone, in other words, who is not a specialist, but a generalist. Someone who has multiple interests (and never enough time to pursue them all). Someone who has a helicopter view AND the ability to zoom in. Who can combine knowledge from multiple different fields and create a whole range of new ideas.
In this book Margaret Lobenstine explains that we're lucky. That - because of our versatility we are not tied to one employer, one profession. That we are flexible and can change.
My biggest learning points from this book?
That you can stop feeling overwhelmed and as if you're NEVER going to be able to do ALL the things you want to do.
How? By focusing on Focal Points. Not goals, focal points. The things you will focus on and move forward.
You can have four, or five, so that you feel that - whilst you're not attempting to move forward ALL your interests - you are moving at least FOUR of your interests forward at any given point. And replace them when you're done (or lost interest).
Also, what it means to have a J-O-B, a job that enables you to move one of your Focal Points forward. Which I wish I'd known when I got my first job!
This book is practical and has some really mindshifting insights around how you can organise your career and your life so that you get to do what you want to do. All of it.
The Artist's Way - Julia Cameron
Twice I read it this year. Once to prepare my The Artist's Way Group, which started in September 2023 (want to join us in 2024? Pop your name on the waiting list!) The second time WITH The Artist's Way Group.
And yes, yet again I was reminded how POWERFUL this book is, and was, and will always be.
One of my clients called it 'an exploration of identity'. Yep. THAT impactful.
It's no wonder it made it into my 'Six books that shaped my life' list.
Twelve weeks of opening up your channel of creativity. I won't elaborate on the content here. Other than to say: Want to experience the power of this book? Come and join us in 2024. Seriously!
Lessons in chemistry - Bonnie Garmus
A client recommended this book. As we speak I'm reading it for the second time this year.
Elizabeth Zott is a scientist. Except female scientists are rare in the sixties. And actively discouraged by the men around them.
It means that Elizabeth finds herself, unmarried with a child, presenting a cooking programme instead of doing science.
Or - as she calls it - teaching science to the women who do such important work: feeding their families with nutritious food. Oh, and she *may* - on occasion - spur them on by seeing them as more (much more) than everyone else does. That too.
Yes, it's a feminist novel this. It's empowering. And a great giggle. By the end of the year I will have read it twice this year. Like Nigella I am racing through it, but feeling gutted when I finish it. Even this second time around. Need I say more?
The Silence Project
This book tells the story through the eyes of Rachel's daughter. Her mum, Rachel, one day went to live in the garden and stopped talking. Gradually she gained a following. It started with one woman coming to join her, quickly followed by others. Similar groups started to form all over the country, all over the world. The Community, it was called, it is STILL called.
Then, one day, Rachel packs up her stuff, and walks up the hills. She builds a pyre and sets herself alight. Hundreds follow.
The book is written in a SUCH a vivid way. So vivid in fact that on occasion I had to remind myself that it was not actually real. The references to newspaper articles, (real?) links and mention of The Community made me wonder if it WAS real. I even looked on the front cover to see that the author was not, actually, the daughter! But what really got me was that this story ... could have BEEN real!
(And no, before you ask, Carole Hailey is NOT Rachel's daughter. Yes, I checked).