What I’m reading

pile of books

Here are some of the books I’ve read so far this year.

These books are a mixture of recommendations, borrows, finds and presents from friends. Some are serendipitous. A slip of paper left by a previous reader in one library book led to another one: a paper chain based on a stranger’s note.

I’m re-reading Timothy Snyder’s The Road to Unfreedom and On Tyranny this year too. Snyder’s writing is essential reading: a guide to understanding what’s happening right now, why it’s happening, and what can be done to change course.

Julian Barnes’s work makes me feel the pulls and punches of what it is to be a human like almost no other writer can.


The Road to Unfreedom – Timothy Snyder
‘If we see history as it is, we see our places in it, what we might change and how we might do better. We halt our thoughtless journey from inevitability to eternity, and exit the road to unfreedom. We begin a politics of responsibility.’

Deep Work – Cal Newport
‘A commitment to deep work is not a moral stance and it’s not a philosophical statement – it is instead a pragmatic recognition that the ability to concentrate is a skill that gets valuable things done.’

Bluffocracy – James Ball and Andrew Greenway
‘Hardwired blagging is woven into the cause of many challenges we’re facing, shaping the short-termism and lack of detail that plagues our national institutions and contributing to the crisis of trust in British public life.’

Debt – David Graeber
‘In 1694, a consortium of English bankers made a loan of £1,200,000 to the king…To this day, this loan has never been paid back. It cannot be. If it ever were, the entire monetary system of Great Britain would cease to exist.’

The Undoing Project – Michael Lewis
‘The failure of decision makers to grapple with the inner workings of their own minds, and their desire to indulge their gut feelings, made it “quite likely that the fate of entire societies may be sealed by a series of avoidable mistakes committed by their leaders.” ’

The Table Maker – Joel Bird
‘I love to see the marks of a maker, a pencil mark underneath a table top, a slightly misshapen dovetail, a tiny nick of the block plane. I am taken back to the time when it was built, I imagine the hand that crafted it, and for a brief moment, the spirit of the maker perceived like the footprints of an invisible ghost.’

Signals – Public Digital, collection of writing (Sarah Richards)
‘Every piece of work you produce must have a reason for being.’

Curious – Ian Leslie
‘Whoever you are and whatever start you get in life, knowing stuff makes the world more abundant with possibility and gleams of light more likely to illuminate the darkness. It opens the universe a little.’

A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters – Julian Barnes
‘You can deal with the brain, as I say; it looks sensible. Whereas the heart, the human heart, I’m afraid, looks a fucking mess.’

The Coaching Habit – Michael Bungay Stanier
‘Tell less and ask more.
Your advice is not as good
As you think it is.’

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