You asked for it… Sarah’s 2019 Shelfie
As a bit of a bookworm, I’m often asked for recommendations. If you need a few ideas for your 2020 reading list, here are some of the titles I enjoyed and found useful for our ‘Gentle Protest’ craftivism work through 2019.
I read a lot. On my armchair with my breakfast cereal. On trains, planes, bus or tube. At bedtime – especially when I have insomnia – on holiday, on days off alone in coffee shops or alongside a loved one.
I order all of my books through my local independent bookshop. It can take longer to receive my orders but I know I am supporting a local independent shop, my local high street, staff and I know they pay taxes. Therfore all links in this post (where possible) are to www.Hive.co.uk who support your nearest independent bookshops. If you are not a UK reader please consider ordering your books from your local library or independent ethical shops.
I love learning from academics, practitioners and thoughtful observers to help improve our gentle protest work. I always have a pen on hand to scribble on the books and highlight areas relevant to our work.
I read loads of books in 2019 but I didn’t want to overwhelm you so here are the highlights…
The Senses – Dr Matteo Farinella Neuroscientist and illustrator Farinella explains our body’s five receptors in an accessible, informative and captivating way.
Written in History – Simon Sebag Montefiore I’m researching the power of well-crafted, gentle protest letters for a new project (shhh). Each section starts with the context of the letter – vital. My favourites in this book are letters from Gandhi to Hitler 1940, Abraham Lincoln to U.S Grant, Jacqueline Kennedy to Khrushchev 1963. You can imagine them arriving in their fragile paper and ink.
L’art de la simplicité – Dominique Loreau Translated as How to Live More With Less. A thoughtful and practical book from a french essayist who lives in Japan. Inspired by Oriental philosophy this isn’t just about having less but also learning to say no, how to influence others and live ethically and healthily.
Ikigai – Héctor García & Francesc Miralles A beautiful book to help you find out what your own personal journey is for a long and happy life. Far from navel-gazing, it really helped me to challenge myself to leave urgency behind and focus on doing good work that benefits my soul as well as our society.
Utopia For Realists – Rutger Bregman A great book to address despair and the power of dreams. A huge inspiration for our Dream-Making project. A reminder that throughout history positive change sprouted out of a utopian fantasy. Bregman explains the journey of many case studies from ‘crazy idea’ to becoming the norm and how Universal Basic Income can be implemented.
How To Think – Alan Jacobs This book challenges you to think slowly and carefully, be mindful of our confirmation bias, and use our thinking to get out of the familiar, comforting habits that are fueling division in our world. It’s a tough read but it will help you be a thoughtful changemaker.
Grief is the thing with feathers – Max Porter This year was my year to learn more about grief not only to help myself but also to try and understand what friends and family who’ve lost loved ones are going through and how I can help. This is a one of a kind novella that’s more like a collection of poems. Its language is beautiful, brutal and often confusing. Not an easy read but it’s short so take your time to digest what you can.
Gratitude – Oliver Sacks A small but mighty book. In only 45 pages the set of essays he wrote during the last few months of his life are some of the most honest I’ve ever read about living life and coming to terms with death.
Ego is the Enemy – Ryan Holiday Imagine if ego was taken out of activism? That’s what I was thinking as I was scribbling notes all over this book. Holiday shines a spotlight on the dangers of ego with case studies from literature, philosophy, historical figures and modern business. I dream of a humble activism and this book helps me imagine it more clearly.
M Train – Patti Smith I was looking for a book to read on a day off to help my brain and body rest, to help me stop being a workaholic. I read the first sentence of this book and knew it was perfect for what I wanted: ‘It’s not so easy writing about nothing.’ Slow, quiet, nothing much happens. The perfect book if you need time away from the world.
Letters to Change the World – Edited by Travis Elborough More learning for me on the power of crafting a protest letter including how to end a letter: Einstein ends his letters to Freud on the issue of global peace: ‘Yours very sincerely’. Gandhi’s letter to ‘To Every Englishman in India’ 1920 ends ‘Your faithful friend’, William Wilberforce’s Letter to Thomas Jefferson on slavery 1808 ends ‘Your most obedient and most humble Servant’. This is a rich collection to dissect and learn from.
Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t – Jeffrey Pfeffer A great balance of academic rigor and practical advice. Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University, Pfeffer’s book is useful for all activists to understand and engage with power structures and power-holders in business and government.
Becoming Wise – Kirsta Tippett I scribble on books where sections are relevant to our Gentle Protest work. This has to be the most scribbled-on book I have on my shelves so far! The host of ‘On Being’ my favourite podcast, a Peabody Award-winning broadcaster and bestselling author, Tippet that delves into the mysteries of human existence referring to hundreds of intimate interviews she’s had with theologians, academics, artists and others all who sensitively look into how we can live in our fractured world and love those we struggle with. The closed book to answering ‘how to live’ in our world.
Blueprint for Revolution – Sroja Popovic Jam packed full of stories of creative activism – where it worked, why it worked and how you can put them into practice in your own context. A brilliant balance of thoughtful strategy with creative action.
Dream: Re-imagining progresive politics in an age of fantasy – Stephen Duncombe I re-read this after a 10year gap to help with our dream-making project and it’s still super relevant. We can learn from pop culture, shiny spectacles, and the allure of celebrity without adopting their values.
Hallelujah Anyway – Anne Lamott In spite of all the mess and suffering this book reminds you not stop celebrating that there is still love, beauty, laughter and ‘radical kindness’ all around too. This book teaches us the counter-intuitiveness of forgiveness, compassion and how to be graceful.
How to Worry Less about Money – John Armstrong This book isn’t focused on making more money or dealing with less but instead on what how to have a healthy relationship with money so that we are not frightened of or fixated on it, so we are not trapped by riches or oppressed by poverty. It’s a great little practical and philosophical book.
Neurocomic – Dr Matteo Farinella and Dr Hana Roš These neuroscientists explain the mysteries and complexities of the human brain through the gateway of this immersive graphic novel.
- Daytime: From What is to What If – Rob Hopkins Full of case studies of people practicing their dreams and how those small scale dream-makers have had ripple effects on society. So hopeful, inspiring and educational.
- Evening: Cosmopolitan – Toby Cecchini A memoir from a Manhattan Bartender. Quiet, slow and calming, full of insight on people, how Toby interacts with different customers, why people go to his bar and why they behave the way they do. I see this book as more than a memoir, it’s an anthropological study.