This title is misleading, most of these books are also on my Kindle, or have in fact been loaned out insistently (usually after a glass of wine when I can get aggressively generous).
They rotate next to my bed in a stack, making a bedside table depending on the season. Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries makes it to the top in Autumn when I’m a little homesick for the UK and want to read about comfort food and allotments. The Bone Clocks is a January read when I'm feeling morbid. I’ve read it numerous times and it fills me with dread for the future, but in an exciting way - like reading a slightly too scary book when you’re a kid.
These books aren’t for everyone, but some of them will be for you.
I’ll explain what they mean to me personally and link you to a more comprehensive and qualified review so you can see what you think!
1. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind + Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
By Yuval Noah Harari
These are the story of us, our history and our future. I picked them up together in Manchester Airport a few months ago partly because of the Barack Obama quote on the front of the Homo Sapiens book. I started to read it on the plane and was so absorbed that I became the annoying person reading as the walk through the metro, people bumping into me. Some people I've made buy it have read it and found it a bit depressing, but I felt a deep sense of calm by the end of it. Read it yourself and let me know what you think!
A nice Vox interview with the author here
2. Thinking Fast + Slow
By Daniel Kahneman
So far, there hasn’t been a student I’ve met who I haven’t told they HAVE TO buy this. It’s fairly dense, but every page is fascinating and incredibly useful. This is the product of a lifetimes research and work, the author describes one of the most perfect working collaborations in the introduction, which will give you serious colleague goals! Like other books on this list, dip in and out, you’ll find something you can apply to your life to improve it every time. You’ll understand yourself better too without having to go on a hippie mountain retreat - obviously, you can do that too, but you don’t have to!
New York Times review here
3. The Bone Clocks
By David Mitchell
This book is astonishing and uncomfortable and brilliant. Just read it - stick with it, the first part can be a little confusing, but you’ll be hooked! Get a squishy chair and some kind of sugary treat while you’re reading because it’s VERY enjoyable. I reread it every few months to spook myself again.
An epic Vulture analysis of the author and his novel are here
4. Setting The Table
By Danny Meyer
This book is an education in customer service, it isn’t just for hospitality people even though that’s certainly the author's industry. If you work with people (which everyone has to unless they’re a self-sufficient hermit living on an isolated island) you need to read this book. He is relentlessly logical, pleasant and positive. He changed his industry forever for the better by implementing the simple but shocking idea that if you look after your staff, train them, incentivise them, pay them well your business will thrive.
New York Times Review here
5. On Liberty
By Shami Chakrabarti
This book is by the director of Liberty, the human right organisation. She articulates exactly why our rights and freedoms are so important, what they’re under threat from and how to move forward in a positive way. It’s not the lightest read, but you’ll feel much more informed having read it!
A Financial Times review here
6. The Rosie Project
By Graeme Simpson
Gonz and I love this book so much we named our dog after it! I loved it immediately because it’s funny, sweet, and shines a light on the world from the perspective of a man with autism, rather than those around him. As someone with aspies in the family, there were bits of this book that made me cry with laughing. I fell in love with it again when we moved to Melbourne where the book is set and we walked around seeing the actual places that we’d imagined. It’s such a good book, it’s charming and leaves you feeling like the world is sunnier than before you read it.
The Independent Review HERE (it's shorter than the others, I promise!)
7. The Flavour Thesauraus
By Niki Segnit
Even as a fairly recent vegan, I love to read this book, the descriptions are truly beautiful and it’s a treasure trove of adjectives for those who feel their speech could do with some colour adding! Yes, it’s about food and cooking, but actually, it’s about thinking outside of the box, taking pleasure in naughtily surprising people with unexpected combinations.
Especially here in Spain, where I’ve had to get used to the fact that my cooking - (which was always looked forward to and appreciated in the UK)is no longer appreciated. Tortilla de patata, (AGAIN) is king at parties, and my best Ottolenghi chilli, lemon, goats cheese ravioli is left suspiciously in the corner of the table. So for me, reading recipes with Cinnamon, Tomato and Prawn or Coriander seed Coffee makes for an afternoon well spent.
Guardian review here
8. The Monocle Guide to Good Business
Well, where to begin here? My copy is very grubby and lives in the kitchen. It’s brought out and plonked in front of guests when I discover they haven’t seen it. It isn’t small, and could probably do some damage if you dropped it on your toes. But it’s invaluable, inspirational, positive and beautiful. I love the Monocle brand, I feel like they give me hope and ideas in a world that has gotten very scary and bleak, very quickly (double whammy of Brexit and Trump). This book is a manifesto, which, together with Danny Meyers Setting the table, confirms to me that YES you can do business ethically, and with passion and you don’t have to screw people over to make a living. Something I’ve always believed, but at certain points secretly started to worry I was too naive. Buy it, read it, start planning your dream business and penning your resignation from the dreary office/classroom you’ve been dreading going to every Monday. PLEASE (Or as the Spanish say - POR FAVOR!).
Good Reads Reviews here
9. Cradle to Cradle
By Michael Braungart, William McDonough
A few years ago I very slowly and painfully completed an Interior Design Diploma. I have no idea why it took me so long to complete as I loved doing it, but the final unit on sustainable design really grabbed me. This book was the recommended reading before starting the project and IT. IS. AMAZING. Designers, innovators, all you brainy folk out there - if you haven’t read it yet, please do - it might inspire you to come up with the idea that saves the planet!
WATCH the author's TED talk here
10. Daily Rituals
By Mason Currey
This is a cheerful little book, particularly if you’re nosy (like me). The author started a project where he wrote about the daily rituals of lots of great minds including Voltaire, Jane Austen, Nicola Tesla, Joan Miro and Sylvia Plath. The routines are varied and inspiring. It’s a book to dip in and out of, good to keep in the kitchen to read when you have a coffee. I find it’s reassuring that even the most creative and flamboyant characters have to include at least a routine in their life!
Follow him on Twitter HERE