My 12 books for 2020, so far.

Its almost the end of July and I have already managed my annual target of reading 12 books, helped along by the lockdown and the resultant lack of other things to do, plus reduced need for travelling every day.

I thought I would share my list so far along with some comments on each book:

compassionismCompassionism by Kavitha Chahel

A book looking at “Helping Business Leaders Create engaged teams and happy people”.   An easy book to read but I will admit I don’t feel I took much from it.  It felt very superficial but this may just be me.   Not one I would recommend sadly.


culturecodeThe Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

“The secrets of highly successful groups”.   I took more from this book than from Compassionism plus found it mentioned concepts and theories I had an interest such as “Kaizen” which made it reasonably interesting to read.   I would however say there are better books available on organisational culture.

startwithwhyStart with why by Simon Sinek

“How great leaders inspire everyone to take action”.    There were lots of things to take away from this book including mention of Money vs. Value, the tendency to consider what is easily measurable as being important and also the need for trust as part of organisational culture.   It was very easy to draw parallels with schools and other educational organisations.   This is book I would definitely recommend.

EmotionalIntelEmotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

This one was a book I was re-reading after some time.    Quite a heavy book to read in places but overall an excellent book with some important concepts around the need for Emotional intelligence in the world we live in.    Given the pace of change, and pressures to meet targets and other performance measures, I think a focus on our emotional understanding is only becoming more important.

blinkBlink by Malcolm Gladwell

I generally like Gladwells books so expected to like this.   I did.    A book looking at how our intuition and unconscious decision making can often steer us in the correct direction and how we can often confuse “information with understanding”.    I feel this book is a good balance alongside the likes of Factfulness which focus more on data and figures, on information, for decision making.   A strongly recommended read.

leaderseastlastLeaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Another Sinek book for the year.   This book is similar to Start with Why however in my view focusses more on the individual whereas start with the why felt more from a team or organisational level.   I liked the concept of “Destructive Abundance” which appears to draw some parallels in Factfulness.   Could having more “stuff” lead to undervaluing what we have and/or seeking protect it in such as way that we isolate ourselves from others?    This is a book I would happily recommend.

happinessHypothThe Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt

This book also mentions abundance but as a “paradox of abundance” rather than the “destructive abundance” used by Sinek.   I found this book to be quite an interesting exploration of ancient wisdom and how it compares with modern science, including where they converge and diverge.   The main thing I took from the book was the importance of balance and how things are seldom A or B, but in fact are about a balance of A and B.

rabiitholeReaching down the rabbit hole by Allan Ropper & B.D Burrell

A series of stories about people who have suffered serious brain injuries or illness impacting on the human brain, all written from the point of view of the doctor seeking to solve the puzzle of their illness and to cure them where possible.    This book wasn’t really what I expected in its content so although I read it fully I don’t feel I enjoyed it or took anything from it.    It may be a good book but didn’t really align with my reading interests so is not one I would recommend unless the subject content is something which interests you.

worthmoreI’m worth more by Rob Moore

An easy to read book, but superficial as a result, a bit like Compasionism.    When I read books like this I feel they are a little like “self help” guides in that they put everything in very simple terms where things in this world are seldom simple.    I really like books that make me stop and challenge my views and assumptions which this book never did.   I would steer away from this one.


life3-0Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark

I really enjoyed the subject matter of this book, looking at Artificial Intelligence and how things might evolve beyond the human race, but with only the occasional nod to the Terminator films and the human race being exterminated by vicious automated systems.   This book opened my eyes to looking at the potential for AI and for the evolution of life, beyond the horror stories.   Now I have used the phrase “healthy paranoia” on a number of occasions in relation to my views on cyber security however this book introduced me to a new phrase in “mindful optimism” which I believe is the ideal phrase when looking a the potentially positive implications of technology and also of educational technology.

factfullness-1Factfulness by Hans Rosling

What is a lot of your thinking, which is largely intuitive, about the world we live in is wrong?   This book was very interesting in using data to prove that a lot of our thinking regarding the world isn’t supported by hard data and that if we look at the hard data we might be more inclined to be more positive, albeit there is still lots of room for improvement.   I very much enjoyed this book as it did challenge my thinking.  It was also a good book to pair with Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink which at the issue the other way, suggesting instinct is more useful than we give it credit.    This is a book I would strongly recommend.

enlightenmentnow-1Enlightenment No by Steven Pinker

This book is similar in topic and coverage to Factfulness, so it was good reading Factfulness and then progressing on this.   I found lots to take away from the book, although found it a little heavier reading, especially in some of the later chapters, when compared with Factfulness.   I liked the opening discussion of entropy in relation to the world, and how energy has to be expended to create order out of natural chaos.   I also liked the discussion of bias.   “When one’s nose is inches away from the news optimism can seen naïve”, hinted to the availability heuristic and how reporting of disasters, terrorism, etc via the news can colour our view as to the world we live in.    This is definitely a worthwhile book to read, however if I was to choose I would pick Factfulness rather than this, just for being marginally more accessible and easy to read.



So, if I had to recommend three books from the above, they would be:

  • Blink
  • Life 3.0
  • Factfulness

This provides some discussion of the distant future and AI, via Life 3.0, plus two differing views on the current world and whether to take a numbers based, or intuition based approach.





Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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