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.





Some books for lockdown

During lockdown I have found myself able to read more.   This might relate to less other options such as going to the cinema, going out for a meal, or going out shopping, or it might relate to time gains made each day due to working remotely rather than having to drive to work.     Given the increased opportunity to read I thought I would share 5 book recommendations.  I have tried to pick a bit of a cross section of topics in terms of the books, but you may be able to see a bit of a theme which aligns with some of my current thinking.   I note that these are all books I have read in the last couple of years:

IrrationalPredictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Ariely explores how we believe ourselves to act rationally, using the available information to arrive at decisions, while in reality our actions are often far from rational.   One of the key issues I feel the book identified is how oblivious we often are to our irrationality and how we often create narratives to help us justify our decisions after the event.

“when stripping away our preconceptions and our previous knowledge is not possible, perhaps we can at least acknowledge that we are all biased”

BlackswanThe Black Swan by Nassim Taleb

Talebs book explores the human tendency to look towards averages and generalisations and therefore to miss the dangers and opportunities which the unlikely event might yield.   He explores how sadly the unlikely event, the black swan, is often not considered until after it happens at which point it is no longer an unlikely event.   Given the current situation we find ourselves in, in a global pandemic, I think this book may be more relevant than ever.

“the illusion of understanding, or how everyone thinks he knows what is going on in a world that is more complicated (or random) than you realise”

culturemapThe Culture Map by Erin Meyer

Meyer explores the business world, however this is largely applicable to all organisations including schools, and how cultural norms have a significant impact on what works and what doesn’t.   As we increasingly live in a global world and therefore prepare students for this world, this book provides useful insight into the need to consider our own culturally identity and culturally driven views as well as the impact culture has on those we deal with on a day to day basis.

“when you are in and of a culture – as fish are in and of water – it is often difficult or even impossible to see that culture”

IamrightI am right, you are wrong by Edward De Bono

De Bono’s book is one which I read some time ago however I still find it an interesting read and especially so when you look at the binary arguments which arise on social media.   De Bono explores how differences of opinion arise and how we often use broad categorisation in our debates, among other areas.  He also explores how our attempts to constantly improve and refine thinking, practices, etc may be flawed.

“critical thinking is easy because the critic can focus on any aspect he or she likes and ignore the rest”

SiloeffectThe Silo Effect by Gillian Tett

Tett examines how our organisations use hierarchical structures to sustain themselves once they get above a certain size.   She discusses how this can lead to silos of knowledge, skills, etc and how we can seek to try and break down these silos.    In the current world where information is easy to access via the internet and people can easily share and collaborate, I think this book is important in helping to break down the limitations of the historical organisational structures we have built.

“Social media created both the potential for people to open up their social world and to restrict it into self-defined groups, or cyber tribes”


I hope the above recommendations are useful for those trying to identify what to read next.   I would also welcome any recommendations or suggestions from others as to  books to read during this period of lockdown.


My 2018 reading list

2018 saw me once again complete my target of reading one book per month, a total of twelve books during the course of the year.


My books this year were:

  • The fourth education revolution, Anthony Seldon
  • Make it stick, Peter C Brown, Henry L Roediger and Mark A McDaniel
  • SUMO (Shut up and move on), Paul McGee
  • The upside of rationality, Dan Ariely
  • Open, David Price
  • The gift of failure, Jessica Lahey
  • Change, Richard Gerver
  • The Cyber Effect, Mary Aiken
  • The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau
  • The marshmallow effect, Walker Mischel
  • Mindfulness, Gill Hasson
  • The Art of balance, David J Bookbinder
  • Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, Kathryn Schulz
  • It’s complicated, Danah Boyd

I am also currently part way through Behave: The biology of humans at our best and worst by Robert Sapolsky.   Am hoping to have it finished before the year is out but acknowledge that is quite a heavy text which thus far has included plenty of technical discussion of neurobiology.   As such I am not sure if I will manage to complete it this year.

Looking back the book list is a bit of a mix covering various topics including neuroscience, educational technology, the impact of social media and the internet, and mindfulness.

On reflection I think my favourite books from this years reading have to be Make It Stick, Being Wrong and the Cyber Effect.   Make It Stick covers so much about how learning takes place and how a lot of what goes on in the traditional classroom doesn’t align with what research tells us about how we learn.   There are lots of suggestions as to how we might redesign learning or at least experiment in classrooms with different approaches more in line with research findings as to successful learning.   The Cyber Effect presents an interesting exploration of cyberpsychology, exploring how our behaviours online and offline differ.    From the point of view of an educator this has interesting implications for the students within our schools where they are spending more and more time online however personally I believe it has even wider implications for society at large given changing normative behaviour.  And finally, Being Wrong was a book I found very interesting in its coverage of the difficult topic of “being wrong”.    That we as human beings can progress through life in such assuredness as to our correctness, when we are so often wrong, through differing perspective, through inaccurate recollection or memory and through a variety of other errors.  That we can, upon realising our error, change our stance and in the future forget that any such change in position ever occurred.   We are almost hardwired for ease over accuracy.

I am already in the process of building my initial booklist for 2019 with nine books on the list, albeit one of the books is something I have read before.

  • Hamlets Blackberry, William Power
  • Declutter your life, Gill Hasson
  • Twitter Power 2.0, Joel Comm and Anthony Robbins
  • Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman
  • Dare to Lead, Brené Brown
  • The power of meaning, Emily Esfahani Smith
  • The chimp paradox, Steve Peters
  • Mistakes were made (but not by me), Carol Tavris
  • 10 mindframes for visible learning, John Hattie and Klaus Zierer

Here’s to 2019 being another successful and enjoyable year of reading.   As always I am open to suggestions and recommendations so please feel free to share.

My initial 2018 reading list

As 2018 is now in full flow I thought it was about time that I filled my bookshelf at least with an initial set of books to read in the year ahead.   As Naseem Taleb discusses in his book, The Black Swan, the intelligence of a person is not indicated by the books they have read in their library but by the books they are yet to read.   He suggests the books yet to be read are an acceptance of what we are yet to learn as well as an intention to continue learning through reading.   In this vain I aim to keep my bookshelf filled with the books I am yet to read.

So to my book list for 2018; the initial books are:

  • The Upside to Irrationality by Dan Ariely
  • Open by David Price
  • The Marshmallow Test by Walter Mischel
  • Shut Up, Move On by Paul McGee
  • Make it Stick by Peter Brown
  • The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
  • Twitter Power 3.0 by Jim Taylor and Joel Comm
  • Daily Rituals by Mason Currey
  • Change by Richard Gerver
  • The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey

In addition to the above books I have also picked a couple focused on data science for the year ahead.   The reason for this is an interest in how schools might make better use of data which fits with my current experimentation with Microsoft PowerBI.  The books in relation to data science are:

  • Data Science from Scratch by Joel Grus
  • Storytelling with Data by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic

The above twelve books represent my initial book list for 2018.   Twelve books to match my plan to read at least one book per month however I have every intention to add to this list as the year goes on or as my focus or interest areas change.    I have already had a list of books suggested to me by Matthew Larson (@mlarson_nj) of which I suspect a number will be added to my reading go list.

Let my 2018 reading begin…..


My books from 2017

During 2017 I set myself the target of reading a minimum of a book per month.   In the end I achieved this despite also studying for my CISSP exam which I then sat in December 2017.  I note that my reading rate was pretty high during the start of 2017 however dropped to almost nothing in the last month or two of the year as I focused more on studying for the CISSP exam.

Given below are the books which I read in 2017:

  • Essentialism by Greg McKeown
  • Herd by Mark Earls
  • Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  • Grit by Angela Duckworth
  • Focus by Daniel Goleman
  • The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker
  • Being Brilliant by Andrew Cope
  • Learning with e’s by Steve Wheeler
  • Culture Map by Erin Meyer
  • The subtle art of not giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
  • Bounce by Matthew Syed
  • Moving Toward Global Compassion by Dr. Paul Ekman
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  • The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

From the above I think the Culture Map was one of my favourites due to having worked in the UAE and therefore having to experience the differences in relation to working practices across cultures first hand.   I just wish I had read the book ahead of going out to the UAE as it would most likely have allowed me to avoid some initial issues I experienced.   The Power of Habit and Predictably Irrational are two other favourites from my 2017 reading as they both focus on how we humans believe we are rational and considering of our decisions however in reality our decision making and actions are often the result of habit or the instincts of the human anaimal.

I have already started to put together a basic reading list for 2018 which includes:

  • SUMO (Shut Up, Move on) by Paul McGee
  • The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely
  • The Marshmallow Test by Walter Mischel

I am also considering adding a couple of leadership related books along with some books on data science, which is something which currently interests me.

Reading continues to be something I believe to be an important part of life, in its ability to allow us to explore new viewpoints, thoughts and ideas.    I look forward to another year of reading.

Books for 2017

During 2016 I had set myself a target of reading 1 book per month.   Despite a number of other pressures and priorities I managed to meet this target with the below photo being of my bookshelf and some of the books I have read during 2016.


As the new year approaches my thoughts move to equipping my bookshelf with books for reading during 2017.   At the moment the first few books have been purchased and added and are as below:

  • Essentialism, Greg McKeown (2014)
  • The power of habit, Charles Duhigg (2012)
  • Predictably irrational, Dan Ariely (2008)
  • Herd, Mark Earls (2007)

The first set of books very much focus on behaviourism and on human habit which is a particular area of interest for me at the moment.

In addition I am also considering:

  • Bounce, Matthew Syed
  • Chaos Monkeys, Antonio Garcia Martinez
  • Pebbles of Perception, Laurence Endersen
  • Meditations, Marcus Aurelius
  • Mindfulness, Gill Hansen
  • The Chimp Paradox, Prof. Steve Peters
  • Being Brilliant, Andrew Cope
  • The Obstacle is the way, Ryan Holiday

From the above all are new to me except for The Obstacle is the way which I listened to as an audio book during 2015.    These books cover perception which is another area of interest for me, plus introduce mindfulness which I find to be an interesting area and also creativity.

Should I go with all of the above this would form my initial 12 books for the year however I suspect that as I read through them additional books might be added.

I would welcome any suggestions or recommendations plus any reviews or comments on the above books.


Books, books and more books

booksAll the way back in December 2015, and at this point it seems both a long time ago and only yesterday, I set myself a target of reading a book per month.     The reason for the target was the feeling that I just wasn’t reading enough.   Prior to this the most reading I had done had been during the period studying for my Masters degree, subsequent to which my reading all but stopped.   Generally I think I have progressed quite well in working towards this target, and I have certainly made progress on my reading habits prior to 2016.

So far this year my reading has included:

  • Black Box Thinking, Matthew Syed, 2015
  • The Dark Net, Jamie Bartlett, 2014
  • The Glass Cage, Nichola Carr, 2015
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, 2011
  • The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb, 2007
  • Drive, Daniel Pink, 2009
  • The Invisible Gorilla, 2010
  • Multipliers, Liz Wiseman, 2010
  • How We Learn, Benedict Carey, 2014
  • Resilience, Andrew Zolli & Ann Marie Healy, 2012
  • The Element, Ken Robinson, 2009
  • Adapt, Tim Harford, 2011

And my current book Incognito by David Eagleman (2011)

At this point, in the middle of November I have achieved the target I set myself however the crucial factor is not in meeting the target but in improving from where I was just over a year ago and also in learning from the books I have read.

I found the majority of the books read to be interesting to various degrees and have often started a new book based on its mention within a book I have read.     I feel I have a broader set of ideas and understanding than I may have prior to setting and embarking on this particular new years resolution.

At this point it may seem that this piece is very much about me congratulating myself for the progress made and the books read however this is far from the case.   In reading I have realised how much more there is to know, how many more perspectives there are to every situation, event or concept, how much more I have to read.    Reading has been enjoyable and but also enriching.

Using the idea of Umberto Eco’s Anti-library as mentioned by Nassim Taleb in the Black Swan, I have realised that my bookshelf with its books complete with post-it note annotations is not important.   What matters is the understanding that there is so much more to read; the list of the books I am yet to read.    With every new book I read the list of books yet to read does not decrease, but increases as I add new books to it based on my current reading.  I open up new avenues to explore with each book read.

And with that I will go back to reading Incognito.   I have already added Herd by Mark Earls, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely and Nudge by Cass Sunstein to the not yet book list.   Feel free to  share your recommendations.


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