Reading list

10 powerful books to read instead of the news

10 incredibly powerful and insightful books for those who like to keep up to date with current affairs from thought-provoking The Optician of Lampedusa to Ed Balls’s political journey.

 

The Optician of Lampedusa by Emma Jane Kirby

The author of this thought-provoking book is BBC journalist Emma Jane Kirby, whose reporting on the migrant crisis has won her a Bayeux-Calvados Award for War Correspondents. The story traces the events of the 2013 migrant shipwreck off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa through the eyes of Carmine Menna, the local optician who became an accidental hero when, whilst out for a day’s sailing, he rescued 47 people who would otherwise have drowned in the disaster.

 

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The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry

Turner-prize winning artist, author and lecturer Grayson Perry is ideally placed to write this funny and sharply observed book about what it means to be a man in today’s world. Tracing the history of masculinity itself, this engaging book explores gender identity through musings on childhood, fashion, culture and society. An uplifting and engrossing read for the artsy thinker in your life.

 

Politics: Between the Extremes by Nick Clegg

2016 has been nothing but a roller coaster of events and outcomes for the world of politics. This candid recounting of the events surrounding the coalition, as well as former deputy PM Nick Clegg’s life in politics will no doubt spark plenty debates for those hoping to see changes to the current political system. Writing candidly about his mistakes as well as his successes, this is a thoughtful examination of British politics today.

 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

On the verge of completing ten years’ training as a neurosurgeon, 36-year-old Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with lung cancer. This beautifully written and inspiring memoir – a New York Times bestseller in the US – traces his journey from medical student to terminally ill patient and discusses issues around living and dying. That Kalanithi died before completing the book makes it one of the most powerful reads which will stay with you. 

 

Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

For those who contemplate the future of planet Earth, the author of the bestselling Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Professor Yuval Noah Harari, continues with his unique blend of history, philosophy and science to explore the possibilities for the future of mankind, from overcoming death to creating artificial life. This is a wonderfully absorbing book for anyone who’s ever wondered where we go from here.

 

Blitzed by Norman Ohler

This bestseller is German writer Norman Ohler’s fascinating account of the Nazis’ relationship with drugs including cocaine, heroin, morphine and crystal meth, which was obtainable at the time in the form of chocolates. From factory workers, to housewives and even Hitler himself, all had a disturbing reliance on drugs. Equally gripping and strange, this is a book shares a new perspective of the German’s experience of wartime. 

 

The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold by Tim Moore

Travel along with professional globetrotter Tim Moore and his epic journey traversing the 9,000km route of the old Iron Curtain from the Norwegian–Russian border to the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, all on a two-geared German shopping bike. Through this journey of dumplings, vodka and reindeer farmers, Moore reflects on communist history in his gripping and laugh out loud adventure. 

 

The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

Discover how two men have helped shape the world we live in now with this fascinating  biography. This incredibly story is about two psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who met in war-torn 1960s Israel and began an incredible scientific collaboration creating the field of behavioural economics which has revolutionized everything from medicine to how we spend, from how we are governed to football. 

 

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Speaking Out by Ed Balls

This Sunday Times bestseller by the ballroom dancing former Labour politician offers an intriguing insight into the world of the British political scene. Via a series of essays, Balls reflects on fellow politicians, his journey to becoming the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and the 2015 election campaign that cost him his job.

 

The Book of Joy: Finding Enduring Happiness in an Uncertain World by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu 

For those looking for something to lift the spirits then this joyfull book by Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu is for you. Spending a week together the two incredible advocates of peace and joy look back on their lives, the hardships they have lived through and ponder the question of how we can find joy in life. A rare opportunity to experience and embrace their inspiring perspective.

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