I am very late with my highlights of books I’ve read this year – far too late for Christmas present ideas but squeaking in before it’s actually 2018. Hopefully some inspiration for reading your way through the dark days of January or for holiday packing if you have a break planned. So, here goes.
Most likely to change the world – I hope that What Happened by Hilary Clinton is the book I read this year that is most likely to change the world. It has to be, because we have to learn the lessons of what enabled a man accused of abusing women, who supports extremists, and who is endangering the planet (I’ll stop there) to become President. It took me back to my weekend of campaigning for Hilary in Miami in October 2016 and left me feeling very sad about what might have been.
Learned most from – in the year that I was lucky enough to start my new job as Chief Executive of the Early Intervention Foundation, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz was a brilliant introduction to why early intervention is so critically important.
Most captivating – The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry was a lovely leaving present from my Institute for Government colleagues and I was captivated by the Essex landscape and the mysterious goings on there at the end of the nineteenth century.
Most changed my everyday life – Whole Body Barefoot by Katy Bowman led me to ditch my heels and I’m now loving my new barefoot winter boots, summer sandals and trainers. I can feel the ground beneath my feet and it’s great.
Most enjoyment from – Bella Poldark by Winston Graham. I spent this year reading all twelve Poldark novels by Winston Graham and I loved spending so much time in Cornwall from 1783 to 1818, learning a great deal about the history of the period. I am singling out this one as it is the last in the series and it was hard to say goodbye to the characters I’d spent so long with.
Most able to make a complex subject easy to understand – I loved the device of telling a fictional story and stopping to emphasise each lesson as you go used in The Course of Love by Alain de Botton. It’s a book packed full of wise truths about relationships, packaged into a very easy-to-read format.
Most un-put-downable – I was completely engrossed in Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher. A ‘loose yourself completely’ book, in the landscapes of Cornwall, in the unfolding of the Second World War and in the warmth of a loving family.
Least enjoyment from – Strumpet City by James Plunkett is a wonderful book and one I would highly recommend. It’s in this category because the poverty it describes is so deeply disturbing there is one image from the book seared in my mind that will never leave.
Most surprised by, in a bad way – I love a trilogy and I love the tropics so I was really looking forward to reading The Malayan Trilogy by Antony Burgess having holidayed in Malaysia at the end of 2016. But I was disappointed in this and it was a far cry from the Lawrence Durrell quartets I have so enjoyed.
Would most recommend for holidays – Caravans by James Michener takes you so totally away from the day-to-day to a time and place that is a mystery to most of us (Afghanistan in 1946) that it’s perfect holiday reading.
Talked most obsessively about – Gut by Guilio Enders. A fabulous book about the mostly unknown secrets of the gut and how what we put in our body affects our mental and physical health. I bought it for three people this Christmas I liked it so much.