Did you know that the average CEO reads 100 books a year? That’s 1.92307 books a week! And…. I’m not going to do that. At the beginning of this year I set myself the realistic task of reading 26 books in 2018. I’m currently on book 13, so I would say I’m bang on target, if not slightly ahead of schedule… Below is a list of the books that I’ve tackled so far in 2018.
A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived – Dr Adam Rutherford
I’m really interested in anthropology, archaeology, sociology etc. This book was really interested, explaining how we understand DNA, how the Human Genome project mapped DNA, and how many of these ancestry sites that read your DNA are maybe not to be taken completely as gospel.
He doesn’t say they’re wrong – but that some of their more sweeping statements are somewhat… obvious. For example: by saying that an English person is probably genetically related to about 90% of the European population. Well… yeah. You only need to go back about 1,000 years (think roughly Charlemagne kind of time) to find a European common ancestor. Everyone who is of European descent could find this person somewhere in their family tree. For the global population it’s a little over 3,500 years. Yes, to find a common ancestor with everybody on the globe you only have to go back to the time of Homer.
The book explains how in much more detail, but basically if you think about it, it’s because everyone has two parents, and each of those has two parents, and each of them had two parents… etc. So if you head back ten generations, call that three hundred years, you have 1,024 unique ancestors (probably – there may be some crossover there!!!). Go back thirty generations, call that 1,000 years, and you have over a billion potentials on your family tree. Newsflash – there weren’t a billion people around in Europe 1,000 years ago. Everyone crosses over. We’re much more similar than we think, and more than some would like to admit.
The book is quite detailed in some of the science it goes into and I had to get my scienc-ey minded boss to explain some of it because it left me scratching my head. But, if you’re interested in anthropology and that sort of thing – it is definitely worth a read!
The Power – Naomi Alderman
I might do a standalone post about this book, or the issues that it raised for me. It’s premise is that women suddenly had the power to kill or injure at their fingertips, and how at first this is used for liberation, but soon becomes a tool for oppression. You’re reading along and thinking that some of things described are utterly terrible, and cannot be allowed to happen. Then you realise – it already does. One example is that the women in a certain cult are euthanising little boys because they thought them weak. It seems terribly when you read that – but then you think that little girls are killed across the globe because they’re unwanted. Not so unrealistic now, eh?
I, Claudius – Robert Graves
I found this book really challenging. It was a bit of a slog to get through, until (oddly) the last fifty or so pages. The copy I have has very small text and there is a lot of blurb and not a lot of action. I appreciate why Graves had done it in that style – it’s supposed to mirror Roman Epics (long-winded and self-important), but sometimes all it does is come across as long-winded and self-important. I am, however, glad I stuck it out to the end as it did have an interesting conclusion. Don’t think I’ll be racing to read the sequel… might give the TV series a go, however.
Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg
This was an interesting read, despite it being about the American workforce. It had some fascinating business tips and Sheryl’s own business journey was a very interesting one. It was also a book about emergent feminism and how Sheryl had come to hold a feminist position from never having considered necessary in her early life. A good read.
Antony and Cleopatra – William Shakespeare
I actually found this a struggle to get through. I read this about eight years ago when I was in sixth form, as part of my A Level English Literature. The thing I find with Shakespeare is that if it’s not being read out loud, or acted, the words don’t actually make a huge amount of sense on the page. I don’t mean that in that I don’t understand them; I do. It’s just that by just reading, you can’t get the nuances and inflections that Shakespeare intended. The pauses, rhythm, and line breaks in his plays are almost as important as the words themselves. I think next time I decided to revisit a Shakespeare, I will either do it with the dramatised version in front of me, or in the form of an audio book.
Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors – Peter Ackroyd
Kind of what it says on the tin. I would have liked it a more if there was more attention paid to the pre 500AD Britain. At least half of the book was dedicated to post Norman Conquest England which is fine, but there are plenty of other books about early and high medieval England. Still an interesting, and relatively relaxed, trot through early English history.
Call Me By Your Name – Andre Aciman
I will be doing a longer post about this book, because there’s no way I can talk about all the themes and things I wanted to draw out of this book. All I will say here is – if you have not read this book; READ IT. You will leave the pages a different person than when you entered them.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
I found this book really hard. The first chapter was enlightening, and I was very interested in learning about aspects of British history that I have not heard about before and have been shielded from. But what I did find difficult was exactly how I was supposed to read this book. It’s general tone was that white people have a lot of collective responsibility for the institutional racism in this country. That I can believe and I’m okay with understanding my position within that. What I struggled with was that the book seemed to say I wasn’t allowed to learn about how to make it better, because I had no right to be involved. It wasn’t clear what I could do about it, or whether I was even allowed? Somewhat confusing. And the most interesting part was that I couldn’t decide whether my confusion was part of my privilege?
The Lost Continent: Travels In Small Town America – Bill Bryson
I tend to read at least one Bill Bryson book a year because I find him very funny, insightful, and because I wish I could write like him. Some of his phrases haven’t aged quite as well as his books as a whole, but they are still a fantastic read. This one is of his travels around middle America looking for the quintessential American town. Much to his chagrin he finds that it has been overtaken by highways and strip malls. On this trip, however, he finds plenty of interesting characters and many pithy insults. It is classic Bryson, in that it is fast paced and funny, and a very good read. It’s not my favourite Bryson ever (A Walk In The Woods holds that title), but it is a great chilled out read.
Assassin’s Apprentice – Robin Hobb & Royal Assassin – Robin Hobb
These are an excellent, fast-paced fantasy read. I am currently about 1/3 through the third book and I’ve been reading it vociferously. Cannot wait to read the conclusion and find out how the Hobb draws it all together! I will probably do a longer piece about this trilogy once I have finished it up.
What books have you read this year? How many are you hoping to read this year? Let me know in the comments!