Did you make a new year’s resolution to read more books in 2022? Find some inspiration with these suggestions from the ECI team as to what they’re picking up this winter:
All In: An Autobiography, by Billie Jean King
As a tennis player, I always find it fascinating and inspiring to read how legends grew up learning to play, developing their talent and their inner thoughts in the big moments. There is always so much hard work and sacrifice you don’t see. What Billie Jean King did for women’s tennis was incredible, she was so progressive and forward thinking. She shattered glass ceilings in everything she did. She created the women’s pro tour and it was the $1 contract that started it all off – now women tennis players are amongst the highest paid athletes. Her bravery, whether it was the Battle of the Sexes match – which was pivotal in changing the mindset that people wanted to watch women’s tennis – or coming out as gay in the era that she did, I think what she did for women’s rights and LGBQT are almost her biggest achievements. I saved down her epilogue because it’s so good: “Sometimes I ask people to imagine themselves at the end of their life…. How will you want to be remembered, what will you want to say that you stood for and did with your life? Think about these things in a daily, intentional way. Each of us can be an influencer in some form. Be clear on your goals and values, what do you define as winning?”
To Sell is Human, by Daniel Pink
Sales can be a slightly dirty word, but Daniel Pink shows us that we actually spend most of our lives trying to persuade or move people – to sell, effectively – whether it’s trying to convince your kids to go to bed on time or speaking to a management team about how you think you’d be able to help them. The book brings together psychology, interviews, and case studies to give a fascinating overview to how sales has changed so dramatically from our perception of the used car salesman, and how individuals can make small changes to get better at successfully persuading those around us. There’s lots of relevant insight, whether you’re a speechwriter, a teacher or indeed selling used cars – but I think the main takeaway for me is that we spend a lot more time trying to move people to understand our perspective than we can imagine, and we can get much better at that by understanding theirs. Once you realise that, you can see how making small changes in how we sell to others can have a lot of power.
Humankind: A Hopeful History, by Rutger Bregman
I decided to pick up this book after being consumed by negative news stories every day during the pandemic and wanting to get stuck into something a bit more uplifting. Bregman makes the argument that despite a consensus amongst many famous psychiatrists and philosophers that humans are governed by self-interest, that actually it is possible and indeed highly plausible that humans are fundamentally good (as a naturally cynical person, this lured me in!) He looks through some of the world’s most infamous bad news stories through history and looks at them through more of an objective lens to give a new perspective on humanity. This fresher and more optimistic perspective makes you rethink a lot of what we’ve been conditioned to believe through the media and is certainly a more positive reframing.
American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins
Set against a backdrop of the drug cartels, ‘American Dirt’ follows the extraordinary journey of a mother and son tragically ripped from their comfortable lives as they are forced to flee Mexico heading north to the USA as undocumented immigrants on the treacherous La Bestia. There have been questions and indeed controversy around its launch due to fears that Cummins’ is appropriating immigrant trauma, but the book is certainly still a gut-wrenching read, now becoming regarded as ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ of the 21st century.
The Passenger, by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz
This was actually a gift from Jeremy at ECI, but I promise I am not just including this in the list as a thank you! The origin of the book is very unique, written in four weeks in 1938 by 23-year-old German Jew, Boschwitz, then published and largely forgotten about. The author, who felt that the book needed significant editing sent instructions to his mother but was then killed on a troopship torpedoed by a German submarine, had those edits made almost 70 years after the fact and published last year. The book is the telling of a middle-class businessman coming to terms with the stripping of his identity – the reduction of his life to the J on his passport – and his life on the run as he seeks to escape whilst truly only wanting a return to life as ‘normal’. The book is intensely claustrophobic and frustrating (with us the reader knowing exactly what lies in wait if he doesn’t manage to escape) and a very chilling reminder that any sentiment of ‘that couldn’t happen here’ should never be taken for granted.