30 Dec Sarah’s Shelfie 2020
2020 was such an unpredictable year inducing anxiety, anger, confusion, exhaustion, and feeling powerless. But it also offered time for stillness, routine and practicing presence. These books have helped me personally as well as professionally serving the Craftivist Collective community. They have helped me practice empathy (non-fiction is especially great for that!) and being calm in the moment. They have also helped me question existing systems and structures more and my own unconscious bias, encouraging curiosity and hope. They’ve offered ways that we can all be part of creating a new paradigm of living and being in this ever-changing world.
1. The Power of Now: a guide to spiritual enlightenment – Eckhart Tolle (New World Library 1997) – The first book I read in lockdown to help me stay in the present, focus on what I can do and let go of what I don’t have control over.
2. The Future We Choose: Surviving the climate crisis – Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac (Manilla Press 2020) – Incredible to read the tactics and frameworks Figueres and Rivett-Carnac used to bring world leaders together to agree to a robust climate agreement (leaving their egos at the door!) plus read about all of the solutions to global warming that already exist and just need support more from governments, companies and the public.
3. Me and White Supremacy: how to recognise your privilege, combat racism and change the world – Layla F. Saad (Quercus 2020) – an uncomfortable, enlightening and essential book. I read each morning 6 days a week with one day off and answered the questions as honestly as I could at the end of each chapter.
4. My Personal Journal for each day of the 28 days of Me and White Supremacy that I still read through as a reference ‘book’ to keep me in check.
5. Uncharted: How to make the future together – Margaret Heffernan (Simon Schuster 2020) – we can’t predict the future but we can help shape it. Full of examples of how people have made positive progress and change within a context you cannot fully control. Great help for activists to see where and how you can use your power, skills and influence for real change.
6 .Rest: Why you get more done when you work less – Alex Soojung-Kim Pang (Basic Books New York 2016) – A great education on how to be a changemaker without burning out.
7. The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World – Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Penguin Random House 2016) – full of hope, positivity and lessons on how to live in a healthy way with joy all rooted in science and references to many religions plus it was a loving challenge on self-centredness which is bad for ourselves and our world.
8. What I Know For Sure – Oprah Winfrey (Macmillan 2014) – timeless truths based on Oprah’s column. Helped me stay anchored and focused on self-care balance with service to society.
9. The White Album – Joan Didion (4th Estate 2017) – Sobering stories and observations on american politics and culture including the dark side of the sixties hippy generation.
10. My Twentieth Century Evening and Other Small Breakthroughs: The Nobel Lecture – Kazuo Ishiguro (Knopf Publishing Group 2017) – candid lecture on the importance of connecting with humans and our world, how his upbringing shaped his writing and his morals and ends with a call to action for more diverse writers to be supported and read. Another reminder that changeamakers don’t have to be loud to be heard, seen and make a difference in hearts, minds and culture.
11. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber and Faber 2005) – I’m not a science fiction fan as I often struggle to connect to the characters and contexts. But this is stunning. I loved the film and loved this just as mch. So tender, so morally bold in a subtle way. Stunning.
12. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro (Folio Society 2007) – It wasn’t the love story for the protagonist that I enjoyed following but the butlers class-conditioning, suppressed emotions, his personal views on ‘dignity’ and how he was complicit in fascism through his wilful blindness and illusions of his boss.
13. The Seven Husbands of Eveyln Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid (Atria Boos 2017) – What I thought was going to be a light fluffy bedtime read was actually much more thoughtful on themes of family, fame, success, gender-equality, LGBTQI rights and how to life and die.
14. Expectation – Anna Hope (DoubleDay 2019) – set in East London near where I live, friends my age all going down different paths regarding relationships, motherhood, career choices and ageing. A comforting read for many thirty-something city-dwelling women.
15. Are You Listening? – Tillie Walden (First Second 2019) – a road trip with a difference: two women sharing stories of love, heartbreak and searching for belonging whilst two mystery men follow them, a cat joins them and a road leads to surreal experiences
16. Normal People – Sally Rooney (Faber and Faber 2018) – I loved Conversations with Friends. I was relieved to love this too – complex multi-faceted characters with many flaws struggling to learn how to be in the world and in relation to others. Great BBC adaptation but the book is better!;p
17. The Gift of Anger: and other lessons from my grandfather Mahatma Gandhi – Arun Gandhi (Penguin Books 2017) – The most humbly written book I’ve ever read: no frills, just honest feelings as a teenager struggling with anger issues and and wisdom from his granddad practicing what he preaches. A reminder that protest can be gentle and the power of gentleness can make your protests have even more impact!
18. Passing for Humans A Graphic Memoir – Liana Finck (Jonathan Cape 2018) – Finck calls it “a neurological coming-of-age story”. I loved the search for her shadow, the secrets her dad tries to hide and why, her search for self-understanding and self-acceptance.
19. The Cost of Living – Deborah Levy (Penguin Books 2018) – honest observations on how to be a woman, mother, writer, london-dweller, independent yet interdependent and more in the 21st Century
20. Memoirs and Misinformation – Jim Carrey and Dana Vachon ( Alfred A. Knopf 2020) – fascinating honest thoughts on fame, money, success. Some parts are clearly fiction, some you’re not sure. Some philosophical points. Some hilarious jokes. Great twist at the end.
21. Things I Don’t Want to Know: A Response to George Orwell’s Why I Write – Deborah Levy (Notting Hill Editions 2013) – fascinating perspective being a child in South Africa during apartheid and the personal challenges of how Levy found her voice and sharing it authentically without having to be loud.
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