With Christmas fast approaching, I would like to share with you a list of books which made the biggest impression on me, and more importantly – ones that I will come back to (in some cases already did). Therefore, they all make great candidates for gifts! I have divided them into categories to indicate for whom they might be intended for, so read away and I hopefully you will find something ideal for your loved ones and/or for yourself, as I am always a big advocate for little tokens of appreciation we give to ourselves <3.
All the links I have included in this post will take you to an independent website where you can compare prices from independent book shops. It’s a great opportunity to support small businesses in the pandemic and help them survive.
For women by women – true stories
I have listened to this as an audiobook, but I am positive that I will buy myself a “real” copy very soon. Melinda Gates is a woman that needs no introduction, together with her ex-husband Bill Gates she runs the biggest privater charitable organisation in the world – Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In her book she shares with us the becoming of it and how and why certain areas become their focus for improving lives around the globe. Melinda shares uplifting and many times heartbreaking stories of women from around the world, their struggles, but also their hopes and dreams. In words of our second author, “The Moment of Lift” is “An urgent manifesto for an equal society”.
As much as this title is self-explanatory and you maybe heard the story of this 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner, it is still one of the most moving books I have had the pleasure of reading. Malala recently graduated from Oxford University and celebrated her wedding day published her story in 2015, just three years after she survived being shot in the head by the Taliban, in her hometown in Pakistan. Malala talks beautifully about her country and its people. Her words fill the reader with both determination and hope. I first read this book in 2020 and it landed on my best books I read in 2020 list, I will happily return to it in the future to remind myself how persistent and strong some things turn out to be when expected otherwise, like women and girls and communities. It also demonstrates how weak and fragile some potentially massive forces are, when no longer fuelled by fear, hate and indifference.
Another non-fiction position on my list is a memoir of one of the world’s most famous First Ladies – Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama is a wonderful storyteller, and I enjoyed her guidance throughout some of her most treasured memories which she decided to share with the world. I have always liked her, as much as you can like or dislike a public figure as there’s no way of actually knowing them. However, by reading “Becoming” I grew to respect her even more as I learned how she valued her career and juggled it with motherhood. Michelle Obama today strikes me as wise and warm, and become one of top ten people that I hope to meet one day*.
*Note: Barack Obama didn’t even make the top 10, sorry Mr President.
For the feminist
On August 17th, I posted a picture of my bedside table on my Instagram, which proudly lay a copy of “Invisible Women” – a book that I decided to point out as The One to read this year. I cannot remember reading another book that would make me so angry yet determined. Since then, I have signed up for Caroline’s weekly newsletter (you can join here!) and it became my Monday morning ritual to read it in bed with my tea and have since started signing and sharing related petitions and content on social media or with friends and family. Yes, I’ve become that girl and I am proud to be able to say that. “Invisible Women” opened my eyes to a new dimension to realise that gender bias is present in almost all aspects of our lives, but also that we can refuse to accept it and choose to defy it.
Created out of two speeches that Virginia Woolf delivered in colleges in 1928 (Cambridge, UK), when considering the topic of “Women and Fiction”. She came to the conclusion that for women to become fiction writers, they need two things: money and a room to themselves. Although written a century ago, this short book is still (freakishly) relevant and its position as a feminist literatary classic doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Virginia Woolf writes accurately and rationally. She expresses her doubts where they apply and drives sharp conclusions where she can and the facts allow it. I am looking forward to coming back to it as well as placing Virginia Woolf’s other titles on my bookshelf.
For the explorer
Two years before Virginia Woolf delivered her speeches, over a thousand kilometres south Antoine de Saint-Exupery started his adventure with Aeropostale, a pioneering airline that aimed to connect France with its colonies in Africa and South America. “Wind, Sand and Stars” is a memoir of adventures and thoughts of that period. This book is pure poetry on the topic of flying, exploration and survival but you don’t have to be an aviation enthusiast to enjoy it.
First, I want you to think about three facts:
1. It’s 2021 (soon 2022).
2. Last time humans travelled beyond Earth’s low orbit was also the last time we set our feet on the Moon. That was December 1972 with the Apollo 17 mission. It has been 49 years (even exactly as the mission took place between 7-19 of Dec).
3. “The Case For Mars” was first published in 1996, two years after 25th anniversary of Apollo 11 mission, which brought Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the surface of the Moon for the first time.
It seemed that after humans stuck a flag on the first celestial object other than Earth in 1969, space exploration would sky rocket from there (pun intended). Yet, two decades passed and no new frontiers were challenged. Why is that? Many people suppose it’s because we still haven’t developed the right technology. Well, “The Case For Mars” proves this wrong, we have had the technology possible to reach Mars, since before it was published and this book explains everything step by step from propulsion, through health and psychological factors down to mission organisation and life on the Red Planet. If this isn’t the last frontier of exploration than I don’t know what is!
Oh, and if you get hooked – you can become a member of the Mars Society. I am seriously considering becoming a member in 2022… Hint to my own friends and family for upcoming occasions (Christmas, birthday, International Women’s Day, etc. 🙂 )
If you were born to be a wonderer, this book is for you. From New York Times bestselling and prize-winning author, her novel “Great Circle” was shortlisted for 2021 Booker Prize. This book comprises two stories, with over a half century between them, which gradually merge into one. Throughout the book’s 600 pages, we follow the life of Marian Graves, a fictional female pilot who disappears attempting a north-south circumnavigation of the earth. Every now and then tough, we are transported to recent times where a troubled Hollywood star, Hadley Baxter, takes on the role of Marian in a new biopic. Because the book is filled with historical details of true events, effortlessly merging into the story, and all the characters are so compelling, the whole thing seems SO REAL! I found myself googling Marian Graves as I got convinced she existed. The amount of research put into “Great Circle” is very impressive. Even the below quote is referenced to supposedly real book:
“Where to begin? At the beginning, of course. But where is the beginning? I don’t know where in the past to insert a marker that says: here. Here is where the flight began. Because the beginning is in memory, not on a map.”*
– From The Sea, the Sky, the Birds Between: The Lost Logbook of Marian Graves, 1959
For the (inner) child
This is one of my favourite sci-fi books, and I keep coming back to it. “Mortal Engines” is actually a set of short stories, all of which seeks to both teach and amuse the reader. They usually take place in some far away galaxies and star alien robots. Robots with exaggerated human flaws and virtues. I think it can be equally enjoyable by both children and adults. Personally, I cannot wait for my nephew to be big enough so I can get it for him! Absolutely love it!
Few years ago I decided the original version of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. If you know anyone who, like me, has a soft spot for positions that inspired other artists for decades – this is a good start. I love how it prompts my imagination to work on full capacity and will always be a fan of those memorable quotes:
If I keep going, I might end up quoting half of the book…
For literally everyone
Richard Osman is a co-host of my favourite British quiz show. I think that together with Alexander Armstrong they create a perfect tv-couple chemistry. I find them both intelligent, sharp and absolutely hilarious. In terms of literature and art recommendations, my inner compass trusts people like them. I was very curious to discover that Mr Osman is a writer himself and I wasn’t disappointed. “The Thursday Murder Club” is a great book, the story really keeps you on your toes, but what I love most about it are the characters and humour. I also like that there is a polish accent in it. A lovely book to read on a winter evening under the blanket with hot tea or a glass of wine.
I read “The Man Who Died Twice” on a holiday, and I can tell you that it is superb. It’s one of those books that you don’t read – you swallow it whole. A continuation of adventures of four exceptional friends from “The Thursday Murder Club” hits a jackpot. I honestly think Richard Osman’s second book is even better than his debut. It has all that you need – the humour, the mystery, the romance, the blast from the past and a piece that will melt your heart a little. Richard Osman – you did it again!
My favourite fragments contain Joyce’s brave attempts at social media. ❤
For the business inclined
Jim Collins is a coauthor of another bestselling book “Built to Last”. At the very beginning of “Good to Great” Jim shares his conversation with Bill Meehan, the managing director of the San Francisco office of McKinsey & Company:
This conversation inspired the research and publication of “Good to Great”. Jim Collins, together with his team analysed hundreds of companies to find the ones that took the leap and became great. More importantly it deep dives into those companies, it’s decision making processes, it’s management, marketplace and strategies to understand how it was done.
Great overview on how to be a good manager. Kim Scott, hands over a cookbook for great leaders. This book is filled with useful anecdotes and inspiring examples of individuals, but it also explains thoroughly how to become an exceptional leader. Exactly how it promises on the cover, it will set you on course to be kick-ass boss without losing your humanity. It’s possible and Kim Scott can teach you how to achieve it. Definitely a must-have and must-read (multiple times to let it sink in) for anyone in a manager position with ambition of being an amazing boss.
For the romantic soul
- “Love Letters of Great Men, vol.1” by multiple authors
Featured in “Sex and The City 2” this small book is one of the most romantic positions in my collection. It contains love letters of people like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Mark Twain, Pierre Curie, Lord Byron (father of Ada Lovelace) Voltaire, Henry VIII of England, Napoleon Bonaparte, Vincent van Gogh, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, among others. Phew! That is an impressive list!
I keep my copy by my bed, so that I can loose myself in romantic mood before going to sleep whenever I feel like it.
This is the first book through Reese’s Book Club recommendation. If you are not aware, then yes, I mean Reese Witherspoon, who I adore, has added a book club to her long list of projects. “Tokyo Ever After” is a cute story of teenage love, the main character, Izumi after a normal 17 years of existence discovers that she is a Japanese princess. I know, right? But still, I enjoyed the book immensely. Who doesn’t love a nice and comforting love story?!
For the curious mind
Good books on psychology can be hard to find, especially after you have read Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow”, you probably more often than not realise that this new book you thought is going to be a deal breaker, draws greatly from the Nobelist’s research. There’s nothing wrong with getting some inspiration or building on existing ideas, but it’s nice to get a fresh take on things now and again. Julia Galef’s “The Scout Mindset” gives you just that. It shows how to fight biases that are strongly embedded in our brains and helps us make better decisions. It’s good, take my word for it.
Michael Lewis is an american author and a financial journalist, which explains why he wrote “The Big Short”. However to write the story of emerging coronavirus pandemic is a tough ask. Nevertheless, “The Premonition” is one of the most interesting books I have discovered this year. It is a set of background stories of people who, behind the scenes, played crucial role in America’s defence during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. The book exposes the holes in the US and global healthcare systems and at the same time fills the reader with hope and admiration for the small group of individuals whose stories Michael Lewis decided to present. This book is my 100%, and I am absolutely awed by Charity Dean.
Oh yes, it did hurt. My belly hurt from laughing so much while reading Adam Kay’s Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor! Unbelievable stories straight from hospitals and clinics, often shocking, sometimes sad but mostly hilarious. Besides being awarded Book of the Year at National Book Awards and being extremely funny, this book is also very eye opening to the realities of today’s healthcare staff. Reading will immediately arm you with appreciation and respect that all health and key workers in general deserve. Even more relevant today while we are two years deep into the pandemic, while no-one knows how much longer it will take and if we will ever get out it.
- “Factfullness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think” by Hans Rosling
“Factfulness” is one of those books that at some point was absolutely everywhere and everyone was recommending it. I’m not sure why I have put it off my reading list priorities for such a long time, but now that I finally got around to it, I will become yet another advocate of its enormous value. I don’t think there is another book that will prove you more wrong about how much you think you know about life today and at the same time leave you so hopeful and full of belief in mankind. It’s full of facts but not overwhelming and the way Hans Rosling writes makes it obvious to how knowladgeable and passionate he is.
As a sneak peak, you can visit the website gapminder where you can find some of the graphs used in the book.
Is a travel memoir written by famous polish writer, journalist and war correspondent. Set in Africa, the book starts of in Dar es Salaam in 1962 where news of upcoming independency of Uganda reaches Kapuściński. In literature, this was my first meeting with Africa and it was mesmerising. Ryszard Kapuściński’s talent for the written word is one of my personal favourites, he paints a very realistic picture, guides you through the wild and makes you feel lost and found, both at the same time. Both safe and in danger. Both an individual and irrelevant, a fleck of dust. Next to “The Soccer War” these are my two favourite works of this talented writer.
For the ones searching amusement
Absolute classic, but there are many classics, many famous works of great writers. Not so many of the ones that you would read again. And again. And again… Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” is tough exactly that – a book that you will keep returning to, and each time it will be as funny and engaging as the first. It’s WW2, and we are on a small island in the Mediterranean from where bombardier planes are being sent on missions. The main character Yossarian struggles to avoid certain death in the event of keeping flying in the bomber squadron, which turns out, is a never ending event. The mix of tragic and hilarious resulting in pure madness – that’s what “Catch-22” is to me. Some quotes below, for a taste:
I set my mind on this book after I read somewhere that Elon Musk likes it which was also proven by the fact that when SpaceX launched Falcon Heavy with Musk’s Tesla inside to orbit around Mars, there it was, on the car’s dashboard, inscribed with the large, friendly words:
If regular sci-fi is something you find too boring for you, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” certainly takes it up a notch. Arthur Dent, who is most probably the most mundane person you can imagine, survives the demolition of our planet and starts his adventure with Ford Perfect, his friend that turns out to be an alien and a writer for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (yep, in the book it’s an actual guide to the galaxy for hitchhiker’s, how brilliant!). Douglas Adams is a comedy genius and so is this book, followed by the rest of the original series:
2 – The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
3 – Life, the Universe and Everything
4 – So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
5 – Mostly Harmless
You might be familiar with “The Witcher” saga through the CD Projekt’s game or through more recently released Netflix series, starring Henry Cavill (oh yes, THE Superman^^). As much as I am a fan of both of these (seriously, keep thinking about getting a gaming console), I am first and foremost loyal to world created by Andrzej Sapkowski which he painted with my imagination. First time I read this saga, I was borrowing all of the books, but many times in the past years I wished that I owned my copies! Would have read them at least 3 or 4 times by now. Looking forward to doing just that in 2022.
The world created by Sapkowski is rich and full of life, his characters are complex and deep, his writing – exceptional. The title watchers are famous hunters that kill beats and monsters for money. Geralt of Rivia is one of them. They are specially trained and subjected to elixirs to develop supernatural abilities that will help them become the perfect assassins. What I particularly like about this saga is also the presence of strong female characters such as Yennefer of Vengerberg, a powerful sorceress and Ciri also known as Lion Cub of Cintra, Falka or the Lady of Time and Space.
– Sword of Destiny
– The Last Wish
– Blood of Elves
– Time of Contempt
– Baptism of Fire
– The Tower of The Swallow
– The Lady of The Lake
– Season of Storms