We had some great responses, and here’s a selection — from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s ‘thrilling’ autobiography to Malcolm Gladwell’s audiobook on interacting with strangers. Not forgetting a neat little work about why, whatever our age, we should all read children’s books. Enjoy!
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, Jonathan Cape, £12.99
As a letter from a son to a mother, this debut novel deals with trauma, loss, survival, people caught between disparate worlds, in a very poetic fashion. Considering the collision of challenges in today’s society, the book invites the reader to reflect on life in a profound and emotive way. As such the novel is beautiful in its own right as well as in a much broader sense.
– Inge Wallage
Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me by Kate Clanchy, Picador, £16.99
I taught English myself for 41 years. Kate Clanchy’s is quite the best book I have read on the subject of teaching generally, and teaching English in particular. She has a superb, easy relationship with her pupils, enables them to write their own poems (published in another little book) and has interesting things to say about mixed-ability classes and prizes for excellence, for example (against the former and for the latter).
– Alan Locke
Many Rivers One Sea by Joseph Allchin, Penguin India, £17.99
An important addition to the literature on fundamentalism – and a surprisingly engaging work. I thought this would be a simple account of regional strife in Bangladesh, but it turned out to be an enlightening and engaging study on the anxieties that drive the horrors of chauvinistic populism in much of the world. Deep and irreverent.
– Jesse Morgan
Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, by Jia Tolentino, Fourth Estate, £14.99
A set of essays that delves into topics such as the impact of the internet, the flavour of today’s feminism or structure of our economy by exploring such modern phenomena as the growth of America’s Sweetgreen salad chain, the popularity of barre classes or the rise in scams such as Fyre Festival. My favourite chapter was an exploration of the ‘girlboss’ type of feminism, pointing out that such slogans do not lead to structural changes in society (such as, for example, paid leave in the US, or better healthcare). Tolentino openly questions some of today’s societal trends and I really appreciated that.
– Henry James
Out of the Gobi: My Story of China and America by Weijian Shan, John Wiley & Sons, £22.99
A personal diary documenting the journey of an eyewitness to the atrocities of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution in China. My favourite passage was about the consequences of eradicating the sparrow population in Beijing – which involved groups of people scaring away flocks of sparrows from landing and resting, so that they later died in mid-air out of exhaustion. This is said to have caused ecological imbalance, which later was one of the reasons for the great famine killing millions.
Permanent Record by Edward Snowden, Macmillan, £20
A thriller by someone who put their life on the line (no fiction here) in a rare act of moral courage, pitted against the overwhelming lies, resources and blanket, self-serving secrecy of our intelligence agencies, who are supposed to be protecting us. Like China, our government has unlimited access to our privacy.
– Robert, New York
Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking To Strangers, Penguin Audio £27.99
A superb audiobook, which Gladwell narrates himself. It discusses how we default to truth/perceived normality and require a very high threshold of contrary evidence before curiosity, doubt and suspicion are triggered; the illusion of transparency and how people’s body language and other tells are an unreliable/flawed representation of inner thoughts; the importance of taking time, care and attention when trying to decipher people we don’t know.
– Tim House
She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, Bloomsbury Circus £20
This book dives into the investigation of Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein and also the Brett Kavanaugh US Supreme Court hearing. The Weinstein trail details the difficulties in lining up sources so no one person is hung out to dry, but the lawyers Weinstein hires — David Boies and Lisa Bloom — somehow manage to seem more evil than their client.
Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise by Katherine Rundell, Bloomsbury, £6
It’s a very short book but it packs a real punch. Rundell makes an irresistible case and reminds you of the wonder and excitement of reading, discovering and learning. She is a brilliant and ferocious communicator; I found her use of language and some of her tropes thrilling and fascinating and enormously generative. A real delight.
– Nev McCormack
The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality, by Katharina Pistor, Princeton University Press, £25
As an investment banker I have had a ring-side view of transactions – M&A, private equity, bankruptcy, restructuring and transaction lawyers’ perspectives of protecting capital providers’ interests in an almost unfair (heads I win, tails you lose) manner. This book explains the genesis, policy background and historical context to how this became a practice based on the most key elements around protecting and enhancing the value of capital – priority rank, secured title, durability, convertibility. Almost anybody who reads the book will benefit; a must-read for corporate lawyers, investment bankers, capital providers.
– Rahul Saikia
Books of the Year 2019
FT commentators, critics and guests select the titles of the year that you need to read. Explore the series here.
What are your favourites from this list — and what books have we missed? Tell us in the comments below.
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