Here are a few thinkers I've been exploring lately.
Women and Leadership: Real Lives, Real Lessons
Julia Gillard and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
I really, really wanted to love this book. But I didn’t. The structure was great – hypothesis based chapters investigated with research and interviews from female leaders including Hillary and Jacinda. The diversity was great including leaders from South America, Africa and Europe. The final discussion around mentorship and the paradox between authentically describing experiences and scaring young women away from politics was particularly insightful.
But, every night I found myself slogging through the pages….forcing myself to finish. That I would let down the cause if I didn’t. Was it the writing style? The tone? The structure (which on the surface I claim to love). It was almost as if there was something overly reserved or formal in the writing and interviewing. In short, the storytelling was missing. Notwithstanding, I’m happy I persevered.
Phosphorescence: On Awe, Wonder and Things That Sustain You When the World Gets Dark
Started so strong – the title and the cover are gorgeous. The first few chapters were also very engaging - especially in audio as I walked the nature reserve near our house in the final weeks of lockdown. The time spent in Indigenous Communities, Baird’s personal survival story and personal writing style were all highlights. And I feel a bit bad saying this, but it just got a little too same same as the story went on….finishing off with a pet peeve – a letter to the children (eye roll). I didn’t mind it but I haven’t recommended it to anyone.
How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World’s Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs
This book felt a bit like a meme you don’t forward. Enjoyable for the fleeting time you engage with it, but pretty forgettable. Two weeks after finishing the book, all I can recall is that I enjoyed the read. Not really surprising given the storytelling talent of an ex-journo and podcast host. Guy Raz re-tells stories from the many entrepreneurs he has interviewed throughout his career. The entrepreneurial edicts of purpose and perseverance abound and an interesting discussion is skimmed around diversity – would have loved him to go deeper here. All in all it’s very ‘yee-ha’ American - it gives you that inspired, fuzzy feeling about making the world a better place. And we do all need that once in a while.
Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts
Carol Tavris, Elliot Aronson
This book examines cognitive dissonance (holding two competing ideas in your head at once). And I did just that – I definitely experienced cognitive dissonance in each and every chapter. From the benign – reflecting on my ardent defence of my recent air fryer purchase. To questioning deeply held beliefs around sexual trauma and recovered memory. I was thinking (and probably overthinking) on each and every page. In this 2020 edition (originally published in 2007) an analysis of the Trump administration was particularly interesting reading while watching the storming of Washington on the news. A book which allows the reader to experience the very concept it is trying to illustrate is quite an accomplishment.