The books of 2016

The books of 2016

For the first time ever, I achieved my Goodreads target for the year in 2016. It’s only the second year I have done the challenge, but nonetheless it’s an achievement and I want to celebrate.

I read 12 books. I am pretty certain in fact I read many more, but logging academic books might have made it seem I was showing off. I didn’t, but I now regret that decision. So I am showing off here instead. It was more like 24 books.

Here’s the 10 I think you should read too (and one I don’t think you should), and why.

Meanwhile, my book buying continues to outdo my book reading so even in spite of this miraculous achievement, I’m far from running out of material.

Cheer Up, Love: Adventures in Depression with the Crab of Hate – Susan Calman

One of the reviews on Goodreads says about this book what I wanted to say, but in better words.

They said: “Highly recommended for anyone who is coping with depression. Or anyone who is coping with someone who is coping with depression.”

The book offers an insight into what it’s like to live with anxiety and depression. It’s amusing, too, which helps.

The Psychopath Test – Jon Ronson

A good read for little other reason than to remind yourself that you’re not actually a psychopath. The test itself is intriguing. The revelations of incaceration worrying, but more comforting as the book goes on. The book is an interesting, amusing root about in the mind of leaders. It left me wanting more, which is why Jon Ronson appears three more times in this list.

The Men Who Stare at Goats – Jon Ronson

Here he is again. A story of how a man once stared at a goat until it died. Interesting. Definitely interesting.

Bonkers: My Life in Laughs – Jennifer Saunders

Not the best autobiography I’d ever read, nor the worst. In the list because I’d read ‘Dear Fatty’ and thought I should complete the set.

Some interesting stories about ‘the early days’. Some amusing bits about life. But a second half much more enjoyable than the first.

Jennifer’s sitcom writing style shines through. So it’s the perfect read for when you’ve not got long. The chapters are as self contained, which makes for a nice rhythm if you’re doing something else too.

Them: Adventures with Extremists – Jon Ronson

An enjoyable book about the world of paranoid conspiracists. People who walk the world thinking there’s a plan to get them and that Jewish people are behind most of it. The book plays on my natural assumption that wherever there is conspiracy, there’s probably at least some fact. It asks the questions I’d have asked if I’d got the chance to, while nicely affirming my belief that no government is organised enough to actually try and control the world.

It was only spoiled by my sudden realisation half way through that I’d flown with a book about extremism in my hand luggage.

The PR Masterclass: How to Develop a Public Relations Strategy That Works!

An interesting read with some good ideas, written by someone with actual experience of doing them. It’s not ground breaking, but an audio book version should perhaps be supplied to anyone immediately following their asking “so, what do you do?” of someone working in PR.

The Establishment: And How They Get Away with It

I abandonded this, my only abandonment this year. To me it switched between being the other side of an interview from ‘Them’ (above) and an essay written by a school boy who’d overused the ‘theasuarus’ option in Microsoft Word.

I got the feeling that you’d enjoy the book if you were already minded to believe what it was saying.

Again, it’s best left to Goodreads reviewer Adam:

“To appreciate this book, you have to understand what Owen Jones means by “the establishment”. It turns out he means anyone who disagrees with his politics or has been instrumental in some way in frustrating the success of those politics over the past 30 years. The police, America, New Labour and virtually anyone with money are all included in this somewhat expansive definition.”

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson

A great renaissance of public shaming is sweeping the world, thanks to the power individuals have developed with social media. Giving everyone a voice seems to have meant we’re all keen on finding other people’s faults, and getting offended on behalf of others. Tweet something, get on a plane and arrive to find your life has been destroyed.

The only part of the book that left something to be desired was the ‘what next’ section, which was scarce on the detail of anything that actually worked. Perhaps that, though, is because nothing really does.

As we’ve seen with Brexit, Trump and more the Internet never thinks anything’s over. The Remoaners continue to be fought as if they’ve not lost, Trump continues to point out that Clinton is terrible and everyone else who’s ever done anything wrong continues to be hounded by the Twitterati. Just look at Tony Blair.

The Internet wants the apology, but seems to have forgotten the next step is supposed to be forgiveness. The book is a nice reminder to watch your step.

How to Be a Productivity Ninja: Worry Less, Achieve More and Love What You Do – Graham Allcott

I read this and instantly had the feeling that I might’ve written it myself in a past life, or before taking some kind of amnesia drug. I already do everything that it suggested – so I have taken pleasure, since I finished the book back in February, of considering myself a ‘productivity ninja’.

Read this book and do what it says if you want to be like me.

On the negative side, it could easily have been written as a 10 page article rather than a c.250 pager – but then, 10 pages a book deal is not.

Winners: And How They Succeed – Alistair Campbell

Too much sport, but some good basic ideas. Alistair’s grounding force of OST (Objective, Strategy, Tactic) and his lessons on how often people confuse them for one another is probably the most interesting thing I’ve learn this year.

I now find myself constantly sitting in briefings about projects bringing the conversation back to O, when it’s strayed onto T prematurely. It certainly gets results.

Peas & Queues: The Minefield of Modern Manners – Sandi Toksvig

An entertaining tour through the weirdness of life ettiquette. It’s so very British that no one really knows where the phrase ‘mind your Ps and Qs’ comes from. Or is it ‘Mind your peas and queues?’ No one knows that either.

Good tips on getting rid of unwanted guests (useful), and proof that I am in fact fine and completely rational to be insanely irritated when people cut their bread roll with a knife at dinner.