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August 1, 2023

Holiday Reads 2023

Lucy Bishop

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One of the best things about holidays is filling up your suitcase with all those books you’ve been desperate to dig into, but still haven’t found the time to read. So, here’s our list of the best business, non-fiction and fiction reads to get your summer holiday kickstarted… 

Business Reads 

Feel-Good Productivity: How to Do More of What Matters to You by Ali Abdaal 

According to former doctor, entrepreneur and one of the world’s most-followed productivity experts, Ali Abdaal, the secret to productivity isn’t discipline, it’s finding the joy in the doing! 

Drawing on decades of psychological research, Abdaal explains the three hidden "energizers" that result in enjoyable productivity, as well as the three "blockers" we must overcome to stop procrastinating, and the three "sustainers" that will help us to avoid burnout and achieve lasting fulfillment. He also sets out some simple actions you can take, starting today, to achieve a more enjoyable and productive life! 

Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? by Dr Julie Smith 

In her debut book, the popular clinical psychologist turned TikTok star, Dr Julie Smith, shares a range of powerful coping tips to help people struggling with anxiety, self-doubt and depression. The book is structured in bite-sized snippets, so you can easily skip to the section that most applies to you, depending on the particular challenge you’re facing. From managing anxiety and battling low mood to dealing with criticism and lack of motivation, this book provides practical tips on how to handle the kind of everyday issues we all face that, while small, can really put a dent in our mental health.   

Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention by Johann Hari 

Is our increasing dependency on screens (mobiles, tablets, TVs) leading us to miss out on real life and causing us to lose focus on what really matters? This is what Hari argues in this brilliant book on the art of concentration… and how it’s been stolen from us. The book is the result of a three-year journey Hari undertook to better understand the reasons behind our growing inability to stay focused. From Silicon Valley, to a favela in Rio, to an office in New Zealand that has found a remarkable way to restore attention, Hari uses his research to set out 12 deep causes that lie behind our stolen focus – and explains what we can do to take it back. 

Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear 

World-renowned habits expert James Clear argues that too often people try to break bad habits by making big changes, but that, actually, it’s the tiny changes that are really transformative. Doing two push-ups a day, for example, or waking up five minutes early – Clear argues that it’s these small things that can grow into life-altering outcomes. He also provides some simple life hacks and delves into the neuroscience of habit changing, backing up his findings with some inspirational stories from Olympic gold medalists and leading CEOs who have used this science to stay productive, happy and motivated.  

The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin 

From the hit producer behind acts like the Beastie Boys, Jay-Z and Neil Young, "The Creative Act" shines a light on the creative process and shows us how we can all be creative, if only we allow ourselves to be. Rubin reflects on his decades-long career helping musical artists to break free of self-imposed expectations and create something different, new and unexpected. And he argues that being an artist isn’t about your output, but about your relationship with the world.  

Impromptu: Amplifying Our Humanity Through AI by Reid Hoffman with GPT-4 

From the co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn, Impromptu explores how AI, and large language models like GPT-4, can elevate humanity across key areas such as education, business and creativity. But this isn’t just a book – it’s a conversation. In it, Hoffman writes about GPT-4, but also interacts and writes with it, to help readers understand the technology’s limitations and its capabilities. His conversation with AI takes us on a journey into the future, where AI is not a threat but a partner – one that we can work with to boost human progress.  

Non-fiction 

The Future of Geography: How Power and Politics in Space Will Change Our World by Tim Marshall 

"Our view of space is changing. It is now, more than ever, becoming an extension of the geography of Earth… " 

In this follow-up to his previous book on Earth’s geography, "The Power of Geography: Ten Maps That Reveal the Future," Marshall turns his attention to the skies and traces the history of our relationship to the stars – from how the Babylonians used them to create the seven-day week, to Copernicus and Galileo’s discovery that the Earth orbited the sun, to Georges Lemaitre’s Big Bang theory and the Space Race of the 1960s. Marshall argues we are now in a new space race era, one that’s being led by the U.S., Russia and China, and explores how this trifecta of powers is affecting the geopolitics of our planet and what it might mean for our future.  

The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World by Jonathan Freedland 

In April 1944, 19-year-old Rudolf Vrba and fellow inmate, Fred Wetzler became two of the very first Jewish prisoners to escape Auschwitz. In this masterpiece, Freedland traces the two men’s journey, past electrified fences and guard dogs, evading thousands of SS soldiers, across marshlands, mountains and rivers, and finally, to freedom. A brilliant student of science, Vrba memorized all the atrocities he saw, risking everything to tell the world his story. This eventually formed a 32-page report that would reach Roosevelt, Churchill and the Pope, and save over 200,000 lives. Now, finally, Freedland tells the heroic story of a man whose life has been forgotten, until now. 

A Brief History of Black Holes and Why Nearly Everything You Know About Them Is Wrong by Dr Becky Smethurst 

Did you know the concept of black holes was first theorized by a priest in the 1700s? Or that Einstein denied that black holes existed? Or that the term "black hole" didn’t come into existence until the 1970s? 

But what is a black hole, really? And how is it affecting our universe? In "A Brief History of Black Holes," Oxford researcher and popular YouTube star Dr Becky Smethurst charts our discovery of black holes, taking us through the earliest theories, to the first iconic photographs of black holes, to how they might shape the end of the universe.  

What If? 2 by Randall Munroe 

What if the solar system up to Jupiter was filled with soup? What would happen to you if you were hanging on a helicopter blade and then someone turned it on? If the universe stopped expanding, how long would it take for us to drive a car all the way to the edge? 

These are just some of the weird and wonderful hypothetical questions that cartoonist and author Randall Munroe attempts to answer in this fun and, at times, absurd, follow up to "What If?" Randall cleverly consults the most recent scientific research to try to explain everything you’ve ever pondered in his original, creative style. 

The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder by David Grann 

On January 28, 1742, a ramshackle raft put together from wood and cloth washed up on the coast of Brazil. On it were 30 emaciated men, barely alive. They were survivors of HMS Wager, a British vessel that left England in 1740 on a secret mission during the imperial war with Spain. During its voyage, the ship had been wrecked on a desolate island off the coast of Patagonia. The 30 survivors were greeted as heroes. That is, until six months later, when another raft landed, this time on the coast of Chile. The boat contained just three castaways, who told a very different story – that the 30 sailors who’d arrived in Brazil weren’t heroes but mutineers. 

"The Wager" is a grand tale of mutiny, murder and the limits of human behavior under extreme pressure. One of the greatest non-fiction writers of our time, Grann brings to life this wild tale of treachery, survival and betrayal. 

Scatter Brain by Shaparak Khorsandi  

During her 40s, popular comedian Shaparak Khorsandi was diagnosed with ADHD. Now, she looks back through her life following her diagnosis in this wonderful book about self-discovery. From reveling in the joys of shoplifting to finally understanding her attraction to toxic men, "Scatter Brain" will have you laughing and crying as you find out what it’s really like to live a life that can, at times, feel out of control.  

Fiction 

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett 

"You have a key that opens a safe deposit box. Inside is a bundle of documents… You must read it all and make a decision. Either: replace the documents and the box, then throw the key where it will never be found or take everything to the police." 

Presented as a dossier of evidence, including transcripts, texts and emails, Hallett’s new novel focuses on the mysterious case of the Alperton Angels – a cult who brainwashed a teenage girl and convinced her that her newborn baby was the Antichrist. Discovered by the police, the cult eventually committed suicide, while the girl and baby disappeared into the care system. Nearly two decades later, crime writer Amanda Bailey is on the case to discover what happened to the mother and child. But not everything is what it seems and the truth may be far darker than she’d ever imagined. 

Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor 

3 a.m., New Delhi. A Mercedes owned by a playboy heir jumps the curb, killing five people. What follows is a page-turning crime thriller that delves into the murky underworld of the wealthy Wadia family – loved by some, loathed by others, but feared by all. Deftly shifting through time and perspective, we are introduced to Ajay, the watchful servant, born into poverty; Sunny, the playboy heir who dreams of outshining his father; and Neda, the curious journalist caught between morality and desire. Branded the "new Godfather," "Age of Vice" is a tale of gangsters and lovers, and the consequences of corruption. 

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano 

"For the first six days of William Waters' life, he was not an only child." This is the tragedy that shapes William Waters' life, growing up in a house filled with grief and parents who can barely look at him, much less love him. So, when he meets Julia Padavano in his freshman year of college, his world suddenly lights up. She and her three sisters give William the family he’s always dreamed of. But darkness from William’s past resurfaces, and it’s not long before his and Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for the future are shaken, resulting in a catastrophic family rift that changes their lives for generations. 

In this homage to Louisa May Alcott’s classic, "Little Women," Napolitano paints a moving portrait of what is possible when we choose to love someone not in spite of who they are, but because of it. 

Yellowface by Rebecca F Kuang 

Athena Liu is a literary darling on a career trajectory that would make anybody jealous. Meanwhile, her best friend June Hayward is literally a nobody. 

So, when Athena dies in a freak accident, June decides to steal her unpublished manuscript and publish it under the name Juniper Song. But, as evidence threatens to uncover June’s stolen success, we discover just how far she’ll go to keep what she thinks she deserves, with deadly consequences. 

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng 

12-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his father, a former linguist who now works as a university librarian. Bird knows how to blend in, not to ask too many questions or stray too far. Because for a decade they’ve been living by laws designed to protect "American culture" following years of economic instability and violence – something blamed solely on Asian people. All of this resulted in a world filled with violence, mistrust and deceit. As well as the burning of books by Asian authors – including a poetry book written by Bird’s Chinese-American mother, who he last saw when he was just nine years old. 

But, after receiving a cryptic note that he believes to be from his mother, Bird sets out on a quest to find her. His journey takes him into an underground resistance network of librarians, where he discovers the many lives of missing children, before reaching the streets of New York, where a new act of defiance is being planned that could lead to a much-needed change. 

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka

Colombo, Sri Lanka, 1990. War photographer, gambler and closet gay, Maali Almeida has woken up dead in what seems to be some kind of celestial office. He now has a choice – stay and make peace with his fate or find out who killed him. But he only has seven moons to discover the culprit. Set in a time of brutal insurrections that plagued Sri Lanka during the 80s, Karunatilaka’s Booker-prize-winning novel takes us on a journey that is at times both violent and funny, beautiful but sad, as we discover exactly what happened to Maali Almeida and why. 


Lucy Bishop

About the Author:

Senior editor, Lucy has over 10 years’ experience writing, editing and commissioning content. She regularly contributes to the Mind Tools blog, heads up Mind Tools’ video learning series, and particularly enjoys exploring and experimenting with new video formats. When she’s not producing fantastic new learning content, she can be found enjoying nature with her two kids and delving into the latest book on her very long reading list!

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Managers and leaders have been using Mind Tools for over 25 years

Now, 24 million learners globally benefit from our extensive Content Library, development tools, and custom learning experiences. See how Mind Tools for Business can help develop your managers and leaders.
Find out more

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