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15 books to get you New Year ready

Lessons, wonderings and strategy to help you lead in new ways and change your world this year.

Stephanie Wong | 08 Jan 2019

An image of an open book next to a stack of books with a book shelf in the background.

Image credit: Documentary Tube.

1. A Call for Revolution: A Vision for the Future, by Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama: A Call for Revolution. Image credit: Harper Collins.

I call on you to confront the challenges of our era by rising up and embarking upon a revolution that has no precedent in human history.

A book that grew from a conversation the Dalai Lama had in 2017 with four young French visitors he received in Dharamsala, India – the Dalai Lama is calling for a revolution. This small book provides simple teachings for all of us to be intentional about our actions for the planet’s destiny. Its core teaching is compassion is the only way we can end the ills that plague our world – it is up to us to create better versions of ourselves in order to build the solidarity we need to transform our interconnected destinies. Are we ready to act?

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2. The Headscarf Revolutionaries, by Brian W. Lavery

The Headscarf Revolutionaries, Brian W. Lavery. Image credit: Amazon.

Lillian Bilocca achieved more in weeks than unions and politicians ever did.

— John Prescott

In 1968, three trawlers from Hull’s fleet sank in just three weeks. 58 men died. Lillian Bilocca put down her fish filleting knife, wrote a petition, and organised into action. With her army of fishwives, she took her battle to the docks and led a raid on parliament. They changed the shipping laws across the country within a few weeks, and Lillian Bilocca became an international celebrity. The end of Big Lil’s story is a sad one. As ships were grounded due to safety laws, workers turned their anger against her. A barrage of vicious hate mail, often from those she’d done most to help, was sent to her home and to the press. The content of the hate mail was predictable, filled with class hatred and misogyny: she was big, working-class, and – worst of all – a woman. She was sacked from her job as a fish skinner and blacklisted from the industry.

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3. all about love, by bell hooks

all about love, bell hooks. Image credit: Amazon UK.

To love well is the task in all meaningful relationships, not just romantic bonds.

This book is calling on all of us to be brave – to walk into the unknown and explore what a world centred on love could look like. Beyond relational love could we consider bringing love into the workplace, the classroom, to the stranger and politics? To face each other as we really are, without persona and unashamed. Can we create a culture where loves sacred presence can be felt everywhere? bell believes love is the answer to us getting closer to the world as it should be.

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4. The Lido, by Libby Page

The Lido by Libby Page. Image credit: Amazon UK.

She can’t see the deep end but knows that if she keeps kicking she will eventually reach it.

Kate is twenty-six-years-old suffering from anxiety, depression and panic attacks. She works for a local paper in Brixton, London, covering very forgettable local stories. When she’s assigned to write about the closing of the local lido she meets Rosemary, an eighty-six-year-old widow who has swum at the lido daily since it opened its doors. She swam there as a child during the war. It was here Rosemary fell in love with her husband, George and has found healing for her grief since George’s death. But when a developer attempts to buy the lido, to be cemented over and become a private members’ gym – Rosemary spearheads a protest effort by distributing homemade “Save the Lido” fliers throughout Brixton.

Soon Kate is with Rosemary organising the community to fight against the lido’s closure. A fictional story with so much truth about building relationships, storytelling and the power of community organising in our local community.

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5. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari. Image credit: Leroy Brothers.

[T]he richest hundred people together own more than the poorest 4 billion. This could get far worse.

A book trying to make sense of today’s most urgent issues. As technology advances faster than most of our understanding of it and the world is more polarised than ever. Harari raises important questions we need to answer in order to survive. This accessible book asks us to consider personal engagement in a world that is confusing and complex and offers ways for us to prepare for a very different future from the world we now live in.

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6. Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements, by Charlene Carruthers

Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements, by Charlene Carruthers. Image credit: Amazon.

[I]’m deeply sceptical of any politician who will try to verbalize black lives matters, and not back it up with action.

Appearing on The Roots’ annual list in 2017, as one of the most influential young African Americans – Carruthers offers a radically inclusive path to our collective liberation. Can we change our own behaviour? Can we work to do better and have the humility to learn from our mistakes? This book draws on the black grassroots organising traditions including the Haitian Revolution, U.S. Civil Rights, and Black and LGBTQ Feminist Movements to show us how to move from the margins to the centre of political strategy and practice.

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7. More Time to Think by Nancy Kline

More Time to Think, Nancy Kline. Image credit: Amazon.

The quality of everything human beings do, everything – everything, depends on the quality of the thinking we do first.

A book all of us and especially managers, community organisers, educators and facilitators should be reading. It will fundamentally change how you work with others, transform your 1-to-1s and build bold and beautiful organisational cultures. The biggest takeaways are the ten specific ways Kline shares for us to think brilliantly, that bad thinking often comes from untrue assumptions and finally, we are all thinking equals regardless of hierarchy.

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8. Wild Thorns, by Sahar Khalifeh

Wild Thorns, by Sahar Khalifeh. Image credit: Step feed Media.

Peace, brotherhood – hopes of idiots and dreams of birds. Maybe, I don’t know. Yet I still dream. I dream of the impossible. But I ask you. Is it possible to grow roses from thorns?

Sahar Khalifeh was born in Nablus, Palestine in 1941. Her first novel was confiscated by Israeli authorities. Wild Thorns is her third novel, published in 1976 set in the occupied West Bank. Khalifeh tells the story of a young Palestinian named Usama who returns from working in the Gulf to support the resistance movement. With uncompromising honesty, this book is about the different ways people survive in the face of oppression and the different ways they respond to Israeli occupation.

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9. Ida: A Sword Among Lions, by Paula J. Giddings

Ida: A Sword Among Lions, by Paula J. Giddings. Image credit:

The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.

Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) was born to slaves in Mississippi who went on to lead the nation’s first campaign against lynching. By the age of 30, Ida was known across American politics as a fierce community organiser, campaigning against lynching across the US and the UK. She fought for women’s right to vote, getting black candidates elected to office both in Chicago and statewide and co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). Ida proudly claimed she was the first woman to tour the country while breastfeeding a baby at the same time. Direct with her words and action – many folks did not warm to Ida, both inside and outside of the civil rights movement. It is a long read and well worth the effort.

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10. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

The Hate You Give, by Angie Thomas. Image credit: Amazon.

The truth casts a shadow over the kitchen – people like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice.

The Hate U Give is a novel by Angie Thomas. It follows the life of a 16-year-old black girl, Starr Carter, who is drawn to activism after she witnesses the police shooting of her friend, Khalil. Khalil was unarmed and his death becomes national news. This book deals with these issues unapologetically – the shootings of unarmed black people by police officers, as well as racial bias in the justice system. It is Thomas’ debut novel, expanded from a short story she wrote in college following the police shooting of Oscar Grant.

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11. Death in Ten Minutes: Kitty Marion: Activist. Arsonist. Suffragette, by Fern Riddell

Death in Ten Minutes: Kitty Marion: Activist. Arsonist. Suffragette by Fern Riddell. Image credit: Amazon.

I was becoming more and more disgusted with the struggle for existence on commercial terms of sex … I gritted my teeth and determined that somehow I would fight this vile, economic and sex domination over women which had no right to be, and which no man or woman worthy of the term should tolerate.

The story of radical suffragette, music hall performer and birth control campaigner Kitty Marion, told through her never before seen personal diaries. Kitty made her name on the stage at a time when agents and managers would consistently rape and harras entertainers. In these days of #MeToo and #WhyIDidn’tReport, how much has changed in over 100 years?

Kitty was sent across the country by the Pankhurst family to carry out a nationwide campaign of bombings and arson attacks, as women fought for the vote. But in the aftermath of World War One, the actions of Kitty and other militant suffragettes were disowned by the previously proud movement. Now, for the first time, their untold story will be brought back to life in this very readable book.

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12. What If This Were Enough?, by Heather Havrilesky

What If This Were Enough? by Heather Havrilesky. Image credit: Amazon.

Many of us learn to construct a clear and precise vision of what we want, but we’re never taught how to enjoy what we actually have…It’s hard to want what we have; it’s far easier to want everything in the world.

Take notice of who we already are and what we already have. Havrilesky believes we have convinced ourselves that we can find peace and fulfilment through new products, new technologies and adopting new lifestyles. Havrilesky examines and critiques materialism, consumption, and our obsession with consumerism and the pursuit of happiness. Havrilesky offers new ways to navigate our world through a collection of essays that will make you laugh, feel uncomfortable and think.

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13. On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope by DeRay Mckesson

On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope by DeRay Mckesson.

Justice that is not rooted in equity, in social welfare, and in community is not justice at all.

DeRay is an internationally recognised civil rights organiser and host of the podcast Pod Save the People. This book is part essay collection and part memoir, sharing DeRay’s beginnings as a protester and advice for fighting against white supremacy and police violence. DeRay calls on us to dismantle the legacy of racism and to take responsibility in imagining and acting for a world we want to live in. He embraces America’s complex history and makes clear how deliberate oppression persists and how technology has added a new dimension to social action. DeRay will stir your heart and help you better understand how we got here and where we can go next.

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14. No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Saviour Mentality by Jordan Flaherty

No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Saviour Mentality by Jordan Flaherty. Image credit: Amazon.

Batman is the perfect capitalist saviour hero. He’s a wealthy man… Instead of giving his money away, he spends it on himself and his Batcave and Batmobile, self-assured that he alone is the best solution to the world’s problems and that the millions spent on his toys are investments in saving the world.

Read this book before your misguided good intentions do more harm than good. Jordan reminds us there are no individualistic charismatic leaders in the path to love and liberation. Saviours fundamentally believe they are better than the people they are rescuing. His work lifts up voices rarely heard in media and focuses his energy on the tireless, courageous work of marginalised and grass-roots communities building collective power.

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15. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin. Image credit: Amazon.

Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.

George Orr is a man whose dreams become reality. Every time he dreams something and wakes up – the world has changed. In desperation, he seeks a psychotherapist who promises to help him. Unfortunately for George and everyone else, the man has his own plans for George and his dreams. This book is a dark visionary warning about power uncontrolled and uncontrollable. Though fiction, it has a huge amount of truth about the consequences of playing God.

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