Book Reviews

The Four-Dimensional Human

“When W. H. Auden said, ‘My face looks like a wedding cake left out in the rain,’ we see something new and true about both Auden’s face and wedding cakes. That sort of good metaphoric language makes our experiences more spacious, expanding our sensibility. In this way, a metaphor is a door that appears and…

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Davos Man

As the wealth gap and economic inequality widen across the globe, populations are leaning towards far-right governments with nationalist agendas while doubling down on outdated beliefs about immigration, race, class and so on. This book takes an expansive view of these trends and places the blame squarely on the heads of the super-rich class comprising…

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My Age of Anxiety

“Fear sharpens the senses. Anxiety paralyses them” – Kurt Goldstein.  Is anxiety a medical illness or a cognitive mis-wiring, a philosophical or a spiritual problem or a cultural condition explored by poets?  Scott Stossel explores how anxiety is a function of all of these. It can be measured physiologically, it can be measured as a…

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Into Thin Air

In 1996, Jon Krakauer, a mountaineer and journalist, was commissioned by Outside magazine to join and write about  a commercial expedition to climb Mount Everest. The journey ended in disaster. Krakauer weaves a history of Mount Everest and different expeditions, famous climbers of the past and his present as well as the culture of climbing…

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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

When one takes up a hobby, it is hard to not want to be the absolute best in a short amount of time. The frustration at realising that we cannot get there fast, or possibly ever, is sometimes enough to abandon the cause altogether. Yet, what is it about a person that makes them keep…

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The Devil’s Highway

“In the desert, we are all illegal aliens” This is the story of a group of twenty six men who set out to cross the Mexican-US border in May 2001. Twelve reached the other side.  They people left their families and their villages, took loans and paid large sums to smugglers (called coyotes), to get…

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We Had A Little Real Estate Problem

A stand-up comedy special from ten or fifteen years ago featuring an all-indigenous lineup used to have reruns on Canadian television. The author opens with this, relating that at least three different Native comedians told him that it inspired them to take up stand-up comedy. As he notes, this is what a balanced media representation…

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The Order of Time

In this small book filled with giant ideas, Carlo Rovelli gently teases apart everything we take for granted about the concept of time. That it travels in a linear direction from the past to the future, that it exists independent of us, that we are subjected to it and at its mercy. One would not…

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21 Lessons for the 21st Century

“Humans were always far better at inventing tools than using them wisely.” This is essentially the theme of this collection of essays. Not just technological tools but also our social and political systems, our fictions that hold up society and so on. Harari’s strength lies in interlacing ideas from multiple disciplines as though connecting diverse…

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Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui

This is a simple but revelatory guide to freeing yourself from patterns, habits and the past by assessing your relationship with everything you own.  It outlines how clutter affects you – from keeping you in the past to making you feel tired and overwhelmed to even manifesting as extra body weight and it explores the…

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How to Build a Car

As a new fan of Formula 1, I had never heard of Adrian Newey.  Karun Chandok, one of the F1 commentators, mentioned this book on air and it seemed like an interesting way to gain a better understanding of the the sport and its cars. It turns out Newey is instrumental in designing the changing…

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Friends

In the last few years, most of us have taken stock of our relationships and have either strengthened or mourned changing dynamics. Yet, we don’t necessarily understand what creates these changes – whether it’s ultra personal to us or simply the nature of our social fabric.  Friends are good for us – they make us…

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The Heart of Yoga

Another recommendation from Lewis Hamilton’s masterclass. Science and psychology are now studying and catching up with so many concepts explored in yoga. What suffering is, how it exists in our mind and our reaction to our circumstances, how we can build practices that alleviate our stress and so on.  If you’re learning yoga from a…

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Thanks for the Feedback

Criticism can make us defensive, upset, and angry. Yet, being able to understand and absorb what we hear enables us to have better relationships, do better at work and develop a more harmonious existence. This book is a practical guide that helps by covering a daunting array of scenarios, relationships and circumstances. Within a single conversation…

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Four Thousand Weeks

“We treat everything we’re doing- life itself, in other words – as valuable only insofar as it lays the groundwork for something else.”  What a revelatory, life-affirming book! It examines our relationship with time, how we perceive it, use it and try to outrun the knowledge that it is so limited for us – an…

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The Four Agreements

Lewis Hamilton recommends this book in his masterclass which is, in itself, a comforting, authentic and sincere experience. Don Miguel Ruiz draws on Toltec culture – a pre-Colombian Mesoamerican culture of a state in Mexico to present the most simple statements to live by in order to develop a peaceful existence within oneself and the…

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Putin’s People

Twenty years ago, in a frantic bid to prevent Russia from falling back in the hands of the communists, a handful of men pushed Putin into power and now deeply regret their choices. Those who were trying to create a free market economy in Russia either underestimated the KGB or had been working for them…

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The Code Breaker

Never has a science conference sounded so fun and dramatic! This is an accessible and fast-paced biography of Jennifer Doudna, the 2020 Nobel laureate in chemistry, and the army of scientists who uncovered the many steps to make gene editing possible. At its heart, The Code Breaker celebrates how life-changing scientific discoveries come from all…

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Bird by Bird

A living, breathing, experiential account of what it is to write, to want to tell stories, to struggle through the process, the meandering thoughts, the myriad methods of procrastination – all told in a  fresh, non-academic style.  Lamott lays out the fundamentals of writing, which will be familiar to most of those who have studied…

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Fear

My favourite line in this book is – ‘Decartes said “I think, therefore I am”; but most of the time, the truth is more like, “I think, therefore I am not really here.”’ It’s a lesson I’ve been learning over the past two years and this book served as a timely refresher. Sometimes reading similar…

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I’m OK You’re OK

You could use this book to either improve yourself or your writing! Transactional analysis is a model to understand human behaviour, identify patterns that are parent-like, child-like or adult-like and use this to solve emotional issues and stabilise the way in which the individual interacts with others. What little I knew of TA was through…

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My Mess Is A Bit Of A Life

Georgia Pritchett is a writer on Veep, The Thick of It and… Spice World! And also a writer and EP on Succession. Must, must, must read this. A laugh-out-loud funny collection of short essays – half a page, three pages… It’s a hilarious account of a person living with anxiety, stumbling through the world and…

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Endure

Endure is full of stories of individual athletes, coaching teams, scientists and corporate studying the nexus of the mind, brain and body to help humans break barriers on limits that seem impassable. Each chapters covers an element like pain, muscle, oxygen, heat and thirst, and how a belief in our own abilities enables us to…

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Move

What a delightful and light book.  Williams explores types of movement from walking to dancing to stretching, fighting, breathing and so on and how each of these influences the body and mind. We obviously know that movement is good for us but this book dives into genes, genetics, how the brain communicates with organs and…

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Empire of Pain

A wonderful tale of a chilling saga that tracks the multi-generational story of the Sackler family, starting with three brothers, Arthur, Raymond and Mortimer, who founded and acquired a group of businesses including Purdue Pharma, the company that created and sells OxyContin – basically, oxycodone – a close relative to heroin. The Sacklers are largely…

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The Worm at the Core

This book makes a compelling argument that we are driven on an individual and societal level by our need to stave off our awareness of the inevitability of death.  It’s not a depressing book; rather, it made me much more aware of my thought patterns and gave me a sense of peace – knowing that…

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The Lonely City

I don’t know what I expected of this book but it exceeded all expectations. I fell in love with it from the first page because the writing is warm, creative, original, and elevates the subject it confronts. Laing conveys the great depth and evocative truth of her experiences as she describes a broken relationship, moving to…

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The Science of Meditation

There’s a useful distinction between ‘the deep path and the wide’ when it comes to meditation.  Most of us may not become deep meditators but even the toe we dip in the water brings benefits. Results can be seen in short meditations of five to ten minutes. The more regular one is even with these…

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Exposure

This book sounds the alarm about what’s in our water and our blood, no matter where we are in the world.  Earl Tennent, a West Virginia farmer, realises that his land his rotting, his cattle dying and his family is getting sick because the company that produced Teflon, which makes our cooking utensils non-stick, is…

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Becoming Wild

Killer whales use sonic sounds called codas to communicate – they have codas for their community, their family unit, for individuals. They know who they are with and whom they want to be with. At the first sign of threat, they can call for backup. They have been seen to form military-like defence formations when…

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