Written by Augusta Vivian

Augusta’s August reading list: five books to read this summer

22nd August, 2022   •   3 min

Back again to share some of my favourite reads from this year. Since I shared my absolute top five with you last time I had to get reading to make sure I had another set of brilliant books to recommend this summer! I have been inspired and provoked by these five books and hope you will too.

“People like us” by Hashi Mohammed is a powerful book exploring the challenges with social mobility, the shocking statistics of how deep rooted inequality is in Britain and what we can do about it.

One of the (many) insights I took from this book was the idea of ‘cultural capital’. We can assume it is ‘common sense’ to shake someone’s hand when you meet them, or not use your phone in a meeting. Hashi points out that if no one has ever shared this with you, if you have not had a role model to show you, how are you meant to just know?

Because inequality starts at an early age, by the age of 4 a child with a parent in a professional job will have heard 45 million words, a child from a working-class family will hear 26 million and a child on welfare only 13 million words.

Hashi asks us all to play our part in social mobility, especially the very privileged who have support networks and stable jobs, and shares strategies on how to do this.

“Black Box Thinking” is a fascinating read about failure, and our fear of it. I recommend anyone who wants to improve in anything to read this book. It will challenge your attitude to failure, explain why we are so afraid of failing and shares strategies for developing a growth mindset to learn from the mistakes we make.

As Matthew Syed puts it “a failure to learn from mistakes has been one of the single greatest obstacles to human progress.” Even “when we are confronted with evidence that challenges our deeply held beliefs we are more likely to reframe the evidence than we are to alter our beliefs and sometimes we ignore the evidence altogether.”

“Girl, woman, other” is one of my favourite books, an enlightening read that I guarantee you will find hard to put down! In each of the 12 chapters Bernadine Evaristo tells a different black woman’s story, exploring race, gender, identity, love and how the lives of these women weave together across generations. It is like a snapshot in history of what it is like to be a black woman in Britain. Each story is full of emotion, reality, struggle and joy as well as thought-provoking issues.

“Rebel Ideas” is a fascinating read. Matthew Syed (yes another one by him!) shares insight from psychology, society and successful teams on why surrounding yourself with rebels makes for a better life.

Due to similarity bias we are drawn to people who look and sound like us, so if we go through life unaware of this bias we end up in an echo chamber. We work with people who agree with our ideas, we make quick decisions with friends because we all agree and we rarely disagree with others around us. This might feel successful. But it isn’t. The best ideas, the thought-provoking debates that lead to us changing our behaviour and even the most exciting holiday plans are all achieved through cognitive diversity.

“More time to think” is a thought-provoking read, one of those books you keep going back to as you realise how much it relates to so many aspects of your life. Nancy Kline provoked me to reflect on how to improve all the relationships and conversations in my life. So often we want to solve the problems of those around us, we want to help. This comes from a good place, but often what that individual needs from us is just to listen.

My two key learnings from this book are: n1. The brain that contains the question, usually contains the answer, don’t dive in and solve n2. Create space to be still, make time to think – we live in a busy world and carving that time out can be challenging, we must hold ourselves accountable to do it.

I have just started reading Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown and am absolutely loving it. Spoiler for next year’s list! Please ,let me know any of your own recommendations to add to my list this summer.