The books I read in 2019

...and my five favourites

Sam Radford

For the last few years, I’ve been tracking every book I read each year. It’s fun to look back and see what I’ve been reading!

This year—since I often get asked for it—I’m sharing the full list of books I’ve read.

But before that, I’m going to share my top five books of the year. To make it into this list they have to be books that have either significantly altered how I see the world or been books that I’ve not been able to shut up about with friends or family… Sorry, not sorry!

So, without further ado…

My top five books of 2019

  1. Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

  2. The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr

  3. The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates

  4. Fair Play by Eve Rodsky

  5. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Since it was so hard to get that list down to five, I’m going to allow myself two other notable mentions for books that could very easily have made it into the list above. These are:

  1. The Lost Message of Paul by Steve Chalke

  2. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

My full list of books I’ve read in 2019

  1. Falling Upward by Richard Rohr

  2. Becoming by Michelle Obama

  3. The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

  4. Immortal Diamond by Richard Rohr

  5. The Shack by William P. Young

  6. The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr

  7. Deep Work by Cal Newport

  8. Breathing Under Water by Richard Rohr

  9. Love Worth Making by Stephen Snyder

  10. Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman

  11. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

  12. The Reckoning by John Grisham

  13. Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

  14. The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

  15. The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr

  16. Range by David Epstein

  17. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

  18. Karomo by Karomo Brown

  19. Wolfpack by Abby Wamback

  20. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

  21. The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates

  22. Comedy Sex God by Pete Holmes

  23. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

  24. Naturally Tan by Tan France

  25. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

  26. Mindful Silence by Phileena Heuertz

  27. The Way of the Warrior by Erwin McManus

  28. Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

  29. The Nickel Boys by Colton Whitehead

  30. The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

  31. Agent Running in the Field by John le Carré

  32. Fair Play by Eve Rodsky

  33. The Lost Message of Paul by Steve Chalke

  34. Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

  35. An Altar in the World by Barbara Taylor Brown

  36. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

  37. Hollowed Out Lungs by Joel McKerrow and Zoe Boyle

What about you?

If you’ve had any favourite books you’ve read this year, I’d love to hear about them. They could well end up on my list for 2020. So let me know!

Labour need to abandon Corbyn AND Corbynism

This article by Jonathan Freedland captures so many of my post-election thoughts and feelings. I worry enormously about the next five years. But if those five years are not to become ten, or fifteen, we need a proper, credible opposition Labour Party back. Corbynism – not just Corbyn – must go.

Labour have to become a broad church again. They’ve ironically – in practice – become a party for the few not the many. They have to find a way to value power over radicalism. Otherwise, what’s the point of them, unless as little more than a political pressure group?

The worrying question is: just how many more years of Tory rule will it take for Labour to set themselves up as a party that could win again?

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The declining kindness of our kids

Adam and Alison Grant say we need to stop trying to raise successful kids and start raising kind ones

Get ready to be surprised: our kids pay more attention to what we do than what we say. Who knew?

It turns out that while we say a lot to our kids about the importance of kindness, our actions betray a higher value on success and achievement. And our kids pick up on this.

Adam Grant and Alison Sweet Grant, writing in The Atlantic, have this to say:

Kids learn what’s important to adults not by listening to what we say, but by noticing what gets our attention. And in many developed societies, parents now pay more attention to individual achievement and happiness than anything else. However much we praise kindness and caring, we’re not actually showing our kids that we value these traits.

What’s the impact of this?

Well, it turns out that kindness is in decline.

Helping others is diminishing too.

And tough as this may be to hear, those of us who are parents carry some of the blame:

If society is fractured today, if we truly care less about one another, some of the blame lies with the values parents have elevated. In our own lives, we’ve observed many fellow parents becoming so focused on achievement that they fail to nurture kindness. They seem to regard their children’s accolades as a personal badge of honour—and their children’s failures as a negative reflection on their own parenting.

It’s not that success and achievement are bad. It’s perfectly normal to want these things for our children.

But we don’t need to do this at the expense of kindness and helping others:

Of course, we should encourage children to do their best and to take pride and joy in their accomplishments—but kindness doesn’t require sacrificing those things. The real test of parenting is not what your children achieve, but who they become and how they treat others. If you teach them to be kind, you’re not only setting your kids up for success. You’re setting up the kids around them, too.

The values we project to our kids will shape the people they become and therefore the world they will inhabit.

And I don’t know about you, but I want my kids to live in a world where people overflow with kindness and go out of their way to help each other.

We have to show our kids that that’s what we truly value though. And that it’s not a secondary value.

To the working teenager who saw
two friends crying on cctv and came to give them fine chocolate. You changed things for them. Thank you.
November 26, 2019

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‘Freedom of speech is not freedom of reach’

Sacha Baron Cohen calls out Facebook's reprehensible stance on political advertising

Sacha Baron Cohen gave a speech to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) a few days ago and it is truly remarkable. He calls out social media companies – but particularly Facebook – on the role they are playing in spreading hate and lies.

The Guardian have put together some of the most poignant clips below:

Here’s a few other standout remarks from the transcript too:

Today around the world, demagogues appeal to our worst instincts.  Conspiracy theories once confined to the fringe are going mainstream.  It’s as if the Age of Reason—the era of evidential argument—is ending, and now knowledge is delegitimized and scientific consensus is dismissed.  Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy, which depends on shared lies, is on the march.  Hate crimes are surging, as are murderous attacks on religious and ethnic minorities…

…Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others—they reach billions of people.  The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged—stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear.  It’s why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times.  It’s why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth.  And it’s no surprise that the greatest propaganda machine in history has spread the oldest conspiracy theory in history—the lie that Jews are somehow dangerous.  As one headline put it, “Just Think What Goebbels Could Have Done with Facebook.”…

…Take the issue of political ads.  Fortunately, Twitter finally banned them, and Google is making changes, too.  But if you pay them, Facebook will run any “political” ad you want, even if it’s a lie.  And they’ll even help you micro-target those lies to their users for maximum effect.  Under this twisted logic, if Facebook were around in the 1930s, it would have allowed Hitler to post 30-second ads on his “solution” to the “Jewish problem.”  So here’s a good standard and practice: Facebook, start fact-checking political ads before you run them, stop micro-targeted lies immediately, and when the ads are false, give back the money and don’t publish them.

You can watch the full speech below or read it here:

First thoughts on Apple TV+

It’s a promising start

Sam Radford

Apple TV+, Apple’s new streaming TV platform, launched on November 1st. Having recently bought an iPad, I’m one of the lucky ones getting the first year for free (rather than having to pay £4.99 per month). And, regardless of the fact I’m not paying for it, I am impressed so far.

Apple’s unique selling point is that, unlike all other streaming services, Apple TV+ only has original programming. This might seem like a coverup for their lack of a backlog of content. But, having increasingly found myself getting lost in Netflix’s endless content, I have found Apple’s skinny TV service refreshing.

What about the actual shows themselves though. So far I’ve watched The Elephant Queen – an incredible and deeply moving documentary following a herd of elephants in Africa. I highly recommend this if you get a chance. And I mention it first is this isn’t getting nearly as much attention as the shows Apple are more heavily promoting.

The next Apple TV+ show I’ve watched is Dickinson. And I have to say, I loved this so much! It’s one of the most fresh, quirky, fun, engaging TV shows I’ve watched in a while. It’s a period drama and yet so very 21st century. The thoroughly modern soundtrack, set to a 19th century drama sounds like it could be terrible, but it is stunning. So cleverly done. The thirty minutes episodes make for a nice length too. Bring on season two already!

The other two shows I’ve been watching are The Morning Show and For All Mankind. Both are really good shows. I’m hooked on both, already a little frustrated at having to wait for each new episode to be released each Friday. Jennifer Anniston and Reese Witherspoon, the stars of The Morning Show are both brilliant, and the whole show is so well cast. It feels like the layers and the tension is growing with each episode.

I wasn’t sure if For All Mankind would be for me but this too grabbed me from the first episode. The premise of a world where Russia beats America to landing the first man on the moon, and the subsequent, still continuing, space race makes for compelling TV.

All told, this feels like a strong start from Apple. It still feels a little weird having a computer device making company creating TV shows, but that’s the world we live in now. And if the end result is a further expansion and extension of this golden age of television, it’s hard to complain.

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