In no particular order (and open to updating), here are my quarantine reads thus far.
Imaculée Ilibagiza, Left To Tell
Left To Tell is the fascinating memoir kept by Imaculée, detailing her horrific experience during the Rwandan genocide. Imaculée managed to escape murder by hiding in a bathroom alongside seven other women for three months. Her story is equal parts fascinating as it is horrific. I had actually read this before, years ago in secondary school, and it is no less powerful the second time.
I loved this book and I couldn’t put it down. Nor could my mother when I sent it over to her! Her writing is excellent, and it is a fantastic mediation on the power of forgiveness, faith and human strength and courage. She is an incredible woman, and the book effortlessly showcases just how humble she is, despite being an absolute fortress of strength.
Link to the book can be found here.
Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
I was first introduced to this book last summer in Toronto, when my brother was reading it, and I mocked him for being a massive nerd and reading something like this. Unsuprisingly, like most things I mocked him for, turns out I really liked it when I tried it myself.
Sapiens chronicles the evolution of humankind, what we descended from, what makes us tick and where the hell we are going. At times this was a heavy slog, and I found it difficult to bate through like I would any other book. In parts this is due to the complexity of it challenging my simple brain, but when I got into it, I came away with a lot to think about. It really makes you realise how insignificant our time on earth really is, and how much of our society is a human construct.
I enjoyed it, and I have his next book, Homo Deus in my possession. But I think I will read something a little less intellectually demanding before I tackle it!
You can get your copy here.
Ryan Holiday, Ego Is The Enemy
It is no secret that I am a big Ryan Holiday girlo. The Obstacle Is The Way and The Daily Stoic were my stand out reads of 2019. The books of Ryan Holiday have a habit of coming into my life exactly when I need them. Ego Is The Enemy is no different. The human ego is something I took at face value to simply mean how great you think you are. This book completely dismantles that. Rather, the human ego is a multi-faceted being that can run ourlives into the ground if we don’t get a handle on it.
The book is well written, and the chapters short and concise. Trademark Holiday mixing anecdotes from ancient philosophers to modern sports stars and back. There are a number of important lessons for everyone to be found in this. Is it my favourite Ryan Holiday book? No. But it’s still a belter.
Link to Ego is the Enemy from Book Depository here.
Dale Carnegie, How To Win Friends & Influence People
I had bought this on Book Depository 84 years ago, but never got around to reading it. It’s a nice easy read, with take home lessons that ultimate centre on putting the needs of other people first if you are to be an effective communicator. Ultimately the lesson from the book is simple: don’t be a d*ck.
I don’t really think it was anything wild or ground-breaking for me, but I did get some value from it.
Get the book by following this link.
John Berardi, Change Maker
I got this book alongside my Precision Nutrition Level 1 course materials, much to my confusion. As with most things pre-pandemic, I shelved it for a “less busy time” I ultimately thought would never come. Well, the universe called my bluff and I started Change Maker about two weeks ago. The book is absolutely fascinating and calls a lot of my values and goals into question. Change Maker is a “how-to” manual to make it in the health and fitness industry. Where Change Maker differs from other #eNtRepReNeuR books lies in Berardi’s unique presentation of information. Rather than simply tell you how he did it, and how great he is for it, he manages to convince the reader that they have the power to succeed too. You don’t have to follow his path exactly (in fact, the book would probably discourage that!), but it equips you with the tools and questions to ask yourself to go it alone.
It took me a good bit longer than usual to get through it, but not because it is difficult to read, or boring. Quite the opposite in fact. I find myself only able to read a chapter or two at a time, as I am taking notes or simple just assimilating the information presented to me.
Regardless, it is a visually stunning book that asks hard-hitting questions of health and fitness professionals, without coming across patronising or insincere.
Change Maker is available here.
Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
Maya Angelou is an absolute legend. The woman who coined the iconic “When you know better, you do better” quote would not write anything less than phenomenal literature. Her memoir, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings details her childhood growing up in southern America and California in the 1940’s. Angelou is an excellent writer, and her struggles with racism, injustice, poverty and abuse make this a compelling classic.
I was absolutely enthralled from the start, and read with almost morbid fascination at a life so different from my own. At times, parts of the book are quite uncomfortable to read, particularly around the abuse and racism she and her family suffered. But what a priviledge it is to only read about these things, and have not experienced them. It serves as a constant reminder to never lose hope, and the importance of resilience. 10/10 read.
The link to the book can be found here.
Nick Offerman, Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals For Delicious Living
Parks and Recreation is one of my favourite TV shows of all time, and I jumped at the chance to read more about the life of the man who gave us Ron Swanson. Offerman’s book splits each chapter twofold; memoir and then some high-quality life advice. At times I found this gave the book a bit of a disjointed feel, but regardless it was a good read!
Ultimately, it all comes down to keeping your life simple, getting the fuck off your phone and doing what makes you happy, regardless of what everyone else thinks.
Get your copy here.
Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malala
I Am Malala details the incredible story of Malala Yousafzai, a young girl who was shot by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education. An absolutely incredible story, and an even more incredible young woman. Malala is an inspirational figure, and her matter-of-fact telling of an incident that would have broken a lesser woman than herself is equal parts fascinating and inspiring.
I enjoyed the parallels between Western and Middle Eastern education systems, particularly her attitude to empowering everyone, and particularly women, through education. I really, really enjoyed this and highly recommend.
It can be purchase from Book Depository here.
Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning
I had been dying to read this for the longest time, and my copy finally arrived just in time for one of my favourite 20 hour shifts. I am actually annoyed that I brought it into work, as I read the entire book over the course of the night. It was absolutely incredible. I feel I need to read it again, and not at 4:30 am, where everything is a fever dream anyway.
Frankl gives a harrowing account of his experience in the concentration camps, and the treatment he suffered at the hands of the SS. This book came to me at a time when I needed it most (life be like that sometimes). A constant reminder of the human condition, how suffering is inevitable and just how resilient we can be if we have to.
I think this is probably my favourite book I have read over quarantine thus far.
Tara Westover, Educated
Now this is an absolute belter. Recommended to me by somewhat of an acquaintance (heyi, AC), this was absolutely sensational. I definitely read it way quicker than I should have, but that’s the sign of a good book, right?
Educated chronicles Tara’s life growing up with strict Mormon parents, and a father who didn’t believe in institutionalised education and healthcare. As a result, she never went to school for formal education, and didn’t have a birth certificate until she was nine. This blew my mind. An absolute cracker. Cannot recommend this highly enough.
Get your copy here.
Samuel Shem, The House of God
This was my first big fat meh read of quarantine. I was actually quite disappointed in this, as it was recommended to me. But it be like that sometimes. The House of God details life for Dr. Roy Basch during his intern year in a hospital. Parts of it were funny, and excellently captured the cynicism and compassion fatigue faced by healthcare workers.
For the most part, I found it a little long-winded, and not that enjoyable to read. And also, there is definitely not that much riding in hospitals. Unless I’ve been working in the wrong ones. Furthermore, underlying tones of sexism and misogyny permeate this novel which certainly did not endear it to me.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists
We Should All Be Feminists is the powerful prose based on Adichie’s renowned TEDx talk. The essay beautifully intertwines anecdotal evidence with fascinating musings on what it means to be a feminist today. Short, easy to read and insightful. What’s not to love?
I’ve seen reviews online describe this book as “provocative”. Nothing in it is provocative to me, unless you are opposed to equality and general human decency. Put this book in the Lourve. Buy a copy for everyone you know. Replace all Grafton Street buskers with me doing a live reading of this while everyone looks on in horror.
A damn good read. Get 4000 copies here.
Michelle Obama, Becoming
Michelle Obama’s memoir covers everything from her childhood, meeting Barack and her experience as First Lady. Takeaway: Michelle Obama is a boss (even though I hate that BoSs BiTcH patronizing bullshit). I saw a lot of parallels between her childhood and mine, the pressure she put on herself to succeed for the sake of succeeding, and finally learning to live for herself. It did lose me slightly when it entered the journey of the presidential campaign and I found it to become more about Barack than her. Either way, a belter of a book.
Link to the book can be found here.
Ryan Holiday, Stillness Is The Key
This is the first Holiday book for me that fell a little flat. Stillness Is The Key contains Holiday’s advice for living your best life. I found it a little bit disjointed, and a lot of it I thought was obvious, such as “going outside to feel calm”. But maybe that’s just me being too #woke for it. Regardless, with any Ryan Holiday book you still get a good core message: don’t be an asshole and do simple things well. If it’s your first Ryan Holiday book you will get more out of it I would imagine, but if you have read Ego Is The Enemy, or The Obstacle is the Way I would say you could afford to give this a miss.
The book can be purchased here.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
If you follow me on Instagram, you know I love a birra Marcus. Countless times throughout reading Meditations, I had to stop and ask myself: is it possible that Marcus Aurelius is a 25 year old Dublin hun and not a Roman Emperor? After all, we have never been seen in the same room together. Anyway, Meditations is a banger. It is the journal kept by darling Marcus during his tenure as Emperor of Rome. It covers everything; living, dying and not being an asshole. The live, laugh, love of Stoic philosophy.
This is short, and easy to read (unlike many other classics, looking at you Homer’s Iliad).
I got my copy for like six euro here.
Nicholas Nassim Taleb, Antifragile
This book is a headwreck. In a good way. Antifragile is Taleb’s views on… I’m not sure what exactly. In essence, the word is split into two: the fragile and the antifragile. Things which are antifragile get stronger from being broken. It puts forward a lot of new ideas (to me anyway) about the way we view the world and the challenges we face. It is also very heavy, and a good bit of it went over my head. Honestly, I found it a bit of a slog to get through, but that is due to my inability to grasp the concept as opposed to the writing style.
Link to Antifragile.