In typical eurekanaija fashion, I’d like to talk about my favourite books of 2015. My criteria for this list are:
- Re-readability: I’d totally read these books again in 2016.
- Change factor: These books changed me or helped me find/create myself.
Let’s jump right to it, shall we?
1. Emily Post’s Etiquette:
Why: I was talking with one of my friends early in the year and we lamented the fact that we didn’t go to finishing school. Etiquette is the next best thing.
What I Loved: First published in 1922 and constantly updated since then, it remains an enduring reference point for good manners. Before you roll your eyes, it’s not just about using the right fork or the proper way to pour wine (even though I learned that too). The book continuously emphasizes the most important etiquette of being kind to other people. From tipping service staff (waiters, salon attendants) to putting phones away at dinner tables to proper behaviour at different places of worship to introducing people to each other so they aren’t left standing in awkward silence, I learnt how to make social interactions just a tiny bit smoother. Granted I haven’t learned everything, and sometimes it just feels more satisfying to be another insensitive person (lol!) but this book is a keeper for me.
What I didn’t Love: OMG. This book is long! I’ve been reading it in bits all year, and I’m only halfway through.
2. The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics: C.S. Lewis is arguably the most popular Christian apologetic of the 20th century. When I found this collection of seven of his essential classics, I squealed with joy. This year, I read 4 of the classics: A Grief Observed, Mere Christianity, The Great Divorce and The Screwtape Letters.
What I Loved: Lewis has a grand, rambling style of writing that I love. It’s daunting to read casually; you have to really be paying attention. But then he leads you up to the point he’s trying to make, up to the punchline and you gasp out loud at the profundity of it all. I had to restrain myself from constantly tweeting/screen-grabbing quotes I found interesting. I’d recommend it for anyone who’s looking for a philosophical/intellectual defence of Christianity. If for nothing else, it provides an interesting take-off point for discourse on the matter.
What I didn’t Love: It’s a heavy book. I bought the paperback not the Kindle version and it’s not easy to lug around.
3. Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must Reads: So HBR has a series titled 10 Must Reads that are, in their own words, definitive management ideas. Each book is dedicated to a specific topic e.g. Strategy, Managing Yourself, Leadership etc. In 2014, I started a new job leading a team and I desperately wanted to be a good leader. I bought two of the books: Teamwork and Managing People to help me with this quest.
What I Loved: Each book has 10 articles presenting 10 ideas to be tried out. The articles come with summaries, case studies, graphs etc. It’s easy reading, perfect for plane rides and long road trips (I did a lot of those this year). I also liked that I could see immediate results in my team from implementing those ideas e.g. I introduced the concept of quarterly team performance reviews where we assessed our work over the last quarter, compared the results to our 2015 goals and restrategized as necessary. Those reviews helped build team spirit and focus our efforts on what was important.
What I Didn’t Love: The HBR is biased towards American organizations within a narrow range of industries. There’s a lot of talk about sales targets, for instance. Then again, reading these books made me realize that though I’d have liked to go to Harvard Business School, maybe it wouldn’t be a good fit. So yeah, this was like a taster for me.
4. Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible
Why: I’d heard good things about it. I saw it on a book shelf. I picked it up.
What I Loved: Oh my word. I think it was Oscar Wilde who said a good book ought to sting you. This book stung. It’s a long read, but I couldn’t put it down. It was everything. Lyrical. Neck-deep in metaphor. Vividly imagined. The changing POV/narrator trick was well executed. I felt nothing but deep envy for the writer. Lol. It was just…a really good story. I don’t know how else to gush about it.
What I Didn’t Love: Nothing. I liked it immensely.
5. Liz Gilbert’s Committed:
Why: I only saw the Eat, Pray, Love movie in November this year. I haven’t read the book (Yes, I’ve accepted my latecomer, last-carrier status). My friend, Isioma, recommended this sequel book, Committed and lent me her copy.
What I Loved: It’s such an insightful, witty, sensitive book. I’m still feeling my way through matrimony and I appreciated Liz’s candor in exploring the nuances of marriage, love, commitment and romantic relationships. We often think that if a couple loves each other, really loves each other then their marriage will last. It’s the fairytale, happily-ever-after ending. Nothing can break true love. But this isn’t true. It is precisely love marriages (as opposed to arranged marriages) that have a higher divorce/separation rate. It is precisely couples in “love marriages” that report unhappiness and dissatisfaction with their choices. It begs the question: do we put too much of a burden on our spouses by casting our happiness on them, by asking them to “complete” us? Are we setting them up to fail, are we setting ourselves up to be disillusioned? It’s this sort of “food for thought” that Committed offered and I was sad to finish reading.
What I Didn’t Love: It’s hard to say because this book is autobiographical. So I can’t say if I had a problem with the book itself, or with the author for being self-absorbed and whiny at times. Lol.
So those are my books for 2015! What are yours? Which books changed you, shook your foundations, helped you grow this year? Tweet at me: @eurekanaija or tag me on Instagram: @eurekanaija with pictures of your favorite books and I’ll put them up on the blog as Reader’s Picks!