Great Reads 2021

As the end of the year rolls in, here’s our latest roundup of books for business and pleasure to give you some inspiration for the holidays.

Written by Catriona MacLeod
Published 10 December 2021
Great Reads 2021


Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take
by Paul Polman and Andrew Winston

Can business really save the world? A cynic would say no: businesses are there to make a profit, period. Sure, they have to make a show of caring, but climate change, poverty and pandemics? They’re for governments to sort out.

Not so, say the authors of Net Positive. Not only can businesses step up to fill in the shortfalls of governments, but they have to. And in some cases, they already are doing.

A compelling story of ethical business leadership, Net Positive sets out a vision for the transformation the world so desperately needs – driven by business.

"Carefully considered and deeply rooted in the real world of management." — Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO, Microsoft

Change from the Inside Out: Making You, Your Team, and Your Organization Change-Capable
by Erika Andersen

Change is tough. Change is uncomfortable. And by and large, people don’t much like it. If we’re comfortable with the way things have worked for us in the past, why do anything differently? Historically, we’re set up to resist change, and good at finding ways to avoid it. But sometimes technology, political events, and market shifts can bring change sweeping over us.

Erika Andersen shows how we can beat our reluctance and make the changes we need to, by visualizing a different future, planning the change effectively, and driving it forward. And then fostering a culture which not only can change, but wants to.

“Change from the Inside Out is a comprehensive, accessible guide you can use every day and a valuable resource for every aspect of change.” -Dawn Ostroff, Chief Content and Advertising Business Officer, Spotify

Surrounded by Bad Bosses and Lazy Employees
by Thomas Erikson

OK, so it’s not as bad as it sounds. Hopefully you’re not actually surrounded by deadbeats. But chances are you’ve had a bad boss at some point.

You might also have a few co-workers who don’t quite pull their weight.

Erikson uses the simple system he introduced in Surrounded by Idiots, to show you how to recognize the behavioral profiles of the people you work with and for. So you’ll all be able to interact better, whatever the circumstances.

Entertaining and humane - but also deeply serious - this book explores why teams underachieve, and tells you what you can do about it.

The Conversation: How Talking Honestly About Racism Can Transform Individuals and Organizations
by Robert Livingston

In the past few years, racial tensions have exploded onto the streets and into the media. Everybody’s talking about race relations, equality, and justice. But are we having the right conversations? And are we actually being honest?

Robert Livingston thinks we’re not. But he also thinks that we can, and he explains how in this book.

A social psychologist by training and practice, Livingston confronts established bias with data and research drawn from a range of fields, showing that by having the right conversations, we can defeat institutional racism, build empathy between communities, and make good intentions into real progress.

‘A one-stop shop for anyone wanting to … know what works to advance racial equity at work – FT’

Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding From Anywhere
by Tsedal Neeley

How do you perform to the best of your ability as a remote worker? It’s a question a lot of us are having to ask ourselves as organizations change in the wake of the pandemic.

Those organizations shifted to remote, virtual working at breakneck speed. Their employees just had to keep up as best they could. But is this really the new normal? And if so, how do employees who feel isolated and unseen reconnect, build trust, and lead?

Remote Work Revolution may have the answers. Drawing on the author’s experience as a Harvard Professor of Business Administration, it offers clear strategies and actions to help teams to deliver and thrive in a world outside the office.

‘Few of us are going back to the way we worked. Read her book and begin to prepare for the other side of this pandemic now.’ - Larry Culp, CEO of General Electric (GE)


Women and Leadership: Lessons from some of the world's most powerful women
by Julia Gillard and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

In 2012, then Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard stood and gave a speech which resonated around the world. It went viral. Now known simply as the Misogyny Speech, it called out what Gillard saw as the entrenched sexism and outright misogyny Gillard saw in her world.

In this book, Gillard and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General of the WTO, profile eight of the world’s most powerful and successful women. In personal conversations, they shine a light on what it means to be a woman and a leader, what progress has been made, and what considerable barriers still stand in the way of true gender equality, and equal access to power.

‘Much-needed, frank talk from exceptional female leaders about how they've dealt with sexism in the line of duty.’ – Kirkus Reviews

This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyber Weapons Arms Race
by Nicole Perlroth

This book reads like it should be fiction, but it’s way scarier than most novels.

Cybersecurity journalist Nicole Perlroth tells the story of ‘zero days,’ weaknesses in key software which leaves some of the most vital and powerful computer systems on Earth vulnerable to unscrupulous hackers.

Imagine a world where hackers can control not just personal devices, but safety systems on major industrial plants, power supplies – even the results of an election. You don’t have to imagine it. It’s real, and it’s happening now.

Perlroth explains how we’ve come to this, and what it means for all our futures.

‘The definitive history of cyberwarfare.’ - Clint Watts, author of Messing with the Enemy

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty
by Patrick Radden Keefe

Have you heard of the Sackler family? Maybe you’re aware of their wealth, their philanthropy, and their patronage of the arts and education. But how they came to be so rich and influential may come as a shock.

Because the Sackler family made and marketed some of the best known – and dangerous – drugs in the world. And their mass-market painkillers – like Oxycontin – were responsible for the public health and addiction disaster known as the opioid crisis, which still affects the lives of millions of Americans.

This book charts the history of that crisis, and the Sackler family’s role in it. It’s ugly, uncomfortable and completely absorbing.

'Jaw-dropping . . . Beggars belief' – Sunday Times

How to Make the World Add Up: Ten Rules for Thinking Differently About Numbers
by Tim Harford

87 percent of statistics are made up on the spot. It’s an old gag, but it speaks to the confusion and unease that many of us feel when confronted by stats.

We’ve all seen the doubtful headlines given false authority by numbers seemingly plucked from the air. We’re wary of them. There’s no need to be, says economist and broadcaster Tim Harford. Statistics should be helping us make sense of the world, and shaping it for the better. And in this funny, engaging but practical book Harford shows us how, using his 10 rules for understanding numbers (well, maybe 11).

‘Tim Harford is our most likeable champion of reason and rigor . . . clear, clever and always highly readable’ - The Times, Books of the Year

Small Bodies of Water
by Nina Mingya Powles

Part memoir, part nature writing, part meditation on language and place, Small Bodies of Water is a collection of essays linked by a fascination with water.

Nina Mingya Powles grew up connected to and between cultures, both Anglophone and Chinese-Malay. She’s a published poet, and this feel for the elegant economy of the form comes over strongly in her prose.

This collection explores the bodies of water connecting and dividing people, from jungle pools to public swimming baths, and along the way meditates on language, love food, and family ties.

‘A remarkable book . . . Its language trembles on the brink of poetry.’ – Robert MacFarlane


No-one is Talking About This
by Patricia Lockwood

Patricia Lockwood is best known as a poet and essayist, but her debut novel has been an instant hit.

It concerns the collision between a life lived in the real world, and a shadow life lived in the chaotic dystopia of social media. It dramatizes the overwhelm of being an internet phenomenon.

There are some dark moments, and some very funny ones. But amidst the chaos it’s also a book about the human ability to make connections, even when the world seems to be spiralling beyond our control.

'A formidably gifted writer' - New York Times Book Review

The Living Sea of Waking Dreams
by Richard Flanagan

Richard Flanagan’s eighth novel is a multi-layered, magic realist meditation on dying, dissolution and family ties.

Following the struggles of three very different siblings with the imminent loss of their mother, the novel achieves a wider resonance through being set against the recent Australian bush fire disaster. It’s by turns horrifying and surreal: think of Adrian Lyne’s film Jacob’s Ladder for an idea of the disorientation Flanagan conjures.

But it isn’t all dark. This is also a novel about love, hope and the enduring power of human relationships. And if it doesn’t offer promises for a better future, it at least offers the possibility.

“Flanagan is one of our greatest living novelists, able to tackle material so wrenching that you can’t stop reading.” - Bethanne Patrick, Washington Post

The Last House on Needless Street
by Catriona Ward

On the face of it, a novel about a missing child, a possible murderer and a vengeful sister really shouldn’t be much fun. But then throw in elements of the Gothic – a boarded-up house on the edge of town, say. Add the frankly weird – a narrating cat, for example – and you’ve got a recipe both unsettling and engrossing.

Told by means of unreliable memories, outright lies, and clever, shifting narratives, The Last House on Needless Street is never the straightforward mystery thriller it makes itself out to be. It’s much more rewarding that that.

The Doors of Eden
by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The possibilities of alien evolutionary biology and parallel worlds; a mystery disappearance; government agents; powers that be (and may not be what we think they are): these are the ingredients of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s latest page-turner.

Tchaikovsky is a former Arthur C. Clarke Award winner, and he works the borderlands between science fiction and fantasy with panache. He also manages not to lose readers whose knowledge of the science is limited.Amanda-Gorman-book-cover.png

Pacy, smart and full of invention, The Doors of Eden is a sci-fi thriller with depth and density.

‘Tchaikovsky’s world-building is some of the best in modern sci-fi.’ - New Scientist

Call Us What We Carry
by Amanda Gorman

And finally, one to look forward to. When 22-year-old Amanda Gorman read her poem The Hill We Climb at the inauguration of President Biden in 2021, she captured the world’s attention.

Promising explorations of identity, folk memory, grief and empowerment, Call Us What We Carry is her first collection of poems. It may be wise not to load too much expectation upon it for fear of disappointment, but it’s surely the most eagerly awaited volume of poetry for many years.

About the author

Catriona MacLeod

Catriona MacLeod

Editorial Manager
Catriona has over 19 years of experience in editorial management. She works with clients across a wide range of sectors to deliver relevant and practical resources to meet the learning needs of leaders and managers. Catriona loves the variety of her role, from writing and editing content to conducting video interviews with industry experts.

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