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Inside Higginson: World Book Day 2021

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Happy World Book Day from Higginson Strategy! Need some book recommendations? Here’s an insight into the Higginson bookshelf.

John Higginson, Partner

I would recommend Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and his sequel Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.

They should be read in the order written. The first is great for getting an understanding of why we as human beings behave in the way we do. I find the further you look back in history the better perspective it gives you. And this book goes back to the beginning. 

The second is great for understanding how our technology understands us and where this could lead. If we just leave this understanding to the technology companies it leaves us very exposed to manipulation as has been shown at scale through things such as highly targeted advertising during democratic elections. While at a more individual level you will probably have noticed that Netflix is at times better than you at working out what you enjoy watching while Spotify is starting to work out what mood you might be in at different times of the day and proposing songs that fit your mood. Your phone – if it is a new model – may have started showing you old pictures that bring back fond memories when you open its screen that make you want to spend more time looking at it and less time with other people. At a time when we are being starved of human contact through lockdowns it is worth gaining an understanding of what is ultimately happening here, where this ultimately takes us and who wins and who loses. Only when we have knowledge about what choices there are can we make decisions.

Alex Davies, Associate Director

Sasha Swire, Diary of an MP’s wife. This is a useful and colourful insight into the pressures of coalition government from the Conservative side, but more than that it is a fascinating window on the privileged world of the “Cameron set”. 

Swire describes how, on the night of the EU referendum result she and her husband had “Rupert” – Robert Soames, CEO of Serco – bring the company’s Caledonian sleeper to a special halt in some remote Scottish village, just so that they be could disembark, return to London and commiserate with the Camerons. Could there be a more potent example of power?

Alex Pegler, Senior Account Manager

Ronnie O’Sullivan – The Brake

Liz Gyekye, Head of Research

Nina Simone: Break Down and Let it All Out by Sylvia Hampton with David Nathan. This was a very interesting read and an insightful inside look at one of the most enigmatic musicians of our time. Nathan and Hampton describe how there were so many facets to Simone’s character. She was an artist, a mother and an outspoken civil rights champion who was able to write protest songs such as ‘Mississippi Goddamn’ to challenge racial discrimination. This book has been on my bookshelf for a while, but I am glad I picked it up during lockdown.

Stephen Dillon, Account Manager

Stoner, by John Edward Williams, is my favourite novel that I recommend to hardly anyone.  

It is the story of a man (Stoner is his name, not his description) who, on the surface, lives a pretty unremarkable, boring and difficult life. Not exactly the type of book you want to recommend to your friends!  

But as you progress through Stoner, you begin to realise that it’s about so much more, partly, finding true joy in the parts of your life that really matter, whether that is your family, your friends, your work, your passions, or something else. Because most of the book is so bleak, the glimmers of light shine even brighter.

Esme Parkins, Account Manager

Maria Popova – Figuring

The book weaves together the stories of pioneering scientists, artists and writers  – mostly women  – across centuries, showing how their lives intertwined, how they drew inspiration from each other and how their work was impacted by their private lives. It includes well-known figures from history, as well as others I hadn’t heard of, all of whom have had some lasting impact on the world. It’s biographical but in a very revealing and personal sense, and I came away feeling connected to the figures and their experiences. It’s a hefty book but so worth reading. 

Jacob Metcalf, Senior Account Executive

Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring

From the excitement of flight to the ford, to the incredible build up of suspense in Moria, it’s a book I’ve come back to many, many times. 

Charlotte Radcliffe, Senior Account Executive

I finished Christadora by Tim Murphy a couple of weeks ago and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. The book explores the intertwining lives of different characters in New York caught in the middle of the AIDs crisis from 1981 to 2021. It’s beautifully written and cleverly constructed to weave all the different stories together over the years. I cannot recommend it enough if you are looking for a story that pulls you in and stays with you long after finishing!

Shireen Anthony, Senior Executive Co-ordinator

The Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian – an utterly absorbing and masterly evocation of an era, of naval history, of friendship, of Regency society, of early 19thcentury naval warfare and its daily exigences, of the contemporary natural sciences, all based on a breath-taking level of research and written with a wry humour. 

Polly de Burgh Marsh, Account Executive

My Family and Other Animals – Gerald Durrell

My Family and Other Animals is a semi-fictionalised memoir from naturalist Gerald Durrell following his family’s decision to move from England to Corfu when he was a child. The book is told through Durrrell’s perspective as the youngest son, and most of it focuses on his interactions with his eccentric family members. It’s a funny, sweet and infectiously idyllic portrayal of his childhood and – thanks to its being set in sun-drenched Greek olive groves –offers the perfect escapism from daily life! 

Isla Tweed, Account Executive

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need To Know About Global Politics

I was gifted this book years ago and having only just got round to reading it last summer I was frustrated I hadn’t picked it up sooner. Tim Marshall explains in concise detail  how nations developed to their 21st century geo-political standings, and how geography both helped and hindered this. He explains that what is missing in the reporting of politics and conflict is an understanding of geography. How the physical characteristics of the land reveal strengths and vulnerabilities. How countries with connecting rivers could develop faster, and those with mountain ranges are protected from their enemies. It put a lot of things in perspective. 

Bella Shorrock, Social Media Executive

Educated – Tara Westover

This is the kind of book that stays with you for a while. Reading it is an emotional experience; at times, it’s hard to believe it’s not fiction.

Tara Westover, born to Mormon survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, didn’t receive a birth certificate until she was nine. She didn’t step into a classroom until she was 17. Her father forbade hospitals, so she never saw a doctor or nurse. The family was utterly isolated from the mainstream –hoarding food, guns, bullets and gas in preparation for the ‘Days of Abomination’. Growing up, Tara didn’t think there was anything wrong with the way her family lived – but as she got older, she started to question it and decided to educate herself.

She had never heard of the civil rights movement or the Holocaust. Yet, despite the insurmountable odds, she rose to the position of earning a PhD from Cambridge University and attending Harvard.

Educated is a story of family loyalty and grief – it’s a coming-of-age story that seems both alien and familiar. It’s beautiful, compelling and at some points harrowing and uncomfortable to read – but impossible to tear yourself away. I would recommend it to anyone.

Audrey Martin, Intern

I would recommend anything by Kristen Hannah, but specifically Firefly Lane. I could read that book a thousand times and still cry. 

Happy reading!

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