31 Books

There is always more to read…

Nour Sidawi
14 min readMar 7, 2022
The ever-wise words of Mr Fables: “An encouragement, perhaps, for other keen readers to add to their own ‘to read’ pile; and a gentle encouragement to add your recommendations to the #57Books ‘must read’ list; ripples flowing out from a ‘pebble in the pond’.

Time to read more books

Caption: READ (a year-long thread) #57Books is a reading challenge for 2022. Fifty-seven books to be read and reviewed over the course of a year

Following in the footsteps of Mr Fables, over the course of 2022, I will be reading 31 books in the calendar year to mark my 31st birthday. I’m following the birthday trend; unlike Mr Fables, it’s not quite one a week and a few extras for luck, but close enough.

I’ll be sharing the journey on social media under the same hastag as Mr Fables to add to curated list of reading suggestions… #57Books

Books are wayfinding for the soul. If we belong anywhere, it is in the unknown. And where better to be than lost in the world of books. To coin a phrase by Walter Benjamin, the “the art of straying” comes to mind here.

In books, to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of leaving the door open for the unknown. Sometimes what you need to find, which is totally unknown to you, is a matter of getting lost.

So, fellow wanderers, go beyond what you know. Here’s my list for 2022 to be guided by, or to lose yourself in. Some are very popular. And some you may have never heard of before. But even if you just feel, discover, or immerse yourself in a few, that will be enough.

by Chian Tsun Hsiung

“Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.”

- A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

The List

1 — Holding Change: The Way of Emergent Strategy Facilitation and Mediation by Adrienne Maree Brown

Holding Change arrives at the intersection of activism and whole-wellness, at a time when we need it most. This book arrives at a time when we need it most. It’s a guide to being humans in right relationship as we shape ourselves and each other. It is magnificent, mysterious, and ever-evolving — something to understand, be in conversation with, and love.

2 — In the Thick of It: The Explosive Private Political Diaries of a Former Tory Minister by Alan Duncan

These diaries offer an important, if very personal, behind-the-scenes account of recent history. Irreverent and riotously candid, this book provides an insight into the workings of government that makes it an absorbing read.

3 — Nemesis Games (The Expanse #5) by James S.A. Corey

It’s not hard for a long running series to run out of steam: familiar characters, recycled stories, formulaic plot lines. The opposite has happened here: the gloves have come off and the balance of power in the solar system is turned upside down. A devastating installment.

4 — Artemis by Andy Weir

Whenever the author gets to go into the nitty-gritty of a science fiction engineering problem — for example, how to ignite a blowtorch in a vacuum — the book lights up and briefly becomes deeply, profoundly compelling.

5 — Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence by Ken Auletta

What made Harvey Weinstein a monster? Does it matter? In this cradle-to-jail account of his downfall is a sad tale of sex, lies, and power in Hollywood. Yet its main topic is not the survivors, reporters, or prosecutors who ended his reign of terror. It is, still, the man himself.

6 — The Good Immigrant: 26 Writers Reflect on America by Nikesh Shukla (Editor), Chimene Suleyman (Editor)

An exposé on race relations in the UK that delves into the concept of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ immigrants while trying to identify what lies in the space in between. It is a book that should be read with the greatest urgency and shared everywhere.

7 — Skint Estate: A Memoir of Poverty, Motherhood and Survival by Cash Carraway

It’s as important to read this as it is to watch I, Daniel Blake. A powerful story of a single mother doing everything she can to stay afloat in hard times, told with gritty truth and a splash of dry humour. It is exposing, raw, angry call for change.

8 — It’s Not About the Burqa by Mariam Khan (Editor), Yassmin Abdel-Magied (Contributor)

We should be the ones speaking about us.”

Out-spoken, honest, and sometimes angry, Mariam Khan has curated an anthology of diverse, bold, and authentic essays from the voices we desperately need to hear from rather than those we only ever hear about. Let’s read and listen well to what they really have to say.

9 — A Woman’s Work by Harriet Harman

Harriet Harman shows the importance of lived experiences to political life and parliament. The fight is far from over, there’s much left to do to close the gender gap. It’s a good reminder that we‘ve come far, but not far enough.

10 — Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement by Tarana Burke

Me too. Two small yet powerful words. It is the brainchild of a Black American activist named Tarana Burke, who has guided the lives of the women and girls before and after #MeToo became a phrase that bound together thousands of survivors across the world.

This memoir is written with a vulnerability is rare — it is for the unloved and those still suffering in silence who need to know that there is something on the other side of hurt.

11 — Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow

A masterfully telling of the story of what it took to expose Weinstein’s myriad abuse against women and the machinations at work to keep things hidden. It’s equal parts memoir, spy story and portrait of perseverance under terrible circumstances — and will make you ask yourself: What else is there still to find out?

12 — UnPresidented: Politics, Pandemics and the Race that Trumped all Others by Jon Sopel

This is a period of history, which almost lacks the power to shock after over four years, culminates in an election race like no other — and along the journey, Jon Sopel is excellent company.

13 — This Time for Me by Alexandra Billings, Joey Soloway (Introduction), Joanne Gordon (Contributor)

Billings candidly recounts the turbulent road that led to her trailblazing career, shining light both on a remarkable personal journey and a painful time in transgender history. She shows what it means to be misunderstood, and how we can do better to welcome humans of every stripe.

14 — Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli

“The problem with trying to tell their story, is that it has no beginning, no middle and no end.”

It is difficult for questions regarding the lives of others to be answered — the coherence and incoherence of lives whose traumas do not fit neatly within a court-mandated interviews. This essay is more than a memoir; it’s a report on an emergency. A powerful call to action and empathy.

15 — Spike: The Virus vs. The People — the Inside Story by Jeremy Farrar, Anjana Ahuja

For many, it may be too soon to pick up a no-frills book about the pandemic. This is a very rare, frank account by a scientist about the realities and uneasy relationship between science and politics. It’s a soul crushing read when you remember it all actually happened, and continues to go on and on. There will be a litany of “inside stories” and first-hand accounts of how the pandemic was managed and decisions were taken — this is just the first.

16 — In Black and White by Alexandra Wilson

Alexandra Wilson’s honest account of life as a junior barrister is an incisive uncovering about race and class within the legal profession and justice system. By boldly putting her head above the parapet, the hope can only be that she has enabled us all to accelerate change.

As the Secret Barrister has said, “this is a book that urgently needs to be read by everyone inside, and outside, the justice system.

17 — Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tuci

Food is life and life is food. This fusion of love and food is what makes the book full of heart and culinary delight. It’s a gastronomic treat, an ode to food and people we love — just be prepared to get ravenous while reading it.

18 — Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Miller provides a moving and humanising depiction of being sexually assaulted. It is hard to read it and breathe at the same time. In giving us the gift of knowing her, it is a poignant testament of the human cost of sexual violence, and a powerful reminder of why we fight. In spite of everything, it inspires hope.

19 — In Your Defence: Stories of Life and Law by Sarah Langford

This is no typical legal memoir. Here, the human stories of heartache, humour, and quiet pain are without tidy endings. This memoir breathes life into the justice system — and for anyone stewarding it, this must be on their reading list.

20 — When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut, Adrian Nathan West (Translator)

Have we ceased to understand the world? And if we cannot understand the world, can we understand ourselves?

Some scientific discoveries reshape human life for the better; others pave the way to chaos and unimaginable suffering. The lines are never clear, but Benjamin Labatut’s haunting book contemplates both. It spirals around the connections between science, madness, beauty, and war. Can it be that contemplating such questions is as dangerous as not contemplating them?

21 — Admissions: A Memoir of Surviving Boarding School by Kendra James

In this scintillating debut, Kendra James intertwines her own coming-of-age story with a searing indictment of elite academia, resulting in an eye-opening examination of race, class, and privilege. She provides all important company for Black students in predominantly white spaces.

22 — Poison for Breakfast by Lemony Snicket

A book about bewilderment — or philosophy. There’s something eternally comforting about reading something with a narrator just as openly messy as your own thoughts. It is a lesson that big questions that don’t necessarily require answers because the journey to answer them is sometimes more valuable than the destination.

23— Fix the System, Not the Women by Laura Bates (EverydaySexism)

A haunting and compelling examination of injustice, this isn’t a book full of answers. Instead, it holds up a mirror to ask difficult questions about systems, society, and ourselves.

24 — Nothing But The Truth: Stories of Crime, Guilt and the Loss of Innocence by @BarristerSecret

No-holds-barred book telling an unvarnished story of the criminal justice system and those that hold it together. Heartbreaking and hopeful in its own way.

25 — The Martian by Andy Weir

A love letter to science. Both a celebration of scientific ingenuity and a man’s unfailing spirit to survive, its message of resilience and optimism through the hardest of times pays homage to the best in humanity. What’s not to love about that?!

26 — The Unexpected Spy by Tracy Walder with Jessica Anya Blau

A riveting story about being the only female in a largely male-orientated world and the efforts to succeed and advance. It offers an eye-opening glimpse into the attitudes of American governmental agencies that is personal, humorous, and at times, harrowing.

27— Cibola Burn (The Expanse #4) by James S.A. Corey

The biggest, most sprawling leap of an already sprawling tale. And now there is simply more. More of everything, combined with a spark of humor and hope suggesting that despite ourselves, we might find a way to prevail.

28 — The New Machiavelli — How to Wield Power in the Modern World by Jonathan Powell

This book claims to be neither a memoir of the Blair years nor an academic treatise on Machiavelli. Instead it is a treasure trove of maxims, anecdotes, and asides, which give intriguing glimpses into ministerial chicanery and sheds a valuable light on the operation and use of power. A manual for modern government.

29 — The Changing of the Guard: the British Army since 9/11 by Simon Akam

This book is about much more than the Army since 9/11 — it is a parable about the failure of a revered institution to come to terms with a changed and changing world. It asks new and complex questions for soldiers and military strategy alike in the 21st century.

30 — Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks by Patrick Radden Keefe

The overwhelming impression from these essays about complicated rogues is that justice in our violent, turbulent, unsettling world is fragile and elusive.

31 —Collateral Damage: Britain, America, and Europe in the Age of Trump by Kim Darroch

Darroch’s memoir — his account of finding himself at the heart of a media firestorm as the British ambassador in Donald Trump’s Washington — is a study in diplomatic tradecraft. The book relives the drama and nightmare, and how the twin forces of Trump and Johnson shaped politics — and his life.

Beyond ‘The List’

32 — When the Dust Settles: Stories of Love, Loss and Hope from an Expert in Disaster by Lucy Easthope

Written with rare humanity, this riveting memoir is candid, unsettling, and darkly humorous on the crucial but largely hidden work of planning for emergencies, for facing up to the worst head on.

33 — Just Sayin’: My Life In Words by Malorie Blackman

Blackman is a grafter; no question about that. Her memoir reveals just how much she overcame. It contains intimate, often painful and funny insights into her life. This book is about survival and success from the woman that changed the face of UK children’s publishing.

34— Brown Baby: A Memoir of Race, Family and Home by Nikesh Shukla

Brown Baby is not just another book about being brown in Britain, but a rich memoir about parenting, grief, belonging, and justice. These reflections consider the world into which Shukla’s daughter is growing up in. It’s wonderful piece of writing, a wonderful gift to his daughters.

35 — The Panama Papers: Breaking the Story of How the Rich and Powerful Hide Their Money by Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier

The Panama Papers is a tale of fearless and careful reporting. A fascinating read in the unknown world of clever financial dealings and how to follow the money.



Nour Sidawi

Reflecting on the complexity of systems and making change in government @UKCivilService . Part of @OneTeamGov