32 Books

There’s always more (and more) to read…

Nour Sidawi
10 min readJan 7


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’.

Thinking Outside the Books

Last year, I read 31 books read in the year of my 31st birthday. The encouragement from Mr Fables to read more led to an unexpected adventure! You can read my book reviews here:

This year I’m going to keep going. I love books. I’m very hungry for the good stuff, the “quake books.” The ones that shake you. That knock everything over and turn it upside down. The books to base your life on.

So, over the course of 2023, I will be reading 32 books in the calendar year to mark my 32nd birthday. It’s not quite one a week and a few extras for luck, but close enough.

The List

Here’s my list for 2023 to be guided by, or to lose yourself in. Some old, some new. All important reading, in no particular order.

1 — Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience by Brené Brown

2 — VIRAL JUSTICE: How We Grow the World We Want by Ruha Benjamin

3 — Nasty Women by Laura Jones (Editor)

4 — Labours of Love: The Crisis of Care by Madeleine Bunting

5 — Worlds Hidden in Plain Sight: The Evolving Idea of Complexity at the Santa Fe Institute, 1984–2019 by David C. Krakauer and others

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

7 —Babylon’s Ashes (The Expanse #6) by James S.A. Corey

8 — Persepolis Rising (The Expanse #7) by James S.A. Corey

9 — Tiatmat’s Wrath (The Expanse #8) by James S.A. Corey

10—Levianthan Falls (The Expanse #9) by James S.A. Corey

11 — White House Warriors: How the National Security Council Transformed the American Way of War by John Gans

12 — Voices of the Windrush Generation: The real story told by the people themselves by David Matthews

13 — Men Who Hate Women — From Incels to Pickup Artists: The Truth about Extreme Misogyny and How It Affects Us All by Laura Bates

14 — Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder

15 — Radical Uncertainty: Decision-Making Beyond the Numbers by John Kay and Mervyn King

16 — Holding the Line: Inside Trump’s Pentagon with Secretary Mattis by Guy M. Snodgrass

17 — Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis

Davis explores a multitude of themes and issues impacting society in this pocket-sized powerhouse book. It allows us all to think about our current world which we live in — and asks: What does equality look like?

18 — Know Your Place by Nathan Connolly (editor)

19 — Madly, Deeply: The Alan Rickman Diaries by Alan Rickman

20— English Pastoral: An Inheritance by James Rebanks

21 — Flying on the Inside: A Memoir of Trauma and Recovery by Rachel Gotto

22 — The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t by Julia Galef

23 —Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City by Andrea Elliott

This is an indictment of the shelter system and a dysfunctional welfare state. Elliott’s heartfelt call forces us to look at a strata of society far too often ignored. It’s a story that will live inside you for a long time.

24 — The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker

25 — Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good by Adrienne Maree Brown

26— We Do This ’til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice by Mariame Kaba

27 — Hostile Environment: How Immigrants Became Scapegoats by Maya Goodfellow

28 — The Secret Life of Special Advisers by Peter Cardwell

29 — The Good Shepherd by C.S. Forester

The novel is the internal thoughts of Captain Krause — it gets you to feel what it was like to command a warship in the North Atlantic: the crushing responsibility, the loneliness of command, the exertions of fighting an unseen enemy.

30 — Living Better: How I Learned to Survive Depression by Alastair Campbell

31 — Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad

32 — In a Time of Monsters: Travels Through a Middle East in Revolt by Emma Sky

Beyond ‘The List’

33— The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac

34— How Democracies Die: What History Reveals About Our Future by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

35 — How to Run a Government: So That Citizens Benefit and Taxpayers Don’t Go Crazy by Michael Barber

36 — Criminal: How Our Prisons Are Failing Us All by Angela Kirwin

37 — Ghost Signs by Stu Hennigan

38 — All That Remains: A Life in Death by Sue Black

39 — Broken Yard: The Fall of the Metropolitan Police by Tom Harper

This detailed critique — of 30 years of Met policing — asks if the Met is beyond repair. We know many of the stories already, and they’re common to all authorities: navigating a digital world, austerity, and maintaining public trust.

40 — Enough: The Violence Against Women and How to End It by Harriet Johnson

How many more women? Johnson depicts the staggering extent of violence against women and the years of campaigning against it. It is as unsuprising as it is horrifying, and lays bare the the problems in our policing, laws and culture.

41 — Elites: Understanding Power Without Losing Your Soul by Douglas Board

This is a fascinating insight into the world of the ‘elite’, and what it takes to become one. It shows why, paradoxically, meritocracies create glass ceilings. After all this inside knowledge, do we still want to become part of the elite?

42 — SAS: Rogue Heroes by Ben Macintyre

This book features an ensemble of eccentrics and mavericks — and one visionary who invented an elite commando unit — who find themselves in one harrowing situation after another. It’s a gripping account of wartime adventuring.

43 — The Old Kingdom Collection by Garth Nix

Re-read an absolute favourite series (again). It may have been the magic and adventure that enchanted me as young reader, but the themes hold wisdom that have me coming back for all my life.

44 — Goldenhand by Garth Nix

The stakes are a little smaller and little more personal than previous books. If you haven’t read them, you’re likely to find yourself more than a little at sea in this one.

45— Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal by Ben Macintyre

This is a remarkable story of a Second World War philanderer and double agent. No task was too dangerous, or ridiculous, for this agent. More thrilling than most spy thrillers and a lot more incredible to read!

57 Books: The List — feastsandfables

Mr Fables read and reviewed a list of 57 books in 2022. It’s an eclectic mix, fiction and non-fiction, new and old, some re-reads. All wonderful reading suggestions! #57Books



Nour Sidawi

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