First Seven Weeks 2020 Recommended Reads

Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo

This is Britain as you’ve never read it.
This is Britain as it has never been told.

From Newcastle to Cornwall, from the birth of the twentieth century to the teens of the twenty-first, Girl, Woman, Other follows a cast of twelve characters on their personal journeys through this country and the last hundred years. They are each looking for something – a shared past, an unexpected future, a place to call home, somewhere to fit in, a lover, a missed mother, a lost father, even just a touch of hope . . .

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson

For the past three years, Jon Ronson has travelled the world meeting recipients of high-profile public shamings. The shamed are people like us – people who, say, made a joke on social media that came out badly, or made a mistake at work. Once their transgression is revealed, collective outrage circles with the force of a hurricane and the next thing they know you’re being torn apart by an angry mob, jeered at, demonized, something even fired from their job.

A great renaissance of public shaming is sweeping our land. Justice has been democratized. The silent majority are getting a voice. But what are we doing with our voice? We are mercilessly finding people’s faults. We are defining the boundaries of normality by ruining the lives of those outside it. We are using shame as a form of social control.

Simultaneously powerful and hilarious in the way only Jon Ronson can be, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is a deeply honest book about modern life, full of eye-opening truths about the escalating war on human flaws – and the very scary part we all play in it.

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China – Jung Chang

An engrossing record of Mao’s impact on China, an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world, and an inspiring tale of courage and love, Jung Chang describes the extraordinary lives and experiences of her family members: her grandmother, a warlord’s concubine; her mother’s struggles as a young idealistic Communist; and her parents’ experience as members of the Communist elite and their ordeal during the Cultural Revolution. Chang was a Red Guard briefly at the age of fourteen, then worked as a peasant, a “barefoot doctor”, a steelworker, and an electrician. As the story of each generation unfolds, Chang captures in gripping, moving – and ultimately uplifting – detail the cycles of violent drama visited on her own family of others caught in the whirlwind of history.

Why I Am No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge

Exploring issues from eradicated black history to the political purpose of white dominance, whitewashed feminism to the inextricable link between class and race, Reni Eddo-Lodge offers a timely and essential new framework for how to see, acknowledge and counter racism. It is searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today.

The Wind That Lays Waste – Selva Almada

The Wind That Lays Waste begins in the great pause before a storm. Reverend Pearson is evangelizing across the Argentinian countryside with Leni, his teenage daughter, when their car breaks down. This act of God or fate leads them to the workshop and home of an aging mechanic called Gringo Brauer and a young boy named Tapioca.

As a long day passes, curiosity and intrigue transform into an unexpected intimacy between four people: one man who believes deeply in God, morality, and his own righteousness, and another whose life experiences have only entrenched his moral relativism and mild apathy; a quietly earnest and idealistic mechanic’s assistant, and a restless, sceptical preacher’s daughter. As tensions between these characters ebb and flow, beliefs are questioned and allegiances are tested, until finally the growing storm breaks over the plains.

Selva Almada’s exquisitely crafted debut, with its limpid and confident prose, is profound and poetic, a tactile experience of the mountain, the sun, the squat trees, the broken cars, the sweat-stained shirts, and the destroyed lives. The Wind That Lays Waste is a philosophical, beautiful, and powerfully distinctive novel that marks the arrival in English of an author whose talent and poise are undeniable.

A Strange Kind of Brave – Sarah Moore

Jake McCormack is the villain of Clanfedden. He’s just killed a boy – deliberately run him over with his truck, on the bridge, in front of everyone. And he knows he’ll get away with it.

Luca, 14, is the new boy in town. He’s just looking for a fresh start after a terrible thing that happened at his old school. Clanfedden is a small forgotten town, but Luca and his mum are going to give it a go. They’re opening an exciting restaurant, and his new friend Allie is coming to work there. Allie is honest and kind and Luca knows they’re going to be friends.

Allie has lived in Clanfedden all her life and these should be happy days – Luca is the best thing to have happened in years. But she’s haunted by shadows of her own, and more than anyone she knows the danger of Jake McCormack. She needs to warn Luca. She needs to prevent disaster. At least she needs to try…

Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Leaning – Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III and Mark A. McDaniel

To most of us, learning something “the hard way” implies wasted time and effort. Good teaching, we believe, should be creatively tailored to the different learning styles of students and should use strategies that make learning easier. Make It Stick turns fashionable ideas like these on their head. Drawing on recent discoveries in cognitive psychology and other disciplines, the authors offer concrete techniques for becoming more productive learners.

Many common study habits and practice routines turn out to be counterproductive. Underlining and highlighting, rereading, cramming, and single-minded repetition of new skills create the illusion of mastery, but gains fade quickly. More complex and durable learning come from self-testing, introducing certain difficulties in practice, waiting to re-study new material until a little forgetting has set in, and interleaving the practice of one skill or topic with another. Speaking most urgently to students, teachers, trainers, and athletes, Make It Stick will appeal to all those interested in the challenge of lifelong learning and self-improvement.

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