Brendan’s Top 10 Summer Reads – Feet Up, Fascination, and Inspiration


After a year like 2020, hopefully, you all get time to relax, put your feet up, and dive into a good book. Once again, this year I look back at the books I have read, or listened to as an audiobook, and selected five fiction, and five business books which I am happy to recommend.

The fiction books I have chosen on the basis of them not being too dramatic, as we all have had enough drama this year. The non-fiction books I recommend are ones that should inspire, interest, and entertain.

Five for a Feet-up Read

A mixture of classics of all sizes, and some more recent releases, here are my 5 recommendations for fiction to read over your summer break.

  1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez – An amazing piece of work with a mix of realism and surrealism. Entertaining for the most part as it gets a bit long. An interesting analogy of Latin America, the arrival of colonialism with commentary on capitalism.
  2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson – For something more light-hearted but a little challenging, this one is a wild ride. It is a righteous classic that amuses, surprises, and excites. It is also quite short so if you only get a few days off, this will do the trick.
  3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – A bit of technological science fiction which doesn’t seem too far into our future. It is insightful, cleverly done, fun and exciting. The only downside for me is I hadn’t seen many of the 80s movies that are referenced and form some of the more suspenseful moments. The sequel is also now out, you might want to give this a read before entering a second token into the machine.
  4. Moby Dick by Herman Melville – A quintessential classic. If you only read one book this summer, it could be this one as it will take all summer to read. It is quite big. Given it is such a landmark book I was surprised how unconventional it was. There are passages that are a bit Shakespearian and even Joycean. A really interesting historical piece as well.
  5. The Morbids by Ewa Ramsey – This book is really insightful into the experience of mental health sufferers, particularly those with an anxiety disorder. It offers paintings of panic attacks but also clear messages of hope and the beauty of friendships and relationships. Some of that beauty is mixed with the memorable (for some) ugliness of share house living and hospitality work in Sydney, but this is what makes it very relatable. An amazing first novel with enough narrative quirks to set it apart from the run of the mill.

Five for Business, Inspiration, and Fascination

Looking at the five I have chosen this year, there isn’t the usual concentration on business books. So, these are great for non-fiction general interest, important understanding of our history and past masters as well as some tools to think about how you will know what success looks like for 2021.

  1. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer – From memory, I got this off a list of books recommended by Bill Gates. A very interesting read that not only tells the story of the author’s journey to memory athleticism but on the way, it teaches you the techniques used. The techniques are ancient because, until recent technological advances since the written word, humans had only memory to rely upon for knowledge and cultural development. The same techniques are used by Memory Athletes today, and you can learn them too.
  2. Think Like a Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life by Ozan Varol – I have reviewed this book already this year. In short, though, this book takes methods used by actual rocket scientists to apply in the business and life decision making and problem-solving that everyone can use.
  3. Measure What Matters by John E. Doerr – I will be spending a lot of time with this book in the new year. Written by one of the big guns with experience in some of the biggest tech companies you know, this book offers the fundamentals of OKRs (objectives & key results). These have driven the success of both Google and Intel to mention two, so that is good enough for me. The tools are relatively simple and that is why I’m keen to pull them out and see how I can apply them to our business. A unique opportunity to learn from a unique perspective
  4. Phosphorescence by Dr Julia Baird – You might know Julia Baird from ABC News “The Drum” and other more journalistic appearances. This book, however, comes from her heart and mind. It talks from her perspective as a cancer survivor and how in times of darkness we can find the light – the kind of phosphoresce light that is generated by nature. This book I recommend because it truly is inspiring and what is needed at the end of 2020 to look forward to 2021 with eyes wide to wonder and awe.
  5. Humankind by Rutger Bregman – I recommend this book as it debunks the portrayal of human nature that is driven by the media and politicians. The negative construct of a society and cultures that are combative and prone toward evil is designed to attract clicks and votes but it is not the natural state of our species. I feel there are some valuable lessons in this book that awaken us to the manipulation we are exposed to and highlighting with evidence that humans are inherently kind. It is extremely interesting from an anthropological point of view as well. Interesting and inspiring at the same time.

Bonus Read: Anything by Bill Bryson – Ok a bonus audiobook for your long summer holiday drive. This year I listened to three Bill Bryson books and each was great. Funny, incredibly interesting, and engaging style which he narrates himself. I listened to “The Body”, “A Short History of Nearly Everything”, and “At Home”. In each, you will laugh, learn something interesting, and be left wanting more.

I hope you find something from this list to relax with, exercise your mind, develop some strategies for achievement and learn something new over the Christmas break. Happy reading.

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