Discover more from the bookmark
👋🏼 Hello 2023!
Including the best books I read in 2022, and what's new for 2023
Hello, how is your brain?
If you’re like most people I’m taking to, it might feel like your brain got a bit dusty whilst you took some time off. I’m pretty sure that’s what we all needed; to put our brains on a shelf for a bit and let them rest.
I spent two excellent weeks in Aotearoa/New Zealand. A week on the North Island, which I hadn’t explored as much, and then a stunning week in one of my most favourite places; the South Island. We headed to Queenstown on this visit, and spent a very relaxed week in a lovely little Airbnb staring at Kawarau/The Remarkables and Whakatipu-wai-Māori/Lake Wakatipu.
Here’s a few things I enjoyed over the break…
Netflix: Bad Vegan - Man cons restaurant owner out of her money with lies about making her dog invincible and ‘tests’ sent from above. Another series that has you shouting ‘HOW?!?!’ at the laptop. Has nothing to do with veganism.
Netflix: Glass Onion - Equal parts cringe and clever, second instalment in the Knives Out series. Complete with lots of not-so-subtle digs at and references to the types of people we seem to be elevating in society right now.
Netflix: Moneyball and Good Will Hunting - They’re not related, but I’d never watched either of these films and they were both very good. #latereview
Reflection: Year Compass and The Farnham Street Annual Report - I enjoyed spending a few hours using the Year Compass to reflect on my 2022 (I did more than I thought I had) and set some intentions for 2023. The FS Annual Report questions are brilliant kicks in the bum to really challenge what you’re spending your time on. Well worth checking out.
Shopping: Johnny Cupcakes - HOW had nobody told me about Johnny Cupcakes before?! The Boston-based “T-shirt Bakery” have nailed the assignment; everything from the pop up statement you have to agree to when you enter the website, to the store design, to how they celebrate their bad reviews. They also have a pretty great playlist that I’ve had on heavy rotation. And yes, I’m waiting for my order to arrive.
Fiction: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. Much hype around this one at the moment (and the cover is a stunner). I was completely hooked and wanted to stay up all night reading it. But then something happened and I didn’t like it… If you’ve read it, let’s discuss!
ICYMI, here’s the big old email I sent at the end of last year with the best pods, series, tech, albums, and general stuff I enjoyed in 2022. Keep reading to find out about the best books I read (and why I liked them so much).
Waving my brain feather duster,
What was the highlight of your break? Any great reads? Pop a comment to this post or hit reply.
PS. To borrow from Austin Kleon (and everyone else who borrows this from Austin Kleon), this newsletter and the podcast are 'free but not cheap'. You can support their ongoing creation and keep me in books by buying me a coffee as a one off 'thank you', or leaving giving the podcast a (five 😉) star rating on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. Thanks!
PPS. I’ve collated all the tech tools I use across the podcast and my business right here, in case you’re looking to refresh your stack in 2023.
But first, a few changes for the new year…
I’m talking about all of these changes, along with what I’m looking forward to reading this year, on this week’s podcast. Here’s a summary…
🎧 Podcast: Steph’s Business Bookshelf is going to flip to a monthly schedule for a while. On the first Tuesday of the month I’ll release a new episode with reviews and recommendations based on what I read the previous month.
📚 The bookmark: this newsletter will also move to monthly, on the second Tuesday of the month, but the content will remain the same; curation of what to bother reading/watching/listening to.
✏️ Now/Next: a new newsletter! This is a short monthly newsletter where I’ll share a couple of interesting signals about the future of work and future of learning, and what this could mean for what’s happening now, and possible futures that could happen next. This one will drop on the third Thursday of the month and you can sign up by clicking here → Now/Next by 28 Thursdays
Best books I read last year…
👀 Best books I read with my eyes
Imaginable by Jane McGonigal
First things first, I should be on some kind of commission for this book, I’ve recommended it to and brought it for so many people. It is all about how to think about what might happen in the future, in order to (potentially) take different actions today. It’s not about getting the future right, or predictions, but but about stretching your imagination to think about possibilities.
This book was not just the best book I read in 2022, but it’s also impacted my own work. It inspired me to learn more about futures thinking through some study, and build this into the work I do.
Stolen Focus by Johann Hari
Once again, Johann Hari has written an entertaining, compelling book about a big societal issue. This time, about our diminishing attention spans, and the influences destroying them. Unlike most books about distraction and focus, he spends more time on the systemic challenges (ie how tech companies are designed and incentivised), rather than the ‘hacks’ we should all do.
Refreshingly, he also looks beyond tech to stress and the food and health systems, and their roles in this problem. However, this isn’t all about absolving personal responsibility; Johan wraps the book up with some helpful ways we can change the direction we’re heading - both at an individual and systemic level.
Brave New Work by Aaron Dignan
If you’re dissatisfied with how work works (or doesn’t) at the moment, this book will both blow your mind and challenge your thinking in the very best way. In it, Aaron sets out a new way of working; one that is complexity conscious, people positive, and radically reimagined from the outdated bureaucracy we still see today. He shares the significant benefits that organisations working in self-managed ways experience compared to their peers, and the operating system needed to get there.
It’s one of the most hopeful books about work I’ve read, and one that requires a very different way of thinking about what we believe about work, and human capability. (Aaron has written a great overview article if you just want a flavour, and the Brave New Work podcast is excellent for going deeper into this thinking).
🎧 Best books I read with my ears
Will by Will Smith
I listened to quite a few autobiographies last year, and this was my favourite. Will talks through his childhood challenges, his breaks into music and acting, his family, how he builds his team, and how he thinks about getting ahead and staying on top of his field. It’s funny, raw, uncomfortable, human, inspiring, and sad; sometimes all at once.
Good Pop Bad Pop by Jarvis Cocker
Jarvis’ trademark laid-back, Sheffield twang is a calming salve, and this book is a nostalgic joy. During lockdown, Jarvis decided to clear out his attic of all the stuff that accumulated in there over the last few decades. In the book he catalogues what he found, the associated stories, and whether he decided to ‘keep’ or ‘cop’ each item. It’s a trip down memory lane that reveals a lot about Jarvis, but is also sweet and relatable if you’ve ever kept something weird that’s inexplicably important to you… like the label on your final bar of old style Imperial Leather soap.