[Image Credit – www.lisacongdon.com]

Written by Kate Billing, Founder & Creative Director, Blacksmith

A 6 minute read.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be feeling super ready to give 2020 the heave ho ho ho as Christmas and the prospect of a holiday break approach.

Part of what makes a holiday a holiday for me is a good book (or three!). With that in mind, and with the help of some of our Blacksmith Community, I’ve compiled a list of recommendations that will fill your heart and feed your mind.

On the fill your heart list are books people have read and recommended for pure pleasure and a bit of escapism. The list covers all manner of genres, with one book in particular being a clear favourite with four separate mentions:Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman.

The feed your mind list is full of books that could be helpful to the reader when thinking about the tricky business of being fully human and about how we can better do life and work in ‘the new reality’.

Books are linked through to fishpond.co.nz (where possible) but you could try your local bookstore to support them or hit up your usual on-line book source e.g. Amazon or Book Depository.

FEED YOUR MIND (Non-fiction)

‘Your Mind at Work’ by David Rock (self-help) “In Your Brain at Work, David Rock takes readers inside the heads – literally – of a modern two-career couple as they mentally process their workday to reveal how we can better organize, prioritize, remember, and process our daily lives. Rock shows how it’s possible for this couple, and thus the reader, not only to survive in today’s overwhelming work environment but succeed in it – and still feel energized and accomplished at the end of the day.”

‘Grit: the power of passion and perseverance’ by Angela Duckworth (self-help, personal growth) “MacArthur Genius Award-winning psychologist Angela Duckworth shares fascinating new revelations about who succeeds in life and why. Based on her cutting-edge research, Duckworth shows how many people achieve remarkable things not just by relying on innate natural talent, but by practising what she calls grit. She then offers a Grit Formula to help anyone to become more gritty, focusing on six key factors: hope, effort, precision, passion, ritual, and prioritisation.”

‘Willpower: rediscovering the greatest human strength’ by John Tierney & Roy Baumeister (self-help) “Based on years of psychological research, this book shows how self-control is the most important factor in achieving what you want – and how you can discover the power in willpower. Whether it’s ditching your usual to-do list, practicing positive procrastination or never making a decision before lunch, Willpower will teach you how to gain from self-control without pain, and take charge of your life.”

‘Sapiens: a brief history of humankind’ by Yuval Noah Harari (world history, human behaviour) “We are the most advanced and most destructive animals ever to have lived. What makes us brilliant? What makes us deadly? What makes us Sapiens? In this bold and provocative book, Yuval Noah Harari explores who we are, how we got here and where we’re going. Sapiens is a thrilling account of humankind’s extraordinary history – from the Stone Age to the Silicon Age – and our journey from insignificant apes to rulers of the world”

‘The Architecture of Happiness’ by Alain de Botton (philosophy, environmental psychology) “One of the great, but often unmentioned, causes of both happiness and misery is the quality of our environment: the kind of walls, chairs, buildings and streets we’re surrounded by. The Architecture of Happiness starts from the idea that where we are heavily influences who we can be – and argues that it is architecture’s task to stand as an eloquent reminder of our full potential.”

‘The Obstacle is the Way: the timeless art of turning trials into triumph’ by Ryan Holiday (practical philosophy) “The Stoic philosophy – that what is in the way, is the way – can be applied to any problem: it’s a formula invented more than 2,000 years ago, whose effectiveness has been proven in battles and board rooms ever since. From Barack Obama’s ability to overcome obstacles in his election races, to the design of the iPhone, the stoic philosophy has helped its users become world-beaters.”

‘Our Inner Ape’ by Franz de Waal (primatology, human behaviour) “For nearly twenty years, Frans de Waal has worked with both the famously aggressive chimpanzee and the lesser-known egalitarian, erotic, matriarchal bonobo, two species whose DNA is nearly identical to that of humans. He brings these apes to life on every page, revealing their personalities, relationships and power struggles, creating an engrossing narrative that explores what their behaviour can teach us about ourselves and each other.”


‘Dark Matter’ by Blake Crouch (science fiction, suspense, thriller) “Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human – a relentlessly surprising thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.”

‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman (romance, historical fiction, psychological fiction) Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey.”

‘This Is How You Lose the Time War’ by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone (science fiction, fantasy) This Is How You Lose the Time War is an enthralling, romantic novel spanning time and space about two time-traveling rivals who fall in love and must change the past to ensure their future.”

‘The Moaning of Life: the worldly wisdom of Karl Pilkington by Karl Pilkington (humour, travel, biography) “Travelling from far-flung tribes to high-tech cities, English comedian Karl Pilkington encounters everything from a traditional Indian wedding to an ancient Tibetan sky burial, from a drive-thru funeral in LA to a man who married a robot. Have his experiences changed him? Find out in this hilarious new book where Karl shares his stories (and opinions) in his inimitable style.”

‘A Fine Balance’ by Rohinton Mistry (historical fiction) “Set in India in 1975 as Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declares a state of emergency ‘cleaning up the city’ by driving thousands of poor from their homes, A Fine Balance is a story about hope and the extraordinary endurance of the human spirit.”

‘I Am Pilgrim’ by Terry Hayes (thriller, suspense, crime, spy) PILGRIM. The codename for a man who doesn’t exist. A man who must return from obscurity. The only man who can uncover a flawless plot to commit an appalling crime against humanity.”

Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens (historical fiction, mystery) Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.”

Happy reading!


SIGN UP to receive our regular Fully Human update and get fresh content like this delivered straight to your inbox!