Sam’s favourite reads for 2021

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Well, 2021 didn’t turn out to be the way out of COVID, as we’d all hoped.

An interesting year to say the least!

Here’s some of what I’ve been reading and listening to over the last 12 months…

Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism by Kristen Ghodsee

Why women have better sex under socialism book cover

“Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism” is a captivating exploration that ventures beyond the conventional narrative, examining the intricate relationship between political systems and women’s experiences.

Ghodsee provides a wealth of examples to support her thesis, drawing from historical contexts and contemporary case studies. One compelling example is the examination of how Eastern Bloc countries under socialist regimes, despite their many flaws, implemented policies that sought to address gender disparities in both the workplace and domestic spheres.

Ghodsee contrasts the experiences of women in socialist societies with those in capitalist systems, shedding light on the impact of policies related to maternity leave, childcare, and work-life balance. By doing so, she paints a nuanced picture of how economic structures and social policies can influence not only women’s professional lives but also their intimate relationships.

The book weaves through various historical periods, from the Soviet era to present-day Nordic models, offering a comprehensive analysis of how different approaches to governance can shape women’s autonomy and, intriguingly, their satisfaction in intimate relationships.

Throughout the book, Ghodsee introduces readers to real-life stories and anecdotes that illustrate the potential advantages socialist policies have had on women’s lives. These examples help anchor her arguments in the lived experiences of individuals, making the book not just a theoretical exploration but a compelling narrative that engages readers on a personal level.

What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing by Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey

What Happened to You- Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing by Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey

This brilliant book offers a compassionate exploration of trauma, resilience, and the journey to healing, blending scientific insights from Perry with Oprah’s empathetic interviewing style to create a powerful narrative on understanding and overcoming the impact of trauma.

The authors navigate the delicate balance between neuroscience and personal narratives, advocating for the transformative power of self-reflection, mindfulness, and the pursuit of inner peace to overcome suffering and achieve mental well-being.

This isn’t usually my style of book, but I absolutely loved it.

Fashionopolis: The Price Of Fashion - And The Future Of Clothes

Fashionopolis book cover

This is an eye-opening exploration of the fashion industry’s impact on our world. Thomas takes readers on a journey from the dark underbelly of fast fashion to the promising future of sustainable practices.

Her meticulously researched book delves into the environmental and social costs of the industry, revealing the harsh realities of mass production. However, it is not merely a critique; Thomas also sheds light on innovators and visionaries who are pioneering sustainable and ethical alternatives.

The book challenges readers to reconsider their relationship with clothing and calls for a more responsible and conscious approach to fashion.

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman


“Humankind: A Hopeful History” by Rutger Bregman is a refreshing and optimistic exploration of human nature, challenging conventional perspectives that often emphasise our darker instincts.

Bregman presents a compelling argument that kindness and cooperation are inherent to human behaviour. Using historical events and studies, he shares examples such as the World War I Christmas truce, debunking the notion that war is our default state.

Bregman discusses the power of trust, prompting readers to reconsider their assumptions about human nature and fostering hope for a more compassionate and cooperative future. With engaging storytelling and thought-provoking anecdotes, this is a persuasive and uplifting read that challenges the prevailing narrative about humanity.

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History by Kurt Andersen

Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen

This is a fascinating, thought-provoking, and sometimes hilarious examination of the peculiar trajectory of American culture. Andersen takes readers on an absorbing journey through five centuries, exploring the roots and evolution of America’s affinity for fantastical thinking.

From the Salem witch trials to present-day conspiracy theories and post-truth politics, Andersen weaves a compelling narrative that reflects on the nation’s penchant for belief in the extraordinary. With wit and insight, he explores how this tendency has shaped American identity, politics, and society.

Andersen reads the audiobook version, and he is an excellent narrator.

The Tyranny of Merit: What's Become of the Common Good? by Michael J. Sandel

Tyranny of Merit book cover

“The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?” by Michael J. Sandel is an interesting exploration of the consequences of the prevailing meritocratic ideals that shape our contemporary societies. Building on his previous works, such as “Justice” and “What Money Can’t Buy,” Sandel takes a critical look at the belief that success is solely a result of individual merit. Sandel challenges the fairness of a system that often disproportionately rewards the privileged, contributing to widening social and economic disparities.

The book delves into philosophical reflections and real-world examples, providing a nuanced examination of the societal implications of meritocracy. Sandel invites readers to question the prevailing narrative surrounding success and individual achievement and prompts us to reconsider how we measure and reward merit.

As a fan of Sandel’s previous works, I found “The Tyranny of Merit” to be a welcome addition to his body of work. It continues his tradition of offering astute critiques of societal norms, inviting readers to reflect on the ethical dimensions of justice, fairness, and the common good.

This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of ethics, public policy, and the evolving landscape of contemporary society.

The Art of Self-Directed Learning by Blake Boles

The Art of Self-Directed Learning book cover

Blake Boles is an educator and author known for his work in the field of alternative education and self-directed learning.

I read The Art of Self-Directed Learning straight after another of his books, Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School?

Having a child entering the school system at such a fractious time as the current COVID-19 pandemic led us to explore other options. Books like these helped us decide to home-school for the foreseeable future. The choice to homeschool seems to mostly lie in religious, or antivax streams of thought. We are as far removed from both of these communities as possible. Finding and creating community with a secular and pro-vaccination mindset has not been as straightforward as we’d hoped!

In “The Art of Self-Directed Learning,” Boles explores the principles and practices of self-directed learning, providing guidance for individuals who want to take control of their own education and personal development.

This is a valuable resource for those interested in self-education, homeschooling, or alternative learning approaches. It promotes the idea that learning doesn’t have to be confined to traditional institutions and that individuals can take charge of their own education to achieve their personal and professional goals.

This is a book I now recommend all of my students to read.

Avatar for Sam HemphillNow a digital veteran, Sam Hemphill initially trained as a drummer and high school teacher and spent 10 years as a touring musician and tour manager. During that time, he...

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