Last year was a year of many “Firsts” for me. It meant saying yes to things that seemed scarey, getting out of my comfort zone because only then could I grow and taking small leaps of “Faith”. Despite it all, one thing remained constant – my love for books. The changes in my life meant it was a little trickier to make as much time as I would have wanted to reading but, nonetheless, where there is a will, there certainly is a way.
My goal for the year 2022 was to up my reading to 30 books. I saw this as a reasonable number given the fact that I had completed 28 books in 2021. This was above my then goal of 24. I must admit that I fell short of my goal for the year by finishing just 26 books. That meant that I averaged just over 2 books per month as opposed to 2.5 books per month. I’m I disappointed – absolutely not! What I seek when I pick a book is some type of growth or learning and that I definitely got from the few books that I did manage to complete. Will I push for 30 this year – absolutely yes!
One thing that changed this year is that I finally gave in to my husband’s nudge to use his “Kobo” which had been just lying around the house unused. So in addition to reading physical books or listening to audio books during runs/walks, I gave ebooks a go and boy was it convinient!
As with the previous year, I looked to broaden my horizon by reading different kinds of books. I explored the topics of leadership and coaching as I was new to people management, read books on Intelligence Analysis as this is a subject I deal with in my role and finally added a couple with humour. I also wanted to explore authors that I do not normally gravitate towards and sought books that would expand my knowledge of other parts of the world so as to better understand the different cultures. With that said, here is a breakdown of the 26 books I read last year and my personal ratings for each of them.
1. The Suitcase by Sergei Davlatov [eBook]
Sergei Davlatov, a Russian dissident writer, emigrated to the US from USSR with a single suitcase of things he treasured. In his book, he shares memories of the 8 items that he packed in the suitcase and provides the reader with a background of how he came to own the items. The book is full of really good humour, I had a good laugh when reading it. Highly recommend this if you are looking for something light that is guaranteed to cheer you up. Rated 5/5.
2. Diversity Is Not Enough: A Roadmap to Recruit, Develop and Promote Black Leaders in America by Keith Wyche [Physical Book]
A mentor and friend of mine pointed me to this book when it was released the previous year and I thought, why not give it a read. The author provides his view of why Diversity, Inclusion and Equity is broken for black people and best practices and actionable steps to address this in the corporate world. Keith provides actions to improve recruitment, development and promotion of blacks within the corporate space. Despite the fact that the book is scoped to an American audience, I believe it is important to look at DE&I globally as similar challenges are experienced no matter the country. I encourage leaders and specifically senior leaders to review the suggested action items if they are serious about the DE&I programs they run. Rated 4/5.
3. Pushkin Hills by Sergei Davlatov [eBook]
After completing the Suitcase, I was curious to read more of Davlatov’s works so picked this one up. It follows the life of a drunk man – Boris, who takes up a job as a tour guide of Pushkin Hills. It’s a book filled with failures to the point of apathy and dark humour which I found rather entertaining but depressing at the same time. This Rated 5/5.
4. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman [Audio Book]
I picked this book up based on the raving reviews on Goodreads as I was looking for a light read that would not disappoint me. The main character, Eleanor, lives a lonely life up until she strikes a friendship with a colleague. In her book, Gail explores the themes of mental health, loneliness but most of all friendship and bouncing back. I found this English novel really compelling to read and warrants a hearty recommendation. Rated 5/5.
5. The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table by Linda Harts [Physical Book]
I came to learn about this from one of the groups I am a member of and found the title captivating enough to warrant a read. The book would not have been timelier, having moved to a leadership position in the beginning of the year it was important that I understand what I am getting into and what would work against me because of my background. I was interested in the insights that Linda had based on her experiences as a person of colour in the corporate world. There are some valuable learnings that would be great for especially a black person starting out in the corporate world. She also does give examples of how to action some of her advise which is good for those who are completely clueless. Rated 3/5.
6. The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan: How to Take Charge, Build Your Team, and Get Immediate Results by George B. Bradt, Jayme Check, Jorge Pedraza [Physical Book]
Early in the year when I learnt about my managerial role, I felt completely unprepared. I also felt that I had to prove my worth – perhaps more for myself than for others, but still! For that reason, I looked for books that would guide me through the first few months as I knew setting a good foundation would dictate not only how I am perceived but also whether or not I do succeed. I found this book really helpful as my first resource into what I needed to do and when. It’s filled with actionable items that I had not really thought about and provides templates to help get one on their feet. Rated 4/5.
7. Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr [Audio Book]
I was so optimistic when I picked this one up because “All the light we cannot see” is one of my all time favourite books but alas! I wish I could tell you what exactly this book is about but I cannot. I did’t get it then and I still don’ get it now. I found myself thrown in different stories with different characters and sometimes in different timelines and I didn’t understand how they were all interconnected. I don’t even know how many stories I was in to be completely honest. I’m sure I definitely missed something seeing that the book is so highly rated. This one was definitely not for me but I hope you will enjoy it. Rated 1/5.
8. Psychology of Intelligence Analysis by Richards J. Heuer Jr. [Physical Book]
Richard addresses ways of improving intelligence analysis by providing an analysis of how humans think and how perception, bias and memory impacts our thinking. He also looks at how we can improve analytical judgement using structured analytical techniques. Short and sweet. Worth a read especially for those interested in Threat Intelligence or Intelligence Analysis in general. Rated 5/5.
9. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid [Audio Book]
A Hollywood star insists on having an unknown reporter write her autobiography. In the process, we find out that they are connected in an unexpected way. This book had so much hype and with good reason. It ended up being one of my best reads of the year. Rated 5/5.
10. The Likeability Trap: How to Break Free and Succeed As You Are by Alicia Menendez [eBook]
I came to learn about this book as part of a book club at work as it was chosen as the reading for International Women’s Day celebration. The book outlines the hurdles that women in leadership face at work or as they try to go up the ladder but in my opinion, it was something I already knew about. I was hoping for more solid “how to” actions but found that missing in the book. Rated 3/5.
11. Practical Doomsday: A Sensible Field Guide to Surviving Disasters by Michal Zalewski [Physical Book]
This one is an atypical book for me to grab but since the Infosec community was a little hyped on it, I decided to give it a go. An overall optimistic and practical guide that encompasses what you need to consider when preparing for the unexpected. A timely read given the current political atmosphere with the ongoing Russia/Ukraine conflict. Rated 3/5.
12. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng [Audio Book]
A rather intriguing summer read around family drama covering complex topics of abortion and adoption. We have the privileged Richardson family whose lives seem perfect and Mia’s family on the other end. When the two families mingle, chaos ensues, lives become complicated and are changed forever. A captivating read that is certain to get you hooked from chapter 1. Rated 4/5.
13. We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan [Audio Book]
This book explores the theme of racism and violence by black Ugandas towards the Asian Ugandas just after British colonial rule. A lot of Asian Ugandans had to flee the country during Idi Amin Dada’s reign despite having lived much of their lives or even being born in Uganda. Hafsa follows the family of Sameer who ended up in the UK where they manage to build comfortable lives for themselves. Despite his amazing career, Sameer decides to travel back to Uganda years later and embarks on a journey of self discovery. Rated 4/5.
14. The Havoc of Choice by Wanjiru Koinange [eBook]
Since I had not been in Kenya for a long time, I wanted to try out emerging or current writers from my country of origin. This book was highly rated so it was a natural pick for me. I enjoyed reading it but the ending had too many coincidences that I found rather far fetched to be realistic. The writer also threw in so many themes at once that got me thinking – what’s that for now? Overall, I found the book intriguing, familiar and relatable. Despite the shortcomings and since this was her first book, Wanjiru did a good job. Rated 3.5/5.
15. Intelligence-Driven Incident Response: Outwitting the Adversary by Scott J. Roberts, Rebekah Brown, Kyle R. Maxwell [Physical Book]
I picked this one up as part of the recommended reading for CTI Analysts by Katie Nickles. This technical book provides guidance on how to integrate Intelligence and Incident response. It focuses on the F3EAD model ( Find, Fix, Finish, Exploit, Analyse, Disseminate) which combines both IR (the first 3 steps) and CTI (the last 3 steps). Despite the fact that it is rather dated, the material is still relevant today. Definitely worth a read for Intelligence analysts or those new to the game. Rated 5/5.
16. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi [Audio Book]
A stunning family story that traverses several generations of two sisters born in Ghana but whose lives take different paths. One sister is married to a British slave trader while the other is sold off as a slave and lands in America. Despite the fact that the book is full of tragedy, there is also hope to live on. It’s a fantastic historical fiction piece that’s a page turner. Rated 5/5.
17. No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by Reed Hastings, Erin Meyer [Physical Book]
During a recent podcast interview, the host recommended reading this book after sharing that I really loved Erin’s book, The Culture Map. I followed her recommendation and decided to pick this up. Reed Hastings and others are interviewed on the unique culture that Netflix has, which apparently is a culture of no rules. He and others share the reasoning behind the changes that were made and what repercussions they had. It’s a really good read for leaders interested in creating high performance cultures that breeds innovation. Rated 5/5.
18. Building a Second Brain: A Proven Method to Organize Your Digital Life and Unlock Your Creative Potential by Tiago Forte [Physical Book]
I came across Tiago during a Google Talk on YouTube and was fascinated by the idea of getting rid of unnecessary burden to your brain so that one can focus on the vitals. As a person who takes a lot of notes out of habit, I was interested in trying out the PARA organisation method that Tiago came up with. That was why I picked the book up to find more insight about how he organises all his notes in such a way that it helps in his creativity. After reading the book however, I did not find much new practical content than what was already shared in some of his YouTube sessions. Rated 3/5.
19. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee [eBook]
One of the goals I had this year was to explore different cultures when it came to book reading. For that reason, I searched for a good book that would enlighten me on the Asian cultural aspect and found this book that is setup in Korea. I came to learn what life really was like for Koreans in Japan back in the 1900s and how they were treated as less than. It’s a really moving yet complex book on survival, love and sacrifice. Rated 5/5.
20. Normal People by Sally Rooney [eBook]
I picked this one up during summer vacation as I was looking for something light. The book follows the complex love life of two teenagers from different classes who grow up together and go to same schools. Unfortunately, this romantic novel did not really work for me. The beginning was interesting but then the rest of it felt like a drag. Rated 3/5.
21. Coaching for Performance: The Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership by John Whitmore [Physical Book]
As a new leader, one of the skills that I invested on this year was learning how to drive excellence in others through coaching. I took part in the Blue Core Coaching program in my company and as part of that, this was one of the required reading. In John’s book we learn how we can leverage the GROW (Goals, Reality, Options, Will) model in creating high performance teams. Rated 5/5.
22. The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey [Audio Book]
Having read the girl with all the gifts and loved it, I wanted to know what book two of this science fiction sequel had in store for me. In Carey’s book, we follow a group of soldiers and scientists travelling with Stephen, a smart not-your-ordinary boy in search of a cure for some plague. Rated 4/5.
23. The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael D. Watkins [Physical Book]
I took part in a 6 month Leadership program designed by the Minorities in Cybersecurity (MiC) and as part of the program, I received this book. Seeing as I had just transitioned to a leadership role early in the year, I found the lessons in this book invaluable in setting oneself up for success. The book provides guidelines of what a new leader needs to do in the fist 90 days of office and in what order. Rated 4/5.
24. Executive Presence: What Nobody Ever Tells You about Getting Ahead by Sylvia Ann Hewlett [Physical Book]
Yet another book that was sent to me as part of the MiC Leadership Education and Advancement Communicator’s program on leadership. In her book, Sylvia examines the qualities that great leaders have and their importance if one wants to advance and be successful. Rated 4/5.
25. If It Bleeds by Stephen King [Audio Book]
This is unfortunately one of my least favourite books by Stephen King so far. The four individual stories were captivating but I totally missed the connection between then and why they all fell under the If it bleeds umbrella. Rated 3/5.
26. Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali [eBook]
Ayaan, a Somali born, Dutch writer and ex-politician shares her journey as a refugee turned Dutch citizen in this book. We get to know of her humble beginnings in Somalia, her running away from the then Somali regime and finally getting refugee then citizenship status in the Netherlands. The book also goes into details on how she ended up being a prominent Islam critic and her connection to Theo Van Gogh. Rated 5/5.