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20 books for 2020, chosen by you

2020 recommendations - 710x333

We asked you to share your recommendations for the best books you read in 2019 to help your fellow alumni discover something new in 2020. Here’s a selection of the huge range of recommendations we received… 

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson
Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking

Politics; Philosophy; Science and nature

“I would recommend three fairly serious books that will inform how you think about how we got to where we are and where we are likely heading...”
Richard King

Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Sivers


“In 2019 the best book I read was Anything You Want. It’s a concise but impactful book for any new and experienced entrepreneurs. It was a book recommended by Tim Ferriss, who runs an insightful podcast The Tim Ferriss Show.” 
Von Chua

Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller


“When stuck in an airport with a day of cancelled flights, the silver lining was that I discovered a fantastic book in the airport book shop, Building a Story Brand. Though geared to marketers, it explains a simple concept for how to tell compelling stories by putting the audience member in the centre of the story. Recommended for anyone who ever needs to tell a compelling story to any audience (which is most everyone!)”
Michael McDermott

Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts


“History, politics and leadership. Lessons as relevant today as for previous generations, if we are to continue to nurture and enjoy hard won freedoms”
Steve Hayes 

East of Eden by John Steinbeck


“Of all the books I read in 2019, I thoroughly enjoyed only Steinbeck’s East of Eden. I had never read anything of Steinbeck’s before so, naturally, with exhilaration I thought the rest of his works would be equally as thrilling. It appears East of Eden was his magnum opus and nothing can quite reach its brilliance.”
Kamen Chanov

Economics: A Very Short Introduction by Partha Dasgupta


“By getting away from models and into surprising meta-features of economics whether rich or poor (e.g. trust, innovation, communities), the author gets across key messages as to why everyone should know and care about how economics works. He is well ahead of his time in relating these features to explain how sustainable and inclusive development makes as much sense economically as it does ethically.”
Tyrone Byrne

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen


“This book has really shaped the way I look at life and how success is measured. Each chapter starts with a case study – the kind that you get in business schools – and applies it to everyday life, from finding true career fulfilment to raising children. As we progress through our careers and grow older (yet something no more the wiser), we are presented with many dilemma and choices. This book provides a compass that can steer one in the right direction.”
Nathan Ramadhan

Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss


“A book that I have read and put into practice. Never Split the Difference contains personal experience of Chris Voss during his earlier years as a hostage negotiator at the FBI and later as an instructor at an MBA school. The book is easy to understand and follow, sometimes with humorous thoughts from Chris about various negotiating situations he has encountered. What I like about this book is that its guidelines are practical and easily applicable to any real-life situation, from negotiating your salary to buying a car. A must have for those who want to boost their negotiation skills!”
Mai Phan

No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg

Science and nature

“I was given Greta Thunberg’s No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by three of my granddaughters. I was at St John’s, Bramcote (Theology, 1972) as a “baby boomer”. Salutary to be taught lessons by one’s grandchildren.”
Simon Richards

Play It Again by Alan Rusbridger


“As a late learner of the piano, I was sent Play It Again from a colleague. Inspiring for anyone striving to play a musical instrument, with insights into neuroscience and how news stories are developed.”
Naomi Ward

Samurai William by Giles Milton


“Really interesting read on a fascinating historical figure set in the context of Japan during a period of massive upheaval and change.”
Alexander Forsyth

The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters


“If you or someone in your life gets grumpy and you'd like to do something about it then try this book. The book describes clearly and simply how we think and how our flight/fight/freeze instinct gets triggered not always at the most helpful moment. Once you can see what's going on in yourself and others when a conversation is heading to an argument then you can guide it back to being constructive or rational..”
Marcus Waite

The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart


“The Dice Man – a psychiatrist who loses interest in life gives up his free will in favour of a dice to make his decisions. This book brings a new perspective to life and the decisions we make. Do our decisions lead us to the life we want, or are we better off leaving it to chance?”
Benjamin Smith

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson


“A wonderful children’s book that would appeal to those studying Russian, based on a key personality in Russian folklore, Baba Yaga. It contains many references to Russian food and culture and covers themes of friendship, belonging and death in a sensitive and accessible way for older children or young teenagers.”
Sarah Lowry

The Last Wish by Andrezej Sapkowski


“The first collection of short stories in The Witcher universe. If you’re at all into fantasy then once you’ve read these you’ll be clamouring for the remaining books, the new Netflix series and the incredible The Witcher III: Wild Hunt game which catapulted the franchise into the western consciousness.”
Alexander Forsyth

The Sixty Minute Father by Rob Parsons


“If you are a dad who is really busy with work and would like some realistic ways to spend more time with your children before they get to the age where they aren’t that bothered about spending time with you, then this is the best book. Could also be a gift for a friend or colleague who is working too hard and missing out on some great family moments.”
Marcus Waite

The Spy and the Traitor by Ben McIntyre


“The story of Oleg Gordievsky, KGB man turned spy. If it were fiction, you would not believe it credible."
Graham Harris 

Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman


“A fantastic book which explores how civilisation has improved, explaining that life, on average, is better than it has ever been. However, there are many challenges the modern world is facing. This book provides realistic and sustainable solutions which are written in fascinating style. Ideas such as the 15 hour work week and universal basic income are skilfully explained.”
Ravi Gembali


Want more? Here's all the recommendations we received... 


Books and articles 

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Doug Knott

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid 
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay
Victoria Fry

Climate Change: A Very Short Introduction by Mark Maslin
Rosalind Kent

Water Scarcity and Ways to Reduce the Impact by various
Muhammad Raza Siddiqui

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer
Sophie Crowe

Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth

Good Economics for Hard Times by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo
Ruth Colvin

Wellness is Easier Than You Think by Susie Bailey
Susie Bailey

Milkman by Anna Burns
Lorenzo Milani 

The Firm by Duff McDonald
Lukas Port

Start With Why by Simon Sinek
Nick Nightingale 

The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
Pargat Singh

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
Mai Phan

Global Financial Development Report 2019-2020 by The World Bank
Aliyar Mammadyarov 

Black Diamonds by Catherine Bailey
Jason King 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Becoming by Michelle Obama 
Miramar by Naguib Mahfouz
Esraa Aly Abodoma 

The Cat Who Came in From the Cold by Deric Longden
Game of Thrones by George RR Martin
The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie
Jessica Fath

Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Meritocracy Trap by Daniel Markovits
The Value of Everything by Mariana Mazzucato 
Mere Civility: Disagreements and the Limits of Toleration by Teresa Bejan
Adewole Akanni 

Zero to One by Peter Thiel
Algorithms to Live By by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths
Husam Gibreel 

One Nation, Tracked by The New York Times
Andrew Coleman


Free Code Camp:
Lee Saunders

Centre for Alternative Technology:
Friends of the Earth:
Bank Track:
Extinction Rebellion:
Cambridge Zero:
David Straker


Planet Money by NPR
Maria Mogilnaya 

Reasons to be Cheerful by Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd
Corrie Sissons

Talking Politics by David Runciman
The Knowledge Project by Shane Parrish 
Real World Behavioural Science by Stuart King
Sedley Proctor 

Towards a Greater Life by Celyn Ng
Celyn Ng

My Dad Wrote a Porno by Jamie Morton, James Cooper and Alice Levine
Jessica Fath

The Great War Podcast
Alexander Forsyth 

Feel Better, Live More by Dr Rangan Chatterjee
Tanuj Shah

TED Radio Hour by NPR
Seif Ahmed 

TV, film and video 

The Handmaid’s Tale – Channel 4/Hulu
The Bold Type – Amazon Prime
You - Netflix
Victoria Fry

The Game Changers - Netflix
Nikko Paulo Liceralde
Matt Lawson 

School of Life – YouTube
Lorenzo Milani 

Periodic Table of Videos – YouTube
Gwilym Lewis
Sixty Symbols – YouTube
Fangda Mei 

Our Yorkshire Farm – Channel 5
Graham Harris 

The Crown – Netflix
Ann Wagstaff

Requiem for the American Dream – Netflix
Jonathan Jones

Marriage Story – Netflix 
Fleabag – Amazon Prime/BBC
Apoorva Bihani 

Marriage Story – Netflix
Wan Hong Kwan 

Fairy Tale – Netflix
Jessica Fath

Glitch – Netflix 
Knives Out
Alexander Forsyth 

The Dirty War in the NHS – BBC
Peter Wood 






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