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As the nights draw longer and the days get colder, it's the perfect time of year to curl up with a good book. We asked some of our alumni and University community to share what they've been reading... 

Sir John Sawers, former MI6 ChiefSir John Sawers 

Former MI6 Chief


"I hugely enjoyed Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now, which sets out all that is going right in the world. At a time when the West is fragmenting under the pressure of populist politics, especially in America and Britain, Pinker points to the many positives to hold on to, especially the improvement in the quality of people's lives across the developing world. 


"I'm always enjoying following some of the columnists in the big newspapers. Janan Ganesh and Gideon Rachman coming to terms with Trump's America in the Financial Times; David Brooks, a moderate Republican, thinking deeply about America in the New York Times; David Ignatius and Fareed Zakaria commenting on world events in the Washington Post; and liberals in The Guardian like Martin Kettle and Jonathan Freedland, asking difficult questions of both Conservative and Labour leaders in the UK. Prospect magazine is another of my favourites, getting beneath the surface of issues. The freedom and quality of the upmarket press has survived the assault on liberal values – at least so far – and they have made a successful transition to being great online outlets." 


Professor Sir Martyn Poliakoff, Research Professor of ChemistryProfessor Sir Martyn Poliakoff 

Research Professor of Chemistry at the University of Nottingham


"I'm a compulsive book-buyer and read most of the books that I buy! Recently I've brought and read The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson, an account of the theft of rare bird specimens from the Natural History Museum. I found it fascinating and Johnson unravelled the story rather like a whodunit. I also enjoyed First Light by Geoffrey Wellum, a very vivid account of training and flying spitfires in the Battle of Britain. I find it particularly striking that these pilots were barely older than my first-year students when they were fighting the Battle. 


"I'm reading Viking Britain by Thomas Williams as I write, having seen it recommended by The Sunday Times. It's an excellent history of the Vikings and really brings home quite how different their world was from ours. And, if you haven't read it, I recommend The Periodic Table by Primo Levi, a wonderful book and a great preparation for 2019 International Year of the Periodic Table. I was privileged to visit the lab where Levi was an undergraduate in Turin – we made a video of the visit on our YouTube Channel, Periodic Table of Videos." 



Willin Low, Restauranteur and ChefWillin Low 

Restauranteur and Chef


"There's been a wonderful trend of good Singapore writers getting published recently. The Sound of SCH: A Mental Breakdown, A Life Journey is a first-hand account written by Danielle Lim about her family's journey as her uncle struggled with a crippling mental and social disease.


"I also follow Sonny Liew (@sonny_liew), a Singapore-based artist and writer, on Instagram. Sonny is a comic artist based in Singapore. His best known work The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Che tells the story of Singapore's formative years and provides an alternative viewpoint to the Government. He won three Eisner Awards for his graphic novel in 2013. 


"Sonny is a breath of fresh air. There aren't very many artists in Singapore (much less a comic artist) and he is recognised internationally as being top of the game. He writes really well, providing alternative social political commentaries."




Zoe Trodd, Director of the Rights LabProfessor Zoe Trodd 

Director of the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham 


"Every first-year student at the University this year will receive a free book on modern slavery, as part of the Rights Lab's year-long programme to build a slavery-free campus. Students will be given a specially designed copy of the book Slave: The True Story of a Girl's Lost Childhood and her Fight for Survival by Mende Nazer and Damien Lewis. The autobiography tells the story of Mende's experiences in modern slavery in Sudan and the UK. 


"By reading this book, we hope to engage students and alumni in the University's important work to end global slavery. We believe that slavery finally teeters on the brink of extinction, and that we can help to push it over the edge."

The Rights Lab is hosting a number of events and lectures this academic year so our alumni community can get involved and learn more about the incredible work the team is doing. Visit for more information.