Books in April 2019


Open Up: The Power of Talking About Money
Alex Holder

Money is indeed a tricky topic. Talk about it, and you risk coming off crass, a show-off, or materialistic. But let’s not kid ourselves, money matters underpin many of the decisions we make day to day and as a result, affect our lives. 

Holder is all for talking money, and I must say she makes pretty convincing cases. She made the argument that more than our genes, we also inherited spending habits and financial behaviours from our parents. There may not be a scientific basis to that hypothesis, but I can definitely see some parallels between how my parents and I treat money. 

I also liked reading about the people she interviewed on their $$ woes and considerations. Holder mentioned that talking candidly about money with a friend who shared similar spending habits made her more receptive to money advice and suggestions (the if-he-can-do-it-it-must-be-doable effect), and I found myself again in total agreement. 

On salary transparency, I say hell yeah. The power of information goes a long way. And if that helps to bridge the salary gap between genders, which I believe it will, then hell double yeah. I’ve shared numbers with a couple of friends, and it is empowering. 

Ultimately, talking money may cause you a little social discomfort, but not having an honest conversation about it with yourself and whoever you share your life with is probably more detrimental to all other aspects of your well-being. 


Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age
Steven Johnson

In 2019, it’s likely that peer networks are no longer a new thing. But I think most of our (really, my) understanding of peer networks still revolve around media distribution and consumption. I wish I had read this book in 2012, the year it was published. Reading this made me feel that I spent the better half of the last decade not fully understanding and appreciating the mechanics, influence, and power of peer-driven networks beyond the p2p file-sharing industry (oops). 

In the hierarchical model (what Johnson calls the Legrand Star model), the control and power sits with a small and centralised group of people. The flow of information is linear, restrictive, and stifled by selfish agendas. In contrast, the peer network is driven by a productive web of interconnected networks, where decisions are made collaboratively across the entire network. The result is better, more inclusive outcomes for the community served by the peer network.  

The peer progressivism concept is explained less generally and more convincingly in anecdotes across the various areas of government, business, technology, and communities — the maple syrup incident, the role of incentives in cultivating a robust and diverse innovation culture, Porto Alegre’s participatory budgeting


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Gail Honeyman

I found out about this book Lisa Congdon who raved about this book on her Instastories, and got the e-book from the library and finished it that same day.

(A little sidetrack — I absolutely love that it is so easy to loan e-books from the library. Props to whoever made it possible at NLB. Overdrive is the default app for downloading loans, but I use Libby, which is also by Overdrive, and that app has a better syncing and reading experience. If I could send all my Kindle books to Libby, I would.)

This is the first fiction book that I read in what feels like a super long time, and definitely the first piece of fiction for the year. Sometimes I wonder about the person who used to read exclusively fiction.

I love fiction for the worlds it sends me to and for the worlds that it opens up for me. This one brought me to a little suburb in Glasgow, and let me in on the strange secrets of people (imagined ones, but I’m sure, inspired by real ones).