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  • Writer's pictureMary Elizabeth Wieder

M7 Book List 2021

Updated: Dec 27, 2021

My book choices are often a reflection of my goals for the year, and this year the idea is to challenge myself to be better, to rise to the next level.

In 2020, I got through 19 books (not bad for having two rugrats around) - a mix of current trends, women and gender parity issues and some classic Italian literature. Living in Italy, I try to alternate between English and Italian language books to continuously train the brain.

I'm always looking for suggestions for my next good read!

  1. Sono Contrario alle Emozioni by Diego De Silva -- LINK

Classic Italian modern literature from a Napoletano writer, it is filled with nostalgia for Italian pop culture. The Italian language is pure poetry, and no matter the author's attempts to be comical, the novel captures the daily struggle with emotions embedded in the Italian mentality, reinforced through their language.

2. Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler -- LINK

Although slightly outdated now, the book highlights some key elements of the social impact culture between business and building a better world through the DIY Innovator. Curiosity, fear, wealth and significance are the motivators of innovation.

3. Forza Ragazze, Al Lavoro! by Paola Corna Pellegrini -- LINK

This book (in Italian) tells the grim story of gender parity in Italy through the work of Valeria Solesin, the young Italian girl tragically killed in the attack on Bataclan in Paris in 2015, and the prize set up in her name for university students to continue her work on gender equality. I "met" Paola Pellegrini (virtually) through our contribution to the W20 agenda on gender equality for the G20 Summit and Inclusione Donna.

4. Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness by Thaler and Sunstein -- LINK

An interesting book (from 2007-2008) about using the process of choice architecture to gently nudge humans in a better direction. While mostly focused on the U.S. economic and healthcare system, it explains our rationale behind choices that have a great impact on our wellbeing, the wellbeing of our society and our planet. I think my favorite nudge is the "Civility Check" and the technology to block angry emails from being sent.

5. The Truths We Hold: An American Journey by Kamala Harris -- LINK

The story of Kamala Harris is a true American story: daughter of two immigrants who was able to have amazing opportunities and thrive. It was also a transparent look into the work of policy makers both at state and national level. However, I found some of the storytelling to be a bit dramatic when it came to dealing with the Republican party. It is also a further stereotype of Democrats being the moral compass for the country. It would have been interesting to see her struggles as a woman in a position of power and how she defines female leadership.

6. Resto Qui by Marco Balzano -- LINK

I found a great novel written about a beautiful place in northern Italy: Val Venosta in Trentino Alto Adige. It a story about the struggles people faced in the region during the pre-war facist period in Italy, during the second World War and post-war when the region was still neglected. These people fell under the Italian state, but didn't identify as Italian, but were neither Austrian or German. They escaped to the mountains to survive only to found their town destroyed by dam that has now created the famous tourist spot of Lago di Resia. The troubles of these times, and of these people, make our Covid troubles seem small and almost insignificant.

7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou -- LINK

I decided to read a classic by a cherised black American author, and wow I was I blown away. Not only did the book offer a history lesson in black history in the South in the 1930s vs California in the 1940s, but it was a eye-opening look at the differences between the youth of today and yesterday. In Angelou's autobiography, at 3 years old she crossed the country alone on a train, in her early teens she drove a car back from Mexico and lived for a month alone in a used car lot in Los Angeles. It's a book that makes me long for America, long for freedom and a sense of independence and the simply joy (and suffering) or pondering life's simple questions.

8. A Promised Land by Barack Obama -- LINK

This was a long read. A really long read. To be honest, I am not sure how I feel about this memoir of Obama's time as President. On one hand it was helpful to me as an American that lived the financial crisis of 2007-2008 to understand what was fully going on in terms of legislation and decision-making. On the other hand, I felt this was just another attempt in Democratic politics to prove that it's the party of higher moral ground. One thing I appreciated was his blunt honesty in interactions with other members of government, and as always, I truly appreciate his story of a humble background.

9. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah -- LINK

Fantastic book! I am a big fan of Trevor Noah as the host of The Daily Show and had no idea about his background growing up in South Africa. I couldn't put the book down. It was a mix of a history lesson on Apartheid, a cultural story about South Africa and a story about a complicated family - all told with a twist of comical genuius by Noah (I literally LOLed when he wrote about the cop shooting the computer monitor). It's history, culture, comedy and dramatic novel all wrapped into one.

10. Nomadland by Jessica Bruder -- LINK

This book manages to capture two things: fear and pity. The story of inequality and bad decisions in America, I think the main intention is to make the reader feel bad for these baby boomer should-be pensioners that either lost their life savings and investments or never had any and are now living in RVs roaming America from job to job. I started reading this book in the middle of a move myself after recently buying a house, so at times the idea of traveling around in a van seemed rather liberating. It will make you question the future.

11. 8 Secondi by Lisa Iotti -- LINK

This wasn't an eye-opening book. It talks about the dangers - physical, mental and emotional - of our smartphones and social media addiction. But most of these facts we've known for years. The only chapter I found interesting was the part on how our social media oversharing and smartphone dependency affects our memory and the ability to create long-term memories. The only other thing I learned was that the author likes to hop on planes to California for her "research" and discreetly brag about being an Italian in America. By Chapter 4 she had "hopped" on a plane to California 4 times already.

12. The Country of Others by Leila Slimani -- LINK

Just like every summer, I look for a novel to read during my holidays. This book was on a recommended reading list and I fell for the preview. The story of a French woman married to a Moroccan man in post-World War II living in Morocco, I have a particular interest in these two countries having lived in France and having visited Morocco. The most fascinating concept is living this experience of the "other" and always feeling like an outsider trying to understand how someone else lives and thinks.

13. You are a badass at making money: Master the mindset of wealth by Jen Sincero -- LINK

The title is cheesy, but the book is a bit of an eye-opener. The tone is funny and slightly self-promoting (because I mean she is a coach and pushing for you to hire a coach), but the concepts and ideas are not wrong. It got me excited again about my business ideas with some great, concrete ideas on how to get started today. I think the most interesting part of this book is how it defines our relationship with money and why we shouldn't feel bad that we want more of it! If we earn it, we can do great things with it!

14. Project Hail Mary by Andy Wier -- LINK

This was a fun and educational read; other than making you think about what might possibly lie beyond our solar system light years away, it drops subtle hints on why we need to start thinking about sustainability issues. From a refresher on math, science and history lessons, it also makes you realize why we study these things: knowing our periodic table, basic calculations and even the lessons that history teach us.

15. Gesù lava più bianco by Bruno Ballardini -- LINK

The title and the description of this book excited me, but then the content did not - well not for the whole book anyway. The concept is quite interesting: how the Catholic Church has been using marketing techniques for centuries to attract and maintain its following, and how in fact the Church is the inventor of marketing, but after the initial hypothesis the book drags on a bit, exagerating for examples. The author doesn't need 200 pages to hammer home the point. (However if allowed in the classroom, given the religious nature, I may extract some passages for my next university class).

16. Intimacies (A Novel) by Katie Kitamura -- LINK

A novel from Barack Obama's summer reading list, it is one that speaks to a particular ready: one that understands the complexities of a professional world in a foreign and cosmopolitan city and what it means to feel like an outsider in almost all aspects of life. The book doesn't necessarily look at emotional intimacies in a romantic way, but how we relate to people in all aspects of life and end up entangled in stories and lives of others. It was a quick and easy read for me (under a week was a record this year), but left me with some curious thoughts on intimate relationships.

17. Humans by Brandon Stanton -- LINK

I am already a fan of the Instagram page and blog, but I bought the book the day Amazon famously put it on sales for $8, and I thought it would make a good coffee table book. I read the book, every single story, in just a day and a half. And then I went back and read some again. It's amazing how one page can inspire you to reach higher, and then you turn the page and realize how grateful you should already be for the life you have. Looking forward to more stories...

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