Hari Patience-Davies shares her choices for an Autumn 2021 reading list. Three new books with something interesting to say about communications and storytelling.

Think Again by Adam Grant

Adam Grant is one of my favourite podcasters – I never miss an episode of WorkLife, his podcast with TED. His latest book, Think Again is intended to encourage us all to not stick blindly or stubbornly to our beliefs, but to consider if they should evolve or change. Grant is a very readable writer, sharing scientific data and anecdotes to back up all of this points, and the book is very engaging.

Those interested in how to get other people to rethink things should check out chapter 2 of the second section, Interpersonal Rethinking. Grant argues that the most successful debaters are those who acknowledge what they have in common with their opponents, and those who focus on having a small number of high quality arguments rather a high number of arguments, some of which are likely of lower quality. Also of interest is how people can latch on harder to opinions that they see as part of their identity (such as anti-vaxxer or political movements like Brexit) and how that can make them defensive even when presented with overwhelming evidence against their positions.

Definitely worth a read.

Storyland by Amy Jeffs

I’ve always loved myths and legends and Amy Jeffs’ Storyland hits several of my kinks in its retelling of British folk stories. For a start she brings a modern eye on gender politics to stories which so often include women only as chattel or victims. A second enjoyable aspect for me was that after she tells (or retells) the individual stories, she then delves into where the stories came from in terms of sources and references and how they fit into the larger creation myth of Britain as well as tales of Rome, Troy, and Gaul as well as the Norse myths.

I always think it’s fun to read how myths have changed – evolved and twisted – over the years, and Storyland includes intriguing snippets on how these stories might have been told before. If you’re interested in mythology this is one for you.

Chatter by Ethan Kross

I bought Chatter off of the back of a mention in Adam Grant’s WorkLife podcast, and read the whole book in a morning. It’s a very easy read that covers how to deal with the voice in your head. Kross is a great storyteller – for every study he mentions he provides anecdotal details about the participants or the results, details that bring the studies to life and make for engaging reading material.

While I bought this book looking for more information on the idea that using “you” as a pronoun when reassuring yourself before a big speech is better than using “I” there’s actually a lot of techniques in Chatter which could help reduce the impact of anxiety around public speaking (or anything else you feel anxious about). Kross discusses distancing techniques, placebos and ritual and how each one can impact our brains. I highly recommend this one, both as an example of marrying storytelling and science and as a font of useful advice to reduce the unhelpful brain chatter and catastrophizing that anxiety can prompt.

 

Photo by Harriet Patience-Davies

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