Hannah Fry Recommends Her Top 5 Reads of 2018
Offering a dynamic, engaging and readable guide to the age of the algorithm, Hello World has been one of 2018’s most enlightening reads, earning shortlist nominations for both the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize and the Baillie Gifford Prize. Here its author, mathematician and popular presenter Dr Hannah Fry, selects the books that have caught her eye this year, exclusively for Waterstones.
All That Remains by Professor Sue Black
I absolutely loved this book. Sue Black is one of the world’s top forensic anthropologists (the people who step in and identify dead bodies after an incident) and this is her remarkable memoir. She talks plainly about her work in the aftermath of Tsunamis, fires, massacres and genocide, but there’s nothing voyeuristic about the book. It’s an elegant, poignant love letter to death: what it means to all of us, and how we can best honour the dignity of those who have passed. It changed my mind on a lot of things - and you can’t give a book much higher praise than that.
The world is a bit depressing at the moment & I know you might not want to remind yourself of that during the festive season. But I thought I’d include Fire and Fury on my list because it made a big difference to me when I read it earlier this year. I’d been getting very worked up about the whole Trump thing: following every news story, checking twitter several times a day to stay on top of the updates. And somehow, this book managed to cure me of my obsession. I don’t think it’s the best book I’ve ever read, but there is one thing that comes through loud and clearly from the story within it - Trump’s Whitehouse is so absurd, so totally beyond reason or logic, that there’s really very little point in getting worked up about it. We’d do better to keep our head down, ignore as much of what he says as we possibly can and hope the world is still standing by the time this period passes.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
I’m aware I haven’t exactly chosen a happy clappy series of jolly ol’ feel-good books for my list, but I’ve tried to pick the books that had the biggest impact on me this year, and this is one that definitely did that. It tells the story of Lale Sokolov, who - as the title suggests - served as the tattooist from the most infamous concentration camp during the Third Reich. Although it’s written as fiction, the story is pieced together from extensive interviews with Lale, conducted over three years by the author, Heather Morris. The writing is breathtakingly beautiful and the charm and character of the protagonist shines through, despite the heart-wrenching situation he finds himself in. It’s a story that stays with you long after the last page is turned.
This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay
It’s so nice when something lives up to the hype. If you haven’t yet heard of Adam Kay’s account of what it’s like to work for the NHS, then I’m not sure what you’ve been doing for the last year and a bit, because practically everyone I know won’t stop banging on about it. I finally caved this summer, and - even given the build-up - I wasn’t left disappointed. I practically breathed it in I read it so quickly. It’s a master class in how to communicate a difficult message. Adam draws you in with wit and charm and humour until you’re sitting right in the palm of his hand. And at that moment, he hits you with the real message of the book. Very powerful stuff.
Anyone who has ever listened to my BBC Radio Four show will know that I’m cheating by picking this book as one of my top five. Adam Rutherford is my longstanding co-host and one of the cleverest people I know. It took him about a third of the time to write his new book as it took me to slave over mine – which makes me slightly hate him – because it’s totally bloody brilliant. It’s a fascinating look at what makes us human and whether we really as superior to other creatures as we imagine ourselves to be. So yes. Slight favouritism going on here, but also wholeheartedly worthy of a place in my top five.
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