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Matthew Syed Recommends His Top 5 Reads of 2019

Posted on 10th December 2019 by Mark Skinner

The bestselling author of Bounce and Black Box Thinking gave us one of the most thought-provoking reads of the year with Rebel Ideas, a cogently argued advocacy of the immense benefits of collaborative thinking. Matthew Syed's favourite books of the year are similarly illuminating and listed just below.

This year, I’m hoping that I’ll find Phillipa Perry’s The Book You Wish Your Parents had Read under the Christmas tree along with the late Alan Krueger’s Rockonomics: What the Music Industry Can Teach Us About Economics (and Our Future), which sounds fascinating. If you’re stuck for ideas of what books to buy for your friends and family (or yourself) this Christmas, here are some of my favourites from this year: 

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez

Perez’s book on how gender bias in statistics has led to death and exclusion for women has been one of the most talked about books this year, and has influenced my own work on cognitive diversity. It presents a stunning and shocking picture of how objective data can actually be highly male-biased. A mind-changing read! 

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Published at the outset of Women’s History Month, Caroline Criado Perez’s eye-opening book provides a startling perspective on the unseen bias at work in our everyday lives. Marshalling a wealth of data with precision and insight, the Times affirms, ‘Invisible Women is a game-changer; an uncompromising blitz of facts, sad, mad, bad and funny, making an unanswerable case and doing so brilliantly.'

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Superior: The Return of Race Science by Angela Saini

This deeply researched book on race science exposes the conscious and unconscious biases that have misled some in the scientific field. A righteous anger is peppered through Saini’s elegant writing bringing the reader face-to-face with uncomfortable truths. Exceptional science journalism.

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In Inferior, Angela Saini skewered the lies trotted out by misogynists as scientific fact and comprehensively debunked myths about perceived female inadequacy. Now, with Superior, the science journalist and broadcaster tackles similarly pernicious lies and untruths about race and eugenics.
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Home Truths by Liam Halligan

The UK’s housing crisis is one of the biggest issues facing our society today. In his vivid and lucid book, Liam Halligan gives a no-holds barred account of the UK’s housing shortage and how we can potentially fix it - I found this a fearless and forceful read. Politicians need to read this book now.

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With comment and insight from everyone from cabinet ministers to beleaguered home-seekers, Halligan’s trenchant account of the UK’s desperate housing crisis is a blistering polemic backed up by cold, hard economic fact. A thorough-going and exhaustively researched volume, Home Truths is required reading for all those priced off of the property ladder.
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The Gendered Brain by Gina Rippon

Stereotypes can both define and misrepresent us and no more so when it comes to the issue of gender. Gina Rippon’s The Gendered Brain is an accessible and timely account that debunks a whole host of sexist stereotypes. Due to her work as a neuroscientist, this is a rigorous and detailed account on the debates surround sex, gender and the brain. 

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There are few more pressing issues in today’s society than prescriptive gendering, and Gina Rippon’s consistently enlightening book digs deep into the sexist and misogynist myths that have prevailed for too long. Utilising cutting edge neuroscience to comprehensively deconstruct negative stereotypes and challenge outdated norms, The Gendered Brain is a vital contribution to a significant debate.
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The Third Pillar by Raghuram Rajan

This thought-provoking book is about three pillars– the economy, the state, and the third pillar which is society -  and how we can get the right balance between them so that society prospers. Rajan is a world-renowned and respected economist who argues that we need to revitalise the role of community in society in order to make the economy and government less fragile.

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A leading economist and former head of India’s Central Bank, Raghuram Rajan makes a convincing case, in this lively, accessible book, that successful communities are essential to a thriving global economy. Arguing against the prevailing trend towards the cult of the individual, Rajan posits that a more equal society is key to preventing radical political populism, terrorism and authoritarianism.
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