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Five books I loved in 2018 – and the lessons they taught me

Looking for a good book to get stuck into over the festive break? Corrina Safeio, Director of Strategy & Insights, looks back on her top reads of 2018 and what they left her thinking about.

In the last couple of years much has been made of Bill Gates sharing the secrets behind his famous reading habits. I admire the ambition, but the reality is really something different. Sure, there are new ways to help you get through books at speed or while you multi-task, like Blinkest or Audible. But I like a slow paper-back read myself. It usually means I’ve managed to find a bit of quiet time in the day.

Bill Gates says, “When you take the time to ponder what you’re reading, to see if and how it truly applies to your life (or the lives of others), the value of that material increases significantly.” Less grandly, but to the same point, my Nana used to say, “Corrina, read books. They’ll help you understand the mess of the world, and your place in it.”

So here are five books I read this year and what I learnt from them.

1. Marathon Woman – Kathrine Switzer

50 years ago, women weren’t allowed to run marathons. It was seriously considered an abomination. Kathrine was the first woman to run the highly elite Boston Marathon, and images of the organiser trying to drag her off the course made front-page news. But what I really loved were the 200 pages that led to this moment. What she did was trained and trained – no fancy gear, no high-performance gels, no £200 trainers. And there’s this incredible lightness to the way she views it all. The joy was in the simplicity of putting one foot in front of the other.

2. Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This book is a stunning window into the world of a Nigerian girl who moves to America. It’s a story told through the theme of identity – and how identity comes from the people around us and the environment we are in. When the people and places change, our understanding of who we are can be seriously challenged.

3. Inside the Nudge Unit: How Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference – David Halpern

This is the tale of how the Nudge Unit came to be. But the real insight is how they used key expert voices, solid stakeholder lobbying and real world evidence to influence the adoption of behavioural science by the Government. And how they overcame the barriers they encountered from the ‘but we’ve always done it this way’ people.

4. This Is Going to Hurt – Adam Kay

I read this number one bestseller in 24 hours (literally a record breaker for any working mum of two, I reckon). At first I found Kay’s style a bit testing, but the more he lets you into the world of a junior doctor on the labour ward you find yourself unable to look away. I laughed, and I cried. Intimate and yet laid out bare. Clearly this visceral style is why it spent ten months in the top ten Times bestseller list. Everyone working in healthcare comms should read it. Being a junior doctor for the NHS deserves a medal.

5. How not to plan – Les Binet and Sarah Carter

Brilliant planner bible by two of the UK’s best comms strategists, basically pulling together the column they wrote for Adap for six years. At the heart of it is ‘know your client, know your audience, know your market, and measure it all so you know what works and know what doesn’t’. We get our insights, on which we build campaigns, which create outcomes. But I would say that, wouldn’t I?

What should I read next? Email me at corrina.safeio@thisispegasus.co.uk to let me know.

is Director of Strategy & Insights at Pegasus, leading a team of ten researchers, planners and strategists. She developed our proprietary CHANGE framework in collaboration with UCL's Centre of Behaviour Change and this year opened the Healthcare Insights stage at Cannes Lions.