With the start of every new year comes new resolutions, and we don’t know about you, but we have a noteworthy list of aspirations for 2020. Along with vowing to read more books (hello seven-day book cover challenge!), high up on the agenda is to increase our social responsibility and personal development. Whether it be living a more sustainable existence, exercising more compassion for others or learning to prioritise our wellness, this year is all about having a positive influence on our world.
Thankfully, the 12th edition of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and its theme of ‘Tomorrow’ has the perfect book inspo to make things happen this year. Here are 12 books to make you feel more hopeful about 2020:
1. A Monk’s Guide to Happiness, Gelong Thubten
With students such as Benedict Cumberbatch and Ruby Wax, Gelong Thubten is the authority on meditation and mindfulness in the 21st century. His teachings offer practical and sustainable advice on how to bring meditation into our busy lives, whilst imparting words of wisdom awash with light-hearted humour. Obsessed with the notion of happiness, Buddhist monk, meditation teacher and author Gelong Thubten went on a journey of self-discovery and now helps thousands of people worldwide discover inner happiness and peace.
2. How to Argue With a Racist, Adam Rutherford
In these fragmented times, understanding and empathy are more important than ever. Dr Adam Rutherford is a scientist and broadcaster specialising in genetics and his poignant book How to Argue with a Racist is a 21st-century manifesto for understanding human evolution and variation related to race. It is also a timely weapon against the misuse of science to justify bigotry and casual racism.
3. Green Poems for a Blue Planet, Martin Kizsco
We bet you didn’t know that ‘green poetry’ is now a thing? Well, this book of 56 poems is the perfect balance of witty and thought-provoking, designed to make us start a conversation, spark an idea or spur us into action. Written by poet, composer and screenwriter Martin Kizsco and illustrated by Wallace & Gromit creator and four-time Academy Award winner Nick Park, these performance poems are ideal for both adults and children alike.
4. Bosh! How to Live Vegan, Henry Firth & Ian Theasby
Dubbed as the “Vegan Jamie Oliver”, the Bosh! boys are taking social media (and veganism) by storm. Not only are their vegan recipes simple and imaginative, but their contagious enthusiasm for plant-based living for the benefit of the planet also makes transferring to veganism that little bit easier. Even if you don’t want to go the whole hog (pun intended!), and no matter what side of the camp you are on, there’s no doubt that scientific evidence supports that incorporating more plant foods into our diet is a benefit to both our health and the planet.
5. The Boy at the Back of the Class, Onjali Q. Raúf
Told with humour and heart and bound to make you weep, this moving and timely debut novel tells an enlightening, empowering, and ultimately hopeful story about how compassion and a willingness to speak out can change the world. Winner of the 2019 UK Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, this heartwarming story, a must-read for both children and adults, tells the story about how one ordinary nine-year-old child and three classmates are full of empathy for Ahmet, a boy that comes to their school as a refugee from Syria (he is the boy at the back of the class).
6. Man up: Reimagining Modern Manhood, Carlos Andres Gomez
Challenging stereotypes about gender roles, award-winning poet and actor Carlos Andres Gomez brings the perception of manhood bang up-to-date in this coming-of-age memoir. Like many men in our society, Gómez grew up believing that he had to be ready to fight at all times, treat women as objects, and close off his emotional self. It wasn’t until he discovered acting that he began to see the true cost of squashing one’s emotions—and how aggression dominates everything that young males are taught.
7. A Woman of Firsts: The Woman who Built a Hospital and Changed the World, Edna Adan Ismail
Few women are as inspiring as midwife and FGM activist Edna Adan Ismail, dubbed ‘The Muslim Mother Theresa’ by the Huffington Post. Born in Somaliland to a doctor and his wife, she saw firsthand the effects of poor healthcare, lack of education and ancient superstitions had on the population. As a victim of FGM herself, she was determined to become a formidable force and voice for women, becoming the country’s first midwife and campaigner for women’s rights, eventually rising to become the First Lady and first female cabinet leader. Her remarkable story is a true testament of adversity against the odds and the power of purpose.
8. Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom
Topping the New York Times Non-Fiction Bestsellers of 2000 and adapted into an audiobook and 1999 film, American author and successful sports columnist Mitch Albom recounts each of the fourteen visits made to his former sociology professor Morrie Schwartz, as Schwartz gradually dies of ALS. The novel shares Schwartz's lectures and life experiences, interspersed with both flashbacks and allusions to contemporary events.
9. Thinking on my Feet, Kate Humble
If one of your new year’s resolutions is to be more active, then this book is the perfect encouragement to get you putting one foot in front of the other. Thinking on my Feet is a diary of Kate’s walking year, shining the light on the benefits of this simple activity. The brilliant narrative not only charts Kate’s runs and walks, but also her feelings and emotions throughout, as well as its outcomes. Whether it be a mood lifted, a problem solved, or an idea borne, walking has brought all kinds of therapeutic benefits to Kate and it can to you as well.
10. The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion
Bestselling author Graeme Simsion and his romantic comedy series The Rosie Project has sold more than 5 million books worldwide, and for good reason. It tells the story of socially awkward geneticist, Professor Don Tillman, and his search for a life partner. Although never articulated by the author, the book is widely believed to address themes of autism and Asperger’s, manifested in Don’s idiosyncrasies and awkwardness, as well as his interaction with Rosie.
11. Letters to a Young Muslim, Omar Saif Ghobash
Ever wondered what it means to be a Muslim in the twenty-first century? In a series of personal and insightful letters to his sons, author Omar Saif Ghobash tackles the dilemmas being faced by not only young Muslims but everyone navigating the complexities of today’s world. One of Time's Most Anticipated Books of 2017, and rightly so, Ghobash encourages readers to accept a modern, open-minded path that embraces diversity, not just with Islam but among all religions.
12. The Barefoot Surgeon, Dr Sanduk Ruit
Inspiring and uplifting, this extraordinary biography of eye surgeon Dr Sanduk Ruit, who gives sight and hope to the world's poor, is a must-read. The compelling narrative tells the story of a young doctor who became Fred Hollows' medical soulmate, taking on the world's establishment to give the life-changing gift of sight to hundreds and thousands of the world's poorest and most isolated people.
The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature takes place at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City from 4th-9th February 2020 and tickets are available online.