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These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore

  1. by Simon Harris
  2. May 11, 2023

Jill Lepore covers hundreds of years of history from ancient times, Columbus, British settlement, independence, the civil war, right through to the modern day, all backed by meticulous research.

I found the almost poetic story telling style challenging at first but once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down stop listening. The fact that it’s read by the Author makes it all the more enjoyable.

Lepore doesn’t shy away from addressing head on the racism, sexism, bigotry, and injustice that have been an integral part of the history of the United States of America since before its founding.

I can’t stop thinking about this one line:

Slavery seemed like a monster, that each time it was decapitated, grew another head.

As with Capitalism and Slavery, if you feel like having your eyes opened, go read the book.

Capitalism and Slavery, Third Edition by Eric Williams

  1. by Simon Harris
  2. Apr 2, 2022

Williams battled the establishment to get his book published, eventually financing it himself. To my layperson’s eyes, he puts forward an eye-opening and compelling narrative that capitalism as we know it has its roots in white supremacy, racism, and slavery.

I got the impression that Williams was writing for a majority white, largely racist, academic audience and, while he touches on other countries, he focuses primarily on Britain as the model for slavery across the globe.

One thing that continues to ring in my ears since I read (actually listened to) the book is something Williams calls “The Triangular Trade”: Britain took people from Africa and enslaved them in the West Indies to cultivate crops. Those crops were sent to Britain and powered the manufacturing industries of Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, Glasgow, etc. Manufactured goods were then shipped across the globe, including to the colonies in Africa.

In the end, slavery was abolished in Britain not due to idealism or humanitarianism, but through the resistance of Africans themselves and because, in the battle between the old Mercantile and new Industrialist classes, it was no longer profitable.

Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone

  1. by Simon Harris
  2. Dec 16, 2021

Jess and I read it at the same time on a road trip and we both took a lot from it. It’s full of examples that seemed like they were taken specifically from our marriage! At least half-a-dozen times we both laughed at how close the examples matched the exact arguments we’d had.

Giving feedback is hard and tailoring it to the individual can be challenging. When you get it right, it can pay off big time. Thankfully, the book has plenty of advice for how to improve the way we give advice.

Of course, not everyone will be great at delivering feedback, and even when they’re good at it, they’re not going to get it right every time. The likelihood that we will receive feedback exactly the way we want is low. Unsurprisingly, given the title, the book has plenty of advice for how we can equip ourselves to be better at receiving feedback.

I realised while reading this book that when I have resented feedback in the past, it was often because I felt obliged to do something concrete with it. Appreciating that ultimately it’s up to me to decide whether and how I respond to the feedback has made it much easier to welcome, receive, and process feedback.

I read the book with the intention to put the lessons into practice at work; it also improved the way Jess and I give and receive feedback as well.

No matter how hard to hear, there’s always something useful behind the feedback we receive. Be open to it. Receive it in good faith. And remember, you’re always in control of what you do with it.