It’s been a busy last two months, so I haven’t been able to read as much as I’d like to. I only had a chance to read two books this month, but both were really good.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This was one of the most unique books I’ve read in a long time. The book is set in post WWII London and later Guernsey, one of the channel islands between England and France. It is historical fiction about what life was like on Guernsey during and after WWII. I had never heard about this aspect of WWII and it was really interesting to read about what life was like on the island. For example, I didn’t realize that Germany took over Guernsey fairly early in the war, expecting to only be there for a brief stopover before attacking the UK and that there was a small concentration camp on the island.
Aside from the history, the book is interesting because it is written all as letters between the characters. There are no chapters, making it easy to continue reading. At first, I thought I would have trouble keeping all of the characters straight because of the format, but I quickly started to enjoy the new format.
Another unique aspect of the book is the authors themselves. Shaffer had never written a book before this, but had stopped over on Guernsey and was stuck in the airport with nothing to eat except candy from the vending machine and nothing to read except travel books about the island. Fast forward 30 years and she started to write this book after being harassed by her book club. After completing the first draft, her health began to deteriorate and she realized she would not be able to do the necessary edits and rewrites. She drafted her niece, Annie Barrows, who is also a writer, to complete the book.
The overall plot isn’t incredibly complex and fairly formulaic, but the book is a winner because of the interesting historical context, great descriptive writing and unique format. I highly recommend reading it.
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard – Chip and Dan Heath. In their follow up from their must read book Made to Stick, the Heath brothers have done it again. Switch details a simple strategy to help create change in all different scenarios, from eating behavior, politics, business and health care.
They believe that the human mind is broken down into two parts, which they call “the rider” and the “elephant.” If you imagine that the rider is attempting to ride the elephant, The rider is the analytical part of our brain that likes to think things through, while the elephant is our emotions and motivation. They show that in order to create change, you need to get both the rider and the elephant moving in the same direction along a well defined path. They offer some inspiring stories to go along with some great strategies that help make campaigns work better.
They show examples of people with small amounts of power who created huge changes in behavior using simple, innovative strategies. They show how a tiny group highlighted the bright spots of villagers’ behavior in Vietnam to help end childhood malnutrition in the country and how providing a roadmap to child abusers can reduce abuse by 3x. I can’t really do this book justice with a short blog post, but if you are interested in change and how it works, read this book.