Books can inspire, challenge and change our perspectives on life. Whether you read fiction to escape into a world of imagination or non-fiction to learn more about the world around you, both genres offer readers the chance to explore different perspectives and gain insight into the lives of others.
At GoodCourse, we love learning from others. In our series The Interview, we ask equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) leaders to recommend the most important book they have read (not to mention much, much more)!
We have rounded up some of our favourite picks. Check them out below👇
Recommended by Marilyn Holness OBE, Dean of Students at the University of Roehampton
This book is a 1996 memoir about growing up in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank McCourt’s book deals with the events of his childhood, and the complexity of making sense of the world.
It inspired Marilyn Holness to create a project called The Money Doctors, which helped students regain control of their finances.
“Angela’s Ashes is about poverty and challenging your circumstances; topics that resonate today.”
Recommended by Jonathan Powles, Vice-Principal of Learning and Students at the University of the West of Scotland
Published in 2014, this book is about how education is fundamentally about risk. It’s impossible to know what a person will do with what they’re taught, but students are not objects to be shaped. They are their own people, with their own actions.
Jonathan Powles believes Biesta argues powerfully that education is a human activity.
“Education involves transformation, and that’s slightly uncomfortable. It’s a counterpoint to the idea that education only equips students with skills to do jobs.”
Recommended by Osama Khan, Pro Vice-Chancellor Academic of University of Surrey
This book confronts the issue of structural racism in modern Britain. Published in 2017, it explores the slavery and brutality that Black people have historically suffered from and challenges White people to recognise their ignorance, reflect, and do much, much better.
Osama Khan believes the message must be shared.
“I bought 150 copies of this book and attached a personal note to each one. I’m giving them out to my colleagues here at Surrey.”
Recommended by Alison Levey, Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) at Aston University
The extended title of this book, published in 2017, reads: How Extraordinary People Became That Way. The book has three main lessons. Become aware of yourself and your purpose; raise the stakes and increase your productivity; give to others and show courage. It argues that this makes success inevitable.
Alison Levey can’t recommend it highly enough.
“This book has really helped focus me and reflect on how I do things.”
Recommended by Joanna MacDonnell PFHEA, Director of Education and Students at the University of Brighton
On her thirteenth birthday, Anne Frank was given a diary. In it, she documents the story of her family, who lived in Germany, and was forced to go into hiding during Hitler’s Nazi regime. Escaping to Amsterdam, the diary is an incredibly moving account of an awful situation.
Joanna MacDonnell read it when she was thirteen. Seeing the effect of racism and the holocaust through someone her age had a huge impact on her.
“She was so inspirational and perceptive; there’s so much to draw on from her writing. Her diary has shaped my thinking and understanding, ever since that age.”
Recommended by Banji Adewumi, Director of EDI at the University of Manchester
This book, first published in 2008, argues that most change management fails due to outdated and incorrect assumptions, like ‘Change must come from the top and filter down.’ By referencing behavioural sciences, this book shows that alternative methods of change are actually more inclusive and long-lasting.
Banji Adewumi refers to this book when dealing with the struggles that come with reshaping culture.
“This book is invaluable when dealing with the frustrations of being a change agent.”
Recommended by Jonathan Eaton, Director of Student Learning and Academic Registrar at Teesside University
This book was written by Stanley McChrystal, a retired US Army General. It was published in 2015. Drawing on learnings he took from his time in Iraq, the book argues that in times of crisis, leaders must find practical management solutions that can scale at speed.
Jonathan Eaton believes that this book is an essential read for anyone in a management position.
“I give this book to all of the managers in my department. It discusses the potential for a new managerial model to empower and create autonomy at the team level for the benefit of all.”
Recommended by Kirsty McAllister, Head of Student Success at Coventry University
The 1954 novel Lord of the Flies offers a brutal commentary on the nature of man through the eyes of young boys stranded on a desert island, who descend into savagery without civilization to guide them. The ending forces the reader to question whether or not our society is any better than the boys’ brutality.
Kirsty McAllister cites it as an important book everyone should pick up.
“I studied it in English Literature. It was the first time I truly thought about human nature and psychology.”
Recommended by Dr Joanne Bowser-Angermann, Director of Student Experience and Engagement at Anglia Ruskin University
The Watchmen is a comic that was originally published monthly by DC Comics in 1986-7 before being combined into a graphic novel. Set in an alternative 1980s world where superheroes exist, it confronts the facets of morality within the realm of life and death.
Dr Joanne Bowser-Angermann chose this book because of how it resonates with its readers.
“This graphic novel used to make the most impact with my GCSE English students.”
Recommended by Tracy McAuliffe, Director of Student Services at the University of West London
This 2006 guide to good management illustrates a programme for its readers who want to improve their performance and further their careers. It includes activities on mentorship, coaching, and self-care, helping its readers realise their full potential.
Tracy McAuliffe thinks it’s the perfect book to dip into.
“You can refer to it as you need to; I always feel the need to continuously evaluate myself and keep improving.”
So there you have it! Ten totally different books, all of which offer valuable life lessons. Whether you’re looking for a comic, novel, diary, or guide, this list has something for everyone.
To see what other interesting books have been recommended by Higher Education leaders in the UK, check out The Interview.