My Best Books & Video for Inspiration & Courage

By Dr Kate Little 

Gone are the days when we stayed in the same job for 20 years. So many of us now change jobs and even entire career a few times over the course of our professional lives.

Many of us combine several jobs in our working lives, known in some circles as a “slasher” career. Not to be confused with horror movies, this term describes the ‘slash’ in the job title of someone who is a X/Y/Z – or journalist/web editor/PR, for example” or the shedding of 9-5 working and one career for life.

Re-invention has become commonplace as we strive to find the balance between work and home life. So, here are some of the books, videos & TED talks that have inspired me in my re-invention journey and given me the courage to take a leap…



  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. This book is amazing. Brene Brown is amazing. Watch her TED talks to get a feel for what is in her. Daring Greatly is about throwing off our armour and showing up in the arena. She shows us how we can embrace our vulnerability and use it as a strength.
  • 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey. This bestseller is not light reading but is truly inspirational and forms the basis for so many self-development books. The “habits” are all common sense but the way he illustrates them is incredibly powerful. He emphasises the importance of discovering your authentic self and living your life as closely to this as possible.

    The 7 habits are:

    • Be proactive
    • Begin with the end in mind
    • Put first things first
    • Think win-win
    • Seek first to understand and then to be understood
    • Synergise
    • Sharpen the saw
  • Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.  Full of interesting observations about women in the workforce, this controversial book talks of careers as “jungle gyms” which allow “great views for many people, not just for those on the top” as compared to a career ladder where “most people are stuck staring at the butt of the person above”. Many traditional careers are typical of this as we wait for people to retire or move on to further progress our own careers.I like Sandberg’s analogy. I picture a more exciting creative path. One where you follow your interests and passions. One that is flexible, where you can swing or jump from one thing to another as the desire or need arises and, very importantly, where there is opportunity to take rest in the shade when needed.
  • The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. Not a book for when you are feeling low – it looks at how every decision you take however small matters and the importance of discipline and healthy habits. I listened to the audio CD very quickly. It is fairly repetitive but illustrates the core message above effectively.
  • What should I do with my life? Po Bronson. I have not read this yet but this has been highly recommended by so many people to me. It has been described as a “fascinating account of finding and following the people who have taken the ultimate challenge of self-discovery by uprooting their lives and starting all over again.”

Inspiring TED talks & You-tube clips

  • Steve Jobs address to Stanford – the 3 important things in life: connectivity (seen retrospectively), love and living each day as your last. Watching this was transformational to me. The concept that people could possibly be wanting to do their job if it was their last day bewildered me completely. I knew absolutely that I would not be doing my job if it was my last day, last month, last year or last few years. Clearly, I needed to make a change!

  • Brene Brown on shame and on vulnerability. This woman is absolutely amazing and so inspiring. A MUST for all who are questioning themselves or unhappy.


If you have any resources that you think that others would find useful please do add them into the comments section below or contact me here.

 Copyright © Horsley Hub ™ 2019

Best Books May: “Eleanor Oliphant is Doing Fine” by Gail Honeyman

by Jane Martin

This wonderful book was recently recommended to me by a friend.  The sort of friend, who, like me, likes a good story regardless of the theme, and if she makes a point of telling me about a book it’s almost certain that I’ll like it. I think I was hooked from the first page – it’s the kind of book that given the chance I would have tried to finish it in one sitting. Even if it means ignoring friends, family, mealtimes and bedtime.

As the title suggests, the story centres around Eleanor Oliphant and her wonderfully intriguing character.  She has had, and continues to have, challenges in life which she deals with in her own unique way. The story takes you through a period of time where unexpected events cause her to move out of her comfort zone and explore new relationships.  The soul of her character is so beautifully written I couldn’t help but root for her every step of the way, willing her along in her quest for love and friendship.  The highs and lows of her story made me laugh and cry and want for more.

It’s a read me anytime kind of book –  on the train to work, a chapter before sleep, a holiday read… Like my friend, I thoroughly recommend it, as do the Sunday Times Bestseller List and the Costa Coffee Book Awards 2017.

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Best books: Maggie O Farrell – This must be the Place.


Maggie O Farrell – This must be the Place. (Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2016).

This was our book club choice for January on the basis we had read an earlier novel by the same author called “The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox” which we had all found very thought provoking.

This Must be the Place touches upon many weighty themes such as infidelity, bereavement, infertility, guilt and alcoholism and of the love people have for each other; both as husband and wife and parent and child.

There are two main characters – Daniel, who comes across initially as someone who is very likeable but then we learn how his past has dramatically shaped him and how his issues with drugs and alcohol nearly cost him everything he holds dear to him, and his wife Claudette, who had a very famous past from which she ran away to live a new life as a recluse. The book focuses on Daniel and how his life is interweaved with the other characters but each one, specifically Claudette, bears a huge impact on the outcomes and decisions he makes in his life.

The story is told through a different character every chapter and some of our book club members didn’t like the fact the story jumped about from one year to another and from a different setting each time, although personally I found this maintained interest and made me wait for the final pieces of the puzzle to slot together to complete the picture. The way in which the book was written was just as complex as the relationships within it, but it could be argued this reflects real life.  In reality, love is extremely complicated and perhaps the author wrote in this way to mirror the relationships she was writing about.

The author has a wonderfully descriptive style and her words instantly evoke the Irish and American landscapes in this story of two people’s lives, the twists and turns it takes, the love they have for each other and for their children and how the previous decisions made in their earlier lives impact upon their present and future.

I really enjoyed this book and found it very easy and refreshing to read but the views of our book club were quite divided, especially over the ending, so I will leave you to make up your own mind…

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Best books to energise and empower


Technically, I’m not reading as I listen to all my reads these days via Audible whilst on my “post school drop-off, pre desk-day” walks in Horsley, mainly at Sheepleas. I highly recommend Audible, it has utterly revolutionised how much I manage to read.

Busy – How to Thrive in a World of Too Much by Tony Crabbe

A friend (probably sick of me quoting “I’m busy”) recommended this book and both hubby and I have since powered-through it. It’s written from a business psychologist’s perspective and is a brilliant (and often amusing) guide on how to reframe busy lives with discussion on mastery, focus, engagement & momentum. What I like is it’s not a time management book (I’ve read plenty of those) but it really got me thinking about where and how I actually spend my time and I’ve now (almost) removed the word ‘busy’ from my vocabulary.

What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey

This is a book that I revisit often and dip into for a quick “Oprah power session”. Based on her monthly O – The Oprah Magazine column which she’s written for 14 years, this book is choc-a-block full of life lessons from Oprah’s perspective. It covers joy, resilience, connection, gratitude, possibility, awe, clarity and power. They are fascinating short essays into the life of this incredible woman yet with very much a focus on making us, the reader, the best version of our selves.

Mastering Your Mean Girl by Melissa Ambrosini

Definitely one for the girls – I dare you to not feel energised and empowered listening to this warm, funny and gorgeous Aussie narrating her book.  Mr Chandler saw the title and thought it was about helping me to become mean and power-crazed (OK, so I do have days when perhaps that could be said) but no this book is about busting through limiting beliefs, your inner-critic and overcoming fear. It’s about mastering that voice in your head that says you can’t do this and going in pursuit of the life of your dreams whatever form that takes. And this doesn’t just talk the talk, it’s a practical, action-packed guide to get you doing, not just dreaming. I loved it!

The 5 Second Rule – Transform Your Life, Work & Confidence with Everyday Courage

by Mel Robbins

If nothing else, this book has stopped me hitting the snooze button for the first time in my almost 43 years. Yes, I adore my sleep, but this book put its case so compellingly that it sends me into action when that alarm goes off – seriously – read it if that’s you. Above and beyond that specific example, this is a book about showing us how to become more confident, break the habit of procrastination, stop worrying, share more ideas and frankly just “do it” using the 5-second countdown. It sounds simple but it’s a brilliant read enriched with science, facts and riveting stories from history, art and business.

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What I am reading now


I really take note when my friends and colleagues are making recommendations about books and films they have loved or been inspired by and why. The below would be my contribution to that discussion.

  1. Inspirational insights in breaking the glass ceiling

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Sherly Sandberg is now COO of Facebook having joined Google when it was an obscure start up. She talks openly of how she managed her life to be able to reach the top – covering support from her husband to debilitating morning sickness and the excitement of her generation at the opportunities available versus the reality of trying to ‘do it all’. She chats through lots of familiar dilemmas.

2. Essential reading if you’re Tri-curious

Run, Ride, Sink or Swim by Lucy Fry

Lucy Fry is a columnist for the Sunday Telegraph and has written this instructive, funny, inspiring book for the beginner triathlete. I used a number of her ideas in my (very amateur) tri training and race day preparations – and sections had me laughing out loud!

3. In-flight Reading

Black Wings has my Angel by Elliott Chaze

1953 noir crime novel featuring an escaped convict, plans to rob an armoured truck, a love/hate relationship and the perfect crime. Now published by NYRB classics – short and gripping – perfect for a flight.

4. A kitchen classic

Ottolenghi – The Cookbook

I was a little late to the party on Otto but was given this book for my birthday and it’s brilliant. Cooking is a joy for me – and my favourite recipe (so far) in this book is Kosheri (an Egyptian rice and lentil dish a bit like pilau rice but voted ‘even nicer’ by my family) – try it!  Page 100.

5. Bedtime wind down or a beach read

The Hive by Gill Hornby

There’s only space in the playground for one Queen bee!

Witty story based around playground politics and the social hierarchy of primary school volunteering. There’s characters you love, some you really don’t and some you ‘know’ from your playground years. No need to turn your brain on just relax and enjoy!


Please do contact us to share your “Best Book(s)” or current read. 

Where possible, Horsley library will stock books recommended on Horsley Hub. 

Stepping out of your comfort zone


A few months ago I joined a bookclub, something I had wanted to do for years but never quite got round to. Well late this year I finally managed it and although we have only had a couple of meetings, it has been fun and of course interesting, if a little strange, to widen my horizons and read something suggested by somebody else.

I have to admit, despite my head being keen to pass over the responsibility of choosing a new book to a book group, my heart struggled; allowing somebody else to choose such a personal thing as a book did not sit that easily with me. For me, reading has become as engrained in part of my nightly rituals as cleaning my teeth. The house is quiet, all the kids are asleep and a stillness falls. Finally it’s time for me. I love the escapism of reading, the getting so caught up in a plot that you cannot wait to find out what happens next, when characters are so well written that you genuinely care about what becomes of them and I believe the impact of a really good book can stay with you a lifetime.

So to let go of the opportunity to pick my own book and hand it over to someone else, however like-minded they are felt like a big thing for me. However, I need not of worried this time at least. “The Girl Who Wrote In Silk” by Kelli Estes was a great choice.

Set in Seattle, weaving back and forth from past to present day, it tells the story of two female characters linked by a tragic event in history. It starts in the present with Inara, who should be following in her fathers footsteps to start her business career, but upon inheriting her Great Aunt’s rundown estate on an island off the coast, she instead decides to embark on restoring it to its former glory. In doing so she finds an embroidered sleeve hidden under a stair tread and sets about discovering exactly what it is and who left it there.

From there we meet the undoubted heroine of the book, Mei Lein, who faces persecution as a young Chinese-American girl during a little-known era of American history when Chinese citizens were brutally forced out of the country they called home. Mei Lein somehow manages to survive this ordeal and falls in love with the man who rescued her, Joseph.

The story recounts their life together, the difficulties and isolation they faced from an inter-racial marriage, and the events that lead to Mei Lein using the art of embroidery to symbolize and teach her son about her heritage and her tragic past. In the present day Inara discovers that her family is more closely connected to the embroidered sleeve than she could of imagined and she battles with herself and her family in order to right the wrongs of the past.

This book is a real page-turner and beautifully written, in particular the story of Mei Lein and her family is what is really at the heart of this book. Some may argue that the present day plot is unnecessary and waters down the often heart-wrenching story of Mei Lein. She is a true survivor, dignified and mild mannered but with an inner strength and resolve that she holds just below the surface, something she needs to depend on frequently in her attempt to live peacefully amongst racial intolerance.

Other characters are well written too, Joseph, Mei Lein’s husband is depicted as a kind, gentle man who the reader immediately warms to for looking after Mei Lein and showing her love. The villain of the story, Duncan Campbell, is also a character the author develops well and ensures the reader instantly feels very uncomfortable with.

The contemporary characters and plot unfortunately lack the depth and interest of the 19th century ones and rely heavily on the historic narrative to propel the story along. There are a few too many coincidences and clichés to make it fully believable, but the two stories flow well and together they form a very poignant, emotional read. This is a captivating story, not at all taxing for the reader but has enough substance to hold interest and draw you in with a heroine that stays with you long after the last page.

It is very possible I would have never read this book if it were up to me alone, I tend to avoid dual storylines or anything too historic. But I have learnt that it can be good for the head and the heart to step outside the comfort zone and safe haven of familiar authors or genre’s, to take a chance on something you may not have chosen for yourself and find that you become utterly absorbed.

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Reading is a workout for the soul

It is officially British wintertime. The air is brittle and the frost ices the morning grass. We have turned our backs on the long, free days of summer and are looking down the tunnel towards Christmas, the relentless nights falling too soon, before we have had a chance to be done with each day. We have a choice to either mourn what is gone for another year, or embrace crisp winter walks and cosy log fires. And what better way to spend a chilly winter night than curled up inside with a great book?

Many of us find it difficult to find time to read, our lives jam-packed with work and family, with precious little space left for “me time”. What time there is, we feel ought to be spent on more important things – exercise, catching up with friends, quality time with loved ones. But sometimes, we are entitled to simply stop and read, escape to another world which is not our own and walk in the footsteps of another, whether real or imaginary. Reading is not only knowledge, but it can also give us perspective on our own lives and fire our inner creativity. Reading is a workout for the soul.

For me, reading is not just a hobby. Like food (kit kats) and drink (red wine), I cannot survive a day without devouring at least a few pages from my current novel. The two books that I have chosen for this article are seasonal favourites, selected for their beautiful evocation of both character and natural landscape, with plots that drive the story forward and keep us transfixed when we might otherwise opt to switch out the light and turn in for the night.

Although The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey and A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale share a commonality of geography and time (The Snow Child is set in 1920s Alaska and A Place Called Winter is set in Canada at the turn of the century), they could not, on the face of it, be more different.

The Snow Child is a story where the lines between reality, magic and fantasy are blurred. It is based on a Russian folk-tale which was first translated by Arthur Ransome, about a childless couple who make a snow child that comes to life.  In contrast, A Place Called Winter gives us an historic insight into the European trend towards Canadian emigration at the turn of the century, told through the story of Harry Cane, a fictional character (based on one of Gale’s ancestors) who flees England to escape the repercussions of his exposure as a homosexual. However, notwithstanding the contrast of plot, both books tell of the brutality of living in a harsh natural environment, in a time when life was about animal survival but people were still people and needed human love, as well as food and water, to stay alive.

Both are books that you can’t put down, imbued with sadness that is real and recognisable, notwithstanding how far outside our own lives they sit.  Ivey and Gale share a talent for depiction of both character and landscape; where Gale achieves both credibility and poignancy in his drawing of Cane and his enduring struggle for survival, Ivey is remarkable for her ability to turn a simple folk-tale into a complex and tragic story of love and isolation.

At a time of year when a chill darkness casts its long shadow over this part of our world, both of these novels will warm you up from the inside out.