02 March, 2022
The equality4success library is a resource the Babraham Institute provides to promote awareness of issues relating to equality and diversity and we’re expanding it all the time: after the surge of support for the Black Lives Matter movement last summer we acquired books on antiracist activism and Black experiences, for Pride Month we added books about LGBTQ+ culture and history, and we’re always looking for books with new advice on being an ally and creating inclusive working environments. Staff and students from the Babraham Institute are back with reviews of books from our library sharing what they’ve learned and how their thinking has changed.
What books have you read recently and which ones do you recommend? Tweet us @equal4success to join the conversation.
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi, review by Brendan Terry
How to be an Antiracist explains what “being racist” means in clearest way that I have ever seen. While not an idea unique to this book, my most important takeaway from How to be An Antiracist is that following a racist policy or social norm is a racist act in itself because it perpetuates that racism. From this understanding of racism, the book then explains how to respond to racist actions and policies through a series of examples from the author’s own life. In some examples, the author experienced racism; in others, he was racist himself. This really hammers home the point that “racist” often better describes actions than people, and that through effort we can learn to act in antiracist ways in more situations. I was so impressed by the book that I got the accompanying workbook (which I also highly recommend) to work through ways that I can combat racism in my personal life.
The Culture Map by Erin Meyer, review by Jia Le Lee
An easy-to-read book that provides very practical tips on how to navigate cultural complexities and improve workplace relations, in the context of today’s highly globalised world. I particularly enjoyed the numerous anecdotes, which were amusing but brought home important messages e.g. how Chinese businessmen tend to be rude and uncooperative and only softens up when you network with them over drinks or how the French or Italians tend to engage in heated discussions that appear like arguments, when really they are just being expressive and believe that an open debate is important in stimulating creativity.
Furthermore, the scientist in me appreciated the use of scales for characteristics that are intrinsically qualitative (e.g. propensity to provide negative feedback directly or indirectly) to show the relative positions of different countries. These have helped me be more conscious of the cultural contexts and backgrounds of my co-workers from different countries, and to stay open-minded and be understanding when faced with cultural disparities. I am reminded that ultimately clear communication and building relationships founded on trust are key to working effectively with a culturally diverse group.
Failure: Why Science is So Successful by Stuart Firestein, review by Ntombizodwa Makuyana
This book caught my eye and disabused some of my deeply entrenched wrong ideologies – failure only means you have failed, nothing else.
However, the author clarifies that science is all about failure and learning about it. He points to evolution as a perfect example of how failure forwarded us to this present (p.20). The random mistakes in genes allowed some species to survive and better compete in the ecosystem. Even the discovery of G-proteins was a mistake but turned out to be advantageous (p.31). (For those that want to dig into a copy).
The author portrays failure as something to be embraced, a humbling experience that gives us new data for a different direction. He quotes, “Failure is the favor to the future.” Rita Dove (Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress 1993-1995).
02 March 2022
By Elizabeth Wynn