Following my annual tradition, this is a round up of some of the best books I read in 2023. For previous roundups, see 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022). For a full list of books I read in 2024, scroll to the bottom of this post.

Grid of nine book covers. From top left, The World We Make, by N.K. Jemisin, written in white capital letters on a grey photo background of an apartment building with the stairs going diagonally up the book cover; The Braid, by Laetitia Colombani, written in white letters on a light blue background with orange leaves decorating each corner and an orange flower in the middle along the lower edge; Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki written in a light white font on a dark blue background of space with a red spaceship or rocket launching above the title font, leaving a light blue trail in its wake; City of Stolen Magic by Nazneen Ahmed Pathak, a dark purple cover with islamic art inspired design, a young girl wearing a headscarf holding her arm up in the air as the main design and islamic-inspired mosques and buildings to the left and right of her; Jawbone by Monica Ojeda, written in spiky chalk-like writing with two mismatching half faces of girls; The Bruising of Qilwa, by Naseem Jamnia, written in cream coloured font with red curls on the top right corner and a hand above the title; Mother Brain, by Chelsea Conaboy, on a dark blue background with a silhouette of a human head from the side; Abolish the Family by Sophie Lewis, on a dark red cover; We, The Heartbroken, by Gargi Bhattacharyya, on a dark blue cover with a minimalist five yellow curved ferns or plants.

This was the year I finally got into audiobooks. This was in large part due to spending the majority of my year with a breastfeeding baby (estimated at 1800 hours of feeding per year – just 160 hours less than working a full time 40 hour week for the year!) – combined with renewed use of the Berlin library system. 10 euros a year, and so many audiobooks and ebooks to borrow, in English and German alike. Here’s a great walkthrough/intro for English speakers.

Even with the audiobooks though, I read fewer books than in previous years, but this is also probably because I wrote a book myself, Machine Readable Me: The Hidden Ways Tech Shapes Our Identities. (Which I feel somewhat obliged to say is available for purchase now – in all good bookshops in the UK, or at your local English language bookshop if you’re in the EU, or as a DRM-free ebook here). Writing it was such a joy, and meant that I revisited many books that I’ve read in previous years during the writing process. I was able to draw on books and passages from many past years too, thanks to a little custom-built citation app I “received” for my birthday a few years ago which let me take photos of relevant passages and tag them according to theme. (#nerdgifts, haha)

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Following my annual tradition, this is a quick round up of some of the best books I read in 2021. For previous roundups, see 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021) For a full list of books I read in 2022, scroll to the bottom of this post.

Grid of nine book covers. From top left, the Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett, written in white capital letters on an abstract background of two women's faces combined and merging. The Gods of Tango, by Carolina de Robertis, a deep red cover with the silhouette of two people dancing together, the man's back visible and the woman's face. Afterlives, by Abdulrazak Gurnah, the title in bold yellow capital letters on a light blue background, with a single image of a Black soldier in colonial attire. When Women Kill: Four Crimes Retold, by Alia Trabucco Zerán with Sophie Hughes (Translator), a white cover with cut out images of four women's eyes scattered across the cover. You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi, a bright red cover with a photograph showing part of a black woman's face with a tree behind her and a red flower, the title text written in white handwriting style font across the cover. Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes through Indigenous Science by Dr. Jessica Hernandez, text written in yellow on a red background with green leaves behind the text. Essential Labor: Mothering as Social Change, by Angela Garbes, labor written in large black capitals with an abstract image of a woman holding a baby behind the text. The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste, with a dark blue silhouette of a person's head layered on top of a colourful landscape behind, text written in uneven handwriting in white. We Do This 'til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice, by Mariame Kaba, text in white on a dark blue background with an abstract drawing of a light with a path leading towards it.

I can’t quite believe it’s this time of year again – the annual book blog post! Books - choosing them, thinking about what to read, and actually reading – took up a tiny portion of my brain this year. I’m astonished to find that I read more than 10 books, in all honesty. I didn’t track them, didn’t think about what I was reading, barely added books to my to-read list, and went to a bookshop more rarely than I have before.

Now that I’ve retroactively added the books I read to Storygraph (I’ve been totally off Goodreads for a copule of years now, and am still on the look out for people I know to follow on there - let me know!) - the only guiding principle seems to have been the Literature Festival in Berlin. I read 6 books by Bernardine Evaristo, who I had the absolute pleasure of chatting with (short write up in the Exberliner here), and two by Maaza Mengiste, who I also interviewed there. Interviewing authors whose books I read remains truly one of my all-time favourite things to do, and I’d love in the future to figure out how to do this more often.

In total, I read 37 books this year, according to Storygraph. Amazingly given I paid no attention to what I was reading and didn’t track it at the time, 28% were nonfiction and 72% fiction, which is one percentage point different to 2021! 32 were by women or non-binary authors; 35 of the 36 were by authors of colour, by my own guessing (all identity mistakes my own!); just 3 were translations.

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At a panel I was on at Theorizing the Web in 2017, one of the panellists said: “We don’t have time to wait for social media tools that don’t have blood on them.” (note: I’m trying to find a name for who said this!)

I’ve been thinking about that comment a lot this week, while trying to get to grips with Mastodon, seeing many people leave Twitter and head for other platforms in light of Musk’s takeover and subsequent changes. Sunny Singh wrote this fantastic piece about the ‘digital white flight’ which seems to be happening from Twitter to Mastodon right now, outlining clearly:

Marginalised people inhabit Twitter despite its design and intent, not because of it. Musk’s takeover means that communities we have built are at risk. But this is not a new experience in the real world or digital spaces. Twitter has merely been another tool for building and rebuilding our communities. When Twitter entirely ceases to work for us, we will move on to rebuild our communities again. Because those communities – like ourselves – exist, survive and thrive despite, and not because of, the structures of violence that are our world.

Her point is well-made – underlying the migration from Twitter upon Musk’s takeover is the assumption that whatever comes next is, first, worse than what came before, and second, that there is a ‘better’ online space out there. For many, neither of those are necessarily true – and testing those assumptions also takes a great deal of labour and time that some don’t have.

It’s been interesting to see how the move from Twitter to Mastodon has happened. Just from my own perspective, a large majority of the tech/society academics that I follow seem to be well on their way to either moving totally over to Mastodon, or using both platforms, at least for now.

But among the activists, organisers, and, frankly, almost anyone outside of the US and Europe – there’s very little movement that I can see. Even organisers in Europe who I follow have asked their followers, “what should I do now” and very few responses even mention Mastodon.

Why not? From what I can see, there’s a few reasons. First: the big changes that Musk has talked about – rolling out payment for verification, for example - only affect a fairly elite few. Verification wasn’t so important to lots of people, and in fact I imagine lots had given up on its usefulness after years of trying (and failing) to get verified. Second, the roll out of payment seems only to have launched in a few countries so far, starting of course with the United States. That means that many users have yet to see any actual changes – so why bother moving yet? So much about social media thus far has been myopically (and harmfully) Western-centric – who is even to say that Twitter/Musk will bother rolling out changes in ‘the rest of the world’? (Though the inevitable system outages and infrastructure fails that I imagine will come, will undoubtedly affect a wider portion of users.)

Third: because maybe they simply don’t want to leave Twitter. I’ve been thinking about how for some, Twitter has become part of their identities. Having a large Twitter following grants a certain power - even with the more recent algorithmic amplification and lack of clarity on timelines, you can amplify issues you care about. You might get quoted more in local, national or international media if you are tweeting about current issues and you have a large following. You might even meet people in real life who know you not just from your work, but from Twitter. For some, it might be their main way of reaching communities they care about or need to be in touch with for work or activism, or their way of keeping up to date with what others are doing and working on, not just from their own communities but from others.

And that seems to be a major difference between Twitter and other platforms – Mastodon allows you to find people who you know are on there, and follow hashtags you already know about, that is, deepening your knowledge of certain communities and people. But at least personally, I use Twitter to listen and learn from all sorts of people and communities I know very little about, and the algorithmically-generated suggestions have in many ways been helpful on that front. People tweeting about living with disabilities, climate activists in countries I know little about, refugees tweeting from camps they’re in in different countries, local journalists and politicians who are pushing for progressive policies in their own corners of the world… these are all people I wouldn’t otherwise come across, but whose perspective and approach I so appreciate hearing.

I’m not sure yet if Mastodon or some other platform will offer that – it does feel so far like the affordances of Mastodon are more around conversation and slightly ‘deeper’ connection with people than on Twitter, but that might change.

So what are people doing instead of, or alongside, moving to Mastodon? From what I can see, it’s:

  • Setting up a newsletter (usually Substack)
  • Reviving dusty websites and/or (re)starting to blog
  • Setting up or using Whatsapp channels/groups more
  • Moving to, or posting more on, other social networks that have specific purposes (eg. putting work-related posts on LinkedIn)
  • absolutely nothing different.

I’m interested to see what comes next – more Mastodon instances, greater awareness of the alternatives to Twitter, or just a flight of Global North users away from Twitter while the rest of the world stays put?

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Lots of my reading lately has been around a couple of themes: hope, imagination, and futures. Since having my son, the thought of what future I want to leave for him (otherwise put, what being a good ancestor looks like) has been really present for me. It’s something that came up in the Wild Dreams group coaching program that I did in 2021, where we talked about our ancestors and ancestral wisdom, and I was introduced to the Seventh Generation Principle.

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One of my first consultancy projects is looking at strengthening the open source ecosystem, and as part of it, I’ve been catching up on research that might help inform next steps - such as Nadia Eghbal’s 2020 book, ‘Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software’.

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The secret to blogging, they say, is secretly blogging. I stumbled across this post by Diana Berlin a while ago, and the title has been going around my head ever since. The approach of writing for no audience but myself (and probably my mum - hi mum!) is how I wrote a new blog post every week in 2014, and remains my default way of writing today. (Highly recommended, truly.)

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Following my annual tradition, this is a quick round up of some of the best books I read in 2021. For previous roundups, see 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.) For a full list of books I read in 2021, scroll to the bottom of this post.

Grid of nine book covers. From top left, Cantoras, by Carolina de Robertis, with seaside in background. Libertie, by Kaitlyn Greenidge, with a silhouette of a woman. Butter Honey Pig Bread, by Francesca Ekwuyasi. The Death of Vivek Oji, by Akwaeke Emezi. The First Woman, by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. The Thirty Names of Night, by Zeyn Joukhadar. Detransition, Baby, by Torrey Peters, Blockchain Chicken Farm: And Other Stories of Tech in China's Countryside, by Xiaowei Wang. What Can a Body Do?: How We Meet the Built World, by Sara Hendren.

Reading in 2021 was shaped by two major things for me: first, it was my first full year as a parent, and second, of course, the pandemic and all of those associated impacts. As a consequence of both or some combination of those, I entirely lost the desire to read for the first few months of the year, lost in a fog of sleepless nights and exhaustion – terrifying, now I look back on it! And in the second half of the year, when I did want to pick up a book, I didn’t have the time I usually do to research or even think much about what I was reading.

Instead, I read whatever was at my fingertips. Recommendations from friends, whatever was laying out on the tables at my new and fantastic local bookshop, She Said, or recommendations generated via Storygraph. So unlike previous years, I didn’t have an intentional theme to guide my reading - though looking over the list of books I read, it seems that many of them were stories of womanhood, exploring relationships between women in different forms. I wonder if this was at some level, subconsciously, intentional, as personally, this year (as many of us were) I was forced to be much more intentional about maintaining relationships, many with women.

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Following my annual tradition – this is a quick round up of some of the best books I read in 2020. For previous roundups, see 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and to see all books I read this year, see Goodreads. - I’ll be moving off Goodreads soon though!

This year, two major themes governed my reading habits. The first – the pandemic. In response to the pandemic, I went through a long phase of wanting to read only out-of-this-world fantasy, as a way of escaping lockdown and reality, followed by a time struggling to read at all. The second – pregnancy, and motherhood, as I was pregnant for nine months of the year, and now have a three month old baby (!). I didn’t read much by way of parenting books, but I have been interested in memoirs and fiction exploring themes of parenthood, motherhood and creativity as a way of helping myself make sense of this new role and identity I find myself with. In between those, little bits and bobs popped up, as I’ll describe below – some to do with technology and society themes, others that followed a loose theme that I set myself at the end of 2019, which was to read more books that were published prior to 2015.

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Following my annual tradition – this is a quick round up of some of the best books I read in 2019. For previous roundups, see 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and to see all books I read this year, see Goodreads.

A solid portion of the middle of this year was dedicated to re–reading books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Over and over again, until I knew all the characters inside out, their experiences and lives, everything. And watching everything I could find where she talks about her writing and her books; reading interviews with her, short stories she’s written, major reviews of her work. The reason: I had the (still slightly surreal) opportunity to sit down with her in conversation at the International Literature Festival in Berlin in September, just the two of us.

After four years of moderating literature festival events in Berlin, she is definitely the highest profile author I’ve had the privilege of chatting with – not to mention she’s one of my favourite authors – so it was a true dream come true to sit down with her. We talked about her writing, politics, racism, power, and much more, and I hear a recording of our discussion will be released sometime in 2020.


Including re–reads of all of Adichie’s novels, I read 55 books this year, of which:

  • 14 (25%) were first published in a language other than English
  • Somewhere between 35-40 where the primary geographic/cultural reference was not Western Europe or North America (this is a hard one to count, as so many authors I read have multiple points of reference!)
  • 12 were by men, 42 by women/non-binary authors.

As ever, recommendations very welcome - below are a few of my favourites from this year.

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“The illusion of unique identity is much more divisive than the universe of plural and diverse classifications that characterize the world in which we actually live.
Amartya Sen, in his book “Identity and Violence”

At the AWID Forum in 2016, at an evening memorial for women human rights defenders who were no longer with us, we chanted: “We honour the dead, and we fight like hell for the living.”

Recently, I’ve been wondering what honouring someone’s life looks like in our quick-to-share, digitised cultures, especially when those lives are familiar to you in some way. For viewers who share aspects of their identity with the group upon whom violence has been inflicted, reading or learning about that violence can be in and of itself traumatising. For others who don’t share that identity, sharing and learning about the event might further entrench their feeling of privilege or superiority. So when does sharing stories of violence, turn into inflicting violence upon other members of your collective identity group, and to what extent does it further existing inequities in how that violence is felt?

More simply put: when does sharing a story – often intended as an act of solidarity – turn into perpetuating violence upon the persecuted, and further entrenching existing power dynamics?

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