Charlotte Street Partners



Our books of 2020

Written by Andrew Wilson, founding partner
5 December 2020

Good morning,

We have entered the home straight of 2020. Good. News of vaccine approvals illuminates the end of what has been a long and painful tunnel. Now we can afford the possibility of considering what might come after all of this. And it is not just Covid; after Europe, after climate unsustainability, after inequality, after globalisation – what will we emerge into as we near the end of the tunnel some time (we pray) in 2021.

To aid us in considering this eventuality, our team has reflected on the books that have informed, stimulated, challenged and improved us this year. We have been privileged at Charlotte Street Partners to welcome many of the authors to our events for clients and friends. We begin this again in January.

In the meantime, have a look at this feast of wonder for the mind and have a think about rewarding yourself, a loved one or a colleague with one or all of these suggestions. Holidays are coming.


Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

New York-based Scot Douglas Stuart won the Booker Prize with this, his first novel, set in 1980s Glasgow. A niche interest you might think, but apparently not: Shuggie has set the virtual heather on fire, climbing to the top of bestseller lists across the world. Our director, MT Rainey, a new board member of the Booker Prize Foundation was an early fan: “I was captivated by these characters, this story and this wonderful, authentic new voice telling it. It’s unapologetically a tragedy, but redeemed by love, lightened by humour and lit by Glasgow. I hated finishing it.”

Buy it from Waterstones.

The Ickabog by JK Rowling

A tale about truth, Machiavellian politics, and the abuse of power, The Ickabog is a children’s book for our times, albeit one that was written more than a decade ago and had been gathering dust in JK Rowling’s attic while the boy wizard conquered Voldemort and indeed the world. Having encouraged children to send in their drawings of the legendary Ickabog monster and the other protagonists, Rowling has now published the story featuring her favourites in full-colour. With an audiobook read by Stephen Fry and the net royalties being donated to vulnerable groups impacted by Covid-19, it’s a failsafe stocking filler for young readers this Christmas.

Buy it from Waterstones.


The Powerful and the Damned by Lionel Barber
A rip-snortingly good read and a real page turner. Barber is a hugely clever and engaging writer who has operated at the top of what we regard as the best newspaper in the world. This book is candid. Very.
Buy it from WHSmith.

Business and economics

The Levelling by Michael O’Sullivan
Not from 2020 but one of the most important books we have read this year. Written before the pandemic, it foresees the end of globalisation and colossal risks in the world’s financial system. But while technically sound, this is a captivating read for any who want to understand the world and where we are all headed next.
Buy it from Blackwell’s.

Angrynomics by Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth
Blyth and Lonergan make a great team. If politics is showbiz for ugly people, then economics is politics for even uglier people (I jest). But these two minds are beautiful and almost make economics into showbiz. This book is about why people are angry at the world as it is now and right to be so. This book is brilliant at describing that and has some new ideas about what to do about it.
Buy it from Waterstones.


Difficult Women by Helen Lewis

This book is a rare find in that it is about real, multidimensional women. It isn’t awash with corny Girl Boss tropes, nor does it depict flawlessness in any particular category. By guiding the reader through 11 crucial fights – for the right to divorce, vote, study, work and more – Lewis illustrates with great skill the realities of feminism; namely that the women who fought for equality are human too. 
Buy it from Blackwell’s.

Time’s Monster by Priya Satia

Among the many things we inherited from the Enlightenment is the notion of history as a linear process. In Time’s Monster, American historian Priya Satia tells the fascinating and incisive tale of how the discipline of history has empowered colonisation in modern times by deferring moral judgement to the future. Britain’s continued cultural attachment to the historical imagination that drove the making of the empire is but one example of that persistent linear mindset; a concept Satia invites us to ditch in favour of a “cyclical, if not aimless” view, which will enable us to support the powerless rather than the powerful.
Buy it from Hive.

The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians by David Rubenstein
At the end of a tumultuous year in US politics, it’s good to remind ourselves of where America’s national myths and ambitions come from. The American Story helps us here in the form of conversations with eminent historians about the country’s greatest leaders.
A major flaw – which is one of history rather than the book – is that women only feature in one chapter, on “Founding Mothers”. In 1776, Abigail Adams appealed to her husband John, who would go on to become the second US president: “I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could.”
Unfortunately, Adams ignored his wife’s advice. Let’s hope the future is different.
Buy it from Blackwell’s.


The Story of Scottish Art by Lachlan Goudie

This is, in itself, a work of art. A beautifully produced and written account of the creativity of a nation. Its author is an artist of some renown whose work we think will be seen as increasingly important. Have a read of this book and, if you like it, book a visit to one of the National Galleries of Scotland, which house much of its contents and some of the best art in the world. Free to enter too – imagine that!
Buy it from National Galleries Scotland.

Men to Avoid in Art and Life By Nicole Tersigni

As is often the case today, this bitingly funny book began with a tweet. After a long day of working and taking care of her sick eight-year-old, writer Nicole Tersigni went on Twitter in the hope of zoning out for a while and, while scrolling, saw an uncomfortably familiar scenario: a man explaining a woman’s own joke back to her. 
That’s how the idea was born: in the book, Tersigni pairs contemporary captions with classical paintings featuring men talking to women with vacant eyes. It is a book by a woman, for women, but also for anyone eager to understand the spirit of mansplaining – plus you can enjoy some fine art while you’re at it!
Buy it from Blackwell’s.

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