Welcome to our second edition of Humanitarian Summer Reading – we hope you enjoy it!

As we close the year and prepare for holidays, we are reflecting on the year that was. This year was big. We turned five, celebrating our journey to where we are now – completing 90 projects in over 23 countries in just over 5 years. Some of our other key milestones include kicking off our new research program, Humanitarian Horizons, launching our independent think piece series with research into joint funding mechanisms for humanitarian responses; conducting research across the Pacific on the localisation of humanitarian aid, and we welcomed Alex Lia and Linda Kenni as new team members. We also look forward to welcoming Jo-Hannah Lavey and Sally Airs-Shevach to our team in the new year.

And to finish off the year, we are so pleased to share our first Annual Report.

Humanitarian Summer Reading

Nudge, Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein 

Thaler & Sunstein open our eyes to just how many choices we make every day and how easily we can be swayed whilst making these decisions. This research looks at how humans are very much herd animals who usually take the default option. This raises questions about how we can utilise this ‘nudge theory’ in humanitarian action, through often very inexpensive ways, to nudge people to make better choices. In this way, humanitarian actors are really ‘choice architects’ and perhaps we should be designing humanitarian action, from advocacy to operations, to make better protection and assistance a default option for everyone.




Leading Mindfully, Amanda Sinclair

Research continues to prove the value of mindfulness in everyday life. The epiphany for me was that it can transform the way we manage, lead and interact in the workplace. Leading Mindfully took me on an indulgent journey: reflecting on how I listen, contribute, share my thoughts, and manage difficult conversations. And the result for me personally: well I still have to remember to apply the learning but the fact that I still try several months after reading the book is testament to its author. And more than anything else when I remember, I feel the difference in the way I engage with others in the workplace.




Exit West, Mohsin Hamid 

Exist West is a novel about a young couple, Saeed and Nadia, navigating the hopes and expectations of their relationship against the backdrop of a world engulfed by an unprecedented immigration crisis. The story follows the couple as they flee a war that has enveloped their city, offering a depiction of the very human pursuit of connection and identity that exists even in crisis. In a powerful articulation of the sense of grief and guilt experienced by those leaving their families and homes behind when fleeing conflict, Hamid writes – ‘that is the way of things, for when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.’




When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi 

If you are looking for a read to escape the complexity of ordinary world, this book is probably not your cup of tea. Written while battling with terminal cancer, Kalanithi’s memoir is all about real life in its raw beauty and harshness. At the age of 36, the neurosurgical resident entering his last year of a decade-long training sees his world turning upside down. From a successful doctor, he becomes a vulnerable patient while in the midst of a strained marriage. The reader follows the protagonist’s journey in looking for the meaning of life and coming to terms with the certainty of death. Far from evoking pity or sensationalising the experience, Kalanithi’s way of writing is bound to get you immersed in a story about what it is to be human.



A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara

Yanagihara weaves four friends’ stories together across the course of their lifetimes in New York City – Jude, Willem, Malcolm and JB. A Little Life, nominated for the Booker prize, struck a nerve amongst readers and critics, for its subversive depiction of abuse inflicted by, and suffered by, men. Light holiday reading this is not, at six hundred pages. Instead it is dark, eloquent and revealing, in the slow and deliberate unfolding of a not-so-little life. A book to be digested bit by bit – I had to put it down several times to be able to return. Redemption, and deliverance from suffering are not entertained, but there is tenderness and beauty. A novel worth being consumed by.




Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval Noah Harari is known as the author for the book Sapiens, where he explains the human history and showed us where we came from. In his latest book, HomoDeus, Harari explores humanity’s future and human quest to transform themselves into super human that have godlike attributes which then inspired the title of the book. Homo Deus highlights the new human agenda to search for immortality, happiness, and power in order to achieve super human qualities. While it sounds like a science-fiction, Homo Deus delivers some facts and data to showcase human effort to achieve the three agenda. For example, the global initiative to reduce poverty, mortality rate, and the creation of global happiness index. Homo Deus is scary and fascinating at the same time.



An imperfect Offering, James Orbinski

An Imperfect Offering is a deeply personal tale with a clear message – when responding to the needs of those suffering, one must be conscious of respecting another’s dignity and agency. With great generosity, humanitarian Orbinski shares his story of witnessing the cost of inhumanity in Rwanda; suffering, brutality and death. Burnt into his consciousness, his time there was almost his undoing. Orbinski recites his experiences with heavy caution, but also hope. This novel articulates his learnings about how one can instil humanitarian action and principle into our everyday lives. Connecting the political with the humanitarian, Orbinski’s story will change the way you walk through the world.



Other reading from Humanitarian Advisory Group:

  • Report | Going Local: Achieving a more appropriate and fit-for-purpose humanitarian ecosystem in the Pacific
  • Report | Humanitarian Partnership Agreement: The Impact of Disaster Risk Reduction Programming
  • Project | Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination in Emergencies: Towards a Predictable Model
  • Report | Women in Humanitarian Leadership
  • Think Piece | Joint Funding Mechanisms for Humanitarian Response
  • Blog | Five ways to strengthen disability inclusion in humanitarian response
  • Blog | My journey to HAG: a personal reflection
  • Blog | Hag-iversary: the good, the bad and the ugly
  • Blog | Localising Protection – Making Global Frameworks Work for Local Actors
  • Blog | A humanitarian, a development worker and a cyclone named Winston

Image source: http://www.literarytraveler.com/books/literary-travelers-summer-reading-challenge/