Summer reading.

My recommendations for your vacations

It has been a challenging last eighteen months, but hopefully you and your colleagues are either enjoying, or about to enjoy, a well-earned break.

One of the things I’ve been trying to do more of this year is read. Not just for work, but for pleasure as well. As I’ve said many times, most of the most interesting and inspiring ideas come from far outside our own fields, and reading can be a great source of that.

Plus, it’s relaxing, and gives your subconscious valuable space, the merits of which I’ve also talked about before.

So here, for your work, education, and pleasure, are my diamond dozen recommendations.


For work, perennial list-toppers The Lean Startup by Eric Reiss, and Reengineering Retail by Doug Stephens are joined this year by two new (to me at least) entries:

Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A Moore is a business classic that I’m ashamed to say, until this year I’d never actually read. It’s about how to take ideas to scale, but beyond that, it gives powerful insights into why some people will love what you do, while others will slam the door in your face.

And The 1-Page Marketing Plan is a really short, simple book that does exactly what it says on the tin, making it a great companion to The Lean Startup and Business Model Canvas approaches to growth.


For education, my go-to recommendation from this year is Black and British, by David Olusoga. Whatever your opinion of race politics, BLM and so forth, this is a comprehensive, objective, and absolutely riveting chronology of black British history, and a sheer “must-read”.

Freedom’s Forge by Arthur Herman is another historical analysis, this time of the incredible story of American production and manufacturing during World War Two. What happened, who led it, and the extraordinary legacy it had on US and world economics ever since.

New Power by Timms and Heimans brings an insightful perspective to the modern phenomena of social movements, crowd sourcing, and mass participation. It might sound a bit of a left-field entry, but there is a surprising amount of read-across into the modern corporate environment, which is illustrated extremely well in the examples littered through the book.

And finally, with a sequel already on the bookshelves, the original, eponymously titled, The Secret Barrister is a contemporaneous and urgent exploration of Britain’s criminal justice system. If you want the reality behind much of the rhetoric on crime and sentencing, this is a thoughtful, meticulously researched, and genuinely eye-opening read.


And for pleasure, clearly personal preference has a big role to play, but his year the books that have most tickled my own fancy, included a re-read of One Hundred Years of Solitude, the stone-cold classic by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, with probably the greatest opening line since Austen.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold, a second slim volume of which came out this year, is a beautiful little Japanese novel, comprising jewel-like vignettes of life, love and loss, strung together through a fantastical narrative centred on a quietly unusual Tokyo coffee shop.

For those with darker tastes, the perennial Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson made my own reading list this year, but was pipped for the top spot here by At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop. Set in the trenches of Senegal in the First World War, it is an idiosyncratically written, phenomenally translated, and unforgettably haunting journey of dark self-discovery.

And finally, my personal favourite of the year so far is one for the classicists. I was sceptical about The Song of Achilles, by Madeleine Miller – I’m not a great fan of people “messing with my myths”. But it’s a brilliant, imaginative and evocative retelling of the life of one of the world’s best-known heroes, from a completely different, and absolutely captivating perspective. I loved it.

So, I hope you get a decent break, and if you do, I hope you enjoy it. And let me know what you read that I should take a look at.