Executive books for the beach: what are senior management reading on holiday this summer?

Published: 11 Jul 2017 By James Dunne

I did this last year – asking a selection of the great and the good from the world of HR and recruitment what they are packing alongside the sun oil and/or hiking boots – partly because it’s always interesting to see what they choose and partly because it’s equally interesting to see who is going for the one-upmanship of business books and who is taking something light to take their mind off the stresses and strains of business.

As last year, I got in touch with a number of exec-level businesspeople and found that, once again, there is no pattern whatsoever to their preferred holiday reading …

Alex Clyne, Co-founder of Jump Digital, whose blogs last summer were amongst the most viewed on the site, is very much in the "holidays also include business" camp and will be reading "Hidden Champions of the Twenty-First Century: The Success Strategies of Unknown World Market Leaders," by Herman Simon, with its focus on SMEs and entrepreneurialism.

Steve Faull, who also recently wrote an excellent guest blog for us, tells us that (“If I get any peace from the kids”) he's hoping to get through a small library, consisting of: “A Forger's Tale” by Shaun Greenhalgh (one of those ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ tales set in the world of fine art); “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman (amazing insight into how the mind works…you feel a little bit smarter with every page you read); “Before the Fall “by Noah Hawley (a proper page turner based around the passengers of a private jet that goes down in the fog); and “Can You Solve My Problems?” by Alex Bellos (a fantastic book of brain teasers and logic problems to dip in and out of to keep the grey matter engaged!”

Adam Gordon, CEO of the innovative recruitment technology Candidate ID, eschews reading books, preferring the immediacy of modern technology, specifically because, as he says, “Reading takes too long and doesn't give me precisely what I need so I watch YouTube instead; specifically Bloomberg Technology, Mashable and Techcrunch.”

Another of our recent guest bloggers, CEO of TMP Worldwide UK, Andrew Wilkinson, is packing “A Little History of The World” by E H Gombrich, because, he tells us, it contains “40 chapters of insight into human history to educate me and inform me of things I know little about.”

Chris Peace, MD of rapidly growing property and construction recruiter Peace Recruitment, is one for business rather than fiction. He’s taking “24 Assets: Create a digital, scalable, valuable and fun business that will thrive in a fast changing world” because, as he admits, “I hate fiction books and when I read on holiday I get a chance to reflect a bit more.”

Rob Moore, MD of career coaching specialists TMCO will probably be away on his holidays while you read this.  He will have read “The Chimp Paradox”, by Professor Steve Peters, recommended to him “by my good friend Jackie Cannon - a behavioural profiling expert."   It’s about Emotional Intelligence - vital in any business) and controlling the emotional and rational parts of the brain. As Rob points out, not only is this useful for business, it could stop a big huff on the golf course!

Matt Alder, whom I hope won’t mind me calling him a genuine recruitment marketing guru, is also very much in the business book camp. He’s going to be taking the pithily titled, “The Employee Experience Advantage: How to Win the War for Talent by Giving Employees the Workspaces They Want, the Tools They Need, and a Culture They Can Celebrate” because “it is a topic that is massively growing in traction and something all employers should be thinking about."

Barry Gasson, Commercial Manager at TMP Worldwide, clearly likes reading about certain well-known gangster twins from London because last year he took ‘Legend’, about the Krays, and this year he has already holidayed in Cyprus, taking with him “Our Story” by Ron and Reggie Cray. 

Tony Harding, owner of recruitment consultancy momentumspk, was, in his younger days, briefly on Manchester City’s books, despite being a Man United fan.  The latter is probably why he’s taking the second volume of Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography, “Leading” on his hols. He's not a lover of fiction and says, “with a long flight beckoning it’s always good to read about something that can influence your thinking that is based on reality.”

Bill Mitchell, Director of Optimum Organisation Design is another taking a small library on his travels.  He tells us, “Firstly, I'm exploring the culture of where I now live and trying to be a bit different so I'm reading "From the Alleghenies to the Hebrides" - the autobiography of Margaret Fay Shaw, an American who became absorbed in Gaelic music in the first half of the 20th Century.  Complementing that is "A summer in Skye" by Alexander Smith, written in 1864 and together these books offer a real sense of my only "renting" a piece of time and place. On the business front, given the interesting times we now find ourselves in, I’m re-reading Peter Drucker's "Managing in Turbulent Times,” written in 1980.  It's proving what I've increasingly suspected...nothing's new under the sun. Finally, it’s "Shut Up Legs", the autobiography of Jens Voigt, the truly mad (now retired) German cyclist, who in addition to various other victories held the world record for the hour at 51.110 kms at the age of 43.”

Gareth Biggerstaff, MD of Be-IT Resourcing, is heading for the Scottish mountains with his family. He tells us that this means he needs two key apps to read - the BBC news and the Met Office! (if there is a "midge warning" app then I think he might need that too!).

Steve Playford, who as Global Director for the Financial Times Career Management Group is responsible for all things to do with exec-appointments.com has good practical business reasons for reading some very Scottish fiction, specifically, as he told us, “Having to work with James Dunne and Alex Clyne means I need to brush up on my Scottish so I’m inspired to return to Irvine Welsh after immensely enjoying Trainspotting 2 at the cinema earlier this year. I will probably read his most recent novel “A decent ride.”

Finally, if you were with me last year, you’ll recall I took a sort of business book with me (the Great Acceleration by Robert Colville, which is still great), but this year I’ve got two very different books in my on-flight baggage.  “Whining, Selfish Monkeys” by journalist Rod Liddle (probably best known for his writing in the Sunday Times) is very funny and, especially for people of my age, rather chastening, while David Hepworth’s “1971, Never a Dull Moment, Rock’s Golden Year” takes me back to my dim and distant youth and reminds me of all the great music that was made way back then.

James Dunne, exec-appointments.com

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