Apologies for the delay in posting, it’s been a busy time in the Adams’ household but I have a couple of things to share over the next few weeks.

Firstly, continuing with the literary theme, I was asked by one of my Linked-In connections what I’d read most recently. So here’s an eclectic selection from the last couple of months – in no particular order.

No. 10: The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage; Philip Pullman

The prequel to Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy, the first volume of which was released as “The Golden Compass” on the big screen. Pullman is a masterful storyteller, with an extraordinary imagination and relates in a way that is as deep and appealing to adults as it is to children (think parallel universes, the idea of your soul taking the form of a companion animal). This is the first volume in the second trilogy, chronologically set 10 years before the first. The language at times jarred a little as being anachronistic, but the story moves at a cracking pace and if you liked the first series (who wouldn’t), this is a must read.

No. 9: The Establishment; Owen Jones

I’m about 2/3 of the way through this but wanted to include it as I think it’s an important book. It is a critique of how the elite from a range of institutions have coalesced around a common worldview that is more self-serving than serving the people they represent. It exposes the risks we face with the decline of objective, investigative journalism against a counterpoint of PR, spin and ‘fake news’. When truth is presented as a nebulous concept with the distortion of facts not only permissible but de rigeur and wealth and power are being amassed at such an alarming rate by so few, we are on a very slippery slope.

No. 8: Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind; Yuval Noah Harari

A vast topic but enormously enjoyable. Charting the rise of our species to the dominant role it has today and the revolutions that have led to this state of affairs, Harari is both erudite and entertaining, he articulates his point with clear and accessible examples and turns a potentially dry topic into a page-turner. Thought-provoking and challenging, it shines a light on the thread connecting us to our ancestors as well as projecting into the future. Well worth the read.

No. 7: The $100 Startup; Chris Guillebeau

I love hearing stories of how entrepreneurs found the time, courage, resources and, in many cases, sheer bloody-mindedness to start their own businesses. The great thing about this book is it provides so many practical examples of people doing just that without access to significant amounts of startup capital. It also focuses on people playing to their strengths and finding a way to generate an income that is congruent with their lifestyle and area of passion. Has to be a good thing for one and all.

No. 6: 48 Laws of Power; Robert Greene

Confession time – for me this is a dipping book – one I dip into and out of. Law 1: Never Outshine the Master. Law 3: Conceal Your Intentions. Law 7: Get Others to Do the Work for You, but Always Take the Credit. For those inclined to be seduced by a thirst for power, this is an essential set of maxims to live your life by. For the vassals and political pawns amongst us, it at least gives us an insight into the behaviour of those craving power and hopefully time to prepare some defence against the dark arts charms. Extrapolated from works as diverse as Machiavelli, Sun-tzu, von Clausewitz and Casanova the laws are made vivid with examples stretching from Elizabeth I to Alfred Hitchcock, it’s an uneasy but useful read for anyone working in a highly politicised environment.

No. 5: The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse; Alexander Mcall-Smith

Mcall-Smith is such a wonderful antidote to the trials and tribulations of daily life. Whether in the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, 44 Scotland Street (Bertie is one of my favourite fictional characters of all time), the Dalhousie series or a one-off such as this, he has a way of story telling that is both whimsical and pertinent. His use of language, the rambling and gentle way the plot unfolds and the colourful characters he sketches make his work an absolute delight.

No. 4: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck; Mark Manson

I read this more to see what the fuss was about than because it appealed to me but I very much agreed with the underlying premise. We do spend too much time setting false expectations. Building resilience is something we all need to deal with the world when things don’t quite turn out as we hoped. The shock tactic of the title became a little wearing when it was repeated in some variant or other every few pages, but on the whole worth the read.

No. 3: A Legacy of Spies; John Le Carré

I loved the Smiley novels ever since seeing an adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy in the 70s – subtle, tense, intricate and wrapped up in an unlikely hero. In this book, Smiley plays a cameo role but it does draw together some of the strands of the earlier works where he was front and centre. It is as well written as all of Le Carré’s work, with a masterful contrast between the dark days of the Cold War, when the rules of the game were somehow far more straightforward, and the realpolitik of today, with an unclear enemy and where the need for a “throat to choke” to appease the calls for political accountability and transparency are more evident than ever.

No. 2: How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things; Neil Smith

Too much of a self-promotion piece for me, reading more like a long-winded advertorial for consulting services. The barriers that impede and principles to support performance transformation make sense and the anecdotes are helpful and I have no reason to doubt their efficacy. But I think I would have got just as much out of reading an executive summary rather than pushing through a couple of hundred pages or so.

No. 1: Jeeves and the Yule-Tide Spirit; P.G. Wodehouse

While I said the list was not in any obvious order, P.G. Wodehouse comes in at number one: subconscious bias at work, I think. This is just a pot-pourri of short stories drawn from his lifetime’s work. All the main characters are there and the turn of phrase skips and hops like a skippy-hoppy thing. Sublime, trouser-splittingly funny, many a plot that will lead you down the garden path but leave you surprised and rolling about laughing when you get there. There is no finer distraction or flight of fancy than disappearing amongst the well-thumbed pages of Wodehouse.

“And she’s got brains enough for two, which is the exact quantity the girl who marries you will need.”


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