‘August for the people and their favourite islands’, as the poet WH Auden once wrote. Yes, it’s that holiday month again, when many head for the hills or the seaside or their country retreat. And even those left at work turn up with shorts and a relaxed attitude. Well, sometimes at least.
But the business cycle is never far away for individuals involved in running a consultancy. So when it comes to holiday reading, do they become engrossed in something completely different or use the vacation to mug up on the latest management thinking? What book – business or otherwise – will leading industry figures be packing in their luggage?
‘I’m a voracious reader, but I don’t find business books particularly relaxing,’ says WPP Group chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell, fresh from his take-over of Fitch parent Cordiant Communications Group.
‘More Bull More [Behind the Scenes in Advertising (Mark III) by Jeremy Bullmore] is the exception because it conveys a great deal of wisdom so entertainingly that you don’t realise you’re learning. You can’t read it without smiling – and sometimes bursting out laughing – which makes it pretty ideal for taking on holiday or, come to that, anywhere else. And it has a redeeming feature – it’s beautifully written.’
Enterprise IG Europe chairman Terry Tyrrell agrees. ‘Bullmore’s third edition of his experiences and insights makes perfect holiday reading,’ he says. ‘Why? It doesn’t feel like you are reading a book on business – it’s full of wit and humour – and you won’t get sunburned because you won’t be able to put it down.’
Wally Olins, Saffron Brand Consultants chairman, would ‘never take business books on holiday’ with him. But if he did it would be James Twitchell’s Lead Us Into Temptation – ‘the funniest and most accurate book about why people love brands that I’ve ever read’.
Olins adds, ‘I’m currently reading Stendhal’s The Red and the Black, which, mercifully, is not about branding, but about a man on the make. Come to think about it, perhaps it is about business after all.’
‘Frankly, I need to read the business pages and business theory books as part of the day job, so on holiday I like to read something different,’ confides Interbrand chairman Rita Clifton.
‘However, I usually find there are things even in unlikely books that make interesting analogies you can use in business – and which break you out of that sometimes ridiculous, enclosed universe of business jargon and ‘corporate behaviour’. I’ve just finished I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson, and I’ll be reading Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything and Brick Lane by Monica Ali, among others.’
Johnson Banks principal Michael Johnson, the incumbent British Design & Art Direction president, of course, is also currently enjoying Bryson’s latest, broad-ranging effort. ‘I’m not sure how relevant it is to business, but it’s certainly expanding my mind, which is half the battle I guess.’
Wren & Rowe managing director Paul Foulkes-Arellano’s holiday reading has a sharper business focus. ‘Ideally, I would like to read Re-imagine! (the new Tom Peters book), but publication is set for October. He is always ahead of the game. It’s likely, then, that I’ll finish off Goodthinking by Wendy Gordon, and pick up some brand innovation titles from www. amazon.com.’
Brandfabric partner Simon Mottram might have a suggestion for him. ‘If you can get hold of a copy, read The Idea Technique by James Webb Young,’ Mottram maintains. ‘It’s essential for anyone who is seeking inspiration on the fundamental business issue: How do you get ideas? A fantastic book, uncluttered by business jargon, it focuses on how to harness the power of clear, considered thinking.’
For the dedicated designer, Digit director Daljit Singh recommends Point It by Dieter Graf Verlag as a multi-purpose creative primer. ‘It’s a collection of images of everything from a toaster to a toilet, [so] no need to speak the local lingo just point at the appropriate image – a great way to brush up on the old management skills too, less talk more action.’
But space in the suitcase will be precious. Could there be one book that appeals to both right- and left-brain sensibilities, without seeming too much like hard work?
Gillian Thomas, creative partner at The Partners, may have the answer. ‘If you haven’t already read it, Adam Morgan’s Eating the Big Fish is the ideal management book for holiday reading,’ she says. ‘Written more in the style of a novel than a textbook, it’s full of ideas and inspiration and with such an unusual title, no one need know that you’re actually
working rather than relaxing on the beach.’
But Thomas will also carry ‘a moleskin notebook full of blank pages’ while ‘relaxing by the pool’.
‘Holidays are times for leaving work behind, taking time out and looking at what is happening outside the office door,’ she explains. ‘A blank book is perfect for noting down what you see, hear, think and feel, helping you look at life from a different perspective. More about personal time management, managing to get time to go on holiday, and managing not to spend it thinking about work when you get there.’
Sounds like good advice. But don’t forget that Factor 15.