Some good reading

I’ve been lucky enough to have some time off during April, mainly to catch up on reading.

Here’s a few books well worth a look:

What the Dog Saw – Malcolm Gladwell

A selection of his best essays. Not all of them hit the mark for me, but the later pieces on talent and success are superb.

The Great Disruption – Paul Gilding

Paul has a vision for the near future, and it’s fairly bleak – for a while. But he predicts an eventual positive future. The first third is a solid summary of our environmental challenges. The latter parts dabble in economics and political/practical solutions.

(Here’s a podcast with the author)

The Puritan Gift: Reclaiming the American Dream Amidst Global Financial Chaos – Kenneth Hopper and William Hopper

I haven’t finished this book yet, but from what I gather it’s a fascinating treatise of modern global financial mis-management, a historical look at the development of capitalism and proposed solutions to our current economic chaos. Not light, but incredibly well researched and written. The section on Japan post WWII and how economic development lessons learned there could be applied elsewhere is excellent.

Eminent Corporations: The Rise and Fall of the Great British Brands – Andrew Simms and David Boyle

Another one I haven’t finished yet. For a modern history of UK PLC, albeit from a left wing point of view, a kind of UK version of Robert Reich’s Supercapitalism, it’s worth having on the bookshelf.

Oil on Water: Tankers, Pirates and the Rise of China – Paul French and Sam Chambers

If you ever paused for thought and wondered “Just how vulnerable IS my global supply chain when I factor in energy?” then this is a book for you, your head of risk, logistics and CEO. Paul is our China editor and a real authority on the country. He should be, he’s been avoiding the the UK over there for 20 years. Sam is an occasional Ethical Corp writer and a leading writer on seaborne logistics and Chinese energy.

(Here’s a podcast with one of the authors)

Getting Things Done: How to Achieve Stress-free Productivity – David Allen

Again, I haven’t finished this yet (probably why I am blogging at midnight) but it reads well so far, does what it promises on the back, and was suggested to be by the youngest senior partner in the history of a major global consultancy. So it ought to be useful.

Guns, Germs and Steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years – Jared Diamond

I’ve only dipped in and out of this, but everyone I know raves about Diamond. Dense stuff, but absorbing. Collapse is also brilliant.

Non-business books:

The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett

Not much to do with sustainability. But what a novel. Written in 1929 and still one of the best in the genre of detective fiction. The writing is so terse Hammett squeezes in 500 years of Mediterranean history into two pages in the middle.

Spies of the Balkans – Alan Furst

If you are interested in what political espionage actually looked like in pre-WWII Europe, and during it, then Furst’s books are for you. Great insight into the politics of the time in Southern Europe.

Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

My copy of what is the surely the greatest novel ever written (it is, you just need to read it 3-4 times to get it) is from 1969 (oddly proud of that, I don’t know why) and, no, you can’t borrow it. Buy a copy. Buy it for everyone you know.

Heller manages to predict the evolution of outsourcing, offshoring and public private parterships, even transfer pricing, and make it hilariously funny. All this in what is essentially a war novel arguing for peace. Can’t beat it. He never wrote anything else as good. But then neither has anyone else.

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