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Blog : Read it and reap


Read it and reap

MJ Flanagan discusses the book, and its relevance in the digital age.

Every few years the pundits announce the book will die, they say we will all listen to book recordings, watch our internet screens or heaven forbid - give up all together. I am pleased to say annually they are proved wrong. At learnpurple we love books - if I get a spare hour (if I am really lucky I get a few!) I like nothing better than to browse the shelves in a local bookshop looking for the latest offering - and it seems I am not alone. According to the Sunday Times best seller list last week the top 20 combined fiction and non-fiction sold a total of 187,450 copies.

In any one week I'll have several books on the go. There will be the business book - my latest favorite being Freakonomics, Steven D Levitt & Stephen J Dubne. I'll also be reading a biography, by anyone from Chris Evans to Jack Welch. And then there's the trashy novel - Celia Ahern being the author of choice this week. Once I open them I can escape. I learn, laugh, and weep. Once I have finished I lend them to friends and we discuss them over a glass of wine. I then use the lessons I have learnt to build others' skills in my training sessions as well as my own.

Years ago whilst working for Bass I worked for a director called Tony Hughes. Whenever someone in his team excelled in any way he would send them a book with a hand written note telling them why he had sent it. These books would become our tools for enhancing our management abilities. I have kept every one of the books. This is a fantastic way of recognising your team whilst developing their skills. What an inspirational leader!

Recently, while flicking through O magazine I saw an interview with JayZ, I carried on flicking doubtful as to what I would have in common with an internationally famous rap artist, originally from a housing project in Brooklyn. I then noticed a list of his five favourite books; three of them were also mine:

Needless to say I went back and read the whole interview, he turned out to be an incredibly successful entrepreneur, honest and a true role model: a definite case of judging a book by its cover (I am still not really a fan of his music though!)

For me, one of the best things in life is when you open a new book and within a few pages you know it' going to be fantastic; that happened whilst on holiday this year. The book - Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain - is about his career and journey to become one of New York's top chefs and enfant terrible! It's a must for every chef and front of house manager. It's also the perfect double with - Setting the table, Danny Meyer's story of setting up and running the Union Square Hospitality Group - also in New York. One that is closer to home is Nigel Slater's 'Toast', a tale of growing up through food, it rang many bells with my childhood.

Whilst writing this I decided that in time for your Christmas wish list I would ask several of our clients and associates to give us their favourite books; here are a few for you to think about:

  • The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce - Paul Torday - good for food and wine lovers
  • 59 Seconds, think a little change a lot - Professor Richard Wiseman
  • Never Eat Alone - Keith Ferrazzi, an old favourite apparently
  • The Artists Way - Julia Cameron, absolutely amazing book on creativity, writing and the 'artists date'
  • The Speed of Trust - Steven Covey, a business best seller
  • A Fine Balance -Rohinton Mistry - It chronicles the story of 4 individuals from very different sectors of the Indian Caste system
  • The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell, 'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.' This is the tipping point principle
  • Clive Woodward - a Biography, fantastic lessons in leadership and team building from the England rugby coach
  • Leadership - Giuliani, not only does he share some great leadership lessons, the book talks about New York during 9/11

Some of these I have read but those that I have not I will work my way through. With Amazon selling second hand copies at such reasonable prices why not start a library for your people so that those who want to build their knowledge through reading can do so easily and cheaply; or perhaps next time you want to show your appreciation to one of your team send them a book and a handwritten note?

For those with more exotic taste I love the 'teach yourself' books where you can learn everything from Mandarin to chicken farming. They also have ones on leadership, coaching and feedback and emotional intelligence as part of their series.

I am off to put my feet up now and read a good book - 'Teach yourself blogging'! with my friends 'Green and Black'.

What are you reading at the moment? What is your favourite book?

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