READ-CHARGED: five comms books and five works of escapism you can read on holiday


My children have broken-up from school and I’m turning towards the holidays.

For me, end of term is marked by taking a day off to go and watch the cricket at the Cheltenham cricket festival. It is as close to personal bliss as it is possible to get.

Holiday reading can be tricky.

Sometimes you want escapism and sometimes you want something work related that’s consumable.

In this list I’ve gone for both.

I’ve rated them in usefulness for work and also how accessible, or beach friendly they are. Some are both. Some are one or the other. I’ve read all of them.

Five work-related titles


The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr

This is my train book. A book I pick-up on the way back from working somewhere.

I first told stories as a journalist 20 years ago and revised the skills over time. Reading this I’m struck by what we all instinctively know and where that comes from.

I’m also struck by how much I don’t know. Good advice beautifully told.

We respond much better to stories rather than piles of numbers. This book will help you tell those stories.

Useful for work rating 9/10 Beach-friendly rating 8/10


The Online Journalism Handbook by Paul Bradshaw

This isn’t cheap. It’s now about £35 paperback but its well worth the investment.

Paul Bradshaw is someone I’ve admired for years. Some journalists fled from the internet while he ran towards it to work out how it can be used.

The kinds of things Paul talks about is story telling for the 21st century and wise communicators can learn a lot from the content creating techniques mapped-out in the book.

Written in accessible bite-size style this can be picked up and put down as you experiment with the ideas yourself.

Useful for work rating 10/10 Beach friendly 7/10


The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight For A Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshana Zuboff

The internet was first fun and then fearsome.

Social channels first broke the mold and then re-shaped the mold. You get to share your holiday pics but in return you give away your location, likes, dislikes, relationships, movements and opinions.

What happens to all that data is something we’re dimly aware of. Zuboff looks at how new platforms built to liberate information can serve to control both the data and you as well.

A challenging read.

Useful for work rating 8/10 Beach friendly rating 4/10.


Everyday Chaos: Technology, Complexity and How We’re Thriving in a New World by David Weinberger

The pace of change is constant and will never be as slow as it is today.

This is either chilling or challenging and sometimes is both. Weinberger’s book looks at where we are and where we are going.

For communicators, this is a useful look into the future we all need to understand and be able to navigate around.

It reminded me of the need to embrace chaos, to relax and to go with the flow of change.

Useful for work rating 8/10 Beach friendly rating 5/10.


McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists edited by Mike Dodd and Mark Hanna

Thoughout by career as a journalist McNae was the Bible.

The book had everything I needed to know about rights and restrictions and would settle office disputes instantly.

Twenty years after leaving NCTJ college I bought and updated version and marvelled not just at how much had changed but how much I still need to know.

There is so much here a communicator needs to know to best advise a jumpy chief executive who has just been defamed online or the person who wants to complain about an online story.

Useful for work rating 9/10 Beach friendly rating 6/10

And five non-work related titles

Here are books I’ve read on the beach or ones I’m looking forward to read on holiday. Their purpose isn’t to be work related but there may be lessons you can apply in life as well as work.

hiredHired by James Bloodworth

I grew up in Stafford on the edge of Cannock Chase. On the other side of the Chase was Rugeley. This was a small Staffordshire town built on coal and a power station.

James takes his first zero-hours job in an Amazon warehouse where he works gruelling hours trying to avoid the five marks against him which will see him dismissed.

As one ex-miner says “People say they only work at Amazon. We would never have said that. We were proud to be miners.”

Part-time work is replacing work that made us proud.

Useful for work rating 3/10 Beach friendly rating 9/10

rebanksThe Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District by James Rebanks

My late Dad was from the Lake District. The son on a headteacher life took away but he was always a Cumbrian.

He took us back for holidays and he gave me and my three brothers a love of the landscape and a respect for the people who live there.

This book bridges the gap between the people who visit and those who live in the Lakes. Across four seasons this is a life story and a story of the hard dedicated lives of upland shepherds.

Useful for work rating 4/10 Beach friendly rating 9/10

pierPier Review: A Road Trip in Search of the Great British Seaside by Jon Bounds and Danny Smith

Ah, the peer review. The act of submitting your work for external validation.

Wouldn’t it be a fun idea to carry out a pier review by driving around all the piers in England and Wales armed with little cash and lots of enthusiasm?

The money and enthusiasm wanes and a road trip develops that is best read in a deckchair with a knotted hanky.

Jon Bounds was one of the Brum Bloggers group that did a pile of brilliant things with the internet around a decade ago.

Useful for work rating 3/10 Beach friendly rating 10/10. 

herr‘Dispatches’ by Michael Herr

My son is studying Vietnam as part of his 20th century history GCSE.

A few years ago, prompted by re-watching ‘Apocalypse Now’ I went through a phase of ploughing through books of the era to try and understand the period better.

Journalist Michael Herr is a masterpiece of writing. His journey to try and understand is noble. But I’m reminded of Yeats’ line ‘things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.’  As his understanding develops, he understands less.

An eminently readable disturbing warning from history.

Usefulness for work rating 5/10 Beach friendly rating 8/10 

newSubstance: Inside New Order by Peter Hook

A father’s day present this book is the mother of all rock biographies.

Peter Hook knows where all the bodies are buried and since falling out with his now ex-band mates he doesn’t mind telling you exactly where they are buried.

I’ve read ‘Hammer of the Gods’ the account of Led Zeppelin’s rise and trust me, that’s nothing compared to the five musicians who made New Order what they were.

Great if you are a musician. Also useful if you are in a dysfunctional working relationship that can only be resolved through the courts.

Usefulness for work rating 6/10 Beach friendly rating 9/10.

Image credit: istock.

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