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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Bookshop – Over The Edge Books

The best planning books of course aren’t necessarily text book tomes on advertising , branding or research. So here’s a scattering of some others that might divert you. It’s not exhaustive. I can always give you more.

 

How to read a novel, John Sutherland Profile Books 2006
Here's an English Professor and a chair of the Booker Prize telling you how to read a book. And it wasn't quite what I expected. Sutherland has a penchant for setting puzzles so he's happy to write an endorsement of his own book on the flycover as well as including a quote urging suspicion of endorsements. What is useful about this book is the postmodern suspicion of a text so a lot of the ground is about publishers, titles, publication dates which are all clues in how to make sense of a work. We eventually get to the critics - there's an interesting section about a British novel slated by an American critic who patently doesn't understand the rules of squash - which Sutherland argues is fairly critical to making sense of the novel. It lifts the corner on those tedious internecine squabbles between different countries, critics and novelists. If you want a far less illustrious comparison think of the block voting evident in the Eurovision Song Contest. How much of the sound and fury leading up to the Booker shortlist is basically the same thing. In the end (no surprises) Sutherland leaves it up to you. But gives some interesting takes on how you might inform your judgement. There are no right answers. Providing some contemporary definition of good style would of course make the book date very quickly. But Sutherlands refusal to commit seems also very contemporary! Is this book useful for criticism for other areas? Undoubtedly but its a good thought starter.
 
 
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Chronicles Bob Dlylan, Bob Dylan Simon and Schuster 2004
Here's a personal account by one of those who could fairly claim to have had a had in creating the 1960s. And who famously did his best to shake off every label that got put on him. One of the main weapons in defending one's own persona from cultural icondom is reclusivity. Which is why Bob's version was so eagerly awaited. Well you won't land this fish easily. Its called Chronicles but they're not in sequence. And at the start there's an illuminating contrast between Dylan's candour talking to a folkie to get a gig in one of the Greenwich clubs and his mendacity when talking to a journalist about how he arrived in New York in a boxcar - cunning or cynical - you decide. And is this account remotely truthful of how it really felt then to be on the cusp of cultural change but not knowing how and when it would happen. And what he covers are the formative times - not the madness of rushing from festival to festival surfing the 1960s. Later on the book covers Oh Mercy the album he recorded with Daniel Lanois in New Orleans. There's almost a suggestion that the albums from 2 decades in between were attempts to cover his tracks. Whether its reliable its certainly revealing about his heroes and also the craft which goes into being a creative. He claims to have studied the 1930s so he had a seam to mine when the songs came. True or not it shows you that there's more to writing songs than 3 chords and the truth. You have to line your stomach first.
 
 
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Stop Smoking stay cool, Richard Craze White Ladder 2006
A great book on how to give up smoking. Did it help me give up the fags. Um no but when I was working on the COI anti-tobacco pitch it was a great read and very quickly drew together the main issues as seen by a smoker trying to stop. Its a diary of giving up which is readable and contains a lot of back ground information which makes it perfect for fast assimilation in pitch mode. The author maintains he hasn't given up smoking merely that he chooses not to smoke. And the devil's advocate - namely the voice of tobacco keeps trying to undermine his resolve with ever more ferocious logic. There's nothing funny about being addicted to fags but somehow this book manages it. Have a look. I've opted to link straight to the publisher so they get more moulah but you can also find it on Amazon.
 
 
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Not less than everything, Valerie Griffiths 2005 Monarch
Another book about China missionaries and here I have to reveal a bias. It's written by my mother (hello Mum!) a labour of love and research which took 8 years to complete. History as we know is written by the winners. History is usually written by men. This is a detailed history of the history of women who went to China from Britain, Canada, Australia from the middle of the 19th century. Like Matteo Ricci they wore local dress, lived in the same houses and used all their skills and resources to spread the Christian faith. This included teaching literacy, simplifying the Chinese character system, creating a system of braille, building printing presses, operating clinics. It's a remarkable story because back in their home countries the status of women was such that their skills were not always recognised and they were expected to defer to men. The effect of their coming to China was to create role models for women which was startling for the Chinese but no less radical in Europe. Detailed but very readable!
 
 
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The memory palce of Matteo Ricci, Jonanthan Spence 1994 Penguin Australia
I've been wanting to read this for a while and with China racing to the top of every league table imaginable this is an intriguing history of how a Jesuit missionary attempted to woo Chinese culture 400 years ago. He came fresh from the renaissance - with the latest mathematics, astronomy and geography. But his killer ap as he saw it was his visualisation memory techniques - the memory palace which would enable him to memorise 4000 Chinese characters on the hoof. Which intrigued and almost convinced the Chinese intellectuals of the time. In return he build a memory palace introducing them to the foundational concepts of Christianity using woodcuts of Chinese art. Fascinating holiday reading.
 
 
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Pocket Prayers for work, Ed Mark Greene 2004 Church House Publishing
Edited by Mark Greene formerly of O&M and published by the Church of England this is a good attempt to put the language of faith together with the realities of the workplace. You may also be interested in a prayer contributed by a certain John Griffiths - the one liner on which the Create more than you Consume series of articles has been based. You can find the original here in Koan No 10 - I think I was pondering the one liner about a week before Mark rang me up and took it off me. And now the prayer is in print Sigh!
 
 
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The Great Reformation, R Tuder Jones IVP 1985
This is a bit left of field and definitely not to everyone's taste but I've started training as a layreader for the CofE and this is on the reading list for my first assignment so I may as well provoke you with it. I had always perceived the Reformation as a crisis of belief. This book gives a very potted history of the social and political changes which swept through Europe in the matter of a generation. In the UK we have a slightly comic view of it in the light of Henry VIII and his marital problems. But the reality was a social revolution which caused havoc for the next two centuries resulting in the confining of religion to a purely private sphere from which it is only just emerging. It was clearly a dangerous time to be alive - as the priests were removed and ministers put in their place - there was every possibility that a Catholic army would reinstall them. And those who rejected the mainline protestant movement and went for independence - the Anabaptists were as likely to face execution from either of the main parties. Half forgotten in the wake of the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution, the Reformation is the most recent social revolution which affected the whole of Europe - that is until the present (if the single market qualifies as a social as well as economic revolution).
 
 
How Mumbo Jumbo conquored the world: a short history of modern delusions, Francis Wheen Perennial 2004
This is a bit of an anachronism - very odd to read a full on modernist assault on post modernism. Francis Wheen turns his big guns on one superstition after another to show how stupid most of us are. Silly me but I thought we'd by and large come to terms with the notion that we aren't as rational as we think we are but we're very good at rationalising. Francis obviously has still to find this out. Its fun enough and I particularly enjoyed the savaging of Princess Di's funeral orgy- "mawkish thankyou's for the most privileged woman this land has even known." In the end he gives himself away with the disarming comment - "basically human beings aren't irrational." Sorry Francis you've missed the point - if we were more rational we'd make less fools of ourselves but we ARE fundamentally irrational and you've just proved it. But if for any reason you need evidence or need some light relief on human folly here it is. 3 copies of this turned up at the Christmas family exchange of presents - which while not statistically significant suggests that Mr Wheen will have a very happy Christmas - if we'd been a bit more rational we'd have bought one copy and passed it around..
 
 
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The Mission Shaped Church, Mission and Affairs Committee Church House 2004
This is the closest thing the Church of England has to a marketing strategy document. It was only published in Feb 2004. So you may have to go to church-house.com to get your hands on it. The C of E has been struggling for its soul for years. At times it seems more like the Church buildings of England rather than the church for the people of England. This book IS radical. It proposes that church planting initiatives are constructed along lines of social networks not geographical territory and goes into considerable detail to recommend changes to canon law to ensure that unruly clerics can't serve eviction notices on newly planted network churches planted in their patch. This is a serious attempt to attempt to move thinking on. The church network has all but collapsed in certain rural areas and the next 10 years will see dramatic rationalisation. This is at least a realistic attempt to stop the rot and to provide a structure that may engage people where they are. The geographical notion of the parish church is going the way of the dodo. Fast. And it would be intriguing if the church turned to networking - as a basic method of organisation.
 
 
The Provocative Church, Graham Tomlin SPCK 2004
I used this alongside the Mission Shaped church cited above. Well written and thought provoking it basically says that if you want church members to recruit then start with encouraging different behaviours. Conventional evangelistic strategies are over verbal and leave a reluctant membership guilty that they don't feel comfortable manipulating conversations in order to score debating points. Faith is a lot more than reasoning people into belief or giving them sufficient information. In the end it is about encounter. And this book is right on the money!
 
 
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Memories of Bliss: God, sex and us, Jo Ind SCM 2003
Won't be to everybody's taste. Yes it is about sex and a bit of theology as well but it is mostly about ways of knowing. Jo Ind deconstructs our fractured cultural understandings about what sex is and then offers her own definition - whatever turns us on. Clever and often funny this is through provoking. Give a copy to your resident theologian - you might get lucky they might turn puce - this is improvisational thought which will provoke the devout but ought to get you thinking.
 
 
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Straw Dogs, Straw Dogs Granta 2002
I bought this book on spec from Borders and boy what a find! Described as an attack on the unthinking beliefs of thinking people, John Gray of the London School of Economics savages liberal humanism - that whole value set you have probably live in most of your adult life which is why it is so hard to stand back from it. Gray's accusation is that humanism under the guise of secularism swallowed Christian thinking but is just as insupportable and self contradictory. On what basis do we identify the human species superior to other species? Do we have any real choice about how we behave on this planet or are we simply and obviously conditioned?What is so moral about morality anyway? Is there such a thing as personal identity? This is a terrific and very accessible work of popular philosophy. I enjoyed it because under its relentless assault it does enable you to critique modernist and postmodernist culture and get your brain into a different place. A perfect antidote to John Humphrys, the Today programme and Radio 4 in general. The cover is plastered with plaudits from JG Ballard, Will Self and Joan Bakewell who all rave about the book. Thoroughly recommended
 
 
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Linked: the new science of networks, A-L Barabasi Perseus 2002 Arrow
Which category am I supposed to put this book into. The New Science of Networks - well I've had a couple of projects in the last year thinking through what is and isn't a network. So you could file this under mathematics and complexity theory - And ignore it. You could put it under viral marketing because that is esentially network behaviour. But this would be to downplay its significance. This book is one of the most useful books on brand building I have read in a while - and it never mentions the word brand. Complexity theory is very trendy at present - so I really don't want to overegg this one. But since our conventional communication models are so causal and could be reduced to billiard balls bouncing into each other on the table - it is refreshing to consider the different types of networks there are and how so are more efficient than others. Swap the phrase brands for network nodes and you have a very stimulating introduction to the world of networks, how to make them work for you and how to cripple them. A excellent book for you marketers out there. But you'll have to do the translating into brands yourself
 
 
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The Elephant and the Flea, Charles Handy 2002 Arrow
For those of you who are already Charles Handy fans this will be another pleasant and familiar outing. The book is a meander through the author's life working for corporate elephants before he switched to a portfolio life to use the jargon and became a flea. The book doesn't doesn't introduce anythin new - its classic Handy but beautiflly written for all that. A pleasure to read - can't top the Empty Raincoat but us freelance fleas like the way that Handy has written about us. We're almost legitimate now!
 
 
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How to think like Leonardo Da Vinci, Michael Gelb 1998 Harper Collins
This is basically a Creativity how to book based on the ultimate Renaissance man. So its a lot more than right brain thinking and playing Mozart in the background. There is a lot of inspiration here and it doesn't make the mistake of categorizing our Leonardo as an artist or a scientist - it's not at all clear that he would have understood the difference - painting in order to understand how things were put together and inventing things as a creative act. I rather enjoyed it.
 
 
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Liquid Church, Pete Ward 2002 Paternoster
an attempt to take Zygman Bauman's book on Liquid Modernity and apply it to that hoary old institution the church. Modernity used to be solid then went liquid. Post modernity is about as liquid as you can get - our identies scattered across many different networks and regular renegotiated and reconstructed. Which is a bit of a problem for a church that tries to gather people into old buildings make them stand in rows and count them. Liquid church is about doing church within these fluid networks whether this is in Sainsburys, a coffee house or a room about a pub. Here's a link to the Bauman book which I would like to read soon. http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0745624103/planningaboveand
 
 
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Stupid White Men, Michael More 2002 Penguin
Review can be found on Top of mind page
 
 
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Soul Survivor, Paul Hawker 1998 Hodders
One for the Over the Edge section. But I found it gripping stuff. An Aussie TV producer goes to live in a range of mountains in New Zealand and listen to whatever God/his voices tell him to do. For 40 days one autumn. Scary stuff and yes you do wonder if he'll die in the attempt. But he survives with mild frostbite. But at least he had the balls to run the experiment and to put his own life on the line.
 
 
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£9.99, Frederic Beigbeder 2002 Picador
You can find a review of the book and an audio interview with its author in the In their own words section of the website.
 
 
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The Hungry Spirit, Charles Handy Arrow 1998
Look out. I have long been an admirer of Charles Handy's thinking, why else would I be pursuing a porfolio lifestyle to coin a phrase? This book asks deep questions as to why we are on the planet. He is unhapppy with the way capitalism is taken to be an end in itself rather than the most effective mechanism we have discovered to date( and it's not that much cop either) for running markets. The book takes a while to get going. The interesting bit is about companies becoming inner and outer directed. Sustenance driven companies only want to make a profit and it's not much fun working for them.
 
 
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Motley Fool Investment Guide, David Berger David Gardner Tom Gardner 2000 Boxtree
This is a very funny and accessible introduction to investing. Why review a book like this on a planning site? Well it has to be the fastest briefing on financial instruments and share dealing ever written. It is very provocative. Great bed time reading. I defy you not to consider opening up your own share porfolio once you've read it. If you join First Direct's investment club they send you a copy for free! Which was how I got my hands on it.
 
 
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Conversations, Theodore Zeldin 1998 Harvill
I got tipped off about this one while I was pitching for a CRM programme and we were working on the concept of each brand interaction being a conversation. This is the text of Zeldin's Radio 4 series where he writes very accessively and provocatively about what happens when people talk. Stimulating stuff. You will have to think about it though. Not a how-to book.
 
 
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Rich Dad Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki 2000 Little Brown & Company
Great book on how to educate your kids about money. This guy's dad was an academic who said work hard get good grades and a good job. His friend's dad never finished school but became a millionaire and became a mentor of the author. The book is about how he learns from both dads but mainly from the uneducated rich one.
 
 
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The Business, Iain Banks 1999 Abacus
Iain Banks writing about a multinational that wants a seat at the United Nations. I have a hobby horse about making multinational corporations adopt the same human rights standards as nation states and treat their stakeholders as citizens. This book doesn't quite go that far!
 
 
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Neuromancer, William Gibson 1986 Grafton
This is the book that conceptualised the internet because ever since, the techies have been trying to realise Gibson's vision. And he wrote this the first of 3 as on a typewriter! Gibson coined the term cyberspace. You may not get through the book but if you get into it you'll go back and back. It changed the whole direction of Scifi away from exploring brave new worlds to exploring inner spaces. And you might also want to try the sequels Count Zero and the Mona Lisa Overdrive. Burning Chrome is an earlier collection of short stories that show the seeds of Neuromancer. In fact the title short story Burning Chrome gives you the whole cyberspace concept in 30 odd pages.
 
 
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The Inner Game of Music, Barry Green with Timothy Gallwey 1986 Pan
You can get this for Skiing or tennis if music isn't your thing. But this book is all about inner confidence, visualisation etc. It is rather more useful than the majority of products from the American positivity industry because it is designed to help you play better music, tennis, falling down snowy hills with style. Whatever. These don't seem to be in print any more but if you want the Inner Game of Work then click here. The book is published in paperback in March.
 
 
Speed Tribes, Karl Taro Greenfeld 1995 Boxtree
Japanese Youf. If funkiness is important to you, then you will already be reinventing yourself as Pacific rather than transatlantic cool. Asia continues to rise as a cultural source despite the ravages of the 90s recession and the imagination of the next generation is still being formed in Asian however bullish Wall Street and the Nasdaq. Speed tribes is an account of the Japanese youth counter culture. It is 5 years old but there are worse places to start if you want to get into the Pacific thing.
 
 
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Thinks..., David Lodge 2001 Secker and Warburg
Brand new novel where consciousness is explored in a relationship between a novelist and a professor in AI. A thoroughly entertaining read.
 
 
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Downsize This!, Michael More 1996 Boxtree
Give yourself a treat. This rather rambling book has lots of gems. Michael More appears on our screens from time to time taking the piss out of American corporations and business tycoons. Unlike our very own equivalent Mark Thomas he doesn't rant he uses humour. Which is far more devastating. In this book you will find out how to enter the US illegally (via Niagara Falls Crossing where they wave you across and not at the Mexican border which is thick with Republican senators shouting Don't let them in on photo opportunity tours! You'll also learn how to pick an enemy to build national unity and why we should ignore political candidates and vote for lobbyists instead. Some of you are bound to find your favourite clients pilloried in here as well. Which is always good for a chuckle.
 
 
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Sun Tzu The Art of War (for executives), Mark McNeilly 2000 OUP
The Art of War is probably the greatest work of strategy ever written. It was the extremely condensed wisdom of a Chinese general Sun Tzu who in his time was invincible and not because he always had the biggest army. There is as much about subterfuge as brawn in his methods. There are numerous translations and commentaries. I have Donald Krause's version because it is tailored to a business context so needs less translation. This is out of print so try McNeilly instead. There are loads of different translations. There is also the Book of the 5 Rings another favourite of armchair strategists all about sword play from a samurai who never lost a fight. Personally I find the 5 rings a lot more obscure. Sun Tzu is a lot more accessible.
 
 


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