Monday 17 December 2018

Festive reads: Irish business leaders open up their books

From self-help books, to Brexit-related titles and a Pulitzer Prize winner, Ireland's best-known figures tell Colm Kelpie which page-turners they couldn't put down in 2017

‘A Riot of Our Own’ reveals the inside story of the Clash
‘A Riot of Our Own’ reveals the inside story of the Clash

Colm Kelpie

Francesca McDonagh

(Chief executive, Bank of Ireland)

1 'Mindset' by Carol Dweck

"This book confirmed a growing personal suspicion of mine: it's not really our abilities or innate talent that define how successful we are in life, but rather our individual attitude and personal mindset.

"Very empowering. The book differentiates between a fixed or growth mindset and is an easy and enlightening read.

"As relevant for a CEO as someone newly entering the workplace as well as a parent or anyone who has children in their life."

2 'Women and Power' by Mary Beard.

"For any women that's been "mansplained" in 2017, this is a lovely read.

"Mary Beard, a professor of Classics at Cambridge University, draws some really insightful parallels between women in Ancient Greece and Rome being told to "shut up" and how today's world (especially social media) treats women with an opinion. The book asks if women aren't perceived to be within the structures of power, isn't it power that we need to redefine?"

3 'The Adversary': A True Story of Monstrous Deception by Emmanuel Carrère.

"I love a good crime thriller and this is a disturbing true story of how a "normal" person killed his parents, wife and children. Chilling and makes you question how well you really know people around you. An excellent page-turner."

Fiona Muldoon

(Chief executive, FBD Group)

1 'All the Light We Cannot See' by Anthony Doerr

"My sister gave this to me and it is a really good read. Short chapters make it a page-turner. Winner of the Pulitzer prize in 2015, this World War II book told through the eyes of two ordinary people; one a blind French girl, the other a German solider.

"It is a reminder of a tragic time in European history that already the world seems in danger of forgetting. It is also a moving testament to the enduring strength of kindness and of love. I really enjoyed it."

2 'Hillbilly Elegy' by JD Vance.

"A true account of growing up poor, in difficult, dysfunctional circumstances in the US. The author eventually went to an Ivy League University and became a successful lawyer.

"Given the US culture can appear to sometimes blame poverty on the individual himself, I expected the book to go a certain way.

"However, the author tells his story as a registered Republican, so his perspective is a challenging voice to the received left-wing narrative on these issues that we sometimes hear more regularly over here.

"I was fascinated by it on many levels. Interestingly, for that divided nation, it was also written before President Trump was elected."

Andrew Burke

(Dean, Trinity Business School)

1 'How Capitalism Destroyed Itself: Technology Displaced by Financial Innovation' by William Kingston

"I am a great admirer of the intellect of Professor Bill Kingston so when he concludes that capitalism is a spent force, I am interested to know why.

"Our own and out children's future depends on a sustainable free market economy. Bill identifies the pivotal problems that undermines free market economies and it is clear that it will take a seismic shift in the design of public policy, international agreements and accepted norms to overturn the problems outlined in this book. Any person with an interest in the future of business should make reading this book a priority for 2018."

2 'A Riot of Our Own: Night and Day with the Clash' by Johnny Green and Garry Barker

"This book also covers the rise of a music movement that had immense impact on changing our culture and indeed the music industry.

"So I will be reading this book with both eyes! One focused on the music and the other observing the business of creativity, opportunity exploitation, human resource management and operations management in a highly dynamic, volatile, cultural and unpredictable industry. It covers many elements which drive the performance in an industry that are not well understood by current management models. So if you want a prompt for out-of-the-box thinking then this book will do the trick!"

3 'The Harvard Business Review, all volumes 2018'

"OK, I am cheating a bit here as the 'Harvard Business Review' is not a book but it is an effective substitute for all the popular management books we find in airports and high street book stores.

Too many of these books re-invent existing concepts with new vocabulary, are based on amateur research and take around 200 pages to say something that could be said in just two pages.

"So I am letting the 'Harvard Business Review' do the filtering for me as well as cutting through the waffle to get to the point in just a few pages. I intend to save my money, time and some of the rainforest by reading the online HBR instead of any 'promising' pop-business paperbacks next year."

Heather Humphreys

(Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation)

1 'Brexit & Ireland, The Dangers, The Opportunities & The Inside Story of the Irish Response' by Tony Connelly

"I was recently given a present of Tony Connelly's new book on Brexit and Ireland. It goes without saying that Brexit is at the foremost of my mind on several counts - not only as Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, but also as someone who lives within a stone's throw of the Border on a farm in rural Co Monaghan. By all accounts, Tony's book is an excellent piece of work, and I look forward to reading it over the Christmas break."

2 'Centenary', edited by Ronan McGreevy.

"I commissioned 'Centenary', a book documenting the Ireland 2016 commemoration, in my previous brief at the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. When I saw the final product before the launch in October, it evoked many moving memories, the most poignant of which was the spirit of community and collaboration that underpinned the events. 2016 showed us as a mature society willing to look at the other side of the story, and this was made possible by record levels of public engagement."

3 'Sixties Ireland: Reshaping the Economy, State and Society, 1957-1973', by Professor Mary E Daly

"This fascinating book tackles traditional interpretations of the period between 1957 and 1973 in Ireland. This has been a particularly busy year for me, so I read it gradually.

Exploring developments through a European lens, it is a comprehensive reinterpretation of a critical in our history. My favourite section deals with the economy, including chapters on agriculture and rural Ireland and regional planning. I have no doubt that I will be revisiting this book again in the future."

Fergal Leamy

(Chief Executive, Coillte)

1 'Sapiens; A Brief History of Humankind' by Professor Yuval Noah Harari.

"An incredible book which is far more enjoyable than its title suggests. The book attempts to address some of life's more relevant questions and really gets you thinking about the bigger picture. It begins c70,000 BC and takes you on a journey through history, posing and attempting to answer some very big questions along the way. It also takes a look into the future and how we as humans may evolve. The book has many thoughtful insights into human development and I found myself with many 'aha moments'. I couldn't recommend it highly enough."

2 'Notes From a Small Island' by Bill Bryson

"With all the discussion around Brexit over the last year, I found myself going back to 1995 and re-reading Bill Bryson's 'Notes from a Small Island' to see if I could gain any insight into the mindset of our nearest neighbour. "It is essentially a humorous tale of an American who lived in the UK who travels around the country and observing everyday life - it is a great read and it gives real insight into British people and how they think up and down the country. In my view worth a read if for no other reason than as a coping mechanism for Brexit."

3 'The Sentient Machine; The Coming Age Of Artificial Intelligence' by Amir Husain

"Most of us are trying to get to grips with what AI could mean for our businesses and indeed our own lives. This book is one of the more optimistic visionary views on AI I have read. The great thing about this book was how easy it was to read and understand for those of us not steeped in techy code. It is very topical and definitely worth reading especially if you are trying to get your head around the implications of AI and all you read is how AI is going to replace your job. This may give you more cause for optimism."

Catherine Duffy

(Chairwoman, A&L Goodbody)

1 'This Tumult' by Caroline Preston.

"I am fortunate to have had the privilege of experiencing at first hand Caroline's mastery of the English language. So, when she wrote her first book 'This Tumult' I was keen to read it. It didn't disappoint. The book is based on the true story of Caroline's mother's family in WW II. With thorough research

and Caroline's beautiful command of language we learn of Kate who follows her parents and her two brothers to war joining up as a radar mechanic, of Tony and the terrors of being in the cockpit of a Lancaster bomber and of Nick, who must endure the dehumanising horror of a Japanese POW camp. It is a vivid and touching account of fear, loss and family loyalty."

2 'Any Human Heart' by William Boyd

"Although written in 2002 this book did not come onto my radar until 2017. And I'm very glad it did. I loved how it meanders through the colourful life of writer Logan Mountstuart.

"The dizzying array of encounters with the glitterati of the war years make for particularly compelling reading: Hemingway, Fleming, Joyce and, most intriguing of all, the exiled Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The depiction of his less than glamorous but nonetheless eventful final days in a ramshackle villa in France were particularly poignant. Like 'This Tumult', the book is beautifully written - highly descriptive and alive.

"It was so believable in parts I had to Google to check if Logan was real!"

3 'Take Six Girls' by Laura Thompson

"This is a book about the famous Mitford sisters, an intriguing family whose privileged lives were intertwined with extremist political characters and events of the 20th century.

"I have long had a fascination with the Mitford sisters since reading Nancy Mitford's wonderful books in my 20s. The book gives a great insight into the relationship between the sisters as their lives unfold. It has the advantage of being a book that does not have to be digested in one reading but can easily be picked up and put down."

Peter Clinch

(Chairman, National Competitiveness Council)

1 'Brexit & Ireland: The Dangers, the Opportunities, and the Inside Story of the Irish Response', by Tony Connelly

"I admire Tony Connelly as a reporter as he avoids editorialising or inserting himself into the story.

In this book you get to benefit from his inside knowledge from spending his days immersed inside the Brussels bureaucracy which provides a great insight into the shock of the Brexit result, how it came about, and Ireland's response.

"The dangers and opportunities to which the title refers are less well developed because the strength of this book is political rather than economic which is, of course, what explains the result of the vote.'

2 'Operation Trumpsformation' by Ross O'Carroll Kelly

"Like the politicians with whom I interact, I like to discover what the 'man in the street' thinks of current economic and social developments.

"So, each year, I catch up with one of UCD's most famous alumni/drop-outs - Ross O'Carroll Kelly - to discover how the economy is affecting the 'average person' in Ireland, or at least Leinster. Remember Ross thinks Leinster "storts" at Terroirs in Donnybrook and ends at Foxrock Church.

"The economic angle is that Ross's Dad is running for election on an 'Irexit' platform while Ross's social challenges are mostly posed by his kids taking an unhealthy interest in soccer."

3 'How will you measure your life?' by Clayton M Christensen, James Allworth and Karen Dillon

"Clay Christensen from Harvard Business School is famous for his seminal 'Innovator's Dilemma' and associated works.

"Having noticed so many of his classmates becoming highly successful in business but less so in their personal lives, each year he gives his MBA students a talk on work-life balance. This book takes a business school approach to self-help - what gets measured gets done - to demonstrate how we tend to over-invest in areas that are easy to measure, such as career enhancement, but tend to under-invest in areas where we find it hard to measure performance such as our personal lives."

Ramona Nicholas

(Joint Managing Director, The CARA Group)

1 'How to Get from where you Are to where you want to Be' by Jack Canfield

"I read this book every year, as it encourages me to look back on my goals and my vision for the future.

"I picked this book up in 2011, and it really made a huge difference to my life and career. It's one of those books that you need to take time out to do the exercises and they honestly do really work. Since then, Jack has updated the book, and now calls it simply 'The Success Principles'. Only 10pc of the population have clear written goals, and its amazing what can be achieved by writing your goals down. The timeframe is not conclusive, but succeeding in the goal always is. This is one of my favourite books of all time."

2 'The Power' by Rhonda Byrne

"This is another book that I read every year, or listen to on audio tape. I first read 'The Secret' and now I swear by both of them.

The law of attraction is something I had never considered before reading either of these books, but now I understand how it works. Both these books take you to a better place and allow you to be the person you really want to be. I never would have believed in 'The Secret' until I met a challenge in my life, and I have to say, both books gave me hope for the future. If you haven't read it, I suggest you get 'The Secret' or 'The Power' asap as they really are transformational! And if you are someone who travels a lot don't forget you can get it on audio as well."

3 'How Cool Brands Stay Hot'by joeri Van Den Bergh and Matthias Behrer

"[This book] was so inspirational. As someone who immerses themselves in retail on a daily basis, I found this book so accurate and related to the future of retail in Ireland and abroad.

It talks very much about Generation Y and why they chose to shop with a certain brand or not and how those brands tailor themselves to capture the future of their customer from early childhood. Today retail is all about emotional links, as well as price. It's probably one of the most enjoyable books I have read in full this year and would recommend it for anyone working/managing in retail."

Irish Independent

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