Top 10 books to read this festive season, 2017
The Christmas break is here which means it’s time to rustle up a reading list. We asked our experts to recommend you their must-have books for the holiday season. Whether you want an old classic, a financial read or to delve into history – our experts have got you covered.
1. Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath
Recommended by: David Rae, Head of Client Strategy and Research, EMEA
Made to Stick is more than a decade old but well worth revisiting every so often. It sits on my desk as a ready reminder of why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck. In an industry where we are permanently being challenged to convey complex information and abstract concepts in interesting and compelling ways, the techniques described in this book are indispensable.
With a complimentary nod to Malcolm Gladwell’s “Stickiness Factor”, Made to Stick provides invaluable insights into why some messages have a memorable impact and why others don’t. Full of illuminating and amusing stories of success (and failure), this book builds out the six key attributes of sticky messages: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories.
2. “Niet zeiken, voetballen!”, by Eddy van der Ley
Recommended by: Mirjam Klijnsma, Head of Implementation Services, EMEA
This year I will spend the Christmas holidays in London, with family flying in from Holland to stay with us for a couple of days! Which means quite an intense few days hosting them and cooking Christmas Dinner, and I’m not sure I will have much time reading a book! I’ve been a football fan all my life, to watch the game that is, not to play. Supported Ajax for years, and since living in London often visited Stamford Bridge to see Chelsea, which I will do again with my Dutch relatives on Boxing Day, a great tradition!
Once my family has flown home I will try to read this Dutch book, which has been such a best seller that I’m sure it will have an English translation soon. It’s called: “Niet zeiken, voetballen!” a biography about Dutch football referee Bas Nijhuis, written by Eddy van der Ley. It’s not straightforward to translate the title to the Queen’s English, but it means something like “Don’t whine – kick that ball!”.
He describes how star players like Ronaldo, Zlatan and Suárez communicated with the referee in the midst of a game and apparently it gives a unique insight into the world of arbitration, packed in informative and often hilarious anecdotes. As many of you know (and have rubbed in) Dutch football is not very enjoyable these days anymore, hopefully a Dutch referee is!
3. Think Twice, by Michael Mauboussin
Recommended by: Andrew Pease, Global Head of Investment Strategy
I’d recommend reading anything that Michael Mauboussin writes, but this is a great introduction. Mauboussin has been in financial markets for thirty years as an investment strategist at Legg Mason and Credit Suisse. He has been a “go-to” reference for me on behavioural biases, team management and decision-making frameworks. He writes in a clear, non-technical manner, punctuating his points with plenty of examples and anecdotes.
The book starts with the story of two seemingly unrelated events in 2008. The release of a book by Stephen Greenspan, Annals of Gullibility: Why We Get Duped and How to Avoid It, and the collapse of Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme. Mauboussin then reveals that Greenspan had 30% of his retirement savings in Madoff’s scheme – the guy who wrote book on gullibility got scammed.
It’s a short read at 140 pages, and it will make you question the way that you make decisions.
4. Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell
Recommended by: Carolyn Tsalos, Director, UK Institutional
I’m a normally a fiction girl, however Outliers was one of my 2017 reads that really grabbed my attention. Malcolm Gladwell takes his readers on a journey establishing what leads the world’s best and brightest to success. Whilst cleverly layering his thesis that there’s often an outside catalyst in addition to each given individuals 10,000 hours of practice, each chapter is a unique example and an interesting story in itself. He covers an array of topics including the secrets of software billionaires, the condensed birthday pattern amidst Canadian ice hockey players, the impact of culture on flight crashes and many more. Each one is fascinating, and the variety makes it an easy page turner!
5. Winners: And How They Succeed, by Alastair Campbell
Recommended by: Gerard Fitzpatrick, Chief Investment Officer, Fixed Income
I like to win. Who doesn’t? I’ve always been intrigued from an early age looking at wins and losses across sport, business and politics, with the common question of “how do you win”? Earlier this year, I found this gem of a book with a really good answer to this. Enjoy and use!
6. Night, by Ellie Weisel
Recommended by: Helma Verkouw, RI/ ESG Specialist
I have been raised to act responsible in everything I do. And after 50 years I feel it is still a strong guidance in life and something I deeply respect my parents for. 2017 was my 10 years Russell Anniversary and I decided to spend my sabbatical to reflect on life in particular with loved ones. Throughout the year I’ve been lucky enough to visit Paris, Sweden, Germany and the US. I also took my teenage daughter to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Not because of the horror, but to experience the power of visit, the storytelling by human voice and to experience the impact of historical events on future life. That is why my book recommendations for the Christmas season is Night by Elie Wiesel. For me the story telling means a life time thinking about the meaning of darkness, dawn and day. It is written sober but with big impact.
In Elie´s words:
“I believe it is important to emphasise how strongly I feel that books, just like people, have a destiny.”
7. The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts, by Louis de Bernieres
Recommended by: David Vickers, Senior Portfolio Manager
The war of Don Emmanuels Nether Parts is a dizzy mix of political satire and magic realism. Set in an imaginary Latin American country run by an oligarchy, terrorized by fascist army officers, plagued by self-defeating terrorists and propped up by the U.S whose corporations suck its economy dry; it is a situation that is both wildly fantastical but also somehow familiar. It goes to how wrapped up you can become in this narrative that even the introduction of magical cats, which grow to the size of pumas, seems plausible in the world the author has created.
Not festive specifically, but it is characterised by many fiesta’s that are equally embraced by all celebrants, but it is a cleverly woven tapestry of a multitude of stories that will keep you captivated through dark train/bus rides to and from work in the colder January months.
8. Leading, by Alex Ferguson with Michael Moritz
Recommended by: Jim Leggate, Head of UK Insitutional and Middle East
Not just one of the greatest football managers of all time as evidenced by winning more than others, this book brings to life what Sir Alex believes is the difference between Leading and Managing. He built a very successful business, which just happened to be Manchester United. Some great insights and anecdotes, like; “I always felt that our triumphs were an expression of the consistent application of discipline”, “It’s one thing to have confidence in your own abilities. It’s a completely different challenge to instill confidence in others” and “The task of building and maintaining a team is never done”.
An easy and compelling read, not just for the football or Man U fan, neither of which are me.
9. To Have or to Be, by Erich Fromm
Recommended by: Van Luu, Head of Currency and Fixed Income Strategy
I am recommending Erich Fromm’s “To Have or to Be” for your Christmas reading list. Having read and re-read it over the years, it helps me to invigorate the values I would like (and often fail) to apply in my work and life. Fromm distinguishes between two modes of experiencing and living our lives: “Having” and “Being”.
“Having” emphasises material possessions, power and consumption whereas “Being” focuses on inner enrichment, mindful experience and compassion. Erich Fromm, a sociologist and psychoanalyst, draws from the world religions and great philosophers to argue for a return to the “Being” mode.
Although it was written in pre-internet 1976, the book has particular relevance for today’s linked world where acquiring superficial connections and collecting “likes” has been added to the endless list of consumerist ambitions that distract from meaningful work and building genuine personal relationships.
10. Wizards first rule, by Terry Goodkind
Recommended by: Chris Adolph, Head of Transition Management
For the “Throners” among who love the depth of the characters that George R.R. Martin created, this should be right up your street. Set in the same sort of medieval type world, but adding more magic into the mix, Terry Goodkind creates a world as rich as the one Martin created, with characters that draw you into their lives. In common with Martin, Goodkind has very strong lead female characters and like GOT they play a pivotal role in championing both good and evil. Some of the female characters, one named “Death’s Mistress”, make Cersei Lannister look positively tame in comparison! For those that get hooked and like a good series, the benefit is he’s been a prolific writer, but unlike Martin he didn’t get writers bloc just when it was getting interesting! The series has sold over 25m copies worldwide in more than 20 languages, not bad for a guy with dyslexia!
The series follows a young woods guide Richard Cypher in his quest to defeat the world being taken over by Order who want to destroy magic and turn the world into a kind of communist republic. But even before that quest begins he must discover who he is, his heritage and prevent a powerful magician from opening a gateway to the underworld and destroying all life. Along the way he befriends a dragon (and other creatures), is kidnapped, tortured, finds love, visits the underworld and gets a great sword, the Sword of Truth. He has many adventures along the way, but it all starts in a humble hamlet with no awareness of magic or the danger that is heading its way.