9th February 2024
August is a quite time in recruitment. It’s a people business, and people go on holiday. So it can be hard to get things done.
But that makes it a great time to step back, reflect, and take a bigger view.
So this summer we thought we’d offer a few reading suggestions – not necessarily about recruitment per se, but a range of books we’ve found helpful and interesting as we think about how we do what we do.
We’ve got a book about a business from me (Justin), a book about coping with stress from Al, and two short novels about hiring and employment from Emily.
Hopefully they’ll keep you occupied on your sun lounger! Links to them all are at the bottom of the page.
Emily recommends Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville and On the Line: Notes from a Fish Factory by Joseph Ponthus
“I don’t really read business books so my summer reading suggestions are going to seem left field. I also don’t really do beach reads so you might want to shelve them for a less sunny day. Here goes – two short books that have something to say about the modern workplace that could not be more different from each other – Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville and On the Line: Notes from a Fish Factory by Joseph Ponthus.
On the Line is a book in verse that is an account of a man’s inability to find work in his academic field who instead signs on to a temp agency and works in a succession of fish processing plants and abattoirs in Brittany. It is as gut-churningly truthful and vivid as that premise suggests. Quite unlike anything else I have read before, the poetry is crystal clear and is efficient at portraying factory life. It actually might be the perfect beach read – peppered amongst the descriptions of a mundane and pretty visceral factory life are the solace of days off, the smell of the sea and the woman he loves. Probably best not to read whilst eating…
Herman Melville is undoubtedly best known for the epic doorstopper that is Moby Dick but one of his shorter works caught my eye earlier this year. Bartleby the Scrivener was published back in 1856 and is barely 50 pages long. It doesn’t hold you up long but is a perfectly crafted account of a reluctant office clerk nearly 200 years ago. Bartleby is a cautionary tale for anyone hiring. Initially a great hire – diligent and efficient in copying out the long screeds of legal paperwork that he is required to process – Bartleby turns out to be a less than ideal employee with his repeated response of “I would prefer not to”. He would prefer not to work, to leave, to find another job and ultimately to live. Bartleby infuriates his employer, his colleagues, the office landlord and the authorities but somehow Melville manages to convey sympathy and almost admiration for the man who would just ‘prefer not to’. It won’t take long and then you can tackle the ultimate book of the sea – Moby Dick – although from memory that one is also best not read whilst eating.”
Al recommends A mindfulness guide for the Frazzled by Ruby Wax
When it comes to these kinds of books and ideas, I can be as cynical as the next person. But this is a really well written and informative book by someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. It’s full of relatable information on mental health that includes science and understanding, delivered with clarity and humour.
Ruby Wax can be a bit ‘marmite’ to some, but there can be no denying that she is a remarkable woman who has been through considerable challenges in her life, and has reinvented herself.
The book is full of straight-talking real world experience and techniques that you can put into practice.
Although many of us would like to think we are always in control of our emotions, sometimes, in the heat of the moment, our “animal brain” takes over. Over time, and with practice, we can control these instincts; however, as a society, we expect instant results, which inevitably piles on the stress.
I think this is a great read for anyone interested in mindfulness or who is struggling with life in this modern world.
Understanding that mindfulness is not about “fixing things” (one of my previous assumptions!) but to simply be present and be aware at all times in our lives. Reminding ourselves that there are certain things we can control, and others we can’t, can lead to a far more balanced path.
Read the book, take a breath, and be present!”
And I recommend Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
“There are two types of business books – “how to” books, and “lift the lid” books.
Bad Blood is probably the most compelling “lift the lid” book I’ve ever read. It’s a true story, of the very famous Theranos scandal, but written like a thriller. It’s an extraordinary tale of ambition getting in the way of reality; of the danger of stumbling from wishful thinking into outright fraud; and to be honest of the astonishing ability of some companies to secure huge funding for absolutely nonsensical business plans.
Elizabeth Holmes’ riches to rags story has been in the press all year, and as I write she is still awaiting sentence. But she’s far from the only colourful character in Theranos’ story, and in fact my favourite part of the book was the moment about two thirds of the way through when the author steps in and becomes a character in his own right. There are obviously business lessons here if you look for them but more than anything this book is a great summer read. I couldn’t put it down.
If you like “lift the lid” books then I’d also suggest “The Smartest Guys in the Room” (Enron), “The Bank that Lived a Little” (Barclays) and “Wizard of Lies” (Bernie Madoff).”