It is probably quite telling that when it came for the preparation for lockdown, the only thing I did on a personal level was to fully charge all five of my Kindles and download hundreds of books.
I was concerned that there might be a power cut. While power cuts never seem to last that long, I wanted plenty of interesting books to keep me going.
I taught myself to read from holiday brochures. The highlight of the family year was when, each summer, my father would hitch up our caravan and we would go off touring around Europe for weeks.
The planning was as important as the trip and the moment those brochures arrived was almost as exciting as the holiday itself. If I could read them properly, I could take part in the planning process.
My parents would give me an unlimited budget to spend at the local bookshop. I always chose non-fiction books and would pore over them to find out how to do things, or why certain things happened in the way they did. I have never been a huge fan of fiction. I am quite sceptical about made-up things and have always found real life stories so much more interesting.
The only fiction I can remember reading, outside of the books you had to read for school, was the Harry Potter series. I was learning German and read them all in German.
I reasoned that since they were children’s books they were not going to be too difficult.
Another book I have read in German is Deborah Tannen’s The Argument Culture, which I found much more interesting. I have read it in English too and enjoy her analysis of what words convey.
I read four or five books a week and the majority of them are connected with work.
There are a lot of chief executives’ autobiographies, but the books I read and re-read the most are by digital entrepreneurs.
Current staples are Zero to One: Notes on Start-Ups by Peter Thiel; The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz; Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Start-Up World by Rand Fishkin; and Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh.
If I were to pick a favourite over my past year’s reads, it would be Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. His story really sums up the lows and highs of a start-up.
The reason I re-read these books is I find the meaning changes as I change. I really do get something different out of them each time.
I do not just stick to recent releases. One of my old favourites hails from the 1990s: Quick Politics for IT Managers, which I am not sure is even in still print. It is a charming guide to office politics for people who wear anoraks. Since I work in an office full of very bright IT people, this does make me laugh sometimes.