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  • Writer's pictureJames Scott

Summer reading list.

Unsurprisingly (for a business called Stories), we are all pretty big readers over at the Stories office. Perhaps we lack anything more interesting to talk about, but very often we find ourselves illustrating discussions with points from books we’re reading, and in turn, recommending them to whoever will listen.

With that in mind (and as we are in peak reading season) we have decided to start the Bookshelf - a blog post we will keep updated with our favourite books (and other form of long reads).

Paul recently returned from his holiday and he’s put in a strong showing to kick things off. If this development malarkey proves unsuccessful, perhaps Oprah’s book club will come knocking.

This week’s additions…

Prisoners of Geography In a recent blog on the RSA website Aima Ahmed has written “that to understand why our towns and cities are what they are today, we must understand their histories and the importance of ‘path dependence’”. I completely agree with this and have written about it in the past. Prisoners of Geography takes this path dependency to a new level though and looks at how past and present global geo-politics can be traced back to geography. This is a really great holiday read, very accessible and makes a compelling case - imagine the Undercover Economist meets Michael Palin. (PC)

How to be right in a world gone wrong by James O’Brien. Another nice holiday tome (and side by side with the Secret Barrister on the shelf at the airport in fact). I got interested in James O’Brien though the LBC YouTube videos of him trying to understand Brexit through conversations with his listeners. He has taken this expansive experience and written a book that whilst both amusing and unsettling actually poses a real challenge to the received wisdom of present day interviewing - the placing of set-piece bear traps and not really engaging or pressing for proper answers. I came away from this book with feeling that we would all be better off if we asked genuine questions and really listened to each other properly, and not to forgive blustering and deflection. (PC)

The Secret Barrister is a book I have been meaning to read for ages and I’m pleased I got around to it. A warts and all in-depth description of the criminal justice system makes me hope I am never on the receiving end of it. I have been on a jury and, ironically, I have also assisted with the redevelopment of a former magistrates court. But to read such an honest and searing account it truly sobering and should I hope shame the powers that be in to addressing the issues. One sentence in particular jumped out at me (on the subject of Magistrates) “In what other area of public life do we allow amateurs to carry out the functions of qualified and regulated professionals?”. Planning committees, Mr S. Barrister. Planning committees. I wonder if anyone has the Secret Property Developer in them? (PC)

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker - I think I’m already up to 5 on my list of people I’ve bought this book for. With the current vogue for boasting about one’s ability to function on lack of sleep and the inverse correlation I so frequently see between hours slept and ‘success’, this is not only a startling and accessible look at the science that fundamentally disproves anybody’s ability to actually perform optimally when carrying a sleep debt, but an empowering medicine to prioritise one of our most universally essential needs - a good night’s sleep. Feeling doubly sympathetic to new-Dad-Paul right now. (JS)

The Shaping of Us by Lily Bernheimer - Surprisingly broad ranging, this book brilliantly looks at how our built environment so fundamentally affects our behaviour, well being, productivity. Lily talks about the role of “ninja-proof” desks in open plan offices, a neat illustration of her broad experience base that she brings to her analysis that combines environmental psychology, design, and architecture. This genuinely has helped to either shape or compound our views on the power that our built environment has on us all, confirming our need to think almost in terms of development as social infrastructure. Love it and should be required reading for anybody interested in the world around them. (RM)


Finally, we plan to start appending our blog posts with generally interesting things. Paul has fallen for What3words and I have to admit, the map interface is weirdly addictive. I’m sure it won’t be long until someone comes up with a drinking game…


What3words Paul is in love with this website and the app. In the emerging world of hands-free voice recognition this service is bound to become a huge part of our lives. Instead of postcodes or map references, the whole world is divided in to 3m x 3m squares, each of which is uniquely identified by three words. Our office, for example, is deny.rubble.wisely :-). The applications are huge. From really mundane stuff, like directions to a picnic, through to more important stuff like air-sea rescue. And in a world of drone deliveries this is essential, “especially if you want your pizza delivered to your tent at Glastonbury or to get your mum to pick you up after” - which is what one of Paul’s friends came out with. And one who is certainly too old for one of those applications to be applicable.

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