Summer books: Three recommendations for your holiday reading list

Fri 4 Aug 2023
Posted by: IOE&IT content team

Book lying on a towel on the beach with the sun and sea in the background

As we work our way through the summer, and as the weather does all it can to keep us indoors (too hot in Europe, too wet and windy in the UK), IOE&IT Daily Update brings you the first of a series of recommended summer reads.

First up, content director and creative force Richard Cree recommends three books to enjoy over a well-deserved holiday break.

The Avoidable War: The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict between the US and Xi Jinping's China

Kevin Rudd

Although it’s over a year since this book was published, it feels fresher and somehow more pertinent this summer than last.

In the intervening 12 months, relations between the two global superpowers have hardly improved. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine destabilised many already-fragile global relations, in an era when nationalism and protectionism are on the rise and globalisation and international co-operation on the wane.

Rudd, as a two-times former Australian prime minister, as well as former foreign secretary, is excellently well placed to discuss international affairs and the potential fallout from the of the breakdown of these two global superpowers.

But more relevant than his political CV, is his own deep interest in China, which dates back to his youth and him studying Mandarin Chinese and classical and modern Chinese history as an undergraduate. He has since studied, lived and worked in both China and the US and as a result brings a depth of understanding of both nations, as well as their cultures and politics, that bring particular potency to his insight. 

They say that to understand current affairs you need to understand history, and this becomes evident early on here as Rudd places today’s challenges squarely in a rich historical context. This may not be the lightest of holiday reads, but when else will you get the time to invest in reading and gaining such an understanding of this most crucial of geopolitical tensions?

If you want to understand what lies at the heart of the “conscious uncoupling” of the US and China – and what its long-term implications might be for supply chain stability, trade and global security – there is no better place to start.

You can purchase a copy here.

The Islander: My Life in Music and Beyond

Chris Blackwell with Paul Morley

If you’ve ever wondered what connects Errol Flynn, Grace Jones, U2 and Ian Fleming then this book offers the answer. As well as all having a connection to Jamaica, they all also have strong connections with Chris Blackwell, the legendary music mogul and founder of Island Records. You could add Bob Marley and Miles Davis to that list of names. And that’s just the first few chapters.

This is Blackwell’s story, told with the panache of Errol Flynn (whom he met as a boy), the confident swagger of Grace Jones (whose music career he was instrumental in), the tension of a good Bond story (Ian Fleming was a childhood influence and ‘courted’ his mother - and that term is era-appropriate) and the bombast of U2 at their peak (he signed the then-unknown Irish foursome to their first deal).

While it helps that music critic, writer and Blackwell’s friend Paul Morley was on hand with “contributions”, you get a very real sense that this is Blackwell in his own words. If you’re on holiday with friends and family, you’ll be boring them with quotes and facts from the book all week.

For trade geeks who insist on taking work on holiday, there’s even a tiny bit about Jamaica’s trade history here. But this is all about one amazing life – the sort that it seems unlikely we’ll see again.

You can purchase a copy here.

The Creative Act: A Way of Being

Rick Rubin

Another music-industry based book, this one extends in reach well beyond the confines of a single sector or business. This is, as the title suggests, a book about how to think, act and feel more creative.

Innovation is the essence of most successful organisations and creative thinking is a powerful tool for all individuals to deploy in their personal and professional lives. Rubin, as another legendary music producer and record label boss – he was co-founder with Russell Simmons of seminal hip-hop label Def Jam, as well as later founding American Recordings – has plenty of experience in the acts of being creative.

As a producer he has worked with some of the biggest names in music, from Johnny Cash to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and always been able to bring something new or unexpected to even the most established artist’s sound.

But unlike the Blackwell book, this is not an autobiographical tale of life in “the business”, nor are there clunky attempts to draw parallels between making music and anything broader. In fact, Rubin quickly deviates away from his music experiences and instead draws on a much wider range of influences.

This is sort of book that can make a reader see and think about the world differently and it can help in lots of aspects of life. Rubin himself sums up its ambition – accidental or otherwise – perfectly when he says:

"I set out to write a book about what to do to make a great work of art. Instead, it revealed itself to be a book on how to be.”

It is worth noting that this is a gorgeously executed hard-back book, that weights a ton and may not be ideal poolside reading. It will also take up plenty of suitcase space.

But for those not keen on taking this substantial tome in their luggage, there is a great episode of the Broken Record podcast in which Malcolm Gladwell interviews Rubin about the book.

You can purchase a copy here.