BOOK REVIEW: The Human Workplace by Andy Swann

The workplace is changing in ways that seemed impossible only recently. Andy Swann’s book explains what is happening in lovely business language.

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I’m really not a fan of business books and as somebody who’s worked from home or a beach for the past decade, I’m not really interested in ‘workplaces’ either, but I really enjoyed this super-fast read.

I’ll disclose now that I’ve met Andy Swann a number of times and although we operate in different, ahem, work places, I’ve always been impressed by his demeanour and manner; he also loves what he does, so I promised that I would review his book.

Admittedly, it has taken longer to do so than I thought because I don’t read business books, but this is a nicely written book that will interest those who work in office management, HR, head-hunting and even psychogeography.

It does suffer from the devilry of small text and font, but that might just be my eyes. Swann uses many modules, graphs and box-outs and they are deftly utilised, not least being on the same page as allusions to them.

So many business books are irritating in that area. On one page is the description, then readers have to go overleaf to find the object of the description.

It’s really easy to read and refreshingly free of anecdotes and clever stories. It gets straight to the point and it’s not surprising that Swann is also a consultant, strategist and public speaker at conferences. It gets to the point.

Being over-critical, it looks as if this book has taken time to be written. Some of the industry examples seem from a lot time ago (18 months/two years!), but that is like any book that is published nowadays; they’re out of date before they’re published.

However, and this is important, The Human Workplace is not time-critical, its messages are current and even visionary, so that slight weakness can be overlooked.

You can buy the book here.

It’s expensive for somebody like me who prefers LITERATURE, but if this is your line of work, The Human Workplace will prove valuable in the way we work and how we do so. It’w worth the £20 or so for a hardback, but Kindle at £12 might be more appropriate.

I would imagine that The AI Workplace will be the sequel, but Swann’s book has at least a decade before it, like all humans, becomes obsolete.

BOOK REVIEW: Ends by Joe Macleod

Ends – From advertising to products and even to death, we tend to put too much emphasis on beginnings, not endings.

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Ends is a book that focuses on how humans are very happy being taken on a journey from the beginning, but we find it difficult to face the end of such journeys. Naturally, the notion of death is the ultimate example.

I met the book’s author, Joe Macleod, in Sofia recently after he spoke at a conference. He has the look and mien of somebody obsessed with design and his book reflects that passion.

It’s a fascinating concept and one that held my interest, not only when I met him, but also while reading his book, a quick read that shouldn’t take a devoted reader any longer than two days.

Macleod has had an interesting career working for companies such as Nokia and talks about how advertising sets people up for a beginning with a product, but doesn’t prepare them for the inevitable ending.

Nokia is a case in point. When it once ruled the mobile world, mobile devices were replaced even faster than they are today, but Nokia wanted people to buy more, more, more and that led to a world of used devices that nobody knew how to recycle.

Moreover, in the space of 12 months Nokia went from being one of the world’s most popular brands to one that finished faster than anybody expected. Nobody was ready for that ending.

Macleod is a clear writer, but the concept can feel a little elusive at times. It’s an easy read, but there’s a huge idea in there that wriggles away from the reader as he/she grapples with answers… perhaps Macleod needed a better editor.

As an ex-Fleet Street sub-editor, I find any book with typos a crime against humanity and there are several in this book. However, I still enjoyed reading it and understand where the writer was coming from.

Typos and editing aside, this is a decent read for anybody trying to make sense of how it’s all going to end.

Available now on Amazon for £16.99 or £5.99 on Kindle (the latter being maybe the better option).

BOOK REVIEW: Digital Human by Chris Skinner

The fourth revolution of humanity includes everyone and this book explains how we’re all likely to be involved.

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There is only one thing wrong with this truly awesome book by Chris Skinner about technology and that is the title – Digital Human. This book covers so much more than what sounds like just-another-book-about-the-so-called-future.

The author knows his stuff, but his stuff is not only general, it focuses on the future of money, the fall of banks and the revolution that he knows is going to happen.

I’ve met the author and he is a modest, humble and deep guy who clearly cares about the future and the best way to deal with it. In print (which is the best way to read this book) he writes clearly and smartly; I read Digital Human in three sittings.

As somebody who has shared podcasting with Skinner a couple of times, I’ve always been impressed by his knowledge of FinTech and here it shines through, not least his understanding (and respect) of what is happening in Chinese FinTech, an area that deserves much more exposure.

He acknowledges a debt and respect to Yuval Noah Hariri and his best-selling books Sapiens and Homo Deus, but this is a different book, albeit worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as Hariri’s works of brilliance.

There are a couple of interesting stories here about early money, prostitution and the etymology of the word ‘whore’ and ‘harlot during the Sumerian Empire, but that’s just for the populists.

Skinner is about to embark on some serious travelling around Africa to find more stories about life and banking for what will presumably be his next book, I can only envy him both projects.

Sometimes it’s difficult to praise fellow-writers, especially when they are known to each other, but in this case it’s easy. Digital Human may well be a terrible title, but this is a terrific book; for those in the the know and those who aren’t.

Let’s hope they change the title when the paperback comes out.

You can read the first chapter here for free.

If that whets your whistle and wets your appetite and you’ve had enough of my misguided and false Spoonerisms, you can buy the book here.

BOOK REVIEW: The Dark North Volume 1

A collection of five Scandinavian illustrators and writers shines a light on the talent of fantastic art and unique storytelling.


northAs a print addict and graphic admirer, I am not immediately attracted to adult comic books, having left comics behind when I discovered girls.

In many ways, I find adults enjoying comic books and playing similar video games as not my favoured tribe. I find it a bit sad that these people should be out finding life, not living narrowly within their digital version of it; but maybe that’s because I’m an older bastard and was lucky enough to travel and see the world in the pre-surveillance days.

The Dark North (Volume 1), however, was a great and welcome surprise. Comprising of five stories that meld classic Norse mythology to fateful and modern-day road-trips, I found this collection of work unsettling and in many ways beautiful.

This is a coffee table book for those who look north for stories and not south. This is ice, not sand, darkness, not light. It is made by people who live by opposites, people born out of the aurora borealis, but who also spend discomfiting, different days.

The five stories here are wide-ranging, the first begins to be an American road trip, the driver following ghosts down and up a highway, lost in the quest. Wonderfully illustrated, it is like watching performance art in the Arctic circle, it is a great introduction to the other four stories.

These are less accessible to print addicts like myself, the art more gloomy and intense, where the power of Thor and the myths of local tales are wielded to overcome the reader.

This project came out of Kickstarter and the successful funding meant the dreams of the collective of individual were realised, Volume 2 is on its way and I will not only be reviewing it, I shall be reading and looking at it with great interest.

BOOK REVIEW: A Boy Made Of Blocks – Keith Stuart

Guardian Games Editor Keith Stuart has written a wonderful book about autism, parenthood, marriages… and Minecraft


keithIt’s sometimes difficult to read a book by somebody you know. Usually, you read to read these books early because the author wants early feedback on their work and has sent you a copy.

Moreover, it’s difficult to be objective. It takes courage, time and big blocks of bollocks to write a book, especially for a journalist who writes for a living every day. They say that there is a book inside every journalist… and that’s where it should say.

Thankfully, A Boy Made Of Blocks by sometime lunch-colleague, Facebook friend and story-colluding Keith Stuart gives me no such dilemmas. This is a book by a journalist that bears no relation to his written work, except the game Minecraft, a subject often covered by Keith as the Guardian‘s games editor.

I didn’t get given this book, Keith didn’t ask me to review it, I paid a hardback price at a bookshop and I thought it was wonderful. What’s even more authentic is that I still don’t know whether Keith ever worked as an estate agent, his marriage was in trouble or if he was a bad parent.

In the book, however, the main character is all of these things and, like Keith in REAL life, he does have an nine-year-old son on the autistic spectrum. But this is not just a mea culpa, it is a well-timed, dramatic and smooth piece of work.

It flows by just like those guilty pleasures such as One Day by David Nicholls. Easy to read, very familiar scenes to any UK parent and centred on a game Minecraft that is even more recognised.

I really loved this book. It’s tender, sweet, honest and will be uncomfortably close to any who have suffered marriage breakdowns, reversals or break-ups because of unexpected events. You can read it in two or three sittings, but when you finish it, you’ll feel good.

It will be interesting if Keith writes another book as good as this, perhaps every journalist has at least one decent book in him, but I’d really like Americans to read this book, especially after the woes of 2016. If Keith breaks America, that would be a very fine thing.

Recommended read: 9/10