Category Archives: Books and Book Reviews

What it says on the tin!

Read anything you can get your hands on

Liverpool Central Libraries – The Atrium on Light Night 2017

Reading books, magazines, articles and blog posts across a truly diverse range of topics is a huge help to stimulate novel ideas. This is, I think, the heart of a creative approach.

To be stimulated to generate new ideas, we need to draw from a wide range of influences. To achieve this, we should always read in fields or disciplines that are not familiar to us. I often read books that stretch my thinking, with a limited understanding of the topic.

Does it matter that I don’t understand? I don’t think so. I remember, for example, reading “Small is Beautiful” by E F Schumacher and only having the slightest grasp of the economic theories he was describing. I pushed on through and finished the book because it opened up the world of new ecology thinking and a whole way of thinking that I knew very little about when I read it in the 1990s. It set me off in many new directions, reading Fritjof Capra, for example – who I wouldn’t otherwise have come across.

Stretching our understanding, being open to ideas and letting them in so that we can absorb them to grasp them at a later date – like mental gymnastics. It doesn’t just happen when we read. A few years ago I asked an old school friend of mine, now a university lecturer in Mathematics, to explain String Theory to me. His description was beautifully clear and concise. I think I understood the concepts there and then – for about an hour or so, then it faded. But the clarity at the time was stunning.

There is a thought with Buddhist teachings, that as we receive the transmission from a great teacher, even if we don’t understand what we are hearing at a conscious and logical level, there will still be a shift at a deeper lever. This is a great way of describing this phenomenon. It’s always worth keeping our minds open to ideas, no matter how far removed from our current thinking they are. An open mind is a rigorous mind!

Advice to my three sons – read anything you can get your hands on. Oh, but do bear in mind that we have limited time in our lives, so don’t waste it reading things that don’t stretch us and show us something new. See reading as a sense of constant wonder. And enjoy.

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Whilst you are here: have you seen my two books released this year?

Values Count is available from Amazon or directly from my website. It’s a book about values based approaches to work. Essential for anyone who wants to work with a strong sense of purpose.

Blue: Experiments in Sound is my latest collection of poetry with illustrations, the latest stories about Blue, the misanthropic 21st century man in search of a meaning. It is available in a limited edition from my website.

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The Journey to Wonder

During the Writing Marathon back in March I spent most of the time writing new material for the latest book. The title has mutated slightly, so that now it is called “The Journey to Wonder”. 

In the blog posts I wrote a lot about the process of writing, with plenty of statistics about the word count and how much I was (or wasn’t) achieving during the marathon. 

I didn’t post any of the words that I produced. So, I thought today I would share an extract from the introduction:


I stole the idea for this book from a wonderful free book that Seth Godin shared a few years ago. He called the book “Insubordinate” and it contained short descriptions of the people who had been significant in his journey. Some of them were well-known names, others less so. It was a short book, which I really enjoyed reading and one which inspired me to think about doing something similar.

Over the years, I have always been attracted to the thinking of people who are eclectic, diverse in their backgrounds, and have always been interested in people who are prolific too. Sometimes people around me have wanted to know what drives my thinking on particular issues, and I have attempted an explanation. Also, one of the massive influences in my life is music – and a diverse range of musical influences too. When I released my last book, an old friend dropped me a message saying that he hoped I would write about music soon. That was a great excuse to press on with the idea behind this book.

This book isn’t just about music though, it’s also about poets, authors, and people who I have worked with. There is a thread running through them all – each one has inspired wonder in me. Each of them has set me off on a journey of excitement to find out more about what they do.

Of the many books I read across a wide range of topics, I am particularly interested in biographies, the lives of people. Often though, the story is about what goes on outside in the world, who they encounter and how that shapes them. It’s really interesting stuff, but for this book (which isn’t a biography as such) I wanted to capture the ideas and influences that have affected me over the years, and use that as a reason to talk about the specific episodes that led to that interest. My hope is that you will find the stories interesting and that it will prompt you to pursue some of the writers, musicians and thinkers that are featured in this book. They are all precious to me in different ways.

The observant reader will notice that men outnumber women in the sections that follow. I did consider this and give some thought to whether to balance it up, but I decided that this wouldn’t have been true to the influences that I have had. There have been many women – musicians, writers, bosses, colleagues – who have had a huge influence on my life. Many of them are included in this book. But I didn’t want to create a balance that wasn’t realistic. The characters who populate these pages visited my life – in reality or in ideas – as the years passed. They represent the key people who have contributed to making me who I am today. There are many other names I could have chosen. Perhaps that creates an opportunity for a sequel.


… and then the book flows on into chapters about David Bowie, John Peel, Kate Bush, Jan Garbarek, Carl Jung, Seamus Heaney, Dorothy Rowe, Margaret Wheatley, Brené Brown and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. A diverse mix of people who have shaped my thinking. Interested? I’m aiming (perhaps optimistically) to have the writing finished by the end of this year. 


Have you seen my two books released this year?

Values Count is available from Amazon or directly from my website. It’s a book about values based approaches to work. Essential for anyone who wants to work with a strong sense of purpose.

Blue: Experiments in Sound is my latest collection of poetry with illustrations, the latest stories about Blue, the misanthropic 21st century man in search of a meaning. It is available in a limited edition from my website.

 

Values Count – here are the opening paragraphs

Earlier in the week I mentioned that my new book has just been published and is available on Amazon. Here are the opening paragraphs from the Introduction:

“It’s all about the money – that seems to be the measure by which everything is judged these days. Every day we hear about new scandals relating to the ethical basis of business, whether it’s large multi-national companies not paying their taxes or corporates who distort their accounts to massage the stock market, or banks that lend irresponsibly and then look to governments to bail them out when they are at risk of collapsing. Too big to fail was a mantra that was all over the newspapers a few years ago.   Those of us who work in the public sector are not exempt from these problems.

In recent years there has been a growing rhetoric that says “private sector good, public sector bad”. This manifests itself in neo-liberal politics where the market rules and public sector provision is seen as intrinsically inefficient. We increasingly live in a world that knows the price of everything without any underlying sense of the value of what we do.”

Intrigued? Why not read the whole book. Follow the links in this post or search for my name on Amazon.

What do Innocent Drinks, Ben & Jerry’s and Robin Williams have in common?

Yes, today is launch day. I’ve broken all of the rules. Apparently, the idea is to get ready for book launch – prepare all your social media, have pre-release copies ready to share with people to get reviews on Amazon. Did I do any of that? No, it took so long to get to this point that I just pressed publish and the book is live on Amazon right now. Strangely, Amazon has decided that the book was published back in September 2016. OK, confession time – that would be my mistake as I forgot to change the publication date and now it is fixed and unchangeable. Oh well!

Here we are then, February 2017 and the book that I finished the first draft of in September 2015 during the Writing Marathon which I described here in the blog, is finally published. Since that first draft I have gone through a lot of redrafting, layout and basic design work. I taught myself how to make a book cover which was not as easy as I thought it would be. Then I have gone through the process of learning how to self-publish through CreateSpace. A few months ago I almost gave up as I hit the wall on pagination and page numbering problems. For a few weeks I had “ghost pages” that couldn’t be seen but were there in the number count. Very strange! After a few weeks of rehabilitation and a huge amount of support and badgering (thanks Su!) the book finally made it to the finishing line.

And that is where I am today. Wondering why I didn’t think about a marketing campaign before now. That process needs developing over the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you are interested, here is the description of the book from the back cover:

The world is falling apart, governments are losing control of their economies and of their tax levying powers. With this backdrop, Stuart Eglin sets out to describe how values based working can act as an antidote to the problems we face. Beginning with his own experience and setting out a range of practical approaches that can be taken to develop a values base, Stuart also looks at large-scale examples of values based approaches and identifies some of the challenges that are faced by corporations. This is a practical book which shows how to develop a values based framework…

Here is the link to find it on Amazon. It should be appearing as a Kindle book in the next few days too. (Another formatting process to learn!)

Oh, and finally, if you would like to leave a review on Amazon that would be absolutely brilliant.

What do Innocent Drinks, Ben & Jerry’s and Robin Williams have in common? Well, the answer is in the book of course. It’s all to do with taking values base approaches to the way that we work.

You can also buy the book directly from this website here. Here ends the shameful piece of self-promotion. Thank you for reading.

Accidental creativity

IMG_0039This morning I was listening to a podcast by Todd Henry called ‘The Accidental Creative‘. I’ve been subscribe for a while. His podcasts are incredibly useful, full of tips and ideas to boost creativity. He also interviews people from time to time. This episode was about the importance of a morning ritual and some of the points he made pulled me up and got me thinking differently.

Now, I have looked in depth at the whole idea of morning rituals – from the ideas around morning meditation and study, to exercise. I’ve also looked at the ideas of Robin Sharma on this. He and many others talk about the importance of getting up really early. Todd’s podcast acknowledges that getting up early is useful, but does emphasise that there is no point in getting up very early if you are exhausted for the rest of the day. He also talks about not being rigid – your systems should support you, not the other way round. This compassionate approach is a game-changer.

He is strong on the importance of rituals and habits – but stresses the need to be kind to ourselves. Cut ourselves some slack when travelling or working on a big project.

He describes his early morning ritual in detail – like many others it does include reading, space and reflection. He also includes a short spell of free writing – and references both Julia Cameron (“The Artist’s Way” – morning pages is a great exercise) and Mark Levy.

And that is where the podcast caught my attention. I am right in the middle of reading Levy’s book “Accidental Genius”. It’s a fantastic description of free writing techniques. Very practically written – he has stacks of exercises to get creativity flowing.

I don’t believe in coincidence – so, given the connection between what I was listening to and what I am reading, I decided it is important to pay attention. So, I will be using more free writing techniques and ensuring that the morning ritual is an important “scaffold” to set up my day. I am grateful to Todd for the ideas in his podcast – beautifully clear and real prompts for a different approach.

I also thought it was important to share these resources with you. Please let me know if you find them useful.

What’s he reading in there?

20120406-145504.jpgI mentioned in an earlier post about Speed Reading that I am trying to increase the speed at which I read and be much more focused about getting the most out of reading. So far this year I have read 18 books. The pace has gone up in the last few weeks. Of course, some books deserve to be sipped slowly and savoured rather than read at speed.

For this post, I thought I would give you the Top Six books I have read so far this year:

  1. Margaret Wheatley – So Far From Home. This is a beautifully written book. The author has found regular space in her life for writing retreats. It shows. The book draws on the Buddhism of Chögyam Trungpa. It is all about looking for the place beyond fear, finding the warrior within.
  2. Seth Godin – The Icarus Deception. I have yet to read a book by Seth Godin that hasn’t sparked inspirations for me. I particularly like the bloggish way that he constructs his books making them easier to read. We are all artists and we need to see whatever we do as being about creating art.
  3. Michael Gelb – How to think like Leonardo da Vinci. This is the third time I have read this book. It is hugely influential in my creative and coaching life. The challenge from this reading – should I find a way to work with Gelb? Interesting thought.
  4. Richard Skelton – Limnology. I am gradually collecting the poetry and music of Richard Skelton. I love what he does and the way he does it. This is a beautifully produced book of poetry and poem art. On the theme of rivers and with a CD of music to accompany it. Sublime.
  5. Dalai Lama – Freedom in Exile. The life story of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. A fascinating read. I learnt so much from this book. Some of the passages about the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese are chilling to read.
  6. Chris Brogan – It’s not about the tights. A short kindle book which I really enjoyed reading. I also like listening to his podcasts. It’s not the tights that make the super hero, it’s the CAPE (confidence, acceptance, permission and execution).

All books well worth a read. At the moment I am in the middle of reading a book of poems and lyrics by Paul McCartney, a book by Car Jung about flying saucers and the latest book by leadership coach Michael Neill. If they are great reads I will let you know.

A lifetime of ECM

ECMBack in the mid-70s when I was at school, a friend of mine (hi, Peter) gave me a tape which had on it an album by Jan Garbarek and one by Keith Jarrett. This was the beginning of an obsession with the music to be found on the ECM label. I have continued to be a collector of music by both Garbarek and Jarrett, as well as many other artists on the label including Terje Rypdal, Ketil Bjornstad, John Surman, Misha Alperin and Dino Saluzzi.

ECM is unusual in the world of record labels because it has such a strongly defined aesthetic. The label produces an incredibly diverse range of artists, but there is always that ECM sound which is difficult to define, but very easy to identify.

So, after so much music, I am writing about ECM again now because they have just produced two wonderful albums:

  • Jan Garbarek Group -Dresden
  • Keith Jarrett – Testament: Paris / London

Both are live albums. I was surprised to realise that this is the first live album for Garbarek. It’s a double album, and captures the excitement of seeing him live. The group has gone through some changes over recent years, partly because of bass player Eberhard Weber’s stroke. He is replaced by Yuri Daniel. This is a tough place to fill – Weber’s playing is so distinctive. Daniel’s playing is beautiful, lyrical and underscores Garbarek’s saxophone perfectly. The other change is Manu Katche on drums – he has worked with Garbarek a lot recently. He replaces Marilyn Mazur. She was always more of a percussionist than a straightforward drummer. Katche brings more of a rock drummer feeling to the music. Between them, Katche and Daniel make for a very different rhythm section which brings some different interpretations of some of the older material. Rainer Bruninghaus remains as the keyboard player, his playing ranging from the frenetic to the achingly lyrical.

The Keith Jarrett album is a triple album covering two live concerts from last year. I’m always amazed by Jarrett’s live work. The idea that he appears on stage to improvise new compositions then and there is remarkable. He says that he always begins with an empty mind – no preconceived ideas. Then, through a series of pieces (short for Jarrett)  he builds a collection of 20 remarkable performances. They are incredibly diverse. The two concerts are very different. As ever, Jarrett is at his best when he searches out a rhythmic melody and then works it to a beautiful conclusion. This is an extremely emotionally laden collection – his best work for years.

So, from two artists who I first heard nearly 35 years ago, come two beautiful albums. A real treat.

If you like the work of Garbarek, and would like to read a book about his music, I think the best book available is probably Michael Tucker’s “Jan Garbarek: Deep Song” – the book focuses on the music of Garbarek but it is also a marvellous exposition of the broader work of ECM.

Leonardo – so much influence from so few paintings

'Madonna Litta' by Leonard da Vinci
'Madonna Litta' by Leonardo da Vinci

I’m reading Michael Gelb‘s ‘How to think like Leonardo da Vinci’ which is an excellent book. I’m working through many of the exercises and finding them deeply inspiring. Over the weekend I did the 100 Questions exercise. It’s simple – in one sitting write down 100 questions in your journal that are signficant to you. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling, and don’t worry if they are repetitive. This was a really powerful exercise. I’ve extended the exercise a bit by getting hold of a new notebook where I am going to generate thought-pieces on each of the questions, unpacking what they mean to me.

Anyway, the reason for this post was to highlight one small fact which I came across in the Gelb book, which staggered me. There are only 17 paintings by Leonardo da Vinci which have survived – that’s an amazingly small number. We all know many of these paintings. Of these, several are not finished!

Leonardo also produced an enormous volume of notebooks and drawings. But it’s the idea that he has developed such a formidable reputation as a painter from such a small body of work.

Celestine Prophecy: an experiential guide

MICRO REVIEW


This book, written by James Redfield and Carol Adrienne builds on the original book “The Celestine Prophecy” written by Redfield.

Sometimes these add-on books are just an excuse to sustain an idea, keeping sales going by selling second book to those who bought the original book. In this case though, this books adds a lot to the original work with plenty of thought-provoking insight. It is a fascinating read with plenty of useful exercises. Each chapter takes one of the nine insights from the original texts, expands on the ideas behind the insight and then has a series of exercises for individual use and workshop ideas for group work.

Cultivating the Mind of Love – Thich Nhat Hanh

MICRO REVIEW

This is a beautiful book about Mahayana Buddhism. Like all of the books I have read by Thich Nhat Hanh, it is written in a stunningly clear and lucid prose. He deals with very complex issues in a deceptively simple way. As a Vietnamese monk living in the South of France, he captures issues of the human condition with great precision. His story about his first love is poignant and thought-provoking.

If you are interested in Buddhism and have not read anything by this author I would urge you to try a book by him. This is a good place to start.