Books I read in….. May 2017

Books I read in….. May 2017

My book choices this month were a lot more upbeat than my April selection, which made for a happier month all round.  Something I think I need to bear in mind!

Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic (Inside one of the World’s most admired service organisations) –  Leonard L. Berry and Kent D. Seltman

 A small medical practice opened for business in the remote Minnesota town of Rochester in the early 1900s.  Founded by Dr. William Worrall Mayo and his sons Drs. William and Charles Mayo, Mayo Clinic has come to be known as one of the most influential and valuable service brands in the world.

Today, more than 42,000 employees, students and volunteers work or study on the three Mayo Clinic campuses in Minnesota, Arizona and Florida.

Recognised across the world as “the place to go if you are really sick”, Mayo Clinic is at the cutting edge in terms of medical research and the application of that research, whilst providing an outstanding ‘customer experience’ for its patients and their families.  From the outset, the first and most important value of the Clinic has always been “the needs of the patient come first”.

This book examines whether an institution such as Mayo Clinic can offer important lessons for managers outside of healthcare.  In my opinion, the answer is definitely, “yes”.

The book examines each of the Clinic’s core values in turn, from preserving the “patient first” legacy of the Mayo founders to investing for the future.  At each stage, there are valuable insights provided as to what makes for an excellent client service experience and many of these could easily be applied to any service organisation.

For me, the book provided a wealth of ideas as to how Bloomsbury can improve the service we offer to our clients, and I would recommend this book to any manager or business owner in a service-related organisation.

Four seasons in Rome – Anthony Doerr

By the time you are reading this blog, I will be in Rome (#bucket list).

A few months ago, I read this author’s latest novel “All the light we cannot see” which is set in France during World War II.  It is a fantastic book which I would highly recommend, in particular because of the quality of the writing, so when I saw this book mentioned in someone’s reading list, I immediately bought it.

This is not a guide book to Rome, but rather the story of a family and their experience of living in a foreign country for 12 months.  Anthony Doerr and his wife became the parents of twin boys just 12 hours before he was invited to move to Rome for a one-year literature fellowship at the American Academy.  In return for a studio, a small apartment and a modest stipend, all he had to do was write.  Bravely, they accepted the offer.

This book is not about the best sites to visit or the best restaurants at which to eat; it is more a love letter to Rome.  Like his novel, it is beautifully written and very evocative.  Writing about the intensity of summer in Rome, you can almost feel the heat on your skin.

As a foreigner abroad myself, I could relate to many of the author’s experiences but I think it is a book that anyone who loves to travel would enjoy.  I would certainly recommend it to anyone thinking of visiting Rome.

Flash boys – Michael Lewis

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a huge fan of Michael Lewis.  I really admire the way he can explain pretty complex finance-related issues in a way which is understandable for the reader, and in this book he tackles the issue of high frequency trading (HFT).

I would imagine that most of us know that Wall Street is no longer about a testosterone-fuelled pit of males screaming at each other at the tops of their voices and that trading on the world stockmarkets is now done by computers but I doubt that many people are aware of the impact HFT has had on ordinary investors and their life savings.

“The big short” told a story which would seem unbelievable if you hadn’t actually lived through it; “Flash boys” goes to yet another level.

In essence, it is a story about how a bunch of Wall Street misfits set out to expose a system that was broken – a real David and Goliath story.  We might like to think that the regulators protect investors but this book makes it clear that that’s not necessarily always the case.  After its publication in 2014, it prompted a series of inquiries by various US government departments but whilst a number of fines were dished out, regulation failed to solve the problem.  That said, there are signs that HFT is no longer the billion-dollar profit business it once was, so perhaps the situation is improving.

One of the things I most admire about Lewis is his ability to write a non-fiction book about a complicated subject and make it read like a thriller.  For anyone with even the remotest interest in the stockmarket, this is a rollicking read.

Moonwalking with Einstein (The art & science of remembering everything) – Joshua Foer

In 2005, Joshua Foer attended the USA Memory Championship as a freelance journalist, there to write a short piece for Slatemagazine.  A year later he attended the Championship as a competitor and won.  This book is the story of how he got there.

As someone who has reached that age when I can walk into a room and wonder why I am there, I find myself increasingly fascinated with how the brain, and memory work.

The Greek poet Simonides of Ceos is, according to legend, the inventor of the ‘Memory Palace’, or ‘The Art of Memory’.  Before the written word existed, all knowledge had to be passed on verbally and therefore memory training was considered a centrepiece of classical education, on a par with grammar, logic and rhetoric.  Students were taught not just what to remember but how to remember it.  The techniques of classical memory training were first recorded in a Latin textbook called the Rhetorica Ad Herennium which was written somewhere between 86 and 82 BC.  Today, this book is the bible of mental athletes.

Foer’s book takes us on a fascinating journey through the history of memory, as well as the science.  Along the way, he meets with those who have incredible memories (including the ‘savant’ Kim Peek, a.k.a. Rain Man, who inspired Dustin Hoffman’s character in the Hollywood movie), people whose memory have been damaged to the extent that they can literally remember nothing from one minute to the next and those who have made their fortunes in teaching others how to improve their memories.  Whilst carrying out all of this research, Foer is training himself as a mental athlete, under the tutelage of English mnemonist Ed Cooke, whilst being studied by Anders Ericsson (the professor of psychology whose work on deliberate practice formed the basis for the “Ten Thousand Hour Rule” ).

This is a great book.  Not only does it make a scientific subject entertaining but it also shows us exactly what we are capable of if we (literally) put our minds to it.

Wealth with purpose (A common sense guide to wealth, investing and an inspiring life) – David L Andrew

David’s firm, Capital Partners Private Wealth, based in Perth, Australia, is a member of GAIA, an organisation which Bloomsbury was recently invited to join.  David gifted a copy of this book to me when I met him at the GAIA conference in Napa a couple of weeks ago.

In writing this book, David states that his goal is to provide the reader with “a common sense guide to wealth, investing and an inspiring life”.  I would say that he has achieved this in spades.

I would also say that this book encapsulates both everything that Bloomsbury is about and the way in which we work with our clients.  What David has managed to do is to distil a relatively complex subject into a simple roadmap to financial happiness, which anyone could follow.  Whether you choose to work with a financial planner or go it alone, this book provides a wealth of useful guidance.

Starting with defining your purpose, moving through creating your strategic plan, investment planning, legacy planning and finally determining whether to work with a financial planner or not, David clearly sets out the most important points to consider in each section, together with an abundance of advice and information on each topic.

Having spent a few days getting to know David, I can honestly say that this book firmly encapsulates his obvious desire to help people to make smart decisions about their money, and as a result to live meaningful and fulfilled lives.  His clients are very lucky to have him to help them on that journey but in writing this book he is offering a helping hand to a much wider audience.

Favourite quote from the book:

“In the bigger scheme of things money is really not that important.  Rather, it is an enabler that allows us to do the things

that are important to us and make us happy.”


I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Warm regards