Stephen Bayley; City Secrets: London; Edited by Tim Adams; Granta; pounds 11.99
Like wine and flowers, books are the best gift because they flatter the recipient's taste and deliver value way beyond price. I am laying in a stock of City Secrets: London for Christmas.
This is a simple formula, superbly executed. The series started with Rome, but now writers, architects, artists and a menagerie of opinionated know- it-alls (myself included) have been asked to contribute recommendations and prose descriptions of a favourite London venue, haunt or experience.
It's a wonderfully unsystematic collection of curiosities: neglected corners, romantic walks and strange shops. It works both as an impractical guide and as a standalone literary anthology.
Stephen Bayley is an author and design consultant
Sir John Harvey-Jones; Shackleton's Way; Margot Morrell & Stephanie Capparell; Nicholas Brealey; pounds 14.99
For the first time in years my choice is simple. I want it to be enjoyable as well as informative. If it also makes me think about business problems and improve my own performance, that is a great plus.
Shackleton's Way achieves this and more. It is a thrilling and inspiring story, which improves with every re-reading. It tells of a heterogeneous group of people working as a team, overcoming physical difficulties - achievements rarely equalled today.
The art of leadership is to enable ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results. This book analyses the skills and methods of one of the greatest leaders of all time, offering help and advice to us all. What a present!
Sir John Harvey-Jones is a management guru and author
Robert Worcester; Globes at Greenwich; Elly Dekker; OUP; pounds 99.50
This is especially suitable for the workaholic who lives only for his (always a 'his') business. It would lure even the most focused businessman to contemplate more instructive and enlightening pursuits during a long afternoon by the fire.
The collection of globes and armillary spheres in the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich is the greatest such collection in the world, and this lavishly illustrated book by Dr Dekker, former NMM's Sackler Research Fellow, teaches history, geography, cartography, astronomy, politics, philosophy, metallurgy, languages, art and, above all, patience.
It's a book for dipping into, absorbing, reading again, and above all learning from.
Robert Worcester is chairman of MORI
George Walden; Personal Terms; Frederic Raphael; Carcanet Press; pounds 16.95
How many writers are there who have won an Oscar for a film script (Darling), who have written for Stanley Kubrick (Eyes Wide Shut), have several acclaimed novels behind them (including Glittering Prizes) and who translate classical poets in their spare time? Frederic Raphael's first column of memoirs in the form of a writer's journal takes us through the heady world of the late '50s and '60s. He was building up to his writing and Hollywood career and met everyone from Natalie Wood to Somerset Maugham. There is also many a Raphaelesque joke, the best/worst of which is a line he wrote for the radio comedienne Hermione Gingold on the subject of whale meat, which people actually ate in those penurious times: 'Whale meat again? Don't know where, don't know when ...' A superb read.
George Walden is a journalist and author of The New Elites
Lord Hanson; Gentleman Jim; Lorna Almonds Windmill; Constable Robinson pounds 18.99
This is the perfect gift for an ex-colleague who in the second world war served in an early version of the SAS. Gentleman Jim - The Wartime Story of a Founder of the SAS is by Major Almonds' daughter Lorna, herself an ex-Army officer.
Then a sergeant in the 8th Guards Commando, 'Gentleman Jim' Almonds, MM & Bar, Croix de Guerre, was among the first to join David Sterling's clandestine operations in the Western Desert in 1941, a time when many felt the chances of defeating Rommel were slim. The daring (he was captured nine times) of Almonds and his few colleagues helped change all that.
In view of the SAS's crucial involvement inside Afghanistan against the perpetrators of international terrorism, the story of this extraordinary man and the effect he had and still has on our lives could not be more prescient. Read it and be thrilled.
Lord Hanson was the co-founder of Hanson plc
Baroness Hogg; Macroeconomics: Understanding the Wealth of Nations; David Miles & Andrew Scott; John Wiley & Sons; pounds 27.95
PJ O'Rourke discovered that most MBA students 'took econ and forgot everything in the textbook so that they could get a job from somebody else who took econ and forgot everything in the textbook'. This is a much-needed textbook to help them stay interested: a course written not to train yet more mathematical modellers but to help business students (and others) think more clearly about macroeconomic issues, spot the difference between good and bad economic arguments and understand the way the global economy works - or doesn't.
The authors are academic economists who roll theory out into such real-world issues as the making of banking crises and the persistence of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. A great way to get serious about economics without losing yourself in equations, requiring only 'an ability to follow the logic of arguments'. Wanted: a companion volume that does the same for business or 'micro' economics.
Baroness Hogg becomes chairman of 3i in January
Denise Kingsmill; Yves Saint Laurent: A Biography; Alice Rawsthorn; HarperCollins pounds 20.00
This is the perfect story of a design talent and a business talent forming one of the most successful fashion labels. Yves Saint Laurent's life is depicted in full with all its highs and lows, as are the ebbs and flows of his business career. Underpinning it all is his friendship and business partnership with Pierre Berge.
My early career was in the fashion industry and I remember sitting in the front row at YSL's shows being absolutely amazed by his style and creativity. It's a million miles away from the day-to-day reality of the Competition Commission, and this book takes me back to that sparkling world. For Christmas, you need a good book to curl up with by the fire, and this is a jolly good read, being both an excellent biography and a marvellous business story.
Denise Kingsmill is deputy chairman of the Competition Commission
Alison Eadie; Churchill; Roy Jenkins; Macmillan pounds 30.00
This hot-off-the-press biography is elegantly written, full of fascinating detail and has considerable contemporary relevance. In 1897, the young Winston Churchill was fighting Pathan tribesmen on the Afghanistan border. During the Battle of Britain the Germans and British fought a propaganda battle over who shot down what.
Lord Jenkins' extensive experience of government and parliament, plus his impressive historical knowledge, make him an authoritative interpreter of the events he describes. He shows his subject warts and all. Churchill may have been our most celebrated prime minister, but as a young man he was often pushy and money-grubbing. The book brings home how much the status of parliament and politicians has declined and how oratory is little prized in today's soundbite world.
Alison Eadie is a management columnist for the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph
John Kay; The Skeptical Environmentalist; Bjorn Lomborg; CUP; pounds 17.95
This book will either enrapture or infuriate, so it may make a good present for your enemies as well as your friends. It contains more footnotes than any other book I have read, but don't let that put you off: it is mostly an entertaining read. Lomborg takes a good, hard look at the evidence on all the environmental issues: climate change, population growth, resource depletion, waste disposal.
Environmentalists will be infuriated by his merciless demolition of their arguments and his critique of their lack of scientific rigour. Those who have always taken their environmental activism with a pinch of salt will be delighted.
For both groups, there is enough material to keep them reading well into the new year.
John Kay is the author of several books on economics and business
Leslie Hannah; The City of London: A Club No More 1945-2000 (Vol IV); David Kynaston; Chatto & Windus; pounds 30.00
David Kynaston is the City's Boswell. The three earlier volumes of his social history of the City were for several years a favourite spouse's present for bankers. The fourth volume - covering the post-war years - is even better, because it is a well-written story that many senior City figures remember from personal experience.
Kynaston is a great storyteller but he is more than that: he has a sharp eye for revealing detail, so his stories are never trivial. From the rise of the takeover bid to the rise of regulation, he subtly characterises both gradual and cataclysmic changes. His treatment reflects on the critical issues: are things better now? Have we lost something in the process? Great fun to read.
Leslie Hannah is chief executive of Ashridge Management College
Jeremy Myerson; The Art of Looking Sideways; Alan Fletcher; Phaidon Press; pounds 24.95
The book I'd most like to put in someone's Christmas stocking this year would probably tear a hole in the bottom of it. The Art of Looking Sideways is a heavyweight 500-page tome on the art, nature and history of visual intelligence that no manager should be without.
Fletcher spent his professional career as a graphic designer, but this magnificent compendium of amazing quotes, lateral connections and visual curiosities stretches across every aspect of human endeavour, linking great thinkers, writers and artists from Aristotle and Martin Amis to Emile Zola and Piet Zwart.
Fletcher loosely groups a lifetime's collection of memorable images and quotations under such headings as Brain, Mind, Chance, Rhetoric and Wordplay.
But the sheer randomness of the material - there are graffiti quotes such as 'I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous' - is what makes it all work so magically. As Thomas Mann points out in the book: 'We are no more than God's curiosity about himself.' Quite so.
Jeremy Myerson is director of the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre at the Royal College of Art
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