What CEOs are reading: April 2018

Books on people power, risky business and virtual reality will be in the top ten most wanted works of non-fiction for leaders, says Bookomi founder Richard Kilgarriff.

by Richard Kilgarriff
Last Updated: 12 Apr 2018

Bosses are traditionally regarded as too busy to read. What a scary thought. Fortunately for everyone, it’s wrong. Smart leaders at least know that they need to take time to think and to stretch their minds with new ideas – and books are a great way of doing that.

Richard Kilgarriff from Bookomi tracks the reading habits of business leaders. In an exclusive monthly column for MT, he’ll preview the top ten new non-fiction titles that are set to be the most talked about in boardrooms across the UK.


The increasing speed and ease of communication across all digital channels means that today’s news can become tomorrow’s cultural watershed in a moment, so publishers - a traditionally slow and cautious bunch - have to keep up with the times to stay relevant as well as thoughtful.

For instance, New Power:  How It's Changing the 21st Century and Why You Need To Know by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms was updated at the last minute to add #Metoo to other fascinating examples of crowd-sourced campaigns and movements.

Meanwhile the release date of The People Vs Tech: How the internet is killing democracy (and how we can save it) by the insatiably prescient Jamie Bartlett (The Dark Net, Radicals) was brought forward to catch the wave of attention surrounding the alleged misuse of personal data by political campaigners in the UK and the rest of the world.

Anyone who owns consumer data will be advised to proceed with caution as we enter the unknown realms of GDPR. However, standing still might prove even more dangerous. Unsafe Thinking, How To Be Nimble and Bold When You Need it Most by Jonah Sachs argues that now is not the time to play it safe.

In Boards That Dare: How to Future Proof Today's Corporate Boards by Marc Stigter and Sir Cary Cooper the normally iron-clad security of shareholder value is challenged as a material motivator, a theme further explored by Marian Mazzucato in The Value of Everything, Makers and Takers in The Global Economy, who argue that we urgently need to rethink where wealth comes from to heal a sick system.

Other titles on our list declare that society has never been more under the thrall of corporate culture - in CEO Society - The Corporate Takeover of Everyday Life by Peter Bloom and Carl Rhodes, we see a world where everyone is expected to display the perceived qualities of a company boss.

Meanwhile, if you are actually a CEO, then Superfast: How to Lead at Speed by Sophie Devonshire is full of practical solutions to the problems faced by leaders of organizations large and small.

I really enjoyed Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, the film expressed the paradox and pitfalls of escaping into a digital universe controlled by conflicting corporate interests. The subject is brought up close and personal by Peter Rubin in Future Presence: How Virtual Reality is Changing Human Connection, Intimacy and The Limits of Ordinary Life, which looks at the implications of a world where we literally don’t need each other at work or play.  

Possibly the only true watershed moment - the singularity perhaps - will be when we choose, en masse, to don our VR helmets or down our VR pills.

Until then, for a bit of perspective on the accelerating pulse of threats and opportunities bouncing off the boardroom table (virtual or otherwise), On Grand Strategy by historian John Lewis Gaddis is likely to be excellent (it’s based on a course he teaches at Yale); from ancient Greece to the present day through a lens of leadership, politics, war and global crisis, you’ll see time and again that real power seldom changes hands without a fight.

Richard Kilgarriff is the founder of Bookomi. For the full list of Bookomi's Most Wanted titles and details of upcoming events, visit www.bookomi.com or follow @bookomi

Main image credit: Billion photos/Shutterstock

Book jackets: the publishers

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