My 2020 audiobook round up proved popular, so I thought I’d provide a monthly update of what I’m listening to. If you’ve got suggestions for books I should look up, give me a shout over on Twitter.
Month in numbers
How Brands Grow: What Marketers don’t Know, Byron Sharp
Sharp’s language is certainly, err, sharp. He gets straight to his point: that a lot of marketing truths are merely received wisdom. He then goes on to expound his immutable laws of marketing. I’m a natural sceptic (I try not to be but it always comes out in the end) and yet, at the end of this book, I find myself in agreement with much of Sharp’s analysis. I draw a line at accepting there are laws of marketing beyond trading standards.
I do, however, accept that much of the current received wisdom is wrong, that for inexplicable reasons it persists, and that clever marketers will reassess these things and really look at the data.
Sharp’s not a believer in tight segments but he is big on using data and evidence to prove his point. This is all good stuff. In particular, his analysis of efficiency and loyalty are worth engaging with. The take down of loyalty programmes is particularly good and convincing.
Now, some books don’t suit audio, this is particularly so for those that constantly refer to charts. This book seems to reference something you’re supposed to look up in the accompanying PDF every 10 minutes or so. Guess what, I’m zooming by Basingstoke at 70mph, I can’t really look away. It wouldn’t be sensible.
Additionally, the narration is in a monotone, hard-to-place, American accent. It sucked the nuance and rhythm out of the writing. Nonetheless, I persevered. To really get to grips with the ideas, I think I might buy a hard copy.
White King: Charles I, Traitor, Murderer, Martyr, Leanda de Lisle
I follow Leanda de Lisle on Twitter and once read a tweet about Charles I being seen as a martyr in parts of Ireland. I’d done the Tudors and Stuarts at school (like everyone else) and I’m a regular visitor to Hampton Court, but I’d never heard this. So I bought the book and am very glad I did.
It puts the whole English civil war period into context. It shows Charles I in a light I’d never seen him in. He wasn’t all personal vanity and heavy spending. A man of some character, principle and sharpness of mind. At the same time, he is in parts hugely naive, overly trusting and seems to lurch by overcompensating for mistake by making another at the opposite extreme.
The splits within the parliamentarians were also quite interesting. With the King’s safety seemingly assured until very late in the day.
The use of propaganda, particularly through songs, is a reminder of how much our current issues around truth are nothing new.
There is probably a Brexit analogy to be wrested from this tale of a country split, but it would be cheap and superficial so I won’t waste my time.
Overall, thoroughly enjoyable and educational to boot.
The Spy and the Traitor, Ben MacIntyre
I’m not really one for spy thrillers. Love them as movies, not so much as books. This was recommended by someone who reads widely and voraciously. It is very good.
The true story of a KGB officer who defects to MI6. He’s affected by, and plays a critical role in some truly historic moments. He’s discovered, captured, interrogated and ultimately… Well, I won’t ruin it for you.
The narration is a little self-satisfied. The tone very much makes British spies sound like the heirs of Blackadder’s Lord Flasheart. But that doesn’t really take away from what is a truly gripping tale.
Definitely worth a listen.