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Put the 'read' back into reading week

Book open Reading time: 3 mins

Reading week: two words that define an age old struggle over whether to complete your 4000 word assignment a month early, or go on holiday to the snow covered plains of Austria and sample the delightful combination of clear blue sky, sunshine and après ski.

We have always been an advocate for the ‘work hard, play harder’ mantra. However, we also feel there is scope for a fantastic work around, should you wish to recharge your batteries and yet lose none of the mental sharpness you’ve been working so hard to attain. This can come in the form of the tried and trusted work of art called the book.

Books inspire, they can educate. They can move to tears and they can help dig us out of the proverbial rut that we sometimes find ourselves in. With this in mind, we asked around the office for some examples of inspiring reads. Here are our top five:

1. Into Thin Air – John Krakauer

Admittedly, when looking for inspiration, the first thing that comes to mind is not necessarily triumph borne from disaster. However the account of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster and the subsequent actions of all those involved illustrates the tenacity and iron will of the human psyche. Even if it never convinces you to scale Everest, it will no doubt show you how to conquer 'mountains' of your own.

2. Life On Air – Sir David Attenborough

If Sir David Attenborough was any more of a beloved national institution he’d already be marble, installed on a pedestal in Westminster Cathedral… This was just the start of a thoroughly impassioned explanation as to why this can be seen as an inspiring read. Surely, when you look at the great achievements by one man, it is hard not to feel in awe – yet also, remember that if he did it, then so can you.

3. Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead – Sheryl Sandberg

Arguably a fantastic illustration of a modern book for modern times, in an era where social media dominates everything we do, this is a fascinating insight into the journey of one of the key people who shaped the future. For many of you, imagining a time before Facebook is impossible – this book shows how it was possible to take everything you thought you knew and turn it upside down and inside out.

4. Good to Great – Jim Collins

Collins has studied what makes a company not just good, but great. His analysis of the enduring themes of what makes a great business is a fantastic guide to any entrepreneur: setting big goals, inspiring leadership and doing one thing well are example of what business leaders need to focus on if they want to excel. For those of you teetering on the brink of setting up your own venture, this will give you the encouragement you have been looking for.

5. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

Arguably the only book with a protagonist named Gray that is worth reading, this book has fascinated me since the very first time I read it. Perhaps this is because it aligns to my creative side. Perhaps it is the incorporation of such dramatic Faustian themes (another of my favourite texts) and portrayal of the beauty and frailty of human existence in such a compelling way, which means it has long been a firm favourite. It encapsulates the desire to have everything, yet highlights the perils of such success. It is both romantic and destructive. Moreover, when looking at the historical context of the book itself, it is an illustration once again of how it is possible to tear up preconceptions and revolutionise the way we think.

‘It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors’ 

Obviously these are not necessarily the definitive books you should read (although perhaps your curiosity has been spiked). Hopefully it has urged you to seek out your own source of inspiration. The beauty of the book is the ability for it to transport us to another place entirely. It is a way of learning without being forced and of growing at our own pace.

There is no right or wrong answer as to what you should read – only the suggestion that in doing so you can unlock potential you never realised was there.

So... over to you.