Non fiction

Disrupted by Dan Lyons – Review

At Newsweek I worked for Jon Meacham, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Andrew Jackson. Here I work for a guy who brings a teddy bear to work and considers it a management innovation.

DAN LYOns

I’m late to this book – it was published in 2016 – but I doubt I’ll read a better non-fiction book this year. Dan Lyons had a long career in print journalism, but when he was laid off in his fifties he decides to enter a new career in a tech start up. Hired as a “marketing fellow” he looks forward to advising on media strategy, writing for their blog and attending conferences. His emergence into a world of orange walls, orange desks, orange T shirts and a candy wall is initially an amusing look at a clash of both ages and working cultures but gradually turns into open mouth disbelief at the way the company is operated and funded. If you’ve ever worked in tech like me, been interested in what tech companies are like, or wondered how a start up gets funded or goes for an IPO, this is for you. It’s a great exposé of what some might say is the next great bubble, with a sting in the tail. Highly recommended.

This review is of a purchased copy.

Non fiction

“Kill The Black One First” by Michael Fuller – Review

For anyone to rise to the rank of Chief Constable must take talent and dedication. To do so against the backdrop of racism and hatred from all parts of society that this author endured during his career is truly astonishing. Add this to a childhood spent in care, with only patchy contact with his birth parents, and a determination to join the police at the age of 16 despite many people counselling him against it, and you can’t help but be in awe of the grit that this man shows.

This is an uncomfortable read in many places, shining a light on attitudes that were truly hurtful, but his spirit, determination and empathy shine through. There are some lovely vignettes too, as he comes across people later in his career that he encountered at the start. It’s also a touching tribute to some of those working within the care system who loved and believed in him. I would have loved to see a little more from his time at the pinnacle in his career, but overall I was touched, saddened and impressed by this book. Recommended.

This review is of an advance copy from NetGalley and Bonnier Books.

Non fiction

First Man In: Leading from the Front by Ant Middleton – Review

Ant Middleton is ex British special forces and most famous for his appearances in the TV programme SAS: Who Dares Wins, where members of the public take part in a curtailed version of special forces selection. And when I say members of the public, clearly these are hugely fit people who are as hard as nails, not people like me who’d cry 200m up a mountain path and try and order an Uber.

This book is a bit of a curiosity as it’s part memoir, part thoughts on leadership. It’s also a marmite book – I think you’ll either love it or hate it. What does shine through is how the military looks after its own on the battlefield but less so on civvy street, and the author doesn’t shy away from some of the issues he faced in adapting to civilian life (one of the lessons he draws here is not to hit a police officer, which would seem eminently sensible, and yet…). A resounding four stars from me, but that may be because I’m a huge fan of the TV series and enjoyed learning about the man.

This review is of a purchased copy.