Podcast

Recommended books from our Skip the Queue podcast guests

Every episode we ask our guests to share a book that they love or has helped shape their career in some way. We’ve compiled a list of all the book suggestions from season 1-3 below – happy reading!

Season 2

The future of the experience economy in a post-COVID world. With Ben Thompson

Ben Thompson: “If you have marketing in your job title at all, or you have any responsibility to do marketing, you need to read a book called How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp. I had the privilege of being trained by Byron and his team when I was at Mars. It’s an incredibly simple concept of how brands grow, obviously, hence the title, around mental availability, so that the memory structures that sit in your mind. That’s mental availability. And physical availability is the concept of being at arms reach. Whenever the desire to purchase from that category is triggered, that’s the concept.”

“I think for anybody in our industry, they need to get the latest copy The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore. I just think you can’t operate in this space without having understood that.”

 “Authenticity is also a really good one, which is the followup to Experience Economy.”

The legendary Disney customer service. With Lee Cockerell, former Executive Vice President of Operations for the Walt Disney World® Resort

Lee Cockerell: “I would say one that struck me was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Because it was very basic and it’s all focused on people. I started thinking about my own behavior, my own communication, my own reaction to things, and that book helped me a lot. I’ve had it on my desk for, oh God, I think it came out in ’89 and that’s 30, 31 years ago. So yeah, that had an impact.”

Marketing approach for attractions during a time of capped capacity. With Jules Ozbek

Jules Ozbek: “I read the Innocent Smoothie books years ago. And I was completely inspired by these three chaps and their entrepreneurial style and how they set the tone of the way that brands spoke to consumers. And I can remember being just hugely inspired by them and also the culture of the business that they set. And I can remember thinking, I want to work in a business with that kind of culture, that’s entrepreneurial, that’s fun, that’s not frightened to take risks, that’s happy to push the boundaries a little bit. And I think that really set the tone for what I was for in the workplace. And I’ve chased that all of my careers, I think. So that really shaped what I was looking for, and I think that the culture that I try and set within the marketing community that I work in.

What have we learned from it? That’s probably worth more valuable to us than spending money on huge amounts of data and insights. So that really set a cultural tone for me.”

 “Turn the Ship Around by Captain David Marquet who was a US Submarine Captain who was given a submarine to mobilize within three months. He didn’t know how to work it, and he had some very much rely and put his trust in his team to get them to a position where they could become ship worthy or could set sail. And again about culture, I’m all about people and culture. The way he went about doing that and really putting his trust into his team has inspired me as well.”

Digital marketing for attractions and what lies ahead post opening. With Johnny Lyle

Johnny Lyle:7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey. The live, love leaves a legacy that bit about making sure you think about what you leave behind was critical. It changed everything about the way I thought that’s the first one.”

“The second one, which is directly related to be honest, is Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom. Which shows the effect of what you’re saying, and what you’re doing has on other people. And makes you much more conscious of the impact you can have consciously, or subconsciously really does make you moderate your behavior. Because I’m prone to be a loudmouth know all. And I’ve really learned to think about what I’m saying because of that.”

“And then the third one, which is absolutely brilliant, everyone should read it is called Fish! by Stephen Lundin, which is about the guys who work in Seattle fish market. And it’s all about choosing your attitude. You absolutely undoubtedly choose your attitude. You decide what you want to be when you get into work. That was fantastic.”

What can attractions can learn from the Covid-19 situation. With Charles Read, Managing Director of Blooloop

Charles Read: “When I was a kid, I read My Family and Other Animals, which got me interested in wildlife and I have been ever since. I’ve got tanks of praying mantids downstairs. I’ve been keeping praying mantids since I was about seven. That book really shaped a lot of my outlook for my whole life, really.”

“I also read Out of Africa when I was in my teens, which again, is about East Africa. Perhaps it’s about an East Africa that once was and doesn’t exist. It’s a very beautiful book. That’s a great book.”

“In terms of business, I prefer a story. The Smartest Guys in the Room, about the guys behind Enron and how that story unfolded. That’s a remarkable book. “

“I think in terms of writing, one author I love is the American crime writer, Elmore Leonard. He has a fantastic essay he did. I think it’s 10 Rules of Writing. Anyone who’s writing anything, it’s worth reading. It’s absolutely brilliant.”

Managing demand when your tourist attraction is free to attend. Alastair Barber, Marketing and Communications Manager at National Parks

Alastair Barber: “I’ve got a book called The Living Company. It’s by a guy called Arie de Geus, and Arie used to work for Shell in their planning department. So he was part of the team with Pierre Wack that invented scenario planning. So he comes from a pretty hard-nosed environment and Shell is not necessarily associated with kind of tree-hugging soft type. So I think The Living Company is interesting. It’s a simple question that Arie asks, he says, “What if you think of organizations and businesses as living entities?” And you can think of it as a metaphor, but he almost takes it literally. He says that the organizations do share lots of attributes with what you would think of as something being alive.

And why I like it, is it takes it away from the imperative of being the bottom line. He says if you think about an organization as a living entity and you nurture it from that perspective, then it’s going to be healthy. It’s going to be more long-lived and almost as a byproduct, it will create value. So it’s not been driven by the bottom line. I guess it’s one of the sides of that kind of purpose-driven thinking. It’s now got a lot more sort of common currency.”

The importance of communicating with your team. With Wes Smart, Managing Director of Harbour Park

Wes Smart:Winnie the Pooh is my childhood hero, one, but as an adult, when you reread it’s hard to read actually, when you go back to it. It’s written from the aspect of a child, obviously, I’m in Sussex. It was written by A. Milne in Sussex. So there’s a local link as well. But as a veteran, it says things about depression that are fantastic. Not that I don’t suffer from PTSD and that, but I have many friends and colleagues, ex-colleagues who do and that. And what it says simply about that from the attitude of child is fantastic, in simple terms. It reminds you of what’s important. It takes you back. Our audience is children. 

If you want to look at it from a business point of view and the wonderment in simple things, and you don’t have to… I’ve always said about digital, how important it is to certain aspects, but we’re an analog park. And as digital becomes the main of what people do day to day, analog is going to be more important for the experience. And it’s not a surprise to me that adventure activities are growing. It does not surprise me that the experience economy is a growth area, that bars are turning into the prison themes and these kinds of things. Because the more digital you have, the more experience in analog and shared experience particularly become important.

And for a child, a walk in the woods is an experience it’s something that’s different. And Winnie the Pooh brings you back. It grounds you, it makes decision making… It takes the pressure off. It’s a relief. So I’m not going to say a self-help book or an inspiring biography from someone. I’ve got inspiring people in front of me. I need something to make the thought process simpler and the decision making less grand in my own head. And Winnie the Pooh does that for me.”

Carly Straughan: “I will say that the book that she has totally and utterly shaped my life and I quote more than anything else in the whole world is FreakonomicsIt’s just really about statistics. I like real numbers. I’m not really into sort of abstract maths and I like proof. Again, that thing about having unpopular opinions is that a lot of people will, especially in our industry, because I think so many people are into that experience is that they’ll give you anecdotes as fast. And we’re pretty bad actually at making decisions when we don’t have the facts in front of us.

And Freakonomics is really about not making assumptions and looking at cause and effect and seeing where links are between data that you probably actually wouldn’t normally make links between. There’s a lot in it around just different things like why people with different names are less successful. I just found it really, really fascinating. I’ve always really liked statistics and I’ve always really been into kind of deep maths but it has to be based on real-life for me. It’s a great book. It’s a really good book.”

The importance of Sector Cooperation with Carlton Gajadhar and Rachel Mackay

Carlton Gajadhar: “I think there’s one book that I’ve read and really enjoyed and it’s called, Outside In. It’s very American style but it really focuses on how to put your customer in the center in everything you do. So it talks about the different kinds of frameworks, kind of like customer journey mapping, empathy mapping, and why that is very important. But it also gives you really cool case studies as well in that book.”

Rachel Mackay: “It’s very heritage focused but it’s called, Anarchist’s Guide to Historic House Museums, by Franklin D Vagnone and Deborah Ryan and it really challenges what it means to be a historic host museum and goes against that very stayed guided tour model and looks at, what can it be as a visitor experience and what can it be, in terms of community value?

The author, Frank, also does a project called, One Night Stand, where he goes and sleeps in different historic houses and then does a blog on it. He’s American but he came to do one at Kew Palace and obviously, wouldn’t let him anywhere near the beds but he is fantastic. But it was amazing and the way he sees historic houses has really shaped how I now deal with my historic properties and he’s all about trying to use the house in as a natural way as possible.

And so, I think that’s really helped me to see actually if you can get as close as possible to the original purpose of that building, it just becomes a much more natural visitor experience. So yeah, that book has really shaped my thinking, in terms of that.”

The positive impact of reopening with brand new attractions. With Adam Goymour

Adam Goymour: “I’ll probably say Leaders Eat Last, to be honest. He (Simon Sinek) talks a lot about leadership excellence. Values talks about the value of empathy, a whole host of other things. The willingness to listen to your team, it’s now really utilize everything that I’ve learned from that book and sharing it with my management team because they’re a young bunch, and they’re dedicated, enthusiastic, and I certainly want to invest in them. As a leader, I want to inspire, and to do more, learn more, and become more.”

Customer loyalty, guest experience and managing negative feedback on social media. With Joshua Liebman

Josh Liebman: “I’ve got to go with the 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, published at, I want to say, maybe 2007, 2008 or so. And I’ve listened to his podcast and everything that he talks about, and it’s such an interesting mindset and philosophy. 

And even though that the title sounds like a fantasy dream-type thing, and that the cover of the book is someone laying in a hammock between two Palm trees and it doesn’t mean that you’re going to work from nine to one on Monday and take the rest of the week off, but it is really about implementing small changes and improvements within your work life and your regular life, that really help increase your productivity. 

And honestly, I’m so far from having implemented, close to all of what the book talks about, but even if I’m like 1% there, I feel like it’s had such a substantial impact on everything that I’ve been able to do and produce and manage, and the way that I’ve been able to implement that into my regular life, that I found the book to be very helpful and very useful.”

Why PR and communication is vital to attractions and what you should be focusing on. With William Kallaway

Will Kallaway: “And the first one is called Influence by Robert Cialdini, and he’s the sort of guy… He’s a behavioral psychologist and he wrote this almost defining book on influence, really. It’s really, really interesting.”

“And there’s another book, which I would also recommend is written by James Carville, who was one of the Clinton’s campaign experts really. And the name of the book is called Buck Up, Suck Up… and Come Back When You Foul Up, I think. And I’ve often returned to that book because it’s just got some brilliant truths in there about the learn from the war room of political campaigning. It’s really effective. So definitely recommend that book.”

“For relaxation stuff, I love the work by Neil Gaiman. I just love that, I love reading those books. And I also think it’s important to sort of challenge yourself philosophically as well. So for a couple of years, I’ve been reading books on stoicism, which I think is a really interesting philosophy.”

“Particularly, there’s one book called The Daily Stoic, which is by a guy called Ryan Holiday, which provides meditations from Marcus Aurelius, another where you can dip into on a daily basis. He’s also got one at the moment called Ego Is the Enemy, and also Obstacle Is the Way, which I think is a really, really interesting, stoic way of looking at the world, which is, if there is an obstacle in the way, it becomes the way. You just have to deal with that and how you react to it actually defines who you are, and how you’re going to move forward, generally.”

“There’s also one I’m reading at the moment called How to Argue with a Cat, which is brilliant. And it’s all about how to persuade and how to use… Which is just really interesting when you’re thinking about how you use that to communicate as a brand, brand and all that sort of stuff.”

The transformation of Painshill Park, with Paul Griffiths, Director of Painshill

Paul Griffiths: “I was going to pick one by one of your former guests, actually, which was Creating Magic, by Lee Cockerell. Back in my Mary Rose days, we had a team away day, and I bought everybody a copy of this, before … so none of them can apply to get the book off you, Kelly. I made everyone read it, before we then had a session, because what was in there, was so many good points about … all around trying to take away problems from visitors. And I was so impressed with that.”

Experience gifting and multiple strategies to secure revenue for Christmas, with Simon Jones, MD of Digital Visitor

Simon Jones:Cannery Row by John Steinbeck is absolutely brilliant. I love the area that’s, the whole area around California. And I’ve been traveling around there and it’s so atmospheric, they give a really good insight into what the area was like in the times.  If you’ve got, particularly from a staff point of view, if you’ve got a difficult situation, it’s very hard to deal with that. It can be very easy to bury your head in the sand and just let things go. But it always, the majority of the time that always gets worse.”

“A little while back there was a book by Kim Scott called Radical Candor. And I found that really helpful in terms of how to approach that and actually what the benefits of it were and just the structures and the ways that you can do proper constructive conversations and feedback with people to actually help everybody in that. Yeah, Radical Candor was something that opened my eyes to a slightly different way of doing things. I think that’s what I’d recommend.”

How a digital audience engagement plan gained a global audience from over 30 different countries. With Alex Robertson, Head of Heritage and Education at Chivas Brothers

Alex Robertson: “I guess the book that’s always had a lasting impact on me is East of Eden by John Steinbeck. The sheer scale of it, the sheer drama, the way he paints colour throughout it. The emotion contained in the book. The generations which it spans. It’s incredible, and I’d recommend it to everyone.”

What your visitors really think about pre-booking. With Jon Young, Director – BVA BDRC

Jon Young: “I’ve got this book called How Emotions Are Made. Well, when I got to the jury service, I noticed that there were loads and loads of thousand-piece jigsaws which gave me an idea that we wouldn’t be doing a lot with our time. I think I spent 90% of it just hanging around. 

So luckily, I had this book, which is written by a neurologist called Lisa Feldman Barrett. And it’s the science of how emotions are sort of created. It’s a hard read. And I don’t think I’d have read it if I didn’t have so much time on my hands. But it’s really, really fascinating and it kind of changed how I thought about the visitor experience. 

In a nutshell, it sort of talks about how you can only really feel emotions if you recognise the stimulus you’re given and if you’re not distracted in lots of ways. So when we test the visitor experience now, certainly in exhibitions, we will just make sure we sort of test how relatable exhibits and descriptions are and whether there are any distractions in the exhibition room, and lots of other things around that. So I do recommend it. It really changed how we thought about the visitor experience.”

Making Holkham the UK’s most pioneering and sustainable rural estate. With Lucy Downing and Sue Penlington

Lucy Downing: “I’ll just say The Kitchen Diaries because I’m a bit of a foodie. And I think that you need to be nourished well, because if you’re fed well, if you feed yourself well, and you really, again, it’s about sustainability. It’s about knowing where your food comes from. You then perform better. So if you want to do really well at your job, and in life in general, you need to look after yourself.”

Sue Penlington:  “Well, really any Usborne book that’s got a lift flap for my 4-year-old son. We love reading anything about science or farm machinery. But, to pull it back to sustainability, it’s a bit of a cliche, but there’s an awesome book called Dirt to Soil, by Gabe Brown. And it’s all about regenerative agriculture, and how he turned an American dust bowl into a sustainable farm that can grow crops and repair the soil. And it’s all the kind of ethos that we’re delivering over here. So, yeah, really inspiring.”

Why your attraction needs a podcast. With Laura Crossley and Jon Sutton from the National Football Museum

Laura Crossley:The book that’s really stayed with me for a long time is, Of Mice and Men, which I read when I was in year 10 doing my GSCEs, a long time ago now. And I was thinking, “Has that affected my museum career?” And I think it has because of all the books that I like, like that and The Catcher in the Rye and A Room with a View. Well firstly, they’re all set in the past. Well for me anyway, they might have been contemporary at the time but for me, it was reading about the past and so I think that kind of bringing history to life.

Jon Sutton: “Bringing you back to football shirts. When we were starting this exhibition, there was two books that stood out. One of them was book that was The Worst Football Shirts Of All Time, and I was flicking through it and I was like, “Well, that’s a banger, that’s a banger. These are amazing shirts. This book is so wrong.” But the thing is when you look at these best ever shirts and worst ever shirts, often they’re the same, they’ve just put opinion. But the book really that got the exhibition, made me say, “We’re definitely doing this exhibition and we need to bring this author in,” is a book called True Colors by John Devlin. He’s done various books. His latest book is all about international kits.”

The Making of Harry Potter. With Geoff Spooner

Geoff Spooner: “I really like reading, but I don’t get much time to read generally. So probably the last book I read was about the Battle of Waterloo. I’ve read a couple of a couple of books on that, and that is a really interesting book to read from a point of view of clutching victory from the jaws of defeat, and also the importance of really clear communication and trust.”

Chatbots and voice strategies! How attractions can obtain maximum value from both. With Roy Murphy

Roy Murphy: “First of all, to be able to spin a book out of 15 tweets is really interesting, and actually the lessons in it I think are actually quite powerful, so that’s my recommendation. The Almanack of Naval Ravikant. Okay, so I’ll give you a quick pre-see of what it says on the back cover. So it says getting rich is not just about luck, happiness is not just a trait we are born with. So in essence what this is, is Naval is very famous on Twitter, he’s a VC and a bit of a lifestyle guru and so on, and a tech guru too, he wrote quite a … again, famous tweet about a year-and-a-half ago on why getting rich isn’t just about money, it was a massive Twitter thread of maybe, I don’t know, 15 tweets. Someone took those tweets and turned them into a book, which I thought for a couple of reasons was fantastic.”

Applying service design to the visitor journey. With Paul-Jervis Heath

Paul-Jervis Heath: “I think the book that I read, and I read it every January, is Chris Hadfield’s autobiography. For anyone who doesn’t know who that is, Chris Hadfield is a Canadian astronaut, and he was captain of the International Space Station. And the biography tells, like many biographies, it tells the story of how he became an astronaut and his life story, and fills in some of the details behind that. But one of the key things in this book is something that Chris Hadfield talks about, expedition thinking. And that’s the fact that you’re going into this hostile environment as an astronaut and you all have to come back alive.”

How to be a better leader in the attractions industry. With Matt Heller

Matt Heller: “The first book that I wrote, people will ask how long it took me to write, and I say 25 years because it’s a culmination of so many of my experiences. The first book that I wrote was called The Myth of Employee Burnout. It’s all about when you have the beginning of the season, or the beginning of a year or somebody is new in your organisation and they start off really strong, and they’re bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and somewhere along the line they kind of fizzle out. 

The second book has the longest title ever. It’s called All Clear: A Practical Guide for First-Time Leaders and the People Who Support Them

I read this when I was first starting off as a leader. It was so practical. I think that is something that has driven me as a leader, it’s driven me as a trainer, as a coach to be very practical in what I’m providing to people. None of this pie in the sky air fluffy stuff. Give me some things that I can use today as a leader. Very practical. This book is very practical. The title, It’s Okay to Ask ‘Em to Work, sometimes we feel like it’s almost hard to ask people just to do their job. Like they’re going to get offended, or they’re going to react badly.”

Co-creating a cutting edge 21st century science and discovery centre. With Michelle Emerson

Michelle Emerson: “Okay. So I do read a lot. I am an avid reader. And I guess I read more for pleasure than I do for work. But I would say that the book I go back to more often than others is a book called Blueback, which is written by an Australian author called Tim Winton. It’s a short book. It’s a good Sunday afternoon book, if you’ve got nothing else to do. It’s less than a hundred pages. And it’s probably described as a modern fable. But it’s about a young boy, and it sounds a bit strange, but his relationship with a fish. And what that slightly magical relationship results in him developing a passion for the sea, and his future passion for conservation and looking after the ocean nearby where he lives in Australia. So Tim Winton has written a lot of lovely, lovely books. And that one is probably my favourite.”

Adapting the Stonehenge experience from international to domestic audiences, with James Rodliff

James Rodliff: “So I’m going for Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to Happiness, as my book. Which has been an amazing read. So he wrote it in the early part of the pandemic, actually, when he was at home, locked in. He was kind of recounting stories, in his amazing way that he tells stories, about times and places and things that he … You know, reflecting on happiness, what makes him happy. A lot of it is actually amazing stuff that we should be thinking about in terms of our attractions as we reopen and run our attractions. What people love. Nature, art, laughing, a sense of belonging, the unexpected and surprises. These lovely things that should be part of our attractions because they are places that are meant to make people happy. All of our places.”

I’m A Celebrity, Get Me In Here! Translating big brand IPs into commercial ventures, with James Penfold Controller of Partnerships at ITV

James Penfold: “ A book that I found absolutely charming, and not a lifesaver, but just really resonated with me in this lockdown, being single, working on my own, working on a project quite distanced with a team that’s quite disparate around the country, has been The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy. And it comes into mind today because I saw him over my shoulder just because we came on the call because he was on This Morning and it’s being made into a movie, which is incredible. An animated movie using his beautiful artwork. And as I understand it, it’s going to extend the characters and give some background to those four wonderful subjects. And I just feel, with all that’s going on, whether it’s headlines in the news this week on any level, whether it regards ITV or not, that you put a bit of love out there and we’ll all be good, and we’ll get through this storm, as he likes to put it.”

Opening a brand new attraction in the midst of a global pandemic! With Hannah Monteverde

Hannah Monteverde: “The first one is The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Macksey. It’s not a leadership book, it’s not anything fancy like that. It’s not going to tell you how to get a million visitors to your visitor attraction. But, I found it so useful this year for putting things into perspective. This will get a bit personal anyway, but the few days I did work from home this year, my husband would pick out the book and set it out on a page on my desk, each morning. I’d be like, “Yeah, I can do this.” 

I bought an anthology of speeches called She Speaks. It’s put together by Yvette Cooper. It’s basically … I’ve got it sitting next to me, so I can remember what it says. Its tagline is, “Women’s speeches that changed the world.” It’s an anthology of famous women’s speeches. But, I read it at breakfast when I feel like I need a kick up the ass for that day. I pick a page at random. What’s really nice is that there’s no agenda behind it. You’ve got people from completely different walks of life, but just copies of their powerful speeches. Yeah, I’ve found it hugely inspirational. I think at times it’s quite moving, and I think it demonstrates, really succinctly, the power of words.”

Decolonizing of collections and changing the name of the Museum of Us. With James Haddan

James Haddan: “I have chosen Decolonizing Wealth by Edgar Villanueva. And I think it’s a really brilliant book. And it’s not a really long read and he writes in a way that really engaging and easy to digest. A lot of really kind of substantial ideas, but around philanthropy and the whole kind of nonprofit sector. And how the colonial paradigm is deeply embedded in that. And that to start making changes in other systems, we’re going to have to start making changes there.”

Developing niche products for your attraction. With Esther Johnson

Esther Johnson: “Ashamedly, I’ve not read many books. However, over lockdown, there’s a lady called Holly Tucker, who co-founded Not On The High Street, and Holly & Co, and she’s been doing these Instagram Lives two or three times a week, and they’ve been so inspirational, so motivating. She really just captures what small businesses and small entrepreneurs are going through. She answers questions, she’s just so helpful. She has a book coming out called Do What You Love, Love What You Do. I’ve pre-ordered it, and I am so excited to read it. I’ve gone against the rules, that I haven’t read it. Over lockdown, she has really inspired me to think, “Why do I want to run a business?”, and, “Why do I want to continue what I’m doing?” So, she has been a big boost in the daily running of my business. I really recommend her. And also, if you just watch her Instagram Lives, she’s so interesting and so personable, she’s just incredible.”

The importance of customer experience and fostering a culture of innovation. With Stephen Spencer

Stephen Spencer: “Absolutely, I’ll show it to you, although the listeners won’t be able to see it. It’s a book called The Pursuit of Wow! By Tom Peters. I didn’t know who Tom Peters was, in 1997 I was very lucky to go on a five-star fam trip to Atlanta to find out about the merchandise mark there, and the facilities for retail buyers. But also, we were shown the very best of Atlanta from Martin Luther King’s church, to the Jimmy Carter Library, to CNN, Coca-Cola. We had breakfast with Tom Peters.”

Developing an augmented reality experience for The National Memorial Arboretum. With Mark Ellis

Mark Ellis: “I’ve got 43 recommendations for you. The first 41 of which, are books that I love, it’s the Terry Pratchett Discworld series. Don’t put those on your list, that really would break the bank. But, I love the Discworld books. I love the slanted way he looks at the world. There are not many management meetings where I probably don’t quote Granny Weatherwax, or Sam Vimes, or somebody at some point, so love those. 

The other 42 and 43, one is Tom Peters, The Brand You 50, which is a small book that Tom Peters has done. It’s been out for quite a while now, might have been the late 90s. But effectively, it’s saying think about yourself as a brand. It’s got 50 tips in there for how you build your own personal brand. And, I found that very useful, having switched jobs a few times, of actually saying, “These are my core values. This is what I hold dear to me. That’s what you get from Mark Ellis.” It helps when you’re looking at new opportunities of saying, “Is the cultural fit going to be right? I know what I want out of a role.” And, making sure the interview is a two-way process, and it’s going to tick the boxes for me. So, that’s one.

The other one, which perhaps will be the one that you might want to put on your, “I want Mark’s book”. It’s a book called Why We Buy, by Paco Underhill. Paco Underhill is an American. He’s done a whole bunch of research on customer’s behaviour, particularly in retail. I first came across this book in my retail years, but it absolutely carries through into visitor attractions. He talks an awful lot about signage placement and product placement. So, actually observing that and moving it six inches might increase sales of that gondola massively. He talks about signage and being shown a sign for an airport somewhere in a boardroom and saying, “That’s no good”, and taking it out and standing in the middle of busy concourse, and leaning it up against a wall and saying, “Now can we see if that sign works?” So, it’s a great book for that.”

What it really takes to launch a podcast. With Kelly Molson and Paul Griffiths

Kelly Molson: “Somebody recommended Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends And Influence People. And it is a really old book, but it is genuinely the book that I credit with changing my whole perspective about how to listen to people. About how to have really good conversations. And ultimately, it is the book that I’ve given out the most to people. So, I think a really lovely girl that I know, I was mentoring her for a little while a couple of years ago, and that was the first book that I sent her. And said, “Have a read of this, I think you’ll really enjoy it.” And it’s just the one book that I’ve sent out religiously to people. I’ve made Lee read when he started his photography business. Because I just think there’s something about it that just makes you really understand that it is about the other person, more than it is about you.”

Season finale, with Bernard Donoghue!

Bernard Donoghue: “Actually, if I’m going to be really, really honest I’m not sure that I’d be in my job today were it not for Lady Bird books, that I had when I was a kid. Everything from Marie Curie to the plant life of Africa through Joan of Arc through to Christopher Columbus. Honestly, those Lady Bird books ignited my curiosity and the more I got, the more I started just reading about heritage and history and sciences and those kinds of things.  Actually, I have got spare copies of the Lady Bird book of London from about 1960. I’m very, very happy to donate it.”

 

Season 3

How to write a website brief that agencies will thank you for, with Sophie Ballinger

Sophie Ballinger: “There’s lots of Russian literature and when I had a brain that could process all this stuff. I can’t do it anymore. Anyway, this guy is a chap called Craig Clevenger, and this is his first novel, The Contortionist’s Handbook. This one I inhaled. It’s about a chap who fakes his own identity and goes in cycles, and he rebuilds his identity each time. It’s him trying to get out of a very difficult situation, so it’s kind of a thriller.”

Scottish sector update with Gordon Morrison

Gordon Morrison: “I’m not going to go that way at all, because it’s not actually who I am. I am deeply in love, deeply in love with Calvin and Hobbes. But my favourite… I mean, any of them are good, Kelly. Because I know you’ll then say, right, here’s one that you can look at. I would say that There’s Treasure Everywhere is a great compendium. So Calvin and Hobbes, It’s A Magical World. I would urge everyone in the world to read it. You’ll feel like a million dollars.”

How to drive visitor numbers by focusing on the local community, with Liz Power

Liz Power: “Yeah, absolutely. If you have somebody who’s dyslexic who’s joining your team, or you’re going to be working with them, there’s a lot of resources from the Dyslexia Association that can talk to you about managing somebody with dyslexia or working with somebody with dyslexia. That really helps. It’s a neuro-difference the same as any other, so get yourself clued up, work out what the plus sides are, and adapt as best as possible. I wouldn’t change it, it doesn’t make life easy, but it certainly makes it more interesting. I definitely couldn’t do my job if I wasn’t dyslexic. No chance.”

You can’t furlough a Penguin. Experiences from the last 19 months at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland with David Field and Lisa Robshaw

David Field: “Well, I love my books. Absolutely love my books. The Zoo Quest Expeditions by Attenborough were an inspiration to me. But more recently, it’s The Invention of Nature: The adventures of Alexander von Humboldt. Amazing book by Andrea Wulf. Alexander von Humboldt, one of the greatest naturalists, a real kind of polymath that was there. He invented ecology. He saw climate change before anybody else. And it’s so beautifully written and a real inspiration in terms of what he achieved. He’s one of my scientific heroes.”

Lisa Robshaw:The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck. It was given to me, the actual book was given to me by a friend, God, probably about six or seven years ago when I was having a bit of a hard time. And David … it’ll probably make David smile, and my boss, Ben, but I give myself a really hard time over things sometimes. I just want things to be perfect all the time. It’s quite topical at the moment.”

The fight for talent with Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality

Kate Nicholls: “One that was really … is a business book that I found really quite useful when I first was made chief executive about six, seven years ago. And that was Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, which I would definitely recommend for any female leaders in the industry to look at. It talks about some of the different ways that people experience things at work and certainly helped me to think about how I wanted to support the next generation of women coming up and making sure that we had more female representation on boards.

And then my absolute favourite book, which is my go-to book at any time that I just want a little bit of escapism and a really good story is Wuthering Heights. However bad you’re feeling, there’s always something entertaining and enjoyable in getting lost in somebody else’s story and that’s my recommended read.”

Visitor Experience restructure at Tate, with David Hingley

David Hingley: “I always recommend any book by John Falk. Got one here at the moment. He’s just got one out called the Value Of Museums. You’ve probably come across him. I’m sure quite a lot of people will have come across him. I think he writes brilliantly about not just museums, but about all the kind of baggage that we all bring on our visit.  But if I went on my day off on my own, could be there for two hours. It could be a completely different visit. I think he really gets that in his writing. I think he really kind of sums up the operational side of it. 

Then I’ve got a slightly off the wall one, which is Dylan Thomas. The Dylan Thomas Omnibus has his broadcasting about… He just used to do weekly broadcasts. I pulled one out because he’s got a bit about the Festival of Britain Exhibition in 1951.”

Football stadiums as visitor attractions, with Laura Chiplin

Laura Chiplin: “I’m going down more a personal route. I do love self improvement, I call them self improvement books, but kind of mindset, and I’m really interested in those things. But I was thinking about it, and I was like, sometimes actually just reading a good novel, if you’re feeling quite stressed, or you’ve got a lot on, sometimes just reading a good book can really take you out that headspace. And actually, that’s always a good thing. So I really like the writer, David Nichols, so I really love The Understudy. I also really like it because David Nichols used to be an actor before he was a writer, and actually The Understudy is a bit… It’s not autobiographical at all, but it does take a bit from, he was an understudy for a long time. And I guess from working in theatrebefore, I just really like that book. And that led me to One Day, which you might have seen the film, you might have read the book. But One Day is a really beautiful book.”

How can a mobile app help improve an attraction’s sustainability? with Jacob Thompson

Jacob Thompson: “I have taken it down to one book, which is Atomic Habits, by James Clear. I don’t know whether it’s been recommended before, but I picked this. In fact, I listened to it on audiobook first, and then loved it that much, that I bought the physical copy. I think it’s impacted so many areas of my life personally, professionally. I think it’s, I won’t give too much away. People should read it, but it’s all about making change. So whether that be implementing new habits, getting rid of old ones, it’s all that, there’s so much really useful information and tips in there that a lot of books tend to waffle on and pad it out.”

What is Conversion Rate Optimisation and why does your attraction need to know about it? With Matt Scaysbrook

Matt Scaysbrook: “Mine is a very small book actually called Built to Sell by John Warrillow. It is about a fictional agency that the owner decides he wants to sell. And he goes to someone who’s built, installed multiple businesses, who advises him on how to move his business to a point where it is sellable. But even if that’s not the thing that you’re interested in, what the book really focuses on is how do you make sure that you are not the problem in your business?”

Leadership learnings and looking to the future at St. Paul’s. With Sandra Lynes Timbrell

Sandra Lynes Timbrell: “I’ve got the Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which is absolutely brilliant. And then anything by David Mitchell. But I decided that the one I would tell people they had to read and if they could win it, they should, was Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.”

Switching from an international to domestic market. With Neil Dolan

Neil Dolan: “My son is absolutely obsessed with dinosaurs, to the point where, by virtue, now I am obsessed with dinosaurs. So I spent a good part of those train journey to reading Jurassic Park books, because I’d never read them before. I’d watched the films hundreds of times, but I’d never read the books. And I used to do this and my partner was probably sick of me talking about it. I just basically go home and tell her about what I dread in Jurassic Park. And it was such a good way to switch off because, particularly when you’ve got little one, you definitely need that separation of work and home.”

Innovation Marketing and why this sits at the heart of Imperial War Museums strategy, with Pete Austin

Pete Austin: “I’ve always been a learner through people teaching and listening and engaging, so I’m not a big book person up front. I think a book that is definitely, I’ve read at every stage of my life is Animal Farm, by George Orwell, and it’s meant something at different stages. I always come back to it, there’s a few books I always come back to, and maybe I’m not going to re read it, but I’ve genuinely re read that book so many times, and I just think maybe that’s what maybe early days when I was reading it, Orwell’s kind of approach and commentary was something that made me even want to become a journalist.”

Falling in love with ZSL. How engaging the internal team is benefiting both them and their visitors, with Kelly Wessell

Kelly Wessell: “This book, How to Be a Productivity Ninja. So, I went to a webinar that ran with an external company, and this book, I haven’t actually opened it because I’ve got a digital copy, but they posted us all one of these after and it was so inspiring. I think working at a zoo, we get so many emails or you get CC’d into so many emails and being part of a senior management team, you do need to know everything that’s going on. But I think at times it’s very overwhelming. I think we are an email culture now, especially with having to work from home and COVID.”

Guided tours and making it personal at the National Gallery, with Katie Weller

Katie Weller: “So this book, you do have to take it with a pinch of salt. But it is such a good talking point. Let me know if you’ve read it. It’s called the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. You have to read this. So basically, in a nutshell, without spoiling too much, the Five Love Languages… So basically, he’s looking at couples and he says that everyone’s got a different love language. So the five of them, I’ve written them down so I don’t forget, words of affirmation. So you might prefer it if your partner is, “Oh, you look lovely today. I love you,” that might be your love language. Physical touch, so you might like it if your partner is very touchy, feely. Acts of service, so if they mow the lawn or do the washing up. I know for a lot of all people they’re like every one, but they do say you normally have two. Quality time, so going out on day trips, going to the beach and stuff like that. Or receiving gifts, so that might… And they say it fills your love tank. It is a bit cheesy. It fills your love tank. So you normally have one or two that are your most prominent ones. For me, mine is quality time. I love experiencing. That’s why I’m in this industry. Experiences and doing things.”

An attractions industry update, with Jakob Wahl, COO of IAAPA

Jakob Wahl: “I really, really enjoyed reading Tender Bar. I don’t even know who the author is, I’m afraid to say. But it’s a wonderful story about the love of a young boy to a bar. And he grows up with that bar, and it’s a beautiful story. They actually made a movie out of it. The movie was not so great. So don’t watch the movie, read the book.

And then, what I actually also like, from a personal development kind of thing is, there’s a book called The Courage to be Disliked. It’s a very nice book. Not that it helped me, but I enjoyed reading it. And it gave some great inspiration. And it’s also about not trying to set as an excuse where you come from. You shouldn’t excuse yourself for the person you are because of your history. You can change every day, and you can decide to be a different person every day. And I think that is something which is very, very interesting.”

Why retail space is pivotal for today’s visitor attractions with Callum Lumsden

Callum Lumsden: Well, there’s a beautiful book by a fantastic illustrator called Charlie Mackesy. I think that’s how you pronounce his name. It’s called The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse. And it’s all illustrations, but with lovely little writing from him, and it’s all about being gentle and kind to people. And that sounds a bit naff, but the illustrations are absolutely fantastic. I follow him on Instagram and it’s just a lovely, beautiful book. I came across it as somebody else had it. And then somebody bought it for my birthday and I’ve actually used it a couple of times when I’ve done talks, et cetera, to illustrate different things. I highly recommend it.”

Attraction partnerships and rivalries, with Dominic Jones

Dominic Jones: “I love this question and I really struggled, so I went back and thought about a work example, because I think that’s probably more useful, so in all of my career, I’ve come across lots of people who talk about strategy and I have my own view on what strategy is, but there are lots of books you can read about strategy and there’s only one book, in my opinion, that is worth reading and it’s this, Good Strategy/Bad Strategy. Hopefully, it’s still in print. It is the only book to read on strategy. It’s the best book I’ve… And without this book, I don’t think I would’ve been able to do half the stuff that I’ve done, because it’s all about how you formulate your decisions, how you make your decisions, what the outcome is, it’s about execution, it’s about everything that, for me, you need to be successful, so I recommend this book. Really good book.”

Customer journey mapping at Historic Royal Palaces, with Cate Milton

Cate Milton: “I think one of the ones that kind of really woke me up to understanding the psychological side of customer experience a little bit more was Thinking Fast and Slow, which most people in this environment, I’m sure, have read or heard of. But, it’s a great way of understanding what’s going on in people’s minds when they’re just going around their everyday life. So yeah, that’s been so helpful in terms of working out how to make things more seamless and making sure that people can do things automatically, and it’s intuitive and obvious, which means the bigger part of them is free to enjoy and be happy and be excited about where they are. So, I think that’s definitely a big one for me.

But, from a kind of personal side of view, if I’m not looking at heritage, then whales and dolphins are my absolute, absolute passion, and there’s a book, called Leviathan, by Philip Hoare. He’s also a whale fanatic, and it’s just his relationship with understanding the oceans, understanding kind of the history of whales, of whaling, the changing relationship between humanity and whales. It’s my absolute favourite book. So yeah, if you want something a bit out there, a bit random, then Leviathan is an amazingly well-written book.”

How storytelling can increase your donations by 400%, with Bala McAlinn

Bala McAlinn: “So there was a great book I read recently and actually did manage to finish called Get in Trouble by Kelly Link. They’re short stories. Maybe they’re novelettes, their length, they’re 100 page stories as opposed to full novels and in a exciting, surreal sci-fi type environment, which I very much enjoyed.

There’s a guy called Nick Gray who had a company called Museum Hack. Great guy. Really interesting. And yes, so I met him there. We linked, I don’t really know, but we linked on LinkedIn an occasionally like each other’s post and things like that. The 2-Hour Cocktail Party, which has just come out.”

 

From award winning breakfast cereal to award winning visitor attraction. The story of Pensthorpe with Bill and Deb Jordan

Bill Jordan: “Well, we’ve just had a week away, which was rather nice. I read Sitopia by Carolyn Steel, which is a fascinating book. And it’s talks about the way that we haven’t been valuing food. We should be doing more on a local scale. The regenerational farming thing comes into it.

And of course, Jake Finds and Holkham are all involved. And that’s very much a Norfolk thing as well. So, I thought it was just a brilliant book. And again, we shouldn’t be just talking about buying the cheapest food, although for some it’s certainly necessary, but we should be looking at the importance of food in the civilisation rather than just what we can get away with and then factory farming and intensive farming it’s got to change. Yeah. So that’s my book.”

Deb Jordan: Well mine, the one I’d suggest that everybody should read, is Fingers In the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham. I think it may have won best book in the wildlife somewhere. But it’s a very remarkable, raw. It gets absolutely into the vulnerability of people with Asperger’s.

And so Chris did this extraordinary program on television, which was Asperger’s and me. And I was amazed by that and how he put himself into that position of saying what was going on in his life and how difficult it had been for him. And this book is very much his early memoir, probably from about five to about 17.”


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Photo Credit: by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Paul Wright.
Author:
Kelly Molson Managing Director

Host of the popular Skip the Queue Podcast, for people working in or working with visitor attractions, she regularly delivers workshops and presentations on the sector at various national conferences and universities including The Visitor Attractions Conference, ASVA and Anglia Ruskin University.

Read more about me

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