Recommended books from our Skip the Queue podcast guests

It’s been really fun working on the Skip the Queue podcast in 2020.

We have learned so much from all of our amazing guests, about them, about their roles, and about the sector as a whole.

The show has reached nearly 3000 downloads and we get around 150 downloads per episode, and we have people listening to the podcast all around the world. We’re blown away by how many people are actually listening to it, so thank you all!

Guests have given up their valuable time and insight, mostly during a global pandemic that’s been far from easy for anyone. I want to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to each and every one of our guests, and to each and every one of our listeners. We’re so humbled that you’re enjoying the episodes and that you keep tuning back in.

We ask our guests to share a book recommendation that they’ve loved or has helped  shape their career in some way. 2020 has delivered us some brilliant recommendations and we’ve compiled a list of all the 2020 book suggestions below – happy reading!


Ben Thompson, Chief Storytelling Officer at 9 Degrees West

 “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.”

Lee Cockerell, former Executive Vice-president of Operations for the Walt Disney World Resort

 “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.”

Jules Ozbeck, Head of Sales and Marketing at Continuum Attractions

 “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.”

Johnny Lyle, a Marketing and Digital Director for the attractions industries

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.”

Charlie Read, Managing Director of Blooloop

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.”

Alastair Barber, Marketing and Communications Manager at National Parks

“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.”

Wes Smart, Managing Director of Harbor Park, the Children’s Beach Adventure

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, Tourism, Ticketing and Technology Consultant

“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.”

Carlton Gajadhar, Visitor Experience professional, and Co-founder of the Visitor Experience Forum

“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, Manager of Historic Palaces at Kew, including Kew Palace and the Great Pagoda

 “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.”

 Adam Goymour, Company Director, and Park Manager, at Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure

“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.”

Joshua Leibman, Founder of BackLooper and Co-host of the AttractionPros Podcast

“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.”

Will Kallaway, MD of PR and Sponsorship Consultancy 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.”

 Paul Griffiths, Director of Painshill Park

“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.”

Simon Jones, Managing Director of Digital Visitor

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.”

Alex Robertson, Head of Heritage and Education and International Graduate Programme and Archives at Chivas Brothers

“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.”

Jon Young, Director at BVA BDRC

“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.”

You can subscribe to Skip the Queue on iTunes, Spotify, and all the usual channels by searching Skip the Queue or visiting our website rubbercheese.com/podcast

If you’ve enjoyed our podcast this year, please leave us a five star review, it really helps others find us. And remember to follow us on Twitter for your chance to win the books that are mentioned in each episode.


Photo Credit: by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Paul Wright.
Kelly Molson Managing Director

Kelly Molson is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Rubber Cheese. She’s a champion of women in digital and is passionate about increasing the number of women agency owners in the UK. She founded Mob Happy, which is a series of not-for-profit events for women agency owners and runs intimate mastermind groups that support existing founders and inspire future leaders.

Read more about me

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