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 1-5 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.”



Season 4

How to create truly unique visitor attractions with Robbie Jones

Robbie Jones: “I think one that’s a personal one is by Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises. It’s a lovely in depth read about the twenties and thirties where cafe culture was rife and artists and poets were making adventurous trips to France and Spain to soak up the culture. And it’s a wonderful, wonderful story that really makes me want to live 90 years from now and really enjoy it. I think that’s the first part.

The second part is that Ernest Hemingway used to be a journalist so his descriptions of the characters are very matter of fact and I think that’s seeped into my audience profiling that I do as part of my job. I like the matter of fact, I like the facts that make the people real, and then start to tell the story of what we think they’re going to do in an attraction. So I think Ernest Hemingway has certainly had an influence on me.

And then the second book is called Superforecasting, which is by Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner. Now this, it came to prominence a little bit when Dominic Cummins was advisor to Boris Johnson in his ill-fated stay at 10 Downing Street, and it speaks about the art and science of prediction and getting things right.

How introducing variable pricing increased revenue by 2.3 million with Simon Addison

Simon Addison: I tried really hard to think of a work book that had changed my career. And I really could I’ve read work books, but there’s not one that I go back to time and time again. So, so I’ve picked fiction books, I’ve picked 1000 Splendid Suns, which is a novel by Khaled Hosseini, which is set in Afghanistan. And I don’t think many people are going to choose this book after I describe it. It’s not an uplifting read, it’s a really challenging read. 

The central characters are women living in Afghanistan, forced into marriage during a time when the Taliban influence was growing. But I think I read at a time when Afghanistan was in the news a lot. And we were probably presented with a relatively one dimensional interpretation of Afghanistan, in the way that the news coverage came through. And so it offered me an insight into sort of, I guess, life beyond the headlines. And despite the fact that it was a really harrowing read at times, there was a sense of hope that came through even the most difficult situations. 

And I think that really stayed with me. And as somebody who’s probably we’re very interested in sort of world affairs and politics, I think, it really challenged me to make sure that you sort of read around the topic. If you before coming up with a really definite position or opinion on a world situation, the need to sort of read around something. And I know, this wasn’t a it wasn’t a fact book. It was a fiction book. But I think it really changed my perspective on Afghanistan. So I don’t think many people want to read it. But if you want a really harrowing read, but you know, that sense of hope and really difficult times, it is a great book.

State of the nation report with Steve Mills

Steve Mills: Okay. I’ve read this book called Silt Road, silt road rather than silk road, by a guy called Charles Rangeley-Wilson or Rangeley-Wilson. Not quite sure, to be honest. And he’s quite niche based, so be prepared. It tells the social history of High Wycombe, which is where I live, through the lens of the River Wye, which sort of runs through it, although most of it has been culverted and put under a shopping centre and a flyover, these days.

Why smell is a form of mind control with Liam Findlay

Liam Findlay: Mine is Theme Park Design and the Art of Themed Entertainment by David Younger. Well I was just going to say, lots of attraction designers kind of treat this as their Bible because it’s like a big encyclopedia of everything to do with theme park design. So there’s a bit about smells in it, there’s a bit here about costumed characters, there’s stuff on cues and how different cues work. So it’s like anyone wants to go into theme park design or attraction design in general, even if it’s like museums, this is a great resource.

And actually David Younger, the author, I’ve just been working with him because he’s started a Kickstarter for a video game that’s based on a theme park sort of. And we’ve put together a scent collection of the different locations in the game so as people are playing, they can sniff the smells and kind of transport themselves into the world of the game.

The importance of building a great social community and process behind rebranding a 70 year old attraction 

Danielle Nicholls: I know, right. John Wardley, who is a big theme park, mainly rollercoaster, designer. He’s done work for Merlin, PortAventura, Oakwood, so many. He was really, really big. He worked on things like Nemesis, Oblivion, Katanga Canyon at Alton Towers, was Megafobia at Oakwood. He had an autobiography called Creating Your Nemesis, which basically spanned through his life of how we got into the theme park industry and where we went through. And it’s very story based and anecdotal, but it was really inspiring. And helped me create the courage to knock on doors and do that kind of thing.

Ross Ballinger: I remember one book, I think it’s probably the only book I have read, was the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I think it’s Dan Brown. But that’s only because I was interested in Leonardo da Vinci, who was obviously a scientist or an… He was a bit of an artist and an architect. So I was more interested in his theories, and his Vitruvian Man, I think it is. So I was more interested in his works, really. But other than that, I do own every book by Jamie Oliver, so if a cookbook works.

Castle Howard through the lens. What it’s like to film a TV production at a visitor attraction.

Abbigail Ollive: I’m a crazy baking lady some nights for that. But actually, it was difficult to choose, because I’ve got a whole amazing shelf of cookbooks that I use very regularly, but Sabrina Ghayour, who has recently released Persiana Everyday. I absolutely love Middle Eastern cooking, and I’m not really sure where this passion came from, but I think that particular book I’ve been using a lot recently, because it’s good, quick recipes, they’re really reliable, and they’re brilliant midweek, not overly complex when you’ve got your store cupboard of ingredients sorted.

Looking forward to 2023: Key digital trends attractions shouldn’t miss out on.

Andy Povey: One’s a business book. Really simple, about a half hour read. It’s called Who Moved My Cheese? It’s one of my favorites when I first read it 20, 25 years ago, something like that, it really gave me a different way of looking at change. So I really recommend that. And the other one is actually a book I love reading to my kids, called Oi Dog! So there’s a child in all of us. And that for me really just tickles all of my childish bones.

Walk the Big One. Developing an exclusive experience, from an everyday safety process

Andy Hygate: Yeah, I’ve picked a book by a director, a film director called Derek Jarman. And it’s a book called Modern Nature. He’s sort of an inspirational person to me. But why it’s important to me is actually it’s based around… The guy lived effectively in a beach hut in Dungeness, which is down in Kent, which is where I’m from originally, in a situation which is considered by many to be… It’s somewhere that’s not that far from where my parents live. It’s probably about 20 minutes drive.

This book is kind of like a diary, really, about how he’s built a pebble garden, because it is literally on the beach, in the shadow of a nuclear power station, which sounds horrible, but actually I think it’s a really inspirational thing. And I think you can see beauty in stuff which is unconventional and so on.

And the fact that he’s managed to build a pebble garden and have plants in an area which is a harsh environment that can be seen as bleak, but actually I think there’s great beauty in that. And that all comes across in that book and its very inspirational, conversational style makes it a really memorable book for me.

Developing a culture of innovation, with Elizabeth McKay

Elizabeth McKay: One that I mentioned when we met was this book Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell. And it’s just so good that I think if people haven’t heard of it, they should pick it up. I mean, he wrote The Tipping Point and Blink, and he’s just an excellent writer. He talks about data in such an interesting way. But this book is all about big questions in history and psychology and has case studies about Fidel Castro and Sylvia Plath and Bernie Madoff and Campus Rape, and I guess it’s a bit dark. 

My other one is I just bought this book from my son, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I read it when I was a teenager and it had a huge influence on me. I think it was my first Dystopian novel. So I’m just reading it again and my son may not get it or it’ll be so well. 

The economic outlook for 2023, and the big shift in experiences discovery and marketing, with Douglas Quinby

Douglas Quinby: This is a book I recommend quite a bit. And it might be it’s not like a typical book because I know you’ve got lots of great recommendations and there’s lots of amazing business books out there. But one of the books that has always stuck with me, it’s actually it’s a service manual. It’s called Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Customer Service. And it’s a short paperback. It’s I think it’s like 109 pages or even less. It was written as a manual for customer service teams. But actually, as I read it struck me as basically it’s a guide for being a great human being and how to treat people in an extraordinary way and how to respond to questions when you don’t know the answer, how to make people feel like you care about them. 

And one of the things my wife has always said is, “People never remember what you say, really, but they remember how you made them feel”. To me, that book is basically it’s a guidepost to leaving people feel like they matter to you and that you’re going to serve them well. And that also ties into your brand. Like everyone is their own personal brand and every action that you have with every person is a reflection of that brand. That book impacted me in that way and I’ve always kind of thought about it as a way to be a guidepost for how I interact with everybody. Not just with my customers or clients or our event partners, or our employees, with my friends, with my family, with everybody.

How to innovate and diversify income streams beyond admissions, membership and retail, with Kingston Myles

Kingston Myles: Yeah, so I’m waxed lyrical about this book. It’s called first. Break all the rules. It’s a gallup study of what successful managers do differently. So First Break All the Rules is probably one of the most powerful leadership books I’ve read for a couple of reasons. One, it’s backed by this phenomenal global study of businesses, their leaders, their people, their results. So there are some great books out there but they’re theoretical, they’re someone’s opinion. This book is etched in statistical facts. So I quite like that. That pleases the inner nerd in me. And secondly, it really does force you to think differently about especially if you’re leaders or a leader of a team. Really forces you to think slightly differently about how you can get the best out of your best people, how you can recruit for the best people. 

Creative ideas and solutions for driving commercial income, with Matthew Henderson

Matthew Henderson: And I read a book called A Bit Of A Stretch by Chris Atkins, and it’s not a book that would normally jump off the shelf to me, but it’s a real story about his time that he spent in Wandsworth Prison after being involved in a tax avoidance scheme. And it’s this day by day diary of his time in Wandsworth. And the reason that I picked that is previously, Johnson King hearing outreach, working in prisons.

And I think at the moment, everyone’s looking at the things that we can see in terms of cuts and the things that need support, but actually, for prison and sort of rehabilitation, it’s behind a wall. And we never sort of look at it or think about it because it’s not in many of our day to day lives. But that book and that sort of time for the work that I did in there really brought those people and those people that work there to the front. So I would recommend that I feel like every person in the country should have a copy of that book and it’s just the most emotive funny book that I’ve ever read. So, yeah, I would definitely recommend it. 

You could keep out the lions roaring over the top of it, but certainly I would recommend to anybody to read that. 

Developing and monetising online communities, with Nik Wyness

Nik Wyness: I want to read for fun and obviously a bit of a nerd of military history. And there’s interestingly a bit of an overlap, I suppose you could say, between sort of like military and marketing. We use a lot of the same terminology, like strategy and tactics and deployment and cut through all of that sort of thing. So I’m going to recommend a book which kind of overlaps a little bit with a professional, with the military history. That book is quite an old book, actually. It’s called Hal Moore on Leadership: Winning When Outgunned and Outmanned.

How attractions and cultural sites can create better visitor experiences through innovative storytelling, with Spencer Clark

Spencer Clark: So there’s one I had, I attended a session by a marketeer called Bryony Thomas and she’s got a book called Watertight Marketing. Her session was brilliant, it was really practical, it’s really scalable. So it could be for a one person company, sole trader, up to an organisation that has multiple products online, wherever.

It was just a really good book that just gives you clarity and thinking. And there’s this takeaway straight away from it and a really good approach to kind of reviewing your marketing and how well it’s working, and then just picking those things that are going to work quickest to find out where the weaknesses are, the leaks, essentially, she calls them. So, yeah, I’d really recommend it. I’m hoping quite a lot of your listeners are interested in marketing. We’re all looking at trying to get visitors back in and what our service and products are.

Closing a visitor attraction and the opportunities that brings, with Mike Coe

Mike Coe: I was thinking of the book whilst I was doing the MBA that I read and thought to my child, Charlie, who was about six or seven at the time, and I remember reading it and thinking, “You know what, this is possibly the best management advice that I’ve ever given.”

And I’m reading it from a children’s book to my seven year old child, and that’s a book that we’ll all know, and it’s over Oh, The Places You’ll Go, which is a Doctor Seuss book. Do you remember it? Yeah. And I was just thinking, like even when I was reading out some of the quotes to Charlie and thinking,” Actually, this is what management books are trying to summarise, but never seem to do it.” Try 300 words to do it. Quotes like, you’re on your own and you know what you know, and you are the one who will decide where you’ll go, that you’re in charge of your destiny. And things about that tells you to make mistakes, except you don’t, because sometimes you won’t.

How to develop a creative career in the Theme Park industry – and the mindset you need for it, with Mark Lofthouse

Mark Lofthouse: But it’s the Immersive Storytelling book and I think it’s been covered by so many people, but it is brilliant. It’s written by an ex imagineer. I think, actually, she’s still a Disney imagineer named Margaret, and she walks you through her vision of how to tell a story correctly in terms of an immersive environment. And it’s just so well done, because she doesn’t just say, it isn’t a case study, this is what I do, this is how I do it. Because you can’t do that storytellers, all tell stories in a different way. But what she does is tells you her philosophy of how to think about storytelling in an immersive environment. I literally got through been off the full book in an evening. It just engrossed me straight away.

Transformative Public Programming. How a bold approach has transformed the calendar at Chelsea Physic Garden.

Frances Sampayo: So last year I read Black Tudors by Miranda Kaufman. I don’t know if anyone’s recommended it previously. So it’s a really fantastic history book. And as someone who’s worked at sites with kind of Tudor history in the past, it completely blew my mind to hear about how dynamic the range of black people were in Britain and beyond in the Tudor times, because we really don’t get to hear about that. I think, kind of in traditional academic circles. So it’s a great read and I think I gifted about five copies of it last year, so I think people would it’s just brilliant and I hope someone gets to enjoy it.

Is the procurement process broken? With Sarah Bagg

Sarah Bagg: For those of you that haven’t probably seen on LinkedIn, I’m also a life coach and it feeds quite into a lot into consulting about how I ask my clients questions. And I love this book, it’s all about time. It’s called Four Thousand Weeks and it’s about the average we have this time on the planet and how we should use the time. And what I love about it is it’s like lots of time management books always like they make you try and let’s eat out every minute and productivity hustle harder. I feel I’m like exhausted listening to, whereas this really takes quite a reflective view of what’s important to you and take a step back and I think we can all learn massive lessons from that in this ever fast paced world that we live in. So, yeah, Four Thousand Weeks would be my recommendation.

Attraction Marketing: Find out the Number 1 thing all attraction marketers need to focus on in 2023

Ant Rawlins: I will recommend a book and to end and probably just, correct the blemish on my character, Kelly. I do read a lot, but I hate it. So that’s the difference. And I’m happy I’m missing it. There you go. It’s it feels slightly sadistic in the end, really, reading, but there you go. The book I would recommend is called The Almanack of Naval Ravikant, and I think it’s amazing. It’s pulling my favourite book.

I mean, Naval Ravikant, a bit of a legend. I mean, he is incredibly successful, but his book is really succinct short advices. It’s a collection and expansion of tweets that he’ve created over time. And he splits the book into 50, 50, 50 percent is kind of wealth creation and all that kind of stuff. And the other 50% is happiness. And it just expands these points, but it’s just so digestible. Each little nugget is “Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. We should do that. I should do that.” So so I love it. Just I don’t I do not need fifty pages to tell me something when five words will do. And so I love it for that reason. The Almanack of Naval Ravikant, It’s pretty good.

Lilidorei – the story behind the world’s biggest playpark, with Ian McAllister

Ian McAllister: And it was post, COVID I read it and someone had recommended it. So I went and bought a copy and it’s got to the point now where I’ve probably funded about 90% of the book sales because I’ll keep buying copies and saying to someone, you love this, I’ve given them a copy and it’s The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.

Why taking part in the 2023 Visitor Attraction Website Survey is so important, from The Mary Rose Museum and Roman Baths

Dominic Jones: So I’ve got a book called The Alignment Advantage Transform Your Strategy, Culture and Customers to Succeed. Now, I love a good strategy book, so the last time I was on the podcast I recommended Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, a great book about strategy. I did bill it as the best book on strategy. Scrap that. It’s the second best book on strategy. This is now the best book on strategy because it talks about how you have to align your culture and as a strategic enabler, your strategy and your experience. And for people who listen to Skip the Queue or fill out the Rubber Cheese Website Survey or work with Convious, one of the best people to work within the world, they will love this book. It is incredible. The only book to read on Strategy by Richard Nugent, The Alignment Advantage. Fantastic.

Simon Addison: I can say I have not featured in this book. Unlike Dom, I don’t read a lot of business and leadership books. I tend to read for escapism and relaxation. But I have picked a workbook and it’s probably the only workbook I’ve gone back to and reread portions of. And it’s called Leadership: Plain and Simple by Steve Radcliffe. The book was a foundation of a leadership course that I did when I was at the National Trust, which was called Future Engage, Deliver. And it was centered on the idea that in order to be an effective leader, you need to have clarity of your vision for the future. You need to engage your colleagues and your teams in that future and then collectively, you need to work together to deliver it. And it sort of broke that strategy and leadership piece into those three distinct portions.

Andy Povey: A book I’ll keep going back to is The Experience Economy by Joe Pine. And I don’t know whether someone else has recommended this in the past, but for me, that whole life chain value thing, the graph where you talk about a thing becoming a commodity and everything moving into the sort of experience space, really fits with what we’re doing in our industry. It really fits with what we do at Convious. The reason I enjoy what we do.

Harnessing potential and creating a great working environment at the Scottish Crannog Centre

Mike Benson: Well, because I am a museum director and an academic, I’m going to go for the Thursday Murder Club series. See, a book with leadership on it. I don’t know if you’ve read any of them, but Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Abraham are just so stupid and funny and English and gentle. It’s just lovely. So I’ve been plowing my way through all those I mean, the plots are way for thin the whole thing’s nonsense, but it’s just really good stuff to kind of remind you what human beings are. 



Season 5

20 years of the Visitor Attractions Conference, with Bernard Donoghue OBE, Ken Robinson and Paul Kelly

Bernard Donoghue: The one that I’ve enjoyed most and has really surprised me is Lucy Worsley’s biography of Agatha Christie. Absolutely fascinating. I thought I knew her. I thought I knew all about her. I know all of her characters, I’ve watched every conceivable film and TV program, but what a fascinating woman. So that’s the one that I’ve loved this summer.

Ken Robinson: Well, the best book quite hard to get hold of now, but I can supply copies is Action For Attractions, the National Policy Document, written in 2000. But if you want something other than that, then I have just finished reading a book which everyone else read years ago called Sapiens, which is about this thick, that’s to say two and a half inches thick. For those of you listening. It’s by somebody, I’ve just had to look him up because I couldn’t have remembered it, by Yuval Noah Harari. And it’s entitled A Brief History of Humankind. And what’s so interesting about it is it goes through segments explaining the great moves that have happened to us humans since we appeared on this Earth.

Philanthropic thinking for funding of new projects, with Rhiannon Hiles

Rhiannon Hiles: Oh, well, one of our trustees called Rachel Lennon, has written a really brilliant book called Wedded Wife, which is a great book, and I’ve just started reading it’s about the history of marriage, and it’s really interesting, so I would certainly advocate that one. I have a favourite book, which I go back to quite regularly, which is a childhood book and perhaps nobody ever would read it, but I love it and it kind of sums up for me what I was like as a child and what I continue to be like as I’ve gone through my career.

It’s called Wish For A Pony, and I really wanted a pony when I was between the ages of six and seven, and then I wished my wish came true. And from then on in, I believed that anything I wished for would happen. And I still have that kind of strange, I often think I’m just going to wish that to happen, but I think it’s not just that, it’s holistic. I think if you really want something and you set everything towards it, yes, of course some people might say, but then you potentially set yourself up for great disappointment and failure. But I kind of think that you can’t do something without taking that risk.

How Blenheim Palace uses data and AI to predict, and not just report on past performance

Joseph Paul: Well, that would be a curveball if I started to plug the Harry Potter series. Hey. So recently, I was in Albania in Tirana and I was on a guided tour. And they were talking about the Ottoman period. And I realised I know nothing about the Ottoman history and I was interested about it more. 

So my in laws purchased a book called Lord Of The Horizons, which is all about the history of the Ottoman empire. So that’s my current read at the moment. And if you’re into your history and into your sort of empires, it’s definitely worth a read. So that’s my recommendation. The Lord of Horizons. 

David Green: Mine is The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wallaban. It’s an incredible book. Now, I read lots of strategy books, data books. My wife thinks I’m really sad. This book is not any of that. This is about how trees communicate and I was absolutely enthralled with it. So this talks about them like arousal networks, how trees communicate through their roots, the noises and the sounds that trees make when they’re struggling, when they’re thirsty. It led to a lot of laughter on holiday with my daughter drawing pictures of trees with ears, but trees can actually hear. And from that, I was able to come back and look at one of our land projects where we’re building a small solar farm at the moment, actually looking at the sort of benefits to soil health while we’re putting solar on sort of fed degraded farmland. 

Improving inclusivity at Kew Gardens, with Julia Willison

Julia Willison: Well, I chose a book that is a phenomenal book and by a woman who is phenomenal, and it is related to my work. But I chose the book because I think it is so inspirational. It’s a book called Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard. And we awarded her the 16th Kew International Medal for her work and her devotion to championing biodiversity in forests. She’s worked in British Columbia all her life in Canada, and she was the pioneer of the theory that plants communicate with each other through a huge subterranean fungal network. And the book reveals how trees connect and cooperate with each other, and that each forest contains hub trees. So mother trees. And that these trees in the forest play a critical role in the flow of information and resources. 

So I feel that the book will change the way people look at forests. They’re not simply a source for timber or pulp, but they are really part of a complex, interdependent circle of life. And I think it’s a magnificent book. Well, if one reader reads it and enjoys it, I think that will be brilliant.

The Accessible and Inclusive Tourism Toolkit for Businesses, with Emily Yates

Emily Yates: My book of choice is one that I read recently and one, funnily enough, that I’m running a bit of an internal workshop on at Mima in a couple of weeks. We’ve started a bit of an inclusive book club and it’s called The View From Down Here by Lucy Webster. Lucy is an amazing journalist. She’s disabled. She used to work for the BBC before going freelance, and she writes this incredible memoir about what it’s like growing up disabled, but really importantly as a disabled woman. 

And she talks about so many different scenarios from trying to get into a nightclub on a Saturday night when the difficulty of doing so in terms of the gaze that you so often experience as a woman, but as a disabled woman as well, her thoughts on motherhood and how complex and nuanced that is as somebody who’s disabled, friendships, professional lives, all of these different things. And I think it’s just such an incredibly powerful, confident, but also very vulnerable account of the realism of what it’s really like. 

 And the thing that it made me realise, or the thing that it made me remember, should I say, is that we’re not going to solve accessibility by just making sure that all of our train stations are step free. It’s much more holistic and nuanced and complex than that. And it’s about human nature and human design and all those holistic things that we so rarely think about. And I would just urge everybody to read it. It’s angry, it’s sad, it’s beautiful. It’s just a wonderful book.

What the heck is a brand proposition and why should you care? With Catherine Warrilow

Catherine Warrilow: So, it’s ironic, actually, because my two book recommendations, the first one’s called The Power of Doing Less, by an author called Fergus O’Connell. And this is about getting rid of all the distractions and noise. And it’s a really simple, short book that you’ll want to keep on your desk with post it notes in pages, because it’s just a good reminder of things like, “Am I the best person to do this? Is there someone else in the business that is better at this and should be doing this? Do I need to do it now? Is it important right now? Or am I just doing it because it’s the top of the list? Should I be doing it in the way I think I should be doing it? Should I be doing part of it and not all of it?”.

And it’s just a great sanity check deck for not being a busy fool. And I love that. And it just keeps you sharp in terms of prioritising because nothing’s ever urgent. It’s either important or it’s not. And then the second one, again, a bit ironic, based on my kind of love of bringing lots and lots of different things together, is called The One Thing by Gary Keller. Actually, it’s not ironic really, because really, that’s about the vision. Like, what is the one thing we are trying to do here and does everything else we’re doing align to that one purpose? That is just such a brilliant book and it really helps you get focused and clarity on what you’re doing and why. So, yeah, those are my two recommendations.

What does it take to be a truly family friendly museum?

Jenny Hill: Well, it’s probably not one that people haven’t heard of before, but I’m a massive Jane Austen fan, so I would always recommend Emma. Emma is probably my favourite by. Yeah, it’s one of those ones that I always go back to. So, yeah, if you’re thinking about you’ve never read Jane Austen before, you want to read some classics? I would always recommend that. Yeah, it’s a lovely book.

Alison Bowyer: It’s not probably necessarily my favourite book, but a book that I really love by an author who I think deserves to best known in the UK is Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiney. She is absolutely hilarious and it’s just a really beautiful portrait of a family living in New York who are all slightly eccentric and unusual in different ways. And I guess I’m really curious and lazy about people’s lives. So I love books that kind of open the window onto different kinds of families. And yeah, she’s just a wonderful author. All her books are wonderful, but that’s my absolute favourite.

Kelly’s final episode

Kelly Molson: I read this book right at the very start of my agency journey. A very good friend of mine, he’s been a coach of mine for a number of years, said that you should read this book, and it is How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie. It’s a very old book, but it is a classic. And this book opened my eyes and ears. So it really taught me how to understand and listen to people. And I think for me, building an agency like we have over the years, so much of that comes down to listening to people, understanding what their challenges are. You know, we have to network. You know, a lot of what we do is based on reputation and how likable you can be and all of those kind of things.

And this book really gives you an understanding of that, about what it is to be likable. And you shouldn’t have to teach this to people. Like, really, it’s pretty common sense, but, you know, it can be difficult for people to understand, like, why you should listen to people and why you should just let people talk. And I think a lot of the things that I learned from this book, I have applied to the podcast, so I just want to read out a little synopsis. Well, some of the things that I think are really important about how you listen to people, and it’s. It’s about becoming genuinely interested in other people.

And I hope that has come across in this podcast, because every single person that has come on and shared with me has just given me so much to think about, and I’ve learned so much from you all. It teaches you to smile, like smiling is just so important. I’ve always been amazed at how many people that don’t smile back when I smile at them when I’m out walking the dog in the morning. Just smiling is the simplest thing that you can do to connect with somebody. Remembering people’s names. Remember that a person’s name to that person is the most important sound in any language. Make sure that you can just remember people’s names. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. And I hope that I’ve done that. I’ve always hoped this podcast, you know.

It’s not about me. It won’t be about Paul. It will be about all the guests that come on and still continue to come on and talk to us about their stories and their challenges and their initiatives and all the brilliant things that they do. And I hope that I have gone above and beyond in making other people feel important. And I hope I’ve been sincere in doing that as well because it is all about you. You all make this podcast amazing and I genuinely am so grateful that you’ve allowed me into your ears and allowed me to share everybody else’s stories in a really fun way. So thank you.

Understanding Sustainability Reporting

Polly Buckland: I absolutely love Manifest by Roxy Nafousi, 7 steps to living your best life. It’s not a book about visualise it and it will happen. It’s a book that takes you through the steps to improve your chances of achieving what you want to in life. It takes you through your vision, removing fear and doubt, how you can align your behaviour to get what you want, how you can overcome tests from the universe, how you can embrace gratitude, turn envy into inspiration and trust the universe. So it sounds a bit woo, but everyone that I know that’s read it absolutely loves it.

Data driven social media at the Royal Institution

Steven Franklin: I have selected a book that I listened to on audible. Yeah. So Steven Bartlett’s the Diary of a CEO, 33 laws, business and life, something that I’ve just finished listening to. Yeah, I’m a big sort of fan of, or, you know, have great admiration for, you know, Steven Bartlett and sort of the way that he’s sort of, you know, that a rags to riches kind of story. But yeah, I think there’s lots of. It’s a very consumable, accessible book with some really nice little ideas in there that you can take away, probably implement to yourself. One of the greatest is the idea of absurdity, and the role that can be and how that can be exploited not just in social but just within marketing.

And those sort of tidbits, stick with me, I guess. It’s in that ever sort of growing pursuit of mind of trying to just make myself, you know, 1% better each day. And if I can learn from some of the world’s best and sort of get any part of wisdom or insight from them and sort of implement that, then that’s not going to do me, I hope, any bad. So yeah, that would be my recommendation.


A surprise election, a dip in the sea, and all the glass cases in the world

Paul Marden: I have this book Delivering the Visitor Experience by also previously of these parts, Rachel Mackay, who is, I believe, at Hampton Court Palace, and she’s written an amazing book about what it is to create, manage and develop unforgettable visitor experiences at museums. I don’t want a museum, but it was really interesting for me to be able to read this book all about the process that people that do run museums go through to develop, craft and tell that story and give that amazing experience. It’s a brilliant book. Heartily recommend it. And if you retweet the show note saying, “I want Paul’s book”, then you too could get an amazing copy of Delivering the Visitor Experience by our friend Rachel Mackay.



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

Updated: 5th June, 2024

Paul Wright.
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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