Good Reading : May 2015
GOOD READING MAY 2015 22 OPINION It’s not every day that you arrive back from lunch at your workplace to see a wrapped gift positioned in front of your keyboard at work. So I was thrilled when this happened to me about 10 years ago. It wasn’t difficult to guess what it was; books have a simple and distinctive shape that instantly gives them away. It had been wrapped with care, and a r ibbon rosette was attached to a corner of the package. Books aren’t the type of present that I usually receive. I don’t make a point of telling people never to give me books, but most book lovers have firmly established tastes and won’t read just any old paperback that’s lying around. Gift givers tend to know this and don’t want the book on which they spend their money to remain unread – or be thrown out. But if I do receive a book – and it’s exactly the type of book that I want to read – then it’s a delight on two counts: first, I get to read a book that will provide hours of enjoyment. And second, I experience the glowing feeling of knowing that a friend or relative has taken the time and care to buy me a book that exactly matches my reading tastes. The attached card on my workdesk told me that the book was from May, a colleague. How kind of May, I thought, not only to buy me a book, but also to take the trouble to buy a book that she knows I will like. I ripped off the wrapping and saw the title of the book: Who Moved My Cheese? An amazing way to deal with change in your work and in your life by Dr Spencer Johnson. This book, published in 1998, has sold more than 26 million copies and been translated into 37 languages. It’s a dreary parable about adapting to structural reorganisation in the workplace, and the use of two mice in this allegory – who represent average workers – only added to the insult. It was a boring propaganda tool for downsizing corporations. But even more dispiriting than this was finding out that the same gift had been placed on the desks of all my colleagues. ‘Thanks,’ I said flatly – but sincerely – to May, unable to muster any fake enthusiasm. I was disappointed, but I was trying to figure out what bothered me more: being given this tedious tract of corporate spin so beloved by management consultants, or having my idiosyncratic reading tastes ignored, as indicated by the fact that every other person in the office had been given the same book. I quickly figured out that it was the latter. I never read the book, of course; I chucked it into a box of other books for the Salvos. About a year later I received another book gift from a neighbour. This time it was Left Behind, a tale of apocalyptic doom written by two the use of two mice in this allegory – who represent average workers – only It was a boring propaganda tool for downsizing corporations. But even more What could be a better gift than a book? TIM GRAHAM ponders the books that you never want to read. ‘Thanks,’ I said flatly – but sincerely – to May, unable to muster any fake enthusiasm.