Staycation or vacation, book yourselves in for a holiday switch-off

Staycation or vacation? For those that haven’t booked an overseas holiday yet, but may still be considering doing so, there's a real debate to be had.

I was in glorious Inishowen at the weekend for the Irish Open, and with the weather we had there it reinforced that there is nowhere quite like the north coast of Ireland, be it Portrush, Portsalon, Ballyliffen or Ballintoy. We really do have the most stunning backdrop on our doorstep.

I took a book with me to Donegal, but as I was only there for a couple of days, I didn’t have a moment to sit down and read it. I will though when I go on holiday next month. Like many other people, it’s part of my holiday routine and it’s always a topic of conversation in our office.

Reading is one of life's greatest pleasures, taking the reader on all sorts of journeys of fact, fiction, make believe, suspense, horror, love and death. I've been a member of a book club for more than 10 years and we have read a diverse range of books; some good, some bad but all each sparking lively conversations.

As we break for the summer holidays comes the inevitable question 'any recommendations?' Unusually for me I'm including a 'work' one in my suitcase, Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. It's about paying attention to the power of each conversation we have in the workplace and family life to move us toward or away from our stated business or life goals. The book challenges us to consider what are the conversations we've been unable or unwilling to have that, if we were able to have, might change everything? Should throw up a few debates!

Among our team at Aiken there is quite a range of planned reads this summer, so here goes with a few examples from our bookshelf:

:: A popular choice in the business sphere is Lean In by Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg. It's a read which sparks a debate about women and leadership across the globe. Sandberg’s aim is to help other women succeed in business drawing on her own experience of working in some of the world’s most successful businesses. While there has been some criticism of Sandberg for speaking from a position of moneyed privilege and addressing equally fortunate women, the book offers valuable advice for all kinds of women at all stages of life.

:: Reflecting the diversity of choice in the office, The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (the creator of The Moomins) is another strong preference. It's a grounding read which, in a fast-paced existence, helps clear the head of busyness. A short book, it is one of several that Jansson wrote for adults and rightly holds its place as a classic. It explores the relationship both between a grandmother and her young grand-daughter, who are spending the summer together as the only residents on a remote Nordic island and their relationship with their environment. A little book with big themes, it derives from the keen appreciation Jansson had of the enormity of our own minute worlds.

: In contrast Everthing I Know delves into mayhem of journalist and former Sunday Times dating columnist Dolly Alderton in a book that is at once heart breaking and hilarious. This memoir recounts falling in love, wrestling with self-sabotage, getting a job, throwing a socially disastrous Rod Stewart-themed house party, getting drunk, getting dumped, realising that Ivan from the corner shop is the only man you've ever been able to rely on. Oh, and ‘finding that your friends are always there at the end of every messy night out’. But above all else it is a book about recognising that you and you alone are enough.

:: Good old Harry Potter is providing some escapism too and gets an airing on our list. Not new but certainly a classic. The third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban fully engages the reader in a world of witchcraft and wizardry. Whether you are eight or 48, if you have the imagination it can enable you to escape to a world of magic and mischief.

:: Finally, what bookshelf would be complete without a historical biography on one of the greats who have come before us? Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin is a critically acclaimed biography of former US President Abraham Lincoln which went on to win numerous awards and gain global acclaim, notably from another former US President, one Barrack Obama. The book details the journeys of Lincoln and leading members of his cabinet and documents their respective paths in relation to the polarisation of slavery at that time. As political books go, this read helps to demonstrate Lincoln’s tactics as he moved his party through one of the most impactful periods in history – the abolition of slavery – and the realisation of human liberty.

That's just a few examples of what is sitting on the Aiken bookshelf this summer. Oscar Wilde once wrote that: “It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.” The wider the range of books then the more complete the individual – at least that’s what we like to tell ourselves here.

What’s not up for debate, and is enduring, is the positive impact books have on our ability to truly switch off. As July rumbles on, hopefully our recommendations have given you some food for thought as we all enter holiday season once again.

: Claire Aiken is managing director of public relations and public affairs company Aiken.

:: Next week: Richard Ramsey