The holiday season is upon us and although it might not be the getaway we’d all hoped for, it's still an opportunity to kick back, relax and dive into a good book. Or better still, stick the headphones on and chill out beside the paddling pool.
We asked a selection of our Criticaleye Members and colleagues for their recommendations from Lockdown 2020. Here are their suggestions.

Podcast: You can’t beat Desert Island Discs. My favourite episode featured Dame Zaha Hadid – one of the most inspiring and fascinating people to have lived. Her vision in creating magical spaces was always ahead of the technology and her style was so distinctive, fluid and sweeping and steeped in parametric design, which she pioneered.
Holiday book: Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work by Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler. A profound book in many ways. It explores a [certain] mental state... and the different routes to achieve it. For some people it’s extreme sports, for others it’s meditation or psychedelics. For me it’s music, and this book helped me understand the ‘why’ behind my love of music and gigs. I couldn’t put it down!
Currently reading: The Stationary Shop of Tehran by Marjan Kamali. I have Iranian heritage and this gentle book transports me to pre-revolutionary 1950s Tehran just prior to the overthrow of Prime Minister Mosaddegh. This book helps me ‘hear’ Farsi and really conjures up the tree-lined avenues of the city, while evoking the widespread love we Iranians all have of poetry, stationery and books.

Phil Smith, Chair, IQE and a Criticaleye Board Mentor

Podcast: Wired always has interesting topics and guests. It gives a sideways look at diverse subjects, from artificial crowd noise at football games to the source of the 5G COVID conspiracy. I also enjoy TED podcasts just for the pure breadth of topics, the intellectual stimulation and fabulous ideas.
Holiday book: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker – a book that provides the science behind, as well as the practical ramifications of, the presence or the absence of sleep. You’ll be scared by the long-term effect that a single night’s bad sleep (let alone persistent short sleeps) can have on your effectiveness, productivity and performance. 
Currently listening: I’m listening to Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy. I love to listen to fiction as a distraction from all the other noise in our lives, and Sanderson is a standout in my eyes. He has great ideas, excellent writing, brilliant characterisation and is frankly just good fun.

Charlie Wagstaff, Managing Director, Criticaleye

Podcast: I am really enjoying the insightful The Mindset Mentor Meets series by Angela Cox. In lively and engaging conversations with business leaders, Angela adroitly judges her podcastees, asks relevant prepared questions and is a nimble masseuse of egos. Do ensure you listen past the jingles, pom-pom shaking and cheesy statements of encouragement, as she elicits gems on leadership and human frailties! Angela recently interviewed CEO and fellow Co-founder of Criticaleye, Matthew Blagg, a session which is well worth a listen. 
Holiday book: Beyond Engagement: The Value of Love-Based Leadership in Organisations by Yetunde Hofmann. This book is about empathy among leaders, but also about bringing a lingua franca of love into the business world and how it’s OK to talk about that. It’s so timely in terms of how we’re viewing leadership at the moment, even if some people might find it hard to come to terms with.
Currently reading: If I Don’t Write it, Nobody Else Will by Eric Sykes. It’s a great title and a phenomenal book with some interesting parallels with today – World War II, for example. Hopefully COVID is the closest we will get to living through a crisis that has a global impact.
Devyani Vaishampayan, NED, British Quality Foundation and a Criticaleye Board Mentor

Podcast: I’ve rediscovered the magic of Desert Island Discs through podcasts and heard from people as diverse as Louis Theroux, Sheryl Sandberg and even Boris Johnson. The 30-minute format makes it easy to fit into busy schedules and it’s a great way to hear interesting thoughts, different music and to get an insight into who people really are.
Holiday book: Anything by Elif Shafak but her latest book is The Three Daughters of Eve, which sketches a trio of women who represent three different ideologies and is set in Istanbul and Oxford from the 1980s to the present day. It’s a sweeping tale of faith and friendship, tradition and modernity, love and unexpected, bitter betrayal.
Currently reading: Putin’s People by Catherine Belton – it’s a fascinating account of how the KGB took back Russia and then took on the West. The most effective weapon used today in warfare is technology, and this book helps us understand the danger that Russia – and Putin – poses to all democracies.
Podcast: Inspiring Leadership by Jonathan Bowman-Perks is wonderful. Jonathan is a master coach and has interviewed a diverse range of business leaders who share their personal experiences, lessons learned and practical advice. Each episode brings a fresh story and perspective on leadership. You can find it on Apple Podcasts and Acast.
Holiday book: I’ll recommend Iron Will: Brunel’s Battle to Become the Greatest Engineer of the Victorian Age by Toby Strauss. It’s an historical novel seen through the eyes of Brunel’s assistant, who must learn how to deal with his visionary and arrogant boss at a time of great social, industrial, political and business upheaval; a period that would have felt as dramatic as we now feel our changing lives are today.
Currently listening: A live cast discussion led by Matthew Taylor of the RSA with columnist and author Nesrine Malik and professor of politics Tim Bale. The discussion builds on Taylor’s 2020 CEO Lecture in which he calls for a new era of social development – The Reflexive Age. It’s very thought provoking on the potential aspirations and current challenges for liberal democracy and wider society.

Aoife Forde, Senior Relationship Manager, Criticaleye

Podcast: My favourite lockdown podcast has been A Bit of Optimism with Simon Sinek. In a world where it can sometimes feel like there is so much doom and gloom, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to Simon speak candidly with inspiring people about life, leadership and silver linings. The conversations are enlightening, relatable and most of all positive.
Holiday book: The One Thing by Gary Kneller. As someone who has always juggled as many things as possible at once, this book has been a real game changer for me. It explains the value to be had from simplifying your workload and dismissing distractions by focusing on the one most important task at any one time. For anyone struggling to find focus and set goals, give this book a read!
Currently listening: I am listening to the podcast How I Built This with Guy Raz. This series provides a fascinating insight into how entrepreneurs have built some of the best-known global companies. It weaves together personal and professional stories, with a timely focus on resilience.

David Hobbs, Senior Editor, Criticaleye

Another great poolside listen is Criticaleye’s latest podcast, in which our own Chief Exec, Matthew Blagg, discusses the results of our CEO Research 2020. Hear how senior leadership teams are responding to the events of 2020 and planning for the future.