Top reads for public finance professionals

Over the last two summers, the travel restrictions we've faced have, for so many, put paid to the age-old tradition of packing a book (or three) for summer holiday reading.

Now, as the world continues to reopen, and as many head out on vacations and staycations alike, we have pulled together a list – in no particular order – of ten fantastic books that have been recommended by CIPFA members.

The Economics of Happiness by Mark Anielski

Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Chief Accountant James Kidd rates this book as one that “explores a really interesting area, looking at our measures of economic progress and how they relate to happiness.”

In this book, Anielski, himself an economist, develops a new and practical economic model called Genuine Wealth to measure the real determinants of wellbeing and help redefine progress.

Read James’ full member case study.

Drive by Daniel H. Pink

If you’re looking for a book that “helps bring to life” the idea of motivation and how we motivate ourselves, Cat Little, Government Finance Function’s Director General of Public Spending, recommends this.

In this book, Pink explores the ‘secret’ to performance and satisfaction in society today: the human need to direct our own lives.

Read Cat’s full member case study.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, this is a wonderful exploration of different personalities and how we interact with each other. Devasuda Anblagan PhD, Finance Manager of NHS England and NHS Improvement, affirms that this book has been invaluable in helping her “understand how to work more effectively with different people and how to get the best out of people by enabling them to give their best without expecting them to change.”

Read Devasuda’s full member case study.

Not Forgetting the Whale by John Ironmonger

A book that Lauren Gough, Senior Finance Officer at Enfield Council, recommends to everyone, but particularly those in public finance.

Set in sleepy Cornwall, the story follows an investment banker during a pandemic, making it a timely read, and as Lauren observes, it “highlights the importance of community and people, and how we can all come together.”

Read Lauren’s full member case study.

This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay

This “fantastic and funny” book is recommended by Julia Warren, Clerk to Wheathampstead Parish Council.

Kay charts the everyday realities of working for the NHS with honesty and humour, while never losing sight of the courageous and dedicated efforts of all staff and the significance of everything they do.

Read Julia’s full member case study.

The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla

A collection of short stories from British-born ethnic minorities on their experiences of life in the UK, recommended by Mohaeed Chaudhry, Senior Manager of Technology, Data and Analytics at PwC. Mohaeed champions the book as a means of helping to “understand people’s experiences and empathise with the different ways we experience living in this country.”

Shukla brings together a diverse collection of voices, each one as powerful as the next, to create a meaningful insight into our society and its communities.

Read Mohaeed’s full member case study.

Banker to the Poor: The Story of the Grameen Bank by Muhammed Yunus

Our latest case study contributor Devante Olojo, a finance graduate at Southwark Council, praises this book for the way it promotes finance, particularly microfinance, as a means of creating and enhancing social value and “tackling social issues around the world”.

This is a moving account of how Yunus set up the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh to lend small amounts of money to the country’s poorest residents, giving them the chance that they wouldn’t get anywhere else to extricate themselves from poverty.

Read Devante’s full member case study.

Freakonomics by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt

Finance Business Partner at Essex County Council Will Goodchild found this book helped put a fresh angle on tackling complex topics: “It really changed my perspective on serious questions, but all with a light-hearted approach. I thought it was really useful.”

‘Assume nothing, question everything’ is the maxim at the heart of this book as authors Levitt and Dubner answer everyday life questions in a wry yet insightful way and show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives.

Read Will’s full member case study.

Handsworth Revolution: The Odyssey of a School by Professor Sir David Winkley

A recommendation close to the heart from Hardev Virdee, Group Chief Finance Officer at Barts Health NHS Trust. Written by his former primary school headteacher, this book charts Winkley’s progress in turning around a failing and deprived inner-city school, which has led to his starting a revolution to bring about lasting change in education. It’s a profound read, addressing issues of leadership, the role of teaching, political influence on education and the experiences of ethnic minorities.

Hardev is full of praise for Winkley: “He’s a real thought leader, and he talks a lot about understanding the social aspects of a population, understanding how you get the most out of teaching the children, and he plays strongly on public values too.”

Read Hardev’s full member case study.

Good to Great by Jim Collins

An “inspirational” book on business management that Datuk Dr Yacob Bin Mustafa, Accountant General of the Accountant General’s Department in Malaysia, “would recommend to everyone.”

The result of a five-year research project, Collins attests that ‘good to great’ can and does happen and explores how and why some companies become ‘great’ while others remain simply ‘good’.

Read Datuk Dr Yacob’s full member case study.

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