Close-Up: How does adland relax on the beach?

With the summer hols in full swing, we thought we'd give you the Campaign version of those 'beach read' features that every other magazine relies on to fill their quiet summer issues.


Books: I, Claudius by Robert Graves. I've just finished re-reading this book, last time was probably 30 years ago. I remember it being fascinating but not what a pageturner it is as well - a great read. Historically interesting, larger-than-life characters and an insight into a world long gone but with obvious parallels to modern politics, globalisation and a superpower empire on the decline. A beach-read thriller for anyone too embarrassed to have a book with a gold embossed cover and who wants to look a bit brainy.

I'm halfway through Delta Blues by Ted Gioia. I have a lifelong love of blues music and this is a really great thorough history of the Delta, its characters and their stories, such as Charlie Pattern, a harddrinking proud plantation worker, who had fair success but died fairly young; Tommy Johnson, a mysterious drifter with only one known photo who made inspirational music and is known to have shot at least one person; and, of course, Robert Johnson and his dark epiphany at the crossroads. What's great about the book is that it describes various key recording sessions and the classic tracks made during the Depression in such a way that you really want to listen to them. It's taking me a while to get through it as I spend half the time making notes in the book so I can later search the internet for the songs. I'm discovering new gems and obscure musicians I have never come across. It's great.

As a light read, I've just finished Fever Dream by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. It's an Agent Pendergast thriller. I like him as a character, so I've read most of the series. Very gothic and steeped in the opulent decadence of the South. It's not your usual FBI story as there are always surreal and macabre elements to the narratives. It's not cerebral, but it's certainly enjoyable if you like a bit of tension and gore, which I do occasionally.

IPod tracks: On my iPod, I have a lot of blues. A new album I'm getting to know is High Fever Blues (1937-1940) by Bukka White, an inveterate drifter who travelled the States jumping trains, entertaining the other itinerates with his music. One can imagine him in an empty goods wagon playing his guitar to a group of half-starved bums looking for work, the chugging repetitive beat, the essence of the rhythm of the railway.

I'm also listening to Field Recordings Volume 8: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi (1934-1947), a poignant series of recordings made for the Library of Congress. Many of the tracks were recorded at Parchman Farm, the prison in the Delta. There are, for instance, three tracks by Mattie May Thomas, a woman discovered in the prison sewing room. She sings unaccompanied in a wonderful clear and affecting voice about getting her own back on a man who bullies her, her illegitimate child from one of the white guards and her bleak prospects in jail. Nothing is known about her, no photos, no history, no family; she may as well not have existed but for these three short tracks.

I always have some Scarlatti on the go, it's very good to work to - something about the musical form that relaxes and stimulates the brain at the same time, if that's possible.


Books: Awkward Situations For Men by Danny Wallace. Embarassing to read in any public place because it's so hilarious. The idiot things that men do, massive insight into the way that men's minds work. It's brilliant. Which is good. I am also reading It's Hard To Be Hip Over 30 by Judith Viers. Beautiful publisher - up the road from us. Literary archaeology that uncovers authors has resurrected a lot of the out of print stuff.

Spanish dictionary. Learning to read Spanish. I did my dissertation in Mexico; annoys me that I don't have a language. Betting that the Spanish-speaking countries emerge as the global powers.

IPod tracks: Ministry of Sound has just bought out a collection of 80s grooves hits. It's brilliant. Can't get enough of it. Disco tunes that people were dancing to - rare groove and more mainstream things. It's crack nightclubs in the 80s. I was in Ibiza with a load of mates, we've all got kids and going to Pacha isn't an option. But dancing around the pool to 80s tunes is the highlight of the holiday.


Books: Let's face it, with multitude distractions and the attention deficit disorder epidemic affecting us all, it can be tough to find the motivation to choose, let alone read, anything longer than a cereal packet. So I'm going to do you a massive favour. The best book I have read this year is One Day by David Nicholls. Take this book on holiday and you'll get two vacations for the price of one. One for your body and the other for your soul. There might be an unwelcome downpour but Nicholls makes the sun shine.

IPod tracks: Abrasive rock with hands-in-the-air eight-bit rave euphoria is not exactly the kind of music I pictured myself listening to by my mid-thirties. But that's exactly what happened when the bi-polar beats of Crystal Castle's newish album started on my iPod during the train journey to Maidenhead. A unique combination of experimental hip-hop and dreamy electronica make much of this album excellent while vicious bouts of dark punk insanity make it a bit scary too. (During more than one track, I removed my headphones to double check that not a whisper was escaping into the carriage, saving passengers nearby from the faint but possibly unsettling sinister banshee screams in frequencies that my ears can no longer deal with.) If you want to know what a PlayStation might sound like being murdered by a crazed mobile phone, here's the album for you.


Books: The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Un-put-down-able ... suddenly a touch of sunburn and sand in your Speedos seem very trivial.

Troubles by JG Farrell. Sweeps you away to the Irish coast in a turbulent period with a mesmerising cast of characters, including an inept retainer called Murphy. That classic feeling of mourning and loss when you get to the end.

Makers by Cory Doctorow. Pop sci-fi sensation, Hoxton must-read material, enough said.

Born To Kvetch (Yiddish Language And Culture In All Its Moods) by Michael Wex. Take quality time to learn a glossary of terms for expressing extremes of emotion to your friends and family.

IPod tracks: Abraham, Martin And John by Marvin Gaye. Sweet, like Hawaiian Tropic. Music Of The Earth by Patrice Rushen. Music to watch beach life drift by. Buster Voodoo by Rodrigo y Gabriela. Gypsy Kings on meow meow. Paper Romance by Groove Armada. Catchy. Strobe by Deadmau5. What Beethoven would have sounded like if they had the electric then. Tenderoni by Kele. Enough laying on the beach, time to move on.


Books: One novel and one work of non-fiction. These are the rules of holiday reading. This year's novel is Roddy Doyle's The Dead Republic. It's the final instalment of his trilogy about Henry Smart, an Irish rebel who spent the first novel as an IRA hitman and the second as Louis Armstrong's minder. This last episode promises a collaboration with the film director John Ford. Nothing if not far-fetched, but it should be a rollicking good read as the colourful Henry channels the entire cultural history of the Irish in the 20th century.

No, my non-fiction choice is not Clay Shirky's Cognitive Surplus. I'm on holiday, for God's sake. It's Get Out Of My Life ... But First Take Me And Alex Into Town by Tony Wolf and Suzanne Franks.

Essential reading for parents of adolescents. Or so my wife tells me.

IPod tracks: The latest additions to my iPod are the Arcade Fire album, The Suburbs, and Becoming A Jackal by Villagers. The first is one I've been anticipating with too much excitement for a while now, the second has been getting rave reviews so I thought I'd give it a try.

Will I listen to these much on the beach? Nah. You can only really listen to ska and reggae on a hot beach - that's the other important holiday rule.


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