The Rise of the Robots

This is the second article in our new series about the books that are currently popular in our company book clubs. This carefully curated list includes titles that focus on technology, wellness, politics, the workplace and the economy. To check out the service offering and book a consultation click here.


The Relevance

Currently our most read nonfiction title, The Rise of the Robots unpacks the rapid progress of the AI revolution and has become, definitively, the must-read title of the genre. Not only are Martin Ford’s hypotheses diligently researched, convincing, accessible, and couched in elegant prose – they are almost completely inarguable and are required reading for all professionals, especially those concerned with strategy, HR, and innovation. Readers are challenged to think creatively in the face of this brave new information, and construct a world in which human labour – and in particular the middle classes –can remain necessary and valuable.

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Eat Sweat Play

How can women reclaim their bodies and combat daily inequality whilst having fun? According to the author of Eat Sweat Play Anna Kessel: through sport.

For too long women have been told to stay off the pitch, but in her new book, Anna Kessel calls on women across the world to create a sporting role for themselves – to join the games that they have been left out of. The change starts now.

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A Very Expensive Poison

This is the first article in our new series about the books that are currently popular with our company book clubs. This carefully curated list includes titles that focus on technology, wellness, politics, the workplace and the economy. Expect a new post showcasing the highlights once a fortnight. To check out the service offering and book a consultation click here.

A Very Expensive Poison by Luke Harding

The Relevance

You don’t need to be interested in Russia, international relations, or security to enjoy Luke Harding’s investigative masterpiece; the unveiling of London as a playground for spies and a hotbed for murder and deceit is more than enough to keep you gripped. Russia has always been a major player on the international political scene – never more so than now. With America undergoing a process of redefining its foreign policy on a scale not seen for generations, and the UK in the throes of their own identity crisis, understanding the internal machinations of the Russian authorities and gaining an insight into the scarcely believable manner in which lethal powers are passed down the hierarchy, is both politically relevant and makes for a enthralling narrative. In our reading groups Harding’s book has prompted lengthy debate and it continues to be a popular selection for our clients and their colleagues.

The Story

More than ten years have passed since the death of Alexander Litvinenko – ample time for Luke Harding to piece together how two blundering assassins executed their somewhat rudimentary plan with the most expensive (and toxic) of poisons. Having offended the Russian government and Vladimir Putin in particular, Litvinenko sought sanctuary in London, where he received a sizable monthly stipend from the sometime-charitable oligarch and friend, Boris Berezovsky – a man whose monthly expenditure regularly exceeded $1 million. But rather than ensuring a safe distance between him and his former employers, Litvinenko was still exposed to the wrath of his riled compatriots.

The meat of Harding’s book, after the steady and careful scene-setting of the early chapters, occurs in the final third, when – after a couple of bungled attempts – two of history’s less capable hitmen make their final play. The incompetence and plain ignorance of the two men entrusted with a substance that left poisonous traces throughout west London, is – frankly – terrifying; as is Litvinenko’s chilling awareness, in the immediate aftermath of the assassin’s plot, that he had been poisoned.

The Creator

Luke Harding is perfectly placed to narrate events concerning corruption at the heart of the Russian state, having been a victim of their unscrupulous methods himself. During years spent living and reporting in Moscow as a foreign correspondent, Harding frequently found himself on the wrong side of the authorities and was subjected to intimidation and threats as comeuppance for unflattering articles he had written – an experience he catalogues in one of his previous books. Harding positions the murder of Litvinenko as the centrepiece of Russia’s broader incursions on the West, providing insight, and perhaps warning, of what is to come. This nuanced account of what is, at its heart, one family’s tragedy, makes for essential and captivating reading. Following our book groups, Luke is open to hosting events and Q&A sessions with the readers.

More details on our company book clubs can be found here. Please contact to discuss options for your own reading group.

How I Write, by TM Logan

TM Logan is former Daily Mail science reporter, covering stories on new developments in a wide variety of scientific fields. He is Deputy Director of Communications at the University of Nottingham and lives in Nottinghamshire with his wife and two children. His debut thriller, Lies, will be published by Bonnier Zaffre in May 2017. He is currently working on his next stand-alone thriller.

I get distracted easily. Or I’m not good at multitasking, or maybe both. My desk – in the spare bedroom – faces the wall so there’s nothing to distract me, no window, no view, no outside world. No TV, no radio. Nothing to tempt me away from sitting in that chair and putting my hands on the keyboard.

Fewer distractions in my writing space means it’s easier for me to reach that magical place where I’m not sitting in the chair any more but right in the middle of the story with my characters, living and breathing every moment with them, hearing and seeing them. Falling into the page and being there as the story comes alive around me. And then when I take a step back and look at my desk clock again, an hour has gone by as if it was five minutes.

When I start a first draft I get a diary, photocopy the ‘Year at a glance’ page at the back, and stick it on the wall by my desk. I will write every day, without fail, until the first draft is done. It helps me to maintain momentum, to keep on top of the plot and stay in touch with my characters. I use the photocopied page to keep a tally of my word count, although it’s less about the number and more about making links in the chain and keeping that promise to myself. If I’ve written for 30, or 50, or 100 days straight, I’m less likely to take a day off and break the chain (at least that’s the idea).

The walls around my desk are generally covered with notes, chapter plans, lists, reminders and scraps of paper with ideas and quotes for the story I’m working on. When ideas occur to me during the day, at work or doing the dishes or reading in bed, I’ll scribble them on a post-it note and stash them in my wallet. It can be anything from a line of dialogue to a story turn, a particular mannerism, a great location, a sound, a smell, the colour of the sky or anything else that catches my eye.

All those notes go up on the wall – and often end up on the page.

TM Logan, January 2017
Follow him on Twitter @TMLoganAuthor

Ghosts of the Silk Road

Sam Meekings

I write when an idea comes to me that is so loud, so urgent, that I cannot ignore it. When it bangs on my windows and hollers through the letterbox so loud I cannot sleep and have no choice but to grab a pencil and notepad and let it all spill out.

The idea for The Book of Crows came when I was travelling on the Silk Road. I had made my way to the far west of China, to see Xinjiang, the vast desert province that borders Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. In the city of Kashgar, I saw huge yellow mosques and also giant karaoke clubs. It seemed to be a city where east and west went colliding into each other.

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Interview with book designer Jonathan Pelham

We love putting a spotlight on the publishing industry. To that end, we spoke to designer Jonathan Pelham. As both a freelancer and a senior designer with 4th Estate, Jonathan has designed covers for books by all sorts of authors, from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Molly Antopol.

How did you get into designing book covers?

I started off as a cover art worker, which involved doing things like taking in corrections and preparing artwork for print. I was only supposed to be there four months to help shift a backlog of work but somehow managed to make myself indispensable and ended up staying five years and being promoted to junior designer.

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How We Read Now

The following blog is an adaptation of a talk given by our Founder and Publisher, Anna Jean Hughes, at the 2016 Schilling Conference in Copenhagen.

LOOK, it’s a cat reading:

What do you do while reading a book these days? This may seem like a bit of a facile question. You’re reading, right? But are there other things that you do? Highlight a particularly meaningful line and punctuate it with a “How Apposite” in the margins, or scrawl the words into your notebook for future reflection. Do you Google what in the hell ‘apposite’ means, then tap out the quote into Twitter (!!! #apposite) and underline the word in your marginalia for extra emphasis. OR look up the author, read their Q&A and find out that they, like you, also munch many a peanut butter jelly sandwich. Then check out a video of them reading said meaningful line on Youtube (through a mouthful of PBJ).

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’Tis the time of year when everyone gets enthusiastic about lists. And, frankly, we are no different – we love a good list. Especially when it’s a list of books. So to prep you for the ‘Best of 2016…’ season, we’ve curated our very own listicle. Here are the best places to go for your best-of book lists as the year draws to a close!


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November’s Pigeonhole Transmission

Juliet Jacques photographed at the Close-Up Film Centre, East London by Pal Hansen for the Observer New Review.

November is going to be an exciting month at The Pigeonhole as we launch our serialisation of Juliet Jacques’ Trans: A Memoir. A few weeks ago, I raced through this unflinching look at what it means to be transgender in 2016 and the innumerable physical, social and psychological barriers people in transition have to go through to reach their long-awaited destination; a destination which, as the closing words of the memoir suggest, is less a destination than a starting point, from which life can then begin: ‘I let go of the mouse, drummed my fingers on my desk and then gently reclined into my chair, letting the day go by.’

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Ferrante, celebrity culture and the literary scene


When I started reading Ferrante, I didn’t know that the writer was working under a pseudonym. I didn’t really care, either. I read some of her work, loved it, and eventually her identity piqued my interest – largely because I heard some rumour that the author was in fact male. But really, like many other readers, I didn’t care or mind who Ferrante really was – though I did hope she was a woman!

Claudio Gatti did his digging and has, apparently, discovered the identity of Ferrante, which has caused an uproar – he’s been chastised by the literary community and  across the press. Some people, however, are more concerned by the public takedown of Gatti than by his revelation of who Ferrante might really be.

Both stances are reflective of the age of celebrity that we inhabit.

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