Published: 20/12/2001, Volume III, No.5786 Page 31

I have little time to read for myself, particularly as my three daughters still demand bedtime stories.This and other aspects of my work have made Difficult Conversations - a book from the Harvard negotiation project - very useful.

I find reading the daily press cuttings depressing, but The Consolations of Philosophy and How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton have provided relief.

These include advice on coping with unpopularity, not having enough money and, from Proust, how to suffer successfully: all very useful for day-today life representing NHS management.

There were similar messages in the Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander, which I bought following Ben's extraordinary performance at this year's annual conference.

My favourites are the insight that most of the rules we use to judge ourselves and others are invented - so we can invent some new ones. I also like rule six - do not take yourself so seriously.What are the other rules?

There are no other rules.

Jack Silversin has been working with us on clinical leadership and will be a high point of next year's conference.

He has written a brilliant book on getting doctors involved in change which is down to earth and practical - Modernisation Agency chief executive David Fillingham apparently took it on holiday with him!

I have also been working with Paul Plsek on using complexity science to rethink performance management.His book Edgeware is packed with ideas about using this exciting way of thinking in healthcare.

The Annals of Improbable Research from the people who sponsor the Ig Noble awards has articles on 'The ability of woodchucks to chuck cellulose fibres'and a demonstration of how it is not just possible but easy to compare apples and oranges (using infrared spectrography).

And finally, the Ascent of Rum Doodle is possibly one of the funniest books I have read.

This is the story of a climbing team facing a seemingly impossible challenge, riven by conflict and entirely unencumbered by talent, leadership or insight.

This, of course, has no relevance to the NHS - but it is nice to escape from work from time to time.

The Best of the Annals of Improbable Research

Edited by Marc Abrahams

Publisher: WF Freeman (UK distribution Macmillan). 256 pages.£13.99. ISBN: 0716730944

The Ascent of Rum Doodle By WE Bowman

Publisher: Pimlico. 192 pages.£7.99.

ISBN: 071266808X

How Proust can Change your Life By Alain de Botton

Publisher: Picador. 224 pages.£6.99.

ISBN: 0330354914

The Consolations of Philosophy By Alain de Botton

Publisher: Penguin. 256 pages.£7.99.

ISBN: 0140276610

Leading Physicians through Change By Jack Silversin and Mary Jane Kornacki

Publisher: American College of Physician Executives. 185 pages. $38.

ISBN: 0924674814

Difficult Conversations By Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen

Publisher: Penguin. 272 pages.£7.99.

ISBN: 014027782X

The Art of Possibility By Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander

Publisher: Harvard Business School Press. 320 pages.£16.99.

ISBN: 0875847706

Edgeware: insights from complexity science for healthcare leaders By Brenda Zimmerman, Curt Lindberg and Paul Plsek Publisher: VHA (Irving, Texas). 280 pages. $38.95. ISBN: 0966782801