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Liberating ideas

The Unbound Library

Lots of companies ask employees to fill out isometric tests to get insights into their personalities. I’m not sure if you’ve ever done one of these tests but in my experience they are very dull – once you get over the initial excitement that someone might be interested in what makes you you. I think that’s because these tests are not really interested in you at all.

We don’t use these kinds of tests at Unbound, but we do ask all the people who work for us to give us a list of their ten favourite books. Not the ten books that they think will make them seem most intelligent to strangers, or to show off their eclectic taste but their ten actual favourite books. The ten books they would take with them to a desert island. Ten is a good number. By the time you get down to number seven and eight the insights are very revealing. Everyone’s list has one thing in common of course – passion – and that’s what we’re really looking for.

Twenty people work for Unbound so we now have a list of 200 books that helped form the personalities behind our company. It’s a wonderful list, and every book is there because someone thinks it’s extraordinary and important. We had great fun choosing our list and sharing it with each other but it’s not enough to have a list. Once you have a list like that you want to be able to see, touch, smell and hold all the books. You want to be able to browse through and read them.

We moved recently and our new office had a boardroom. We only have 8 board meetings a year though and the idea of having a room designed like a board room for 365 days a year when we would only use it for 8 days a year made no sense at all, so we got rid of the board table and bought some book shelves and got a spare sofa my dad had in his garage. Then we took our combined list and bought them, almost all second hand, and now we have a library. A unique collection of books that mean a huge amount to all of us. We found a lectern on ebay and are in the process of getting a journal made where you can write down the title of the book you are borrowing with your phone number in case you forget you have it. We have an Unbound stamp so we can brand each book as being part of our library. If anyone in the library comes across a book they have not heard of before they shout the title across the room to find out who chose it and that person then comes over and explains, eyes glistening with pride, why they love it so much.

Asking someone to help you curate a library is a brilliant way to find out about them and has the added bonus of showing who we are collectively as a company.

As amazing as this is, it’s not enough either. No matter how hard we work Unbound is and will always be completely reliant on authors and readers to help it continue to be a success. We want our library to grow beyond the initial 200 titles so today we are asking our authors and readers to tell us about their favourite books too. We will then look at the selections and add the ones we think will make our library even richer. There is no reason why the Unbound Library should ever stop growing. The more books it has in it the better.

We are trying to come up with ways to share our library with our authors and readers – more information on those plans in the next few months – but if you have any ideas about how we can share it or what we can do with it let me know.

To send in a submission (please do) email with the title, your name and why you love it in fifty words or less. We’ll keep you updated on how the Library builds in our newsletter, which you can subscribe to here



(Founder and CEO, Unbound)


The Unbound Library so far contains:

Things Fall Apart Achebe, Chinua  / The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Adams, Douglas / Half of a Yellow Sun Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi / Where Rainbows End Ahern, Cecilia / London Fields Amis, Martin / The Epic of Gilgamesh Anonymous / The Handmaid’s Tale Atwood, Margaret / Pride and Prejudice Austen, Jane / The Music Of Chance Auster, Paul / Boy Wonder Baker, James Robert / Miracles of Life Ballard, JG / The Wasp Factory Banks, Iain / I Hate Martin Amis et. al. Barry, Peter / Alex’s Adventures in Numberland Bellos, Alex / The Puffin Book of Nonsense Verse Blake, Quentin / An Ice Cream War Boyd, William / Into the Silent Land Broks, Paul / Jane Eyre Bronte, Charlotte / Wuthering Heights Brontë, Emily / Johnny Crow’s Garden Brooke, Leslie / The Mythical Man-Month Brooks Jr, Frederick P. / Nights At the Circus Carter, Angela / What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Carver, Raymond / Wonder Boys Chabon, Michael / The Short Stories Cheever, John / Careless People Churchwell, Sarah / What A Carve Up Coe, Jonathan / The Hunger Games 1-3 Collins, Suzanne / The Dark is Rising Cooper, Susan / Boy Dahl, Roald / The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar (And 6 More) Dahl, Roald / The BFG Dahl, Roald / The Idle Traveller Dan Kieran / The Oxford Companion to Food Davidson, Alan / The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts de Bernières, Louis / Collected short stories Of Guy de Maupassant de Maupassant, Guy / The Little Prince de St Exupery, Antoine / Wind, Sand and Stars de St Exupery, Antoine / Democracy and Education Dewey, John / Great Expectations Dickens, Charles / Fup Dodge, Jim / Jamaica Inn Du Maurier, Daphne / Making a Living in the Middle Ages Dyer, Chris / But Beautiful Dyer, Geoff / Out Of Sheer Rage Dyer, Geoff / The Curious Gardener’s Almanac Edworthy, Niall / Four Quartets Eliot, TS / Selected Poems Eliot, TS / Nature Emerson, Ralph Waldo / Birdsong Faulks, Sebastian / Magician Fiest, Raymond E / The Great Gatsby Fitzgerald, F Scott / The Art of Looking Sideways Fletcher, Alan / Independence Day Ford, Richard / Consider the Lobster Foster Wallace, David / Le Grande Meaulnes Fournier, Alain / The Magus Fowles, John / Man’s Search For Meaning Frankl, Viktor E / A Million Little Pieces Frey, James / The Book of Puka Puka Frisbie, Robert Dean / Sophie’s World Gaarder, Jostein / The Story of My Experiments with Truth Gandhi, Mohandas / Strandloper Garner, Alan / The Stone Book Quartet Garner, Alan / North and South Gaskell, Elizabeth / Cold Comfort Farm Gibbons, Stella / Straw Dogs Gray, John / The Comedians Greene, Graham / Plainsong Haruf, Kent / A Goat’s Song Healy, Dermot / Across the Nightingale Floor Hearn, Lian / Catch 22 Heller, Joseph / A Life In Secrets (Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE) Helm, Sarah / The Old Man and the Sea Hemingway, Ernest / Siddhartha Hesse, Herman / Mambo Kings play songs of Love Hijuelos, Oscar / Kleinzeit Hoban, Russell / Riddley Walker Hoban, Russell / The Iliad Homer / Atomized Houellebecq, Michel / World According to Garp Irving, John / The Dig Jones, Cynan / Ill Fares The Land Judt, Tony / The Man in the High Castle K. Dick, Philip / Thinking, Fast and Slow Kahneman, Daniel / Burial Rites Kent, Hannah / Stig of the Dump King, Clive / The Rainbow Lawrence, DH / Women in Love Lawrence, DH / The Spy Who Came In From The Cold Le Carré, John / When I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning Lee, Laurie / Left Hand of Darkness LeGuin, Ursula K / Hero of our Time Lermontov / Flora Britannica Mabey, Richard / Whiskey Galore MacKenzie, Compton / Autumn Journal MacNeice, Louis / Life Of Pi Martell, Yann / A Game of Thrones 1-7 Martin, George RR / Tales Of The City Maupin, Armistead / The Road McCarthy, Cormac / Atonement McEwan, Ian / Please Kill Me McNeil, Legs / All My Sons Miller, Arthur / The Song of Achilles Miller, Madeline / Paradise Lost Milton, John / Black Swan Green Mitchell, David / Homeboy Morgan, Seth / Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World Murakami, Haruki / Kafka on the Shore Murakami, Haruki / Norwegian Wood Murakami, Haruki / The Wind-up Bird Chronicle Murakami, Haruki / Pale Fire Nabokov, Vladimir / A Monster Calls Ness, Patrick / The Wind Singer Nicholson, William / My Oedipus Complex O’Connor, Frank / The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox O’Farrell, Maggie / Down and out in Paris and London Orwell, George / 1984 Orwell, George / Titus Groan, Gormenghast, Titus Alone – Trilogy Peake, Mervyn / Tom’s Midnight Garden Pearce, Philippa / An Instance of the Fingerposts Pears, Iain / Edie Plimpton, George & Stein, Jean / Seeing Things Postgate, Oliver / His Dark Materials Trilogy Pullman, Philip / The Godfather Puzo, Mario / Inherent Vice Pynchon, Thomas / Major Vigoureux Q / All Quiet on the Western Front Remarque, Erich Maria / Snake Ropes Richards, Jess / Quick, Let’s Get Out of Here Rosen, Michael / Harry Potter 1-5 Rowling, J K / The God Of Small Things Roy, Arundhati / Haroun and the Sea of Stories Rushdie, Salman / Rainbow Boys Sanchez, Alex / England’s Dreaming Savage, Jon / Gravity’s Engines Scharf, Caleb / The Vulture Scott-Heron, Gil / The Emigrants Sebald, W G / The Rings of Saturn Sebald, W G / Snow Flower and the Secret Fan See, Lisa / The Wilt Alternative Sharpe, Tom / Frankenstein Shelley, Mary / By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept Smart, Elizabeth / Kokoro Sōseki, Natsume / East of Eden Steinbeck, John / Travels with Charley Steinbeck, John / Dracula Stoker, Bram / Marianne Dreams Storr, Catherine / Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice Syed, Matthew / The Goldfinch Tartt, Donna / Wyrd Sisters Terry Pratchett / The Lord of the Rings Tolkien, J R R / A Confession and Other Religious Writing Tolstoy, Leo / The Leopard Tomasi di Lampedusa, Giuseppe / The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists Tressell, Robert / Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Twain, Mark / Slaughterhouse Five Vonnegut, Kurt / The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are Watts, Alan / Handful of Dust Waugh, Evelyn / Joy in the Morning Wodehouse, P G / To the Lighthouse Woolf, Virginia / After the Fire, A Still Small Voice Wyld, Evie / Revolutionary Road Yates, Richard / Kitchen Yoshimoto, Banana / The Black Death Ziegler, Philip.

P.S. Tell us a little more about your favourite books and what you think of Unbound and you could win £100 of Unbound books and pledges – start the questions here