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What’s On Your Bookshelf? Laura Jordan Bambach and the tale of a talking mongoose

The Drum’s What’s On Your Bookshelf series asks industry luminaries to share their essential reading lists. Here we delve into what page-turners are helping Grey’s Laura Jordan Bambach get through lockdown.

In April, Laura Jordan Bambach quit Mr President, the agency she co-founded, to join Grey London as chief creative officer. Transitioning into a new role amid a global health crisis and lockdown has not been easy, she tells The Drum’s consulting editor Sonoo Singh, but it has certainly been a learning curve.

“We’re in this terrible and difficult moment, but it’s an amazing moment for creativity… there’s option to go back to the way that we were before. [The ad industry] is going to have to work differently and act differently. So, in a way there’s no better time for me to come on board at Grey and really focus on making some great work,” Bambach explains in an interview recorded as part of The Drum’s Can-Do Festival.

“The hardest thing for me during this time is not being able to walk the floor and ask everyone what they’re working on. My day is broken into 15-minute and half-an-hour one-on-ones, which in an agency the size of Grey can be pretty cumbersome – but rewarding – task. So I’m going a little slow in terms of meeting of meeting everyone and getting under the skin of the clients but I’m getting there and really enjoying it.”

To help her navigate these strange times, Bambach has found herself shaking up her reading list too.

“I usually tend to read a lot of business books, focused on creativity and psychology,” Bambach says. “I have a passion for science and tech. I’m typically drawn to quite wordy books. But, with my transition into a new role and so much amazing content being published online my reading has devolved into other areas.”

So, what’s on her bookshelf right now?

Sex And Anarchy: The Life And Death Of The Sydney Push by Anne Coombs

What’s the story?

The Push was Sydney's bohemian and anarchist network of the 1950s and ‘60s. Coombs work explores how its members challenged the state, the church, the wowsers, the censors and anticipated the sexual revolution.

What Bambach says:

“I’m originally from Sydney, and this book is about a really interesting time in the city’s history. The book talks about all the streets I grew up in and made me quite nostalgic for my 20s. It talks about walking the streets of Surry Hills and the gangland killings that went on there, it was a pretty brutal period of time that we don’t hear a lot about and I’m absolutely loving it.

Gef! The Strange Tale of an Extra-Special Talking Mongoose by Christopher Josiffe

What’s the story?

During the mid-1930s, British and overseas newspapers were full of incredible stories about Gef, a “talking mongoose” or “man-weasel” who had allegedly appeared in the home of the Irvings, a farming family in a remote district on the Isle of Man. In this book lecturer Christopher Josiffe pulls together seven years' worth of research, photographs (many previously unseen), interviews with surviving witnesses and visits to the site to present the first examination of the case for 70 years.

What Bambach says:

“This is just a fascinating tale. It’s about storytelling and the power of stories in making people believe the unbelievable and fake news. The lengths the family featured in the book went to in order to keep this idea of the mongoose alive is fascinating, but so is the way the press fell over this idea of a talking mongoose. It’s a pretty amazing book, but there’s a lot of talk about the mongoose so I’m just skimming through that one.”

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

What’s the story?

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World draws readers into a narrative particle accelerator in which a split-brained data processor, a deranged scientist, his shockingly un-demure granddaughter, Lauren Bacall, Bob Dylan, and various thugs, librarians, and subterranean monsters collide to dazzling effect. What emerges is simultaneously cooler than zero and unaffectedly affecting, a hilariously funny and deeply serious meditation on the nature and uses of the mind.

What Bambach says:

“I love Japanese fiction and this is one of my favourite books of all time. All of Murakami’s early books are brilliant. I love this one because the story is written as a figure of eight that folds in on itself and its fascinating.”

Bambach spoke with The Drum's consulting editor Sonoo Singh as part of The Drum's Can-Do Festival, an online event celebrating the positive energy, innovation and creative thinking that can make the marketing community such a powerful force for good. You can watch the interview in full and see what else is on the creative’s bookshelf here.

Sign up to watch forthcoming sessions and see the full Can-Do schedule here.