Seasalt Words: Paul Hayes’ Top 5 Reads

A self-confessed hoarder of books, our CEO Paul shares his favourites, from historical page-turners to childhood classics.


“I still have many books dating back to my early years. They remain my guilty pleasure, as I can’t resist another purchase even when I still have a pile of books to read!

I use reading as an opportunity to relax, switch gears from the working week but also to learn and expand my knowledge.

I try to read each evening and also look forward to holidays to catch up on my reading and will get through a good five or six books. I always have two or three books on the go, so it can take a while to get through a book but I like switching between fiction, biographies and business texts.

I’m currently reading a Maigret novel written by Georges Simenon and The Ethical Capitalist by Julian Richer.”

  1. Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

An enduring story and a favourite of mine to this day. It’s quintessentially English and a book for both adults and children alike. It has a superb cast of characters and enjoyable rural landscapes with some amusing escapades, most certainly a tonic set against the events we’re experiencing at the moment.

It is believed the Fowey Hall in South East Cornwall inspired Kenneth Grahame’s fictional ‘Toad Hall’. The author was a regular visitor to this Cornish manor and you can see how the river it overlooks and surrounding countryside would have provided the perfect backdrop for the adventures described in his books.

Here’s a short excerpt:

“I beg your pardon,” said the Mole, pulling himself together with an effort. “You must think me very rude; but all this is so new to me. So – this – is – a – River!”

“The River,” corrected Rat.

“And you really live by the river? What a jolly life!”

“By it and with it and on it and in it,” said the Rat. “It’s brother and sister to me, and aunts, and company, and food and drink, and (naturally) washing. It’s my world, and I don’t want any other. What it hasn’t got is not worth having, and what it doesn’t know is not worth knowing. Lord! The times we’ve had together! Whether in winter or summer, spring or autumn, it’s always got its fun and its excitements. When the floods are on in February, and my cellars and basement are brimming with drink that’s no good to me, and the brown water runs by my best bedroom window; or again when it all drops away and shows patches of mud that smells like plum-cake, and the rushes and weed clog the channels, and I can potter about dry-shod over most of the bed of it and find fresh food to eat, and things careless people have dropped out of boats!”

“But isn’t it a bit dull at times?” the Mole ventured to ask. “Just you and the river, and no one else to pass a word with?”

“No one else to – well, I mustn’t be hard on you,” said the Rat with forbearance. “You are new to it, and of course you don’t know. The bank is so crowded nowadays that many people are moving away altogether. O no, it isn’t what it used to be, at all. Otters, kingfishers, dabchicks, moorhens, all of them about all day long and always wanting you to do something – as if a fellow had no business of his own to attend to!”

My other favourites:

2. The Yacoubian Building, Alaa Al Aswany

3. Any Human Heart, William Boyd

4. Exodus, Leon Uris

5. Penguins Stopped Play, Harry Thompson

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