Following on from our thoughts on fiction in the workplace we have a very exciting opportunity to hear from someone in our place of work. Philip Blackwell the founder and CEO of Ultimate Library has agreed to answer a few of our questions so we can learn more about the beginning of the company and the man that thought it up.

Born into the Blackwell bookselling dynasty, Philip has always been interested in literature. But resistant to jump into his family’s shoes straight away, he took up work abroad during the ski season. This experience and his love of travel led Philip to think that there are certain places to read certain books. After stepping down as the CEO of Blackwell’s Books in 2006, Philip hit upon the idea of Ultimate Library. Thinking that hotels and resorts need dedicated libraries of book collections that help guests get a sense of place, Ultimate Library was created. The company now provides curated book collections for hotels, resorts, long-stay residences, and private clients around the world.

Much of your career has been within the book industry, have you always been drawn to this career or was there a point where you weren’t sure what you would do?

I wasn’t one of those people with a life strategy all mapped out. I prefer to plan my life in a series of chapters, each one evolving and building on each other; influenced by events and opportunities, some within my control, many others outside.  What has grown is my passion for books and reading for pleasure and the opportunity to share this by creating bespoke book collections for people to stumble upon at a time when they are most susceptible and receptive; on holiday with time to spare and reconnect with one of life’s great pleasures. 

We know that Ultimate Library has grown from your love of both travel and reading, do you think and feel differently about these things 13 years after creating the company.

Every year we learn and evolve in response to our customer’s demands and feedback. And although the quality of our book collections remains at the heart of what we do, we now wrap a suite of services around the books to make the content more accessible and engaging. Such as using QR codes to link guests to a library guide and tailored book recommendations. We have also learned a lot about consumer reading habits through our embedded booksellers in the Soneva resorts in the Maldives. It is a wonder to see the team grow and celebrate the creativity and deep knowledge they bring. 

When not working hard at Ultimate Library what is your favourite way to relax?

My life is guided by the need to retain vitality and remain curious – I am increasingly in thrall to the natural world; I love the changing of the seasons and exploring whether walking through woods, touring the mountains on skis or escaping to the sea to sail from island to island. The buzz of the London visual and performing arts scene is energising. Old friends and family are there to challenge me and keep me grounded.

If you could travel anywhere in the world where would it be and why?

I travelled extensively during lockdown; across Siberia, through Albania, down the Magdalena river in Columbia and along the Skeleton Coast; always in the company of the most engaging and hugely perceptive people; by which I mean writers. My appetite whetted, my three wishes are to wake up in the shadow of the giant Namibian dunes, sail the Med in the footsteps of Odysseus and ‘do Japan properly’. But our planet is big, my time is limited, and the list gets longer the more I read!

What are your top three book recommendations for 2022 so far?

Every year sees over 100,000 new titles come to market:  the books that have most resonated and  held up a mirror to the human condition are

Suite Francais; Irene Nemirovsky’s masterful posthumous tale of the German invasion of France in 1940. Made poignant by the fact that she herself was a refugee from Ukraine.

Human Kind; A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman gives plenty of much-needed reasons to be optimistic about the human race.

And finally the new Mick Herron Bad Actors is a pitch-perfect spy thriller in the Le Carre tradition that uses laugh-out-loud political satire to dissect the curious times in which we live.

We want to thank Philip again for taking the time to share some of his experiences and for giving an insight into the creation and drive behind Ultimate Library. You can of course find out more about us on our website or through our social media.