Not for Michael Gove the latest potboiler to while away the tedium of a visit to an accident and emergency department after he hurt his foot.
The cerebral Justice Secretary, who has just eased restrictions on prisoners owning books, was spotted limping out of hospital on crutches with a heavyweight treatise on penal reform under his arm.
His choice of reading was Governing Prisons, a 1987 work by a conservative academic John Dilulio, who went on to advise President George W Bush. The book is regarded as a seminal work on jail management.
Drawing on an analysis of prisons in California, Michigan and Texas, it argues that conditions can be improved behind bars even when money is tight – a message that will chime with Mr Gove as he faces a fresh squeeze on the Ministry of Justice budget.
Dilulio’s recipe for success is encouraging a “constitutional government” in prisons with governors capable of maintaining order at the same time as encouraging prisoners to take control of their lives.
He writes: “A paramilitary prison bureaucracy, led by able institutional managers and steered by a talented executive, may be the best administrative response to the problem of establishing and maintaining higher custody prisons in which inmates and staff lead a calm, peaceful and productive round of daily life”.
Signs of his influence on Mr Gove’s thinking emerged last week in the new minister’s first speech on prison reform when he promised to hand “operational autonomy and genuine independence” to governors.
Mr Gove’s visit to Shepton Mallet hospital came after he tripped over a toy and banged his foot on a Saturday night.Reuse content