Best of the Best Business Books for the Ages
In my lifetime I’ve read over 500 books. Recently I put together a list of 110 recommended books that I called “Business Books for the Ages.” You can see this list, which represents 20 percent of all the books I’ve read, on my Web site.
I then decided to narrow that to the ten books that I felt were the most important business books for readers to dig into. Now that was an even more challenging assignment. It represented less than two percent of all the books I’ve read. I decided to choose ten topics (okay, actually fourteen), select one book for each topic and then provide a brief explanation as to why I selected it. Here goes:
The Ten (okay, fourteen) Most Important Business Books for the Ages
Less is More by Jason Jennings. Jason is the master at finding companies that are truly productive, narrowing his list to the absolute best of the best and then immersing himself into researching what makes those companies truly extraordinary in the area of productivity. I think you will find this book to be of tremendous practical value.
Walt Disney by Neal Gabler. Since I believe that perseverance is of utmost importance in creating a great business and a great career, I found this book to be amazing. Disney’s creative mind was a big part of his success, but a bigger part was his absolute willingness to persevere no matter what obstacles he faced. Stubborn, yes; legendary performance, double yes.
Personal History by Katherine Graham. Greatness is also derived through overcoming massive obstacles. When she was 46, Katherine Graham’s husband, Phil, committed suicide. Suddenly she was the publisher of theWashington Post with exactly zero experience in any aspect of publishing a newspaper. Through exceptional courage and tenacity she vaulted the paper onto the national stage and became one of the most powerful women in the world.
Born Standing Up by Steve Martin. This is the extraordinary story of the eighteen years that Steve Martin invested to go from being a comic newbie to the most popular stand-up comic in history. My favorite quote in the book is from E.E. Cummings who wrote, “I am abnormally fond of that precision which creates movement.” It is this pursuit of precision that generates extraordinary business results in every industry.
Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout. The brilliance of this book is in its simplicity. Ries and Trout explain that every buyer carries categories around in his or her head, and that for every category there is always a ranking of the products or services within that buyer’s head. The key is to have the first or second position in the minds of buyers for the category you want to be known for.
Inside Steve’s Brain by Leander Kahney. This is a remarkably useful insight into the management approach of Steve Jobs, who guided Apple to fundamentally change three industries: computers, music and cell phones. I found it to be extremely helpful in multiple areas.
The Age of Turbulence by Alan Greenspan. Greenspan does a spectacular job of explaining the impact of emotions, particularly exuberance and fear, on the economy and financial decisions. From this book, I learned the psychology of results and the importance of staying logical with results and not getting emotional.
The Snowball by Alice Schroeder. Extraordinary in its detail, this book provides the reader with a deep understanding of Buffett’s approach to investing, which he cultivated over a period of more than sixty years. It’s quite long, but it moves very fast and you will walk away with powerful and practical insights on what types of organizations to invest your time and money into.
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Goodwin is a gifted writer, and this is her greatest book. It is a magnificent example of how completely different types of members can make for an exceptionally powerful team. One of Abraham Lincoln’s greatest contributions to America was his willingness to assemble the best team he could and constantly work to make it better.
Getting Started in Consulting by Alan Weiss. In times of great economic change, many successful executives decide to start their own consulting practices. They find purpose in leveraging their knowledge and experience in ways that can help other people achieve their desired business outcomes. Alan Weiss is the world-wide guru on how to make this happen, and this is his finest book, which should be renamed, What to Do From the Day You Start Your Consulting Business to the Day You Retire.
The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. Not only is Friedman a compelling writer, but his travels and ongoing diary make the concept of globalization real and accessible. This book is a masterpiece in explaining how interconnected the world of products, services and producers really are.
The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker. This is Drucker’s shortest and finest book. Chapters two and four are particularly useful in explaining how leveraging strengths and optimizing priority management can generate extraordinary results.
Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove. Perhaps Grove’s greatest contribution to business was his explanation of strategic inflection points and how they provide extraordinary opportunities for strategic growth. Times of great systemic change, like the era we’re living in now, provide great opportunities to step back and find better approaches to the marketplace.
The Greatest Miracle in the World by Og Mandino. This is the shortest book on my list, but it was critically helpful to me during two key transitions in my career.
I hope you find this list to be of as much value for you as it was for me.