Look, 2009 is shaping up to be a very tough economic year. Here is my list of business books that are enduring, well written and may just help you get through the current economic crunch. While some of these titles are classics, a few are new, and some are different and I have little doubt will not be found on any other business book list.
One Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive. This is indeed a classic that is more than 30-years-old. If you want to read the original thinking about decision making, allocating time and managing projects this is the one.
Two. Peter Drucker. Concept of the Corporation. No fair I suppose, but Drucker gets two books on my list. I don’t think you can really understand how far General Motors has fallen unless you understand how the creation of G.M. changed the business picture worldwide.
Three. Regis McKenna, Relationship Marketing. Regis has written a bunch of other books since this 1992 classic but none of those were as remarkable as this one. If you are in high tech and think that social networks and peer marketing are new concepts, you better find a copy of this in your library.
Four. The Travels Of Marco Polo (Latham edition). The next time you feel like complaining about having to sit in coach, or not having all your marketing materials available or an early breakfast after a late night dinner, take some time to follow this 13th Century, seventeen year odyssey from what became Italy to China and back. How much of it is fiction? I don’t know, how much of your travel and expense report is fiction? The Latham edition is slower going but a closer translation.
Five. Margaret Atwood, Payback. This is newly published in 2008. Atwood has published a lot of fiction and non-fiction but is probably best known for the fiction work, “The Handmaid’s Tale.” If nothing else, she is a master of timing. Payback is all about debt including how the concept derived, the role it has played in history and religion and how debt became part of the structure of human society. This is not a book about how to get into or out of debt or how a business should manage debt, but if as you watch the economic turmoil and start asking yourself just what is money, debt and what happens when it all comes due, this is a good business read.
Six. Straight to the Top: Becoming a world-class CIO. Gregory Smith. First a caveat, Greg is a friend and an occasional golf pal. But this is a list for CIOs and there are very few books that examine what it take not to become just a competent CIO, but the best there is. Smith’s book could use an update but if you read it, you can have see your resume stacks up against the world-class requirements.
Seven. How to tell when you’re tired: A brief examination of work. Reg Theriault. How many business books do you really remember from your college/business school days? This one has stayed with me since my business school course in the psychology of business. Theriault was a longshoreman, migrant worker and deep thinker about work, the difference between blue and white collars and the dignity of doing a job well. In a time of outsourcing and layoffs by the thousands, this book serves to remind us that behind all those numbers are people.
Eight. The Road Ahead, Bill Gates. Bill Gates knows a lot about business. Nathan Myhrvold know a lot about everything. But when the hardcover edition of this book was published in 1995, both Gates and Myhrvold totally missed the onrushing importance of the Internet. They corrected this monumental miss in the softcover edition and Gates took the goof sufficiently to heart to redirect the company. This book is worth a read to realize that even the best business and technology minds can miss an oncoming train by looking the wrong way.
Nine. Something Happened. Joseph Heller. Right, the author of Catch 22 did write this sort of business and life book combined. “I get the willies when I see closed doors.” (from the book) and written about working in a modern corporation, may be the best and shortest depiction of the current business world.
Ten. Marcus Aurelius. Meditations, When you are done chuckling over Heller’s view of business, it is time to take a deep dive into the thinking of the last great emperor of Rome. In what I’d argue was the first blog, Aurelius took time during a military campaign in 170 A.D.to think about duty, service and life. This was not only the first blog but was the first self help book.