Sunday, February 1, 2009

100 Best Business Books Of All Time

The more I learn about Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten of 800-CEO-Read, the more I agree they are qualified to claim The 100 Best Business Books of All Time: What They Say, Why They Matter, and How They Can Help You (Portfolio, 2009). Their website explains much of the history of their passion for business books. Out of that passion, the authors present quality reviews, reasoned standards of excellence and an appreciation for business books that deliver new ideas, or timely solutions in fresh ways. The book clearly honors the subtitle. You will learn what the books say, why they matter and how they can help you.

In the introduction the authors demonstrate they are all business. They created a set of standards to justify the claim to the best books of all time. Their first standard was to "ask each book the same set of questions: Is the author making a good argument? Is there something new that he or she is presenting? Can we use this idea to make our business better?" The second standard is how applicable is the topic, does the book apply to business people here and now? And the third standard relates to accessibility. How accessible is the information? I appreciate this standard as most executives might. What is the cost to acquire the information? Most of us don't have weeks to commit to learning a new idea.

From that point forward, the book is immensely creative and useful. The books are arranged by categories but also in priority order. The categories are:
  1. You
  2. Leadership
  3. Strategy
  4. Sales and Marketing
  5. Rules and Scorekeeping
  6. Management
  7. Biographies
  8. Entrepreneurship
  9. Narratives
  10. Innovation and Creativity
  11. Big Ideas
  12. Takeaways

The reviews are concise, yet deep, thoughtful and informative. The reviewer is identified so you know if it was Jack or Todd doing the review. I noticed no repetitive content. Each review is fresh, containing quotes when helpful and the reviewers opinion of the highlights of each work. Often, the reason for inclusion is also explained in the review. Each review is between 2-4 pages except for the 12 books listed under Takeaways, which are one page each.

Four features provide the "But wait..." bonus you probably would not expect from reference such as this:
  1. The first chapter - You;
  2. The final chapter - Takeaways;
  3. The sidebars.
  4. The Where To Next entries at the end of each review
The You chapter contains books to make you a better business individual. Examples include Getting Things Done by David Allen, How to Swim With The Sharks by Harvey Mackay, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, How to Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie, and Oh The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss. (Yes, that's right. Read the review to understand. I can't wait to get the book.) The Takeaways chapter contains 11 reviews (one for each chapter) of unique, bonus-value books. Examples include What The CEO Wants You To Know by Ram Charan, Lucky Or Smart by Bo Peabody and Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko. The sidebars provide a variety of interesting facts including articles such as Leadership in the Movies, Found In Fiction, Classics, Deming's 14 Points Of Management, and Quotes. At the end of each review there are at least 3 suggestions for Where To Next. Thoughtfully, the authors have provided a less-structured-but-not-random alternate path through the reviews. For example, The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team is in the Management section, but the recommendations take you forward to the section on leadership, back to an entry on starting a business, and to the one-page Takeaway description of The Team Handbook by Scholtes, Joiner and Streibel.

This book challenged me and shamed me. I am ashamed at how few of the 100 Best I've read. Clearly, too many of my selections have been from those books ranked 101 and below. I have a lot of catching up to do. But I'm challenged as well by the how the authors studied, learned from, documented and shared the benefits of each book. This book takes a special place in the library. It makes me focus my learning, eliminate waste, and concentrate on getting the best bang for my business book buck!

No comments:

Post a Comment