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Posted Aug. 24, 2011 10:41 a.m. by dylan
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
With weary conviction, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote near the end of his life that "There are no second acts in American lives." He gets picked on a lot for that, mostly because it's an easy and somewhat eloquent introduction to the many stories that get written about second acts in American life. He also wrote that "All good writing is like swimming underwater and holding your breath." If that one is true, our resident wordsmith and editor-extraordinaire, Sally Haldorson, has been holding her breath for quite a while now, making her way through the upcoming paperback edition of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time.
It's the book's second act, and it has been reworked significantly with some additions we think you'll love. We're looking forward to the book's release later this year, but I'm sure we'll have to revisit it yet again for a third act someday, because business book publishing didn't stop after our book was finished and neither did the authors of the books that were chosen. And the authors aren't making future editions easier for us, either. They continue churning out wonderful new acts that add to the story and trajectory of their work.
Here is a list of the books coming out just this calender year from authors included in The 100 Best, along with the books that got them there:
- Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis, W.W. Norton & Company (author of Moneyball)
- That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back by Thomas L Friedman & Michael Mandelbaum, Farrar Straus Giroux (Friedman is the author of The Lexus and the Olive Tree)
- 3rd Alternative: Solving Life's Most Difficult Problems by Stephen R. Covey, Free Press (author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
- Escape Velocity: Free Your Company's Future from the Pull of the Past by Geoffrey A Moore, HarperBusiness (author of Crossing the Chasm)
- Infinite Possibility: Creating Customer Value on the Digital Frontier by B. Joseph Pine II & Kim C. Korn, Berrett-Koehler (Pine is the coauthor of The Experience Economy)
- Reach for the Skies: Ballooning, Birdmen, and Blasting Into Space by Richard Branson, Current (author of Losing My Virginity)
- Standout: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment from the Leader of the Strengths Revolution by Marcus Buckingham, Thomas Nelson (coauthor of First, Break All the Rules)
- The MacKay MBA of Selling in the Real World by Harvey MacKay, Portfolio (author of Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive)
- Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen & Clayton M Christensen, Harvard Business Review Press (Christensen is the author of The Innovator's Dilemma)
- Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work by Michael Michalko, New World Library (author of Thinkertoys)
And these are not just the second acts for most of these authors—this will be Michael Lewis's fourteenth book. With all of the great new authors entering the game today that we need to discover and read, this level of continued productivity and excellence seems almost unfair to our collective free time.
Posted June 24, 2011 10:15 a.m. by dylan
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
➻ Kathy Sierra had one of the better posts I've read recently on Hugh MacLeod's gapinvoid site earlier this month. It was about Pixie Dust and The Mountain of Mediocrity, or how companies go about representing themselves online.
The answer has always been there: to make the product, book, service that enables, empowers, MAKES USERS AWESOME. The rest nearly always takes care of itself.
Which brings me back to, why are so many so convinced that [insert favorite buzzword] is the answer vs. just making a product that helps people kick ass in a way they find meaningful?
And then someone I trust said this: these [insert favorite new buzzword] approaches are not about saving a crap product or marketing an awesome one… where these tools really DO make a difference for a brand is when the brand has little or no other compelling benefit over the competition. If the product is mediocre, or even really good but with too many equally good competitors, these things can make a difference. If you have little else to compete on, then out-friending/out-viraling/out-gamifying can work.
At least until your competition out-hires a good social media strategist or compelling extroverted social media star and out-friends you.
You do not want to be That Brand. You do not want to be That Product. That Book. That Consultant. You do not want to be in that arms race because it is an exhausting and fragile place to be. You want to use social media not because you *must* but because you can add even more value for your users by doing so. You do not want to be the guy that must ask constantly, “how can I get more comments on my blog? how can I get more followers and fans?”
The real pixie dust is when you ask yourself, “how can I help my users get more comments on THEIR blog?”. You want to be the guy who asks, “How can I help my users get more followers and fans?” And that is why I have always been such a fan of Hugh and Gary V and Tim Ferris, for example. Not for the comments their followers make about Hugh, Gary, and Tim… But for the comments their followers make about themselves. In a nutshell: Hugh, Gary, and Tim might well be the people you want at a dinner party, but what matters is that they help people become more interesting at their OWN next dinner party.
That resonates with us here at 800-CEO-READ because—although we're obviously in business to sell books and make money—our mission, our reason to exist, is to help you find the right books, ideas and resources that will propel your business and make you more money.
➻ And speaking of finding the right books, Neelima Mahajan-Bansal has a piece over at Poets and Quants about the Great Books That Shaped The Business School Elite. The post asks nine separate business school professors the same five questions:
- Which book has influenced you the most?
- What do you plan to read next?
- How do you usually like to read — real books or digital devices?
- Apart from management books, which genres do you like best?
- If you are stranded alone on an island which is the one book you would like for company and why?
The interesting thing about the responses is the lack of business books on the list that "influenced them most." I suppose it may be that business as a popular publishing genre isn't quite old enough to have heavily influenced the current generation of professors, but only one professor—Why of Work author Dave Ulrich—seems to be a big fan of (or heavily influenced by) the genre.
I read for professional and personal growth and for pleasure. Professionally, I like to read authors, not books. An author comes to life through the books they write and I like to spend time with the authors through their books. My professional author list includes Ed Lawler, Steve Kerr, Lynda Gratton, C.K. Prahalad, Gary Hamel, Bob Eichinger, Ram Charan, Jac Fitz Enz, John Boudreau, Marshall Goldsmith and Dick Beatty. I have probably read every book these people have written. Personally, I find comfort and insight from reading scriptures. For pleasure, I read escape novels that you would find on the top sellers list.
The bible was the most influential book in the survey, with three professors citing it as influential. The second was a book of near-religious significance to some, and the only actual book on the list that could be considered a business book, Michael Lewis's Moneyball, which was mentioned by two professors.
➻ David McCullough, author of the recently released history of The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, often gets to know the subjects of his books more intimately by spending time reading their favorite books. It's a fabulous idea that led him to read Don Quixote while working on his biography of John Adams. So revealed Danny Heitman in his conversation with McCullough about The Greater Journey and some of McCullough's own favorite books in The Christian Science Monitor. But perhaps the most important part of his writing process takes place on his early morning strolls.
People always ask me, "How much time do you spend researching, and how much time do you spend writing?" That’s a good question ... But what they don’t ask me is "How much time do you spend thinking?"
Good old fashioned walking and thinking, and he still writes all of his books on a used typewriter he bought in 1965.
In dialogue with Terkel’s book, DW Gibson has organized NOT WORKING, a project that will produce a book-length oral history. The book will be accompanied by a film, which Gibson will produce with MJ Sieber. [...] It will provide the names and faces, the pulse of the Great American Recession. [...]
Interviews will be centered on the exact moment when the job was lost, the conditions that led to that moment, and the consequences that followed. The moment-to-moment details rupture with emotion, tension, humor, and absolute horror. These close-ups are the essence of this project.
These are workers who have lost their job because of economic considerations. They have been let go by forces beyond their will, ability, and sense of commitment. They come from all levels of responsibility and income: hourly wage earners, executives, and every tax bracket in between.
I am really looking forward to seeing how this project progresses. (Tip of the hat to GalleyCat for the story.)
➻ Sometimes, Milwaukee is a magical place to live. Especially when accompanied by a Group of the Altos.
Jack Covert Selects – Branch Rickey
Posted June 9, 2011 1:35 p.m. by 800-ceo-read
Branch Rickey by Jimmy Breslin, Viking Books, 147 Pages, $19.95, Hardcover, March 2011, ISBN 9780670022496
Ask yourself: in business, how important is change? How hard is change? Literally thousands of books have been written on this subject, because effective change is both necessary and nearly impossible. Now imagine yourself as a middle-aged baseball president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the early 1940s, and you want to integrate baseball in the face of a longstanding “gentleman’s agreement” amongst owners that kept baseball segregated. You don’t know who you want to bring to your team, but you know in your heart that segregation is wrong and your sport needs to lead the way to social change. So in 1943 you start a long change process, preparing your team, your banker, your owners, your league, for the change, and as a result of your efforts, in 1947, Jackie Robinson plays his first game in the big leagues.
Pretty impressive, right? And to think you’ve probably never heard of the guy who did this: Branch Rickey. Now, thanks to the smart Penguin Lives series published by Penguin/Viking, we all get to learn the amazing story of Branch Rickey as told by the estimable Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Jimmy Breslin.
The lyrical nature and timelessness of baseball has always been appealing to me. And reading such behind-the-scene books as Moneyball by Michael Lewis adds a layer of richness to the experience of watching and theorizing about the game. Branch Rickey does the same. I was really surprised at how Rickey went about this sea change of integrating the game, and universal business lessons can be drawn from each move he made. Rickey is a leader worthy of a broader following.
This biography, Branch Rickey, is a remarkable little treasure that should be read by any person interested in change, ethics, and leadership. I hope Penguin chooses to submit this book for consideration in our business book of the year awards, because the three criteria that I have always stated make up a good business book—quality of the idea, applicability of the idea to business today, and accessibility—are here in spades.
Jack Covert Selects - The Big Short
Posted April 8, 2010 10:23 a.m. by 800-ceo-read
Michael Lewis has crafted an impressive collection of non-fiction that represents the very best of the genre: Liars’ Poker, Moneyball and now The Big Short. With this new book, Lewis applies his keen investigative instinct and careful re-creation of characters to the cause of documenting the continuing nightmare that is our current economic predicament.
After reading several books on this subject, I have found that the very hardest thing for writers to accomplish is making the technical aspects—which are crucial for a complete understanding of the crisis—digestible. My eyes tend to gloss over the requisite pages of almost incomprehensible financial jargon, and the books tend to lack a distinctive quality to set them apart. After all, what more can be said about ARMs and CDOs?
But, while Lewis does spend time explaining that history and the inner workings of the markets (even going back to his days in the belly of the beast chronicled in Liars’ Poker), he introduces us to real, three-dimensional characters who are living in this world and we easily learn the more arcane aspects of the story as we read and get enmeshed in their lives.
It is the story of people like Jamie Mai and Charlie Ledley of Cornwell Capital Management:
Jamie Mai was tall and strikingly handsome and so, almost by definition, had the air of a man in charge—until he opened his mouth and betrayed his lack of confidence in everything from tomorrow’s sunrise to the future of the human race.
His partner, Charlie Ledley, “had the pallor of a mortician and the manner of a man bent on putting off, for as long as possible, definite action.”
This attention to the characters in this morality play intensifies our understanding of just what happened to our 401K investments and why there are four houses still for sale on our block after two years and many “reduced price” signs.
Michael Lewis is a writer who entertains us, and in the process educates us about both business and the human spirit.
What is it about Baseball?
Posted Dec. 16, 2009 9:31 a.m. by jack
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
I’ve been reading a lot about baseball lately. In The Man with Two Arms by Billy Lombardo (coming in February 2010), a new father is thinking about his soon-to-be-born son.
What about baseball? Now there was a gift he could give. Baseball was about grace and beauty and character, it was about strength and achievement. It was about competition. It was about fathers and sons, and for the luckiest of mortals it was a way to play into adulthood. It was the best use of grass and dirt every dreamed in the heads of men.
In May, as a tribute to Ted Williams’ last at-bat, a new edition of John Updike’s New Yorker article, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” will be released as a special publication by The Library of America. It’s the best piece of writing about baseball I’ve ever read, and reread. Updike writes:
Williams is the classic ballplayer of the game on a hot August weekday, before a small crowd, when the only thing at stake is the tissue-thin difference between a thing done well and a thing done ill. Baseball is a game of the long season, of relentless and gradual averaging-out.
What is it about baseball and why are there so many beautifully written books about it, so many profound thoughts that spring from the game? Roger Angell and W.P. Kinsella’s many books, Michael Lewis’s Moneyball and Bernard Malamud’s The Natural among so many others are truly timeless and often better reads a second time. That doesn’t seem the case for football, basketball or other sports, just baseball.
As a resident of the upper northern hemisphere, I’m still physically and mentally preparing for that awful sunlight-deprived, cold, snowy time called winter, so when the local news show starts talking about pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training, I’m transported forward in time, and eagerly cracking open one of these great baseball books while waiting for the first crack of the bat.