The only business books you’ll ever need

I don’t tend to like these type of titles. They catch one’s eye and give a great intro into what will be detailed in the article, but what’s the authority of the person writing it?

Well, the truth with this article in the very least, is that these are the only business books I’ve ever needed. Some of them aren’t even business books, I even throw a few on there as just fun things to expand one’s knowledge and ways of thinking. At least, that’s what they did for me.

I’d like to think if I was birthed into a vacuum with nothing but my mixed casual and sport jacket attire, this list of books is all that I’d need to give myself a crash course in business.

The truth is, everything I read, watch, converse about or listen to, have a place in my quiver of knowledge and ability to be a consummate professional. So if you give yourself a hard time for enjoying to read the Twilight books or something of the like, don’t! There’s wisdom to be had anywhere.

Well, without further ado! Here’s the only business books you’ll ever need ;)

Business Adventures

I found this book after years of seeing it pop up in various articles as Bill Gates favorite book. While being strapped for cash after leaving college, it wasn’t in a reprinted form and I wasn't willing to shell out antique book prices for something I’d read on a train.

Lucky for you though, it’s now in wide circulation in paperback. Many thanks to Mr. Gates surging the popularity and making that possible on this one.

It’s written by famous ‘60’s business writer John Brooks, and spans from the late ‘50’s to the ‘60’s as a collection of business essays about companies, situations etc. You may think reading about the failed Ford brand at a time of EVs, or hearing about how Xerox got started, would be antiquated in a world where it’s increasingly looking like the matrix.

But oh how wrong you would be. It’s chalk full of wisdom on how businesses fail, how they succeed, and how very little many of us consider, plan for or even acknowledge how it’s our human nature that gets in our way. Not reason.

How to win friends and influence people

I have an old college friend that once said to me after reading this book, that it could’ve been a field guide taken from following me around for a week and detailing all of my interactions.

Which is really just to say, I love talking with people and finding an escape rope to get away from chit chat, and into meaningful deep conversation about what they're passionate about.

This doesn’t have to be about metaphysics, ecology or any thing of the like. But if someone is passionate about clay pottery, even if I don’t have or never did care much for it, hearing about it from someone with deep knowledge can be enthralling. Much more so than the weather, depending on the current catastrophe with it I suppose.

An oldie again, but a goodie for sure.

It’ll give you a great framework for how to create a conversation anywhere, how to be an active participant in it, and how by doing so, you’ll make a friend in the process. For in business, and in life, it’s all about who we know.

I’d encourage you to take that framework and apply it to all of life’s circumstances and happenstances. If it’s waiting in line at the DMV, chatting with a delivery person bringing in your fridge, or that odd time before the meeting starts where you’re waiting for everyone to join.

The Man Who Knew, the life and times of Alan Greenspan

I bought this book late at night one day, so late that my memory of purchasing it escaped me until it was upon my doorstep. But man am I glad that I did.

Unintentionally, I happened upon one of the biggest figures in politics from the time of Kennedy through the starting of Obama’s presidency. A thought leader that was even a member of Ayn Rand’s circle of editorial confidants as she was writing Atlas Shrugged, Greenspan was seen at as an economic oracle and a real force in American politics and economics.

He’s greatly responsible for ending the draft, architecting Nixon’s winning campaign message, deregulating the financial industry and perhaps even ushering the conditions for the financial collapse. That last part I’ll let you decide after reading it.

It’s a crash course in macroeconomic policy and how it effects the global economy, how the US is at the helm of it all and it may just give you more perspective in the larger waves that ripple through businesses each year. All told through an easy to digest narrative and is chalk full of shocking insider information about politics and how things really get done.

The Challenger Sale

This has to be the book I most recommend in business. A study into the different personas that make up a sales team was being conducted, and how well those different personas do in comparison to one another. Then the bottom fell out of the economy with the financial collapse.

And wow was it great timing.

Detailing out each persona, their relative success compared to one another, before ultimately explaining the extreme success of the Challenger persona, the book does a great job of making you think through all of your conversations and the way you present yourself or your company.

It’s a great data backed study into how being a considerate, well networked person that doesn’t overextend from what they know or are good at, ultimately is the best and most successful individual in the game.

If I was to sum up the knowledge in one sentence I’d say, know what you’re good at, provide that, be upfront and don’t push something that isn’t going to work-- it’s better for everyone to walk away

Marketplace by APM

Ya ya I know, this isn’t a book. Rather, it’s a daily practice.

Every day I start off by listening to the previous evening’s episode of Marketplace, as the host Kai Ryssdal says frequently, if you miss them live or have gotten rid of your old AM / FM device, they’re streaming wherever you get your podcasts from.

It’s a great snapshot of the economy, in amazingly thoughtful stories. You’ll hear everything from how a Wal-Mart greeter is fairing in the economy, to Jay Powell, all the way through the CEO of Hyatt or a stay at home mom.

They break everything down in reasonable chunks, and just like any practice, if you keep at it each day you’ll become a pretty proficient business and economic observer.

Truly, I can’t tell you how many times each week something I’ve heard from Marketplace gets brought up in conversation.

11 Rings

I grew up during the Jordan era in Chicago, so I’m a bit bias as to why this is landing on the list. Doesn’t mean it’s any less useful than the other loftier titles here.

Picking it up, I thought this was going to be about Phil’s time coaching and what that was like winning all of the championships with the Bulls and Lakers. What I instead came to realize a few pages in, is he wrote it as a story in his type of leadership and how it evolved over the years.

I’ve been in leadership positions from before my business career started, and I’ve had to attend many a seminar in leadership and read many a book that were written by generals and CEOs alike. None of them were as informative as this is.

Phil doesn’t shy away from the fact that everyone is a human first, and as a leader it’s on you to know them and meet them where they are. Not demand they arise to an occasion they very well not be mentally suited for… yet.

It might as well be titled a field guide to servant leadership, because that’s exactly what it is.

Your Notebooks

Perhaps the best book you can read, is your own notebook from the past year(s)! Yes it sounds hyperbolic, and as if I’m writing some sort of mixed self help essay with a business article, but I can’t tell you enough how helpful this is.

In another post I'll write about how to keep a proper notebook and the virtues therein, but if you were to take some time and dive back into the lines and scribbles of your daily log, tasks, ideas, you’ll instantly be jolted back into that frame of mind, into those events that were happening when you wrote them.

With one big difference, it’s you today not then. How those events unfolded, skipped past and otherwise resolved already happened. Which gives you the biggest learning that no book written by someone else could offer-- your own learning, your own takeaway and lends you the space to be able to learn more from it.

The design of everyday things

If you’re in the design world in whatever capacity, from interface, industrial, design thinking etc etc, this is very well might be eliciting an eye roll. As it’s pretty much required reading in every intro course to the domain.

If you’re not, and you’re one of my MBA friends, this may come as a, why the hell should I care about this sort of thing.

Here’s a reality, whether your build physical products, provide services or even just focus on more sales, it’s all the design and execution of something that’s driving the process.

I used to sell immigration services through a software platform. It was the design of that platform within the regulation that I was really selling, even though when I’d talk about it I was speaking about efficiency, costs, success and on and on.

This book is 100% the reason for my sometimes annoying rants to my wife about how this or that has “poor design,” before I take it apart to rebuild it, or flat out scrap it even if it is still serving it’s base function.

TDOET will get you to think differently about everything that you interface with. From the maddening frustration that printers bring, or how with ever more connected devices we seem to only be adding more layers of stress and thoughtlessness to the world.

I challenge you to read this all the way through, and not start seeing the world differently. Then when you become aware of that, bring it back to your business self and see how you can improve whatever it is that you do. Because with this book, anything on the list or whatever else you experience, we bring all of it with us everywhere we go.