News & Opinion

The Reading List of Tom Peters

January 24, 2018


Tom Peters, the author most responsible for popularizing the business book genre, shares what he's reading these days.

One of the most entertaining and intellectually informative articles I read last year was a discussion Theodore Kinni had with Tom Peters for his "Required Reading" column in strategy + business. It was entertaining because of Peters' typical irreverence toward established authority—even his own—and his aversion to conventional wisdom. The fact that he swears like the old sailor that he is (he did two tours in Vietnam as a combat engineer in the Navy Seabees) helps the cause. It was intellectually informative—in a manner that displays Tom's thoughtful directness and lack of airs—because it provided an amount of reading material that was both humbling and daunting.

Quickly realizing the call wasn't going to result in a standard "Required Reading" article, Kinni turned it into a longer piece on how "Tom Peters Wants You to Read." Perhaps my favorite quote in the piece (there are many) demonstrated Tom's humility, along with his own commitment to reading:


I’ve read my way to the point where I am willing to say confidently that (a) I am not that far behind; (b) because I am reading, I am ahead of a lot of people who ought to be way ahead of me; and (c) I can talk to people who are kind of famous in this world and give them six things to read they haven’t read, which gets me through cocktail parties. There is a strategy, and the strategy is to read. If you read 100 books on a topic, you’ll get a lot smarter.


As you know if you've been following the site in the past month, our founder and former president, Jack Covert, gave his 2017 award for contribution to the business book industry to Tom. He came to our awards event in New York City last week to receive it, so they've been in touch quite a bit recently. During their recent back-and-forth, Tom forwarded the reading list he keeps for himself onto Jack. Seeing as it is our purpose in this world is to push books, we thought we'd share that with you, and he has given us permission to do so.

I mean, who wouldn't want a peek at the reading list of the man most responsible, as Jack said, for moving business books "from the dusty part of the bookstore to the window"—the man who kicked it all off with Bob Waterman and In Search of Excellence in 1982, and is still going today with The Excellence Dividend, being released by Vintage Books in April. 

So, without further ado, here is…


The Reading List of Tom Peters, from December 31st, 2017

The book at the top of the list, Amy Goldstein's Janesville: An American Story, was of course, our 2017 Business Book of the Year. Tom has checked that book off his list in the past week, and tweeted at us yesterday about it. 



There is also one non-book on the list, the Winter 2018 issue of Lapham’s Quarterly: States of Mind. If you've never checked out Lapham's Quarterly, I would highly recommend it. Founder Lewis Lapham was the editor of Harper's Magazine for over two decades before he left to found the Quarterly in 2007. Each issue explores a single topic, and is an anthology of abridged texts, illustrated with full-color prints, from history's greatest minds and artists on the topic of choice. Of all the things my wife and I decided to give up when we had our first child to save money, our subscription to Lapham's Quarterly may be the thing I miss the most—so much so that I think I'm going to resubscribe today. As a quote from Cicero on their website proclaims, "Not to know what happened before one was born is always to be a child," and I'd like my kids to grow up someday, so it'd probably be good material to have around the house. 

Thanks so much to Tom Peters for letting us share this list. Follow him of Twitter, and you're bound to get more.

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