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
- Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein, published by Simon & Schuster
- All Falling Faiths: Reflections on the Promise and Failure of the 1960s by Harvie Wilkinson, published by Encounter Books
- The Financial Diaries: How American Families Cope in a World of Uncertainty by Jonathan Morduch & Rachel Schneider, published by Princeton University Press
- White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America by Joan Williams, published by Harvard Business Review Press
- Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It by Richard Reeves, published by Brookings Institution Press
- It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis, originally published by Doubleday, Doran and Company in 1935
- Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change by Ellen Pao, published by Spiegel & Grau
- Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark, published by Knopf
- Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O’Neil, published by Broadway Books
- The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr, published by W. W. Norton & Company
- iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy, and Completely /unprepared for Adulthood by Jean Twenge, published by Atria Books
- Pax Technica: How the Internet of Things May Set Us Free or Lock Us Up by Philip Howard, published by Yale University Press
- War in 140 Characters: How Social Media Is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century by David Patrikarakos, published by Basic Books
- The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball by Noam Cohen, published by The New Press
- The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google by Scott Galloway, published by Portfolio
- World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech by Franklin Foer, published by The Penguin Press
- Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy by Robert W Mc Chesney, published by The New Press
- The Image: The Guide to Pseudo-Events in America by Daniel Boorstin, original published (with an alternate subtitle) by Atheneum in 1962
- Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman, originally published by Penguin in 1984
- The Gutenberg Galaxy by Marshall McLuhan, originally published by University of Toronto Press in 1962
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.