Staff Picks

Todd's Favorite Business Books of 2008

December 28, 2008


I get paid to read business books. Some would consider this a tortured existence, but I can't think of a better job in the world. The job does have certain requirements.

I get paid to read business books. Some would consider this a tortured existence, but I can't think of a better job in the world.

The job does have certain requirements. You have to love the pursuit of commerce. You have to believe that business is much more art than science. The job requires endless curiosity. And you need patience given the hundreds of books that arrive in our offices each year.

One of my favorite parts of my job is to go back each year and remind readers what stands above the rest. Here are my five selections of 2008, with a page number to get you started and show that each book is worth reading in its entirety.

  • The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need by Daniel H. Pink
    Start on page one. Dan Pink has written an unconventional career guide. The wildly popular Japanese manga comic format and the ass-kicking career genie named Diana are two great reasons to read Pink's guide. Audiences of all stripes will enjoy joining Johnny on this fast-paced quest to find a satisfying career and build a fulfilling life.
  • The Back of The Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas With Pictures by Dan Roam
    Visual thinking was an en vogue concept for 2008. A number of books described different ways to communicate complex ideas using pictures, drawings and charts. Dan Roam uniquely delivers on the how. The decoder ring on page 141 shows the answers to the six basic questions of who/what, how much, where, when, how and why. This alone is worth the price of two books (one for you, the other for a friend).
  • The Breakthrough Imperative: How the Best Managers Get Outstanding Results by Mark Gottfredson and Steve Schaubert
    I am a fan of the business thought of the management consulting group Bain & Company, with Chris Zook's "focus on the core" philosophy and Fred Reichheld's Net Promoter Score leading the parade. The Breakthrough Imperative builds and expands on the work of Zook and Reichheld. Mark Gottfredson and Steve Schaubert show that some strategy paths are better than others. On page 125, the authors elegantly simplify customer segmentation to three groups: those who buy on price, those who buy for quality and service, and those who buy for the prestige of owning the brand. In business, the path you choose always depends on where you are starting from.
  • This I Believe II: More Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women Edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman
    National Public Radio originally ran this series in the 1950s, and this is the second compilation of the renewed series. These seventy-five personal manifestos reveal deep motivations and their origins. Some individuals you'll recognize; all of them you will remember, whether it is banjoist Bela Fleck's obsession with perfection (page 79), comic book artist Frank Miller's love for the American Flag, or Amy Lyles Wilson writing about her mother pumping her first tank of gas after her husband passed away.
  • Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin
    Tribes is Seth's best book since Purple Cow. In his world, leadership is about change, risk, hope, fear and faith. I could pick almost any page for a clever insight given his riff-based style of writing. My recommended riff on page 126 is a list because everyone likes lists—in this case, Seth's seven elements of leadership.

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