Recently I had the opportunity to see Tim Sanders speak. His book, Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends talks about how nice, smart people can do good by sharing. One of the things that he proposes is that people read more and share what they are reading. In that spirit, I wanted to share some of the great books that I have read recently.
Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book, What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures, looks at topics as diverse as Cesar Milan, the dog whisperer to copyright law to the history of hair color ads and their effects on feminism. The book is an anthology of some of his favorite articles that he has written for The New Yorker. This medium gives him the ability to write long form articles that delve deeply into the subject matter. I highly recommend this book. Malcolm is a smart guy that follows his curiosity and writes well. It is a winning combination.
My favorite book last year was What Would Google Do?, by Jeff Jarvis. This book is not about how Google runs their business per se. In this book, Jeff looks at other industries and applies Google business practices to radically change the business model of that particular business. Jarvis is a journalist and he applies the Google model to newspapers, but also to restaurants, music and retailers among others. For anyone truly interested in business, this book will make you think about your business in new ways.
As an advisor to companies, I find that many of the issues that I encounter are rooted in organizational problems. One of the best books that I have read and recommend often is called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (J-B Lencioni Series), by Patrick Lencioni. Patrick writes a business fable about a Silicon Valley start-up and the travails of a new CEO with an executive team that just doesn’t get it. The book is a quick read and Patrick deftly gets the symptoms and cures woven into the storyline.
And for those of you who are looking for financing, a great book on what venture capitalists look for when evaluating companies is also told in fable form by Randy Komisar in The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Living.
A. J. Jacobs is a writer with OCD. In prior books, he lived by the rules of the Old Testament for a year and read the entire Encyclopedia Brittannica and wrote about his favorite articles. In his latest book, The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment, he becomes a human guinea pig and tells the story of each encounter. Included in this book are his experiences in Outsourcing his Life to an offshore firm in India and the Nakedness Experiments, where he and Mary Louise Parker pose naked for a photo in Esquire Magazine. A. J. has been compared to the George Plimpton of our age. In this he succeeds, with a bit more droll humor.
John Irving is a true American superstar storyteller, easily in the same class as Stephen King or Mark Twain. He develops quirky characters and builds complex storylines that keep the reader engaged. His latest – Last Night in Twisted River: A Novel – takes his readers on a ride through a life time of love, betrayal, vendettas, loss, Italian cooking and naked skydiving. Somehow it all works marvelously.
Audrey Niffenegger doesn’t write often, but her writing takes on a luminous quality that fully sucks you in to the very end. Her latest book, Her Fearful Symmetry: A Novel, explores the life of a set of twins.
Let me know in the comments if you have specific books that you have read recently and would like to recommend.