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Business Books: What You Should (and Should Not) Read

It's likely that as you're managing your personal finances, you also have a job. You work for a business. As such, you may find some of these books helpful to learn about business in general. I did, which is why I've read so many.

Recommendation Scale:

  1. Don’t waste your time reading this book (Bad)

  2. Probably not worth reading (Not good)

  3. You’ll get some good takeaways (OK)

  4. This is a good book and I recommend it (Good)

  5. Make time to read this book (Amazing)

  • Never Split the Difference: Voss was an all-time great hostage negotiator and he wrote this book to teach us how to get better at the art of negotiation. He offers tangible advice and numerous harrowing tales. It’s both helpful and entertaining. You should read this book if there’s even a chance you’ll negotiate in your future, whether it be for a salary or a house. My husband read this book and negotiated an additional $20k in salary once. 5

  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Steven Covey outlines the steps we should all take to be successful by aligning our lives with our values. Everyone should read this book – and probably more than once over the course of their lives. 5

  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: Manson gives you counterintuitive advice to help readers life a better life. Ironically, I found a lot of similar takeaways as 7 Habits (above). Read this book if you’re open to an amusing way to read self-help topics and can stomach a lot of F-bombs. 4

  • Good to Great: Jim Collins compares successful companies that made the leap into greatness with their peers who did not. Although the stories are a bit out of date (Circuit City and GE are on the “great” list), the teachings withstand the test of time. If you’re even mildly interested in business, you should read this book. 4

  • Predictable Success: McKeown consulted with so many organizations, he discovered a pattern – almost a life cycle – that every business goes through. Whether you’re a part of a new company just starting out (“early struggle”), a large organization trying to get that spark back (“treadmill”), or any company at all, you should read this book. 5

  • Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup: Carreyrou’s investigative reporting reads like a fictional page-turner. He details the fall of a Silicon Valley bio-medical startup, and gives you enough information to form your own opinion about the young, female CEO – fraudster or victim of the Silicon Valley environment? This is my favorite book in this post, and you should read it if the impact of company culture fascinates you. 5

  • Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World: These authors detail a financial fraud perpetuated by a Malaysian national and feature Hollywood A-listers, a prime minister, Saudi princes, and an unscrupulous investment bank. While this is a juicy story, it contained too much minutiae for me around the actual movements of billions of dollars in and out of banks and all around the world. Personally, I’m hoping for a movie. 2

  • Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story: Eichenwald tells the almost unbelievable story of Enron, whose leaders used fraudulent accounting tactics to ensure their profits and stock price would continually increase… until it all came crashing down. Enron’s fall led to a rash of new legislation and business practices. This is another book I couldn’t put down. You should read it to see how employees, investors, regulators, and the public believed what they wanted to, that there was such a thing as the perfect stock to buy. 5

  • Drive: Daniel Pink studied humans and realize we’re not all extrinsically motivated by carrots and sticks. Some of us are intrinsically motivated. Read this book if you want to learn what motivates you and those around you. 4

  • A Whole New Mind: Pink writes in this book about how right-brained people and jobs that require the right-brain will imminently dominate the American workforce. While it’s a nice idea and Pink presents compelling evidence, it simply hasn’t materialized yet. Maybe it’s because my husband and I are left-brained and don’t want to believe we can be replaced by computers that I don’t recommend this read. 2

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People: This book is quite the oldie, yet goodie. Carnegie’s observations about people are timeless. This book is not about manipulating others, rather it’s about drawing others in for everyone’s benefit. You should read it if you want to learn how to better interact with those around you. 3

  • Tilt: Shifting Your Strategy from Products to Customers: Dawar explores the new business reality that customers buy because of reasons other than the features and benefits of your products. If you’re having trouble understanding this concept and want it cemented in your brain, you should read this book. 3

  • Why Smart Executives Fail: And What You Can Learn From Their Mistakes: Finkelstein’s book tells us specifically why executives fail through story after compelling story. Some books take deep dives into specific companies, while this one touches many. If you like learning stories about businesses, or if you’re considering a senior leadership role, you should read this book. 3

  • Management of the Absurd: Paradoxes in Leadership: You may have learned some truths about leadership and management and never questioned them. Farson questions these time-honored “truths” and tears them apart. I remember thinking it was interesting when I read it, but not much of this one stuck with me. 2

  • Rework: Fried and Hansson use many different examples to give practical advice for how to run a business, and not in a traditional way. This is a best-selling book and an interesting read; however, I didn’t get enough valuable takeaways from this book to recommend it. 2

  • Creating a Lean Culture: I read this book because a client of the training company I work for was handing it out following one of our sessions. In a lean system, which could be manufacturing or service, it takes lean management to make everything come together. I learned a lot about lean; however, this book reads like a textbook and would only be applicable for a narrow readership. 3

  • Stiletto Standards: What Every Woman Needs to Know to Live the Life of Her Own Design: A colleague of mine recommended her friend, Suzanne Malausky’s, book. You should read this book if you’re a professional woman. You’ll read stories from other women and get validation and motivation from within its pages. 4

Have you read any of these? Do you agree with my ratings? Disagree?

My Reading List: On My Shelf

  • Built to Last

  • Crucial Conversations

  • Wizard of Lies

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