I’m a fan of books. I surround myself with books and I must admit that I felt a touch of sadness when I read thatBorders filed Chapter 11 proceeding with plans to close 275 stores. I love my Kindle and have even played around with an e-reader on my iPhone, but I still love to hold a book. One question I’m often asked is what business book should I be reading. I have a list I share but more recently started talking about categories of business books. Everyone connects with books in different ways so I’ve begun to talk about the following categories of business books.
- Books that are well researched, have an academic feel and discuss shifting trends in the marketplace. Authors like John Kotter, Jim Collins and Warren Bennis come to mind. I like these books because they stand the test of time.
- Other business books are fables and share earthly truths through the life and times of a well-worn business executive. Authors such as Spencer Johnson, Patrick Lencioni and Matthew Kelly are three terrific examples. I enjoy these fables because I believe we learn by stories and a great story can communicate much more than a graph or spreadsheet.
- Still other business books fit into the “been there done that” category of successful CEOs. Jack Welsh, Bill Gates, Larry Bossidy, Michael Dell and Andy Grove fit that category well. Walking in the shoes and hanging out in the grey matter of industry giants can shape our behavior and further develop our habits (good and bad).
- Another category helps us discover new ways of implementing older ideas. These are normally process or method driven books and are especially useful in providing leaders a new approach for tackling their current challenges. Ken Blanchard and Stephen Covey are perhaps the best known in this category and others like Erika Andersen and Chris McGoff should be.
- Finally there is the “lots of good stuff crammed into 180 pages” category. I also call these airplane reads because I can normally knock them out in a few fours. There is not always a cohesive direction, but they are loaded with wisdom and guidance. Tom Peters, Malcom Gladwell, Daniel Pink and Seth Godin books generally fall into this category. The trick is developing the discipline to implement just of few of the pieces of gold you can find from these authors.
To get hooked yourself or to hook someone in your organization on business books, find the category that will match their personality best. It’s not unlike appreciating wines. When you first started to drink wines, everyone in your dorm or apartment drank white zinfandel. Twenty years later you find yourself drinking a heavy cab on your back deck. It just takes time!