The question was this: what is your opinion about business books and what do you prefer to read for insights? Crafting an answer was a challenge; it stimulated much thought, the sort of thought and insight one might anticipate receiving from a business book.
More often than not, it isn’t business books from which I derive insight. Life — and thus business — is about the human condition. Insights and thought provoking content that may bear on the conduct of business can come from reading fiction, non-fiction, even social media. Referred links guide the curious reader to countless opportunities to discover schools of thought, ideas, concepts and of course, opinion.
Pop culture business bestsellers often seem more a celebration of memes and catch phrases than sources of insight or guidance. Overstate the obvious, do so with flowing prose and, boom, there’s a bestseller. Then there are business books posing as tomes, but which are not-too-secretly intended to promote an author’s firm, company or product.
Much of what’s popular on the business books bestseller list leaves me wondering how these books got published. Too many could be titled, “The Seven Disruptive Habits of Successful Singularity Paradigm Futurist Analytics Social Media Tipping Point Emerging Digital Start Ups.”
Two business books that have had an evergreen factor for me, well worth rereading, are Future Shock and The Cluetrain Manifesto. Future Shock projected a changing reality in not only business, but also in the culture. Cluetrain rang true for me in that it verified and clarified the coming shift of perceptions and the sea change in communications brought about by the emergence, rapid expansion and increasingly widespread use of the Internet.
Cluetrain co-author Chris Locke’s Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices is one of the most insightful and moving books I’ve ever read. It is about far more than marketing. Describing it as a work on marketing, pop culture, and the Internet barely scratches the surface.
Thought provoking reading is a catalyst to insight. The same goes for entertaining reading with depth of content. Works by Philip Roth, John Le Carre, Ferrol Sams, Elmore Leonard, Shirley Anne Grau, Susan Sontag, David Halberstam, John Updike, Amos Oz, Chaim Potok (and many others) all offer content that stimulates thought. From such thought comes insight and increased awareness of the aforementioned human condition.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should acknowledge that the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto and Gonzo Marketing are friends of mine. In fairness, it should also be disclosed that I have many other friends and associates who are published authors. There are also two friends who have written books I found to be so bad I had to refuse their requests to provide a laudatory blurb. Pals? Yes. Insightful authors? Uh, sorry.
I don't know and have never met Future Shock author Alvin Toffler, but am certain he'd make an incredibly interesting friend!
Dean Landsman, Principal, Landsman Communications Group, New York City