When you get a chance, put down Harry Potter and pick up something really interesting. No, I don’t mean The Hunger Games trilogy (though it is good). Learn some secrets that will stick with you for life–and I’m not talking about Fifty Shades of Grey… These are my top 10 all-time favorite business books.
#10 The Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer
Twelve (and a half) great principles of “sales greatness.” If you have a short attention span, this book is for you. It serves as a great quick reference and primer for basic sales concepts. It focuses on the one true driver of sales: “Why people buy.”
#9 The 5 Levels of Leadership by John C. Maxwell
This book outlines the five levels of leadership based on why people follow you (because they have to, because they want to, etc.). John C. Maxwell has a great schema and expert examples about each level of leadership, and more importantly what to do to move to the next level. This is by far the best of John C. Maxwell’s books, though he has other good titles as well.
#8 Getting Things Done by David Allen
How would you like to be more productive and less stressed? David Allen’s transformative book teaches you to organize your life. It’s not a business strategy, it’s an organizational way of life! While I don’t 100% agree with all his concepts, his comprehensive strategies are refreshing with true gems throughout. I especially like his rule that goes something like this: “If it’s critical, and you can do it in two minutes, JUST DO IT NOW!”
#7 Question Based Selling by Thomas A. Freese
Tom Freese looks at selling from the customer’s point of view, and focuses on not only what to say but how and when to say it. As you might guess from the title, his main focus is not on telling the client what you think they want, but rather asking them the right questions to figure out their needs. This book makes for a wonderful selling foundation, and is one of the best overall selling books I have ever read. The greatest part is that his strategies can be applied successfully to any number of other selling techniques by other authors.
#6 Propaganda by Edward Bernays
It is amazing how relevant this book still is, despite being published in 1928. It’s more about public relations, government, and marketing than it is about selling. I read it off an old, terrible, scanned PDF, and was thrilled to see it finally reprinted for modern consumption. This book goes deep in to the public psyche–the consciousness of the masses. Bernays depicts public society as a dangerous, irrational collective that requires manipulation in order to function in a democratic manner over the long term. It’s a little Machiavellian, kind of dystopian, and very psychoanalytical (he was the nephew of Freud, after all), but it is a great read.
#5 How to Write Clearly by Edwin A. Abbott
You might be a great speaker, or great at maintaining relationships… But eventually business is going to come down to good, concise writing. This is especially true when writing documents that will became a part of a legal or binding agreement–like a contract or a proposal. Clear writing can be the different not only between understanding and winning business, but defending yourself when it comes to a dispute. This is not your average school grammar lesson: It has easy to remember tips to keep your grammar correct and concise. Though, the exercises do feel a bit like homework…
#4 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
It’s getting to be nearly 25 years old, but Stephen Covey’s 7 habits are still highly effective. Aside from Book #8 so far, you probably at least recognize this book’s name. And that’s just how good it is. Covey teaches you to shift your way of thinking to achieve personal and interpersonal effectiveness. Simply put, Covey first teaches us to master ourselves, master our relationship with others, and finally to strive for continual improvement. The book is engaging and intellectual in his explanation of each of the 7 habits. While they are not really profound truths, he brings them together in a grand way that ties up all the loose ends. Read this book, understand it, practice it… and it will change your life.
#3 The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book centers around his “black swan” theory. A “black swan” event is a improbable happening that results in massive consequences. He goes on to explain almost all the major catastrophic changes that have occurred in our history have been unpredictable or improbable events. Our modern scientific methods and probabilistic models focus on exactly the opposite–predicting the most probable events only. He offers advice on how to navigate and exploit “black swan” events. This is not really a business book, but it has altered my way of thinking about what really shapes the world around us, and helped me embrace the chaos. Taleb is almost as good a writer as he is a philosopher, and manages to tackle technical topics with a playful ease. He is bold, and at times comes off as arrogant, but I’m too much in love with his central premise to hold it against him.
#2 The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
Warning: This book is devious, brutal, and cut-throat. Imagine Machiavelli and Sun-tzu had a baby, and that baby teamed up with Friedrich Nietzsche and Bernie Madoff in order to rule the world in a grand unstoppable triumvirate. This book describes how that force rises to power, and how they hold on to that that control. If you’ve ever wanted to know the key motivations and truths to ruthlessness, this book will explain them to you. In application of these laws, I am sure it is possible to achieve good–but you sure have to operate in a gray area and have a strong moral compass to make it through uncorrupted. The presentation of the 48 laws is perfect, making for a tremendous read that will leave you exhilarated, and probably feeling a little bit dirty and ashamed. It is a powerful book. Should it fall in to the wrong hands, we’re all doomed.
#1 How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Dale Carnegie’s well-known book, must be the antithesis of Book #2… This is by far the best business book I have ever read. Possibly the best book overall I have ever read. Carnegie was born in to poverty and made a tremendous living lecturing on self-improvement. He believed that the best way to change other people’s behavior is by changing your own reaction to them. The publishing of this book represents his crowning achievement in life, and outlines his learned principles for accomplishing success. You simply can’t come out of reading this book with anything but a positive, sunny outlook on life. If you read this and discover you embody just a quarter of the principles he describes, you are already a marvelous individual. This book reminds us what it truly means to be a good person–striving always for the ideal, the best, in ourselves. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll pick it up for a re-read.
Tell me about it in the comments, and let’s discuss your favorite works.