These are books that have changed the way I think about life and business, in no particular order, of the books that I find most interesting. I’ll keep it updated as more come along, and please leave comments on suggestions!
Good to Great by Jim Collins
There may be some biases since Jim is my former boss. However, this is a book that will stand the test of time. Good to Great explores business principles derived from over 5 years of research into companies that went from having mediocre to incredible performance when compared against both the general stock market and a group of matched-pair comparison cases. First Who, Then What is a key principle that I believe is forgotten all too often.
The Essential Drucker by Peter F. Drucker
Peter Drucker is the management thinker of our time. Any collection of his greatest hits, which this is, is well worth the read. The section on Individuals is my personal favorite that I go back to quite often.
The Challenger Launch Decision by Diane Vaughan
As the title suggests, this book discusses (in great depth) the decision behind launching The Challenger in 1986. The key business takeaway for me is the danger of changing a decision making structure for the wrong reasons. In the case of the Challenger, it was the shift from a) having to prove that a shuttle was safe to launch before giving the green light to b) having to prove that a shuttle was unsafe to launch.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Much like Willy Loman, Jeannette Walls’ father always talked about what could be as if it existed today or was eminent. Walls’ memoir is a sad, powerful, and motivating story of self-motivation, difficult choices, and the dangers of tunnel vision.
Conspiracy of Fools by Kurt Eichenwald
One of many books written about Enron; however, this is the best. The writing is incredible and reads like fiction. If you want to find some “don’ts”, then pick this up. A timeless take on what pressure can make people do.
John Adams by David McCullough
A great glimpse into the life of one of the founding fathers of the United States. My connection to this book came not only because McCullough is an incredible author, but also because John Adams’ life exemplifies how analogous business (well, in his case, political) decisions and personal decisions really are.
Zen and the Art of Poker by Larry W. Phillips
This book is less about poker, and more about knowing yourself before sitting down at the table. No matter how much you understand the game and are good at it, if you are not self aware and don’t have control and discipline over yourself, it really doesn’t count for much. That principle has many applications in general life.
Personal History by Katherine Graham
One of the greatest, and most unlikely, CEOs of the 20th century. Katharine Graham demonstrates how to run a great company, and also how to do so when no one wants you to be doing it (and don’t think that you can). We need more Katharine Grahams in this world.
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
Classic. A must read for anyone in business. Sun Tzu’s war strategies, taken generally, fit greatly into business strategy. The most powerful for me are his discussions around playing to one’s strengths (vs trying to fix one’s weaknesses).