6 Terrific Business Books That Deserve Your Attention

by cv harquail on June 30, 2011

It’s too easy to overlook great business books.

Even with sites like 800-CEO-Read, authors’ own promotional activities, and reviews by thoughtful & prominent business bloggers, many terrific books languish on Amazon’s shelves.

Of course, I may be a little — shall we say undisciplined — in the ways that I come by my books. Recommendations from business people and savvy management faculty, gifts from colleagues, publisher’s newsletters, and even solicitations from PR firms bring books to my doorstep. Not to mention, the quick trigger of Amazon 1-Click.

Even granting the serendipity and the idiosyncratic set of interest graphs that bring books to my attention, I do take notice of “Best Business Books” lists. And, I notice that some of my favorite books never seem to be on these lists.

So when I saw that 800-CEO-Read listed Amazon’s Best Business Books of the year (so far), I wondered again:

Where are those great business books that I’ve read this year?

I tweeted that thought, and Lucy Nixon challenged me to put together my own list.

Before you check out the list, note that the books aren’t ranked. I don’t believe that one is necessarily better than another– it depends on the kind of ideas you need to inspire you. And, I won’t pretend that this list is “definitive”. By definition, a definitive list is finite– it assumes an objective authority and a scarcity that, in the world of ideas, I simply don’t believe in.

6 Terrific Business Books That Deserve Your Attention

Giving Voice to Values: How to speak your mind when you know what’s right, by Mary C. Gentile.

201106301315.jpg If we could do one thing better as organization members and business people, it would be to learn how to speak our truths to power, especially when they are relevant to the (work) situation at hand. We talk a lot about values– what they are, how has them, etc. but how about putting your values into practice?

Gentile’s book is not so much a ‘how to’ as a ‘how, what, when, where and why-to’. Starting assumptions that masquerade as simple premises help you anchor yourself in your truth, and then the exposition in the chapters helps you understand how to take action. Want to learn how to be a leader? This is the book to imbibe and enact.

No Excuses: 9 Ways Women can change how we think about power , by Gloria Feldt @gloriafeldt

201106301412.jpgWe all want to be influential, and to make a difference. Sometimes though, after too much resistance to our change efforts (and to our authority) we give up. Heck, some of us even give up before we try. Thus, we stay in a place of power-less -ness. We fail to use the power that’s available to us.

Feldt explores our resistance to power, and give us four steps to taking power, while approaching the entire concept of power differently. It doesn’t hurt, either, that Feldt’s perspectives and personal experience are profoundly feminist. Thus, from the very first page, the explicit goal of using your power is to liberate, not to control, yourself and others.

Note: Men might pass by this book, thinking that it’s for girls. It’s not; it’s a book for for leaders.

The Whuffie Factor: Unleashing the power of social networks to build your business, by Tara Hunt @missrogue

201106301318.jpgHunt’s book absolutely did not get the spotlight and broad respect it deserved when it was published two years ago. Yet, her arguments and ideas have been picked up and repeated by many social media gurus — often without the soul and the subtleties Hunt brings from her entrepreneurial, business-building experiences.

While ostensibly The Whuffie Factor is about creating strong relationships with customers and creating great customer-community experience, it’s really (in my mind) all about why you should found your business on kindness, generosity, meaning, and mutual respect.

Artistry Unleaded: A Guide to pursuing great performance in work and life, by Hilary Austen.


Mastery, originality, knowledge, experience, and enigmatic problems. Yum. Perhaps the best left-brain approach to the right-brain’s territory that you’ll ever read.

The ideas are dense, and the concepts sometimes feel esoteric, until you take a deep breath and let the wisdom seep it. I know I haven’t really absorbed the wisdom yet, but I keep going back to pages 176- 178, where Austen outlines “What true artists know that the rest of us need to learn”, to remember how to reorient myself.

The New How: Creating Business Solutions Through Collaborative Strategy, by Nilhofer Merchant. @nilofer


Nilofer is an HBR blogger and and an inspiring twitter presence who is probably best known for her practice of “Murderboarding”. Murderboarding is not quite the opposite of brainstorming, but it is the step that whittles lots of ideas down to the chosen one.

For people full of possibilities, that one practice might be enough to recommend this book. But Nilofer’s exploration of the steps and connections critical to collaboration that is ‘strategic’ can be used on challenges big and small.

Different: Escaping the competitive herd , by Youngme Moon


Different is nominally a book about marketing, about developing product and brands that are distinctive, compelling, and meaningful.

I read it as a treatise on organizational identity and distinctiveness– obviously, my own lens. But any manager or organization member could be inspired and appropriately reoriented by using Moon’s ideas to reconsider what’s “meaningfully different” about their product, service, skill set, organization, personal brand, team, organizational vision– you get the idea.

6 Books– Not a Cop-out, But a Beginning

When I started this post, the title was “10 Books …” but I realized that 6 might possibly be enough to tempt you as you gather pleasure reading for your summer vacation.  And, I have a row of 25+ other great books on my windowsill, all of which deserve more attention and blog posts of their own. So, I’ll do another set in a few months.

In the meantime, if you have books to recommend that deserve our attention, please add the below. Oh, and send me a copy. ( grin)

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