I’m in the very honoured position of being a mentor to a few younger people who are either starting out in my industry or are looking to get back into the market after having children, as I have tried to do. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of my work and, as a fortunate side-line, it also provides a great deal of fodder for potential subjects for my articles.
One of my mentees asked recently what my top ten business books were and, having given it some reflection, I thought it might be useful to share the recommendations I gave to her. They are in no order of preference but are all just great reads, full of snippets of wisdom and little nuggets to carry through not only your professional but sometimes your personal life.
Most aren’t particularly technical or erudite, nor strategic or scholarly, but they may help you focus your work and provide ideas to pursue, as they have me. The list isn’t comprehensive (I could have gone on much longer and bored you senseless) but these are the ones that “jumped out” at me as having significantly changed the way I think and behave.
Jack: Straight from the Gut – Jack Welch’s life story is a fascinating mix of biography, management guide and lessons in corporate history. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, which only adds to the interest, but his mixture of self-belief verging on arrogance, alongside a phenomenal track record and a down-to-earth approach, makes this a great business page turner.
Outliers – all of Malcolm Gladwell’s books are great reads and hugely thought-provoking but Outliers is up there as my favourite. It’s a fascinating insight into the story of success and why exceptional people are exceptional. His style is readable and confident with humour along the way to keep you engaged.
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey’s classic is the best book I have ever read on productivity and achievement. I’ve read it time and time again and on every reading I learn something new to introduce into my working life. It’s not a train journey quick fix book – it requires patience and effort to understand his techniques and suggestions – but it’s nonetheless immensely readable. A must read.
Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress Free Productivity. I’m a bit of a time-management geek, as may be becoming clear. Whilst Covey’s book is an approach to life, David Allen’s handbook is a really practical way of making sure you get what you need to get done, done. Whether you’re electronic or paper-based, his systems and processes help you not to drop the ball. Sits beautifully alongside Covey’s principles to becoming “highly effective”.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson - I have huge respect for the fact that this biography doesn’t pull any punches about Steve Jobs although it was written with his co-operation and blessing. He wasn’t, particularly in the early days, in any way a likeable character. But he was a genius, albeit an uncompromising one. Therein, perhaps, lay his success. The story telling and anecdotes are wonderful – it represents a very particular moment in time, when Silicon Valley was coming into being and it’s absolutely fascinating to read this period chronicled in detail. Despite all of his failings, or perhaps because of them, Jobs emerges a visionary, a legend, an industry titan and an intriguing and complex human being.
Serious Creativity: How to be creative under pressure and turn ideas into action - Edward de Bono’s book is a real go-to read for me, as it debunks the notion that only “creative” people are creative. De Bono perceives creativity as being something very different to the standard definition and offers methods and strategies to develop one’s creative thinking (or lateral thinking, as it may otherwise be called in his lexicon). Really engaging and challenging work.
The Alchemist – not a business book at all, but a life book that applies to business. If business isn’t fundamentally about pursuing dreams then what is it about? Yes, it’s sentimental and perhaps clichéd, but I don’t care. Somehow the book gets to the heart of things for me and always helps me get back on track. “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” – Paulo Coelho
Think and Grow Rich. One of the original “self-help” books in business, Napoleon Hill’s book written almost 100 years ago is still relevant today and is cited time and time again by business leaders as an inspirational book that helped them on their way. It’s not a get rich quick book. It’s about making changes step-by-step and upping your game over time to achieve results. It’s about positive thinking and visualisation and is a precursor to many modern concepts expounded today.
Who Will Cry When You Die? – Robin Sharma is one of my life heroes and the title is pretty self-explanatory but something we don’t think about enough. Again it’s not strictly a business book but it has so many applications in business life. It’s motivational, inspiration, thought provoking and yet a light, easy read.
The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg’s exploration of how patterns in our lives can affect us either positively or in an unproductive way is absolutely riveting. Using case studies and research, he illustrates what habits are, why we engage in them, how to break them and how to create positive behaviours instead. This book is a great framework to understand and, ultimately, to create behavioural change.
I hope you enjoy reading and perhaps even one day re-reading these books as much as I have and look forward to hearing about other people’s top tens.