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Essential Book List


The Editor, in his most recent directive, has decreed that I must trawl through the annuals of Duckett newsletters and compile a list of our best business books – I’m still struggling from clearing the dust from my ears.

Feel to dip in and out, critique or flat out disagree with my assessment.

Of the various literary genres, I believe business books rank just above self-help books (let's be honest; they are the “acceptable” male version).

On the quest to unearth my latent entrepreneurial potential, I have found myself traversing the murky world of subgenres: Surely business success only needs one book?

Apparently not.

There are the archetypical manuals, attitude overhauls and management guides as well as the broader biographies of those lucky few who seem to have stumbled across “The Answer”. In fact good business books seem to be an amalgam of various life lessons, personal experiences and western philosophies making them remarkably cathartic to read.

A top 5 business book list is a reasonably idiosyncratic list and completely dependent upon your own perspective. However there are some broad bibles that seem to cut through propaganda and banalities and actually provide some useful, hereto unknown insights.

The Top Five

  1. The E-myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber. If you can forgive American enthusiasm of the author, this book offers concise understanding of why certain businesses succeed and others, seemingly identical, fail. An absolutely brilliant read.
  2. The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited: How to Create Word of Mouth Marketing by Emanuel Rosen. Particularly relevant where we are. No one enjoys a sales call. No one.
  3. Good to Great: Why some Companies make the Leap…and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
  4. Small is the New Big: and 183 Other Riffs, Rants and Remarkable Business Ideas by Seth Godin. Seth Godin is known for his scarily insightful blog, which invariable fills the Boyscout with ideas that he then uses to sermonise to the rest of us. The best thing about this book: there is no great change you need to enact, no massive shift in perception; merely a number of really simple ideas that can be incorporated one at a time.
  5. How to win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Simply the most successful improvement book of all time; there is even a spoof version.

No matter who you read, the single biggest factor in business success is attitude; anything else is simply luck. Believe you will be successful, prepare accordingly and, chances are, it will happen. When was the last time you saw a morose billionaire?

The Official Duckett Booklist:

Start With Why - How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action by Simon Sinek.

Willing slaves; How the overwork culture is ruining our lives
 by Madeleine Bunting. A rather brief nod to the plight of the worker, expounding the view that any time spent at work in excess of your contracted hours is capitalist exploitation.

Peak performance; Aligning the hearts and minds of your employee by Jon Katzenbach. In contrast to the above book by Ms. Bunting, this book focuses on the plight of the employer to exact more capitalist exploitation out of your workforce.

Winning! by Clive Woodward. Who better to get advice about encouraging the right mentality, than the coach who kicked, pulled, coddled and bullied the squad to victory? NB: His views on the mindset of a few can determine the entire success of a team.

Recollections: An Autobiography by Viktor Frankl. A Jewish Psychologist who survived the concentration camps and observed the different conclusion between those who managed to survive and the many who didn’t. An exceptionally powerful book.

The Book of Luck by Heather Summers & Anne Watson (not Anne Summers & Heather Watson). Fortune favours the brave…I think I just spoilt the end.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. The 50 Shades for the literary snobs. As we’ve all read it, we just nod and shrug in good blighty embarrassment. If you’ve actually sat through the film, then we are most definitely judging you. The Editor believes there are many parallels with accounting: bizarre language and symbols, a dubious organisation which are filtering information and channelling profits to name but a few.

What the CEO wants you to know by Ram Charan. An self-declared ‘business bible’ by an extremely successful consultant. Simple, obvious stuff, but still every one of us has trouble getting it right.

Pylgrim’s Progress Tim Kidson and Sharon Niccolls

Feet in the Clouds: A tale of Fell running and Obsession by Richard Askwith. A proper book which is even better when enjoyed with pie and a pint. Although Mr Duckett decided there was a business lesson to be found: Lack of ability is not an excuse for lack of application. Even if it nearly kills you.

Stalin: The Court of the Red by Simon Sebag Montefiore. Now Stalin was a man who knew how to focus the workforce.

Working together (in 90 minutes) by Keith Antoine. This man’s background is athletics and I'm always slightly concerned that sports analogies don't really transfer to the business world. He shows that the relay race is indeed a good (if simple) example of team performance being dependent on the members having different tasks and actually working together. The US produced the best sprinters by far in the 80s and 90s, but often couldn’t win the relay as their team-work was indifferent. Business teams always work in non-linear ways, making the "team effect" far more complex. The warning is clear: no matter how good your star performers, you will eventually be overtaken by a business using teams more effectively. And the book is very funny.

Worth a mention:

The discipline of market leaders by Michael Tracey & Fred Wiersema.

Thinking for a living by Thomas H Davenport

The World is Flat by Thomas L Friedman

Freakonomics by Steve Levitt and Stephen Dubner

The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida

Preferred Lies; a journey to the heart of Scottish golf (not really about golf at all) by Andrew Greig

The discipline of market leaders by Michael Tracey & Fred Wiersema.

Emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman.

Power Sleep by Dr James B Maas.

The Jelly Effect by Andy Bounds

The Dragon and the Elephant: China, India and the New World Order by David Smith (economics editor of The Times).

Go put your strengths to work by Marcus Buckingham (of Gallup fame).

Out of our minds by Sir Ken Robinson

YES! Fifty Secrets from the Science of Persuasion by Cialdini, Martin & Goldstein

The power of story by Jim Loehr.

The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki

The Carrot Principal by Gostick & Elton

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

Wake up and smell the profit by John Richardson & Hugh Gilmartin

How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In by Jim Collins.

Dealing with Darwin: How great companies innovate at every phase of their evolution by Geoffrey A Moore.

The Silent State: Secrets, Surveillance and the Myth of British Democracy by Heather Brooke (the investigative talent behind the MP expenses scandal).

Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson

Bounce by Matthew Syed

Great by Choice by Jim Collins & Morten Hansen.

The Chimp Paradox by Dr Steve Peters.

Millennial Momentum: How a new generation is remaking America by Morley Winograd & Michael D. Hias

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

I believe business books rank just above self-help books


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