My List of Must-Read Books For Business & Life

This started off as an exchange of lists between Vern and me. (Vern – this is for you!)
She gave me a list of must-watch movies because I’ve basically missed out on a lot of good stuff over the years. So in return, I am giving her a list of must-read books in case she ever thinks of starting her own business and wants to get a really good head start.
1. The E-Myth books by Michael Gerber
I wished I read his books way back when we first started our business. Michael Gerber’s books tell you all you need to know about owning a business and running a business. There’s a distinction between working IN your business and working ON your business. If you work IN your business, the business can never grow. If you work ON your business, you may end up happier, freer and richer. Once you read these books, you must take action or it will be such a waste. Start with The E-Myth Mastery and then go on to The E-Myth Revisited.
2. Small is the New Big by Seth Godin
If you know me well, you know I absolutely love this bald man called Seth Godin. His ideas are more than just revolutionary, they’re funny and sometimes worth a think. Small is the New Big talks about small little things that make a big difference whether it is customer service, marketing or R&D. His writing is highly readable and he stays clear of jargon and gobbledegook. I always rethink the way we do things around here in Redbox Studio each time I re-read his book.
Also check out The Purple Cow, Free Prize Inside and Unleashing the Idea Virus.
3. The Success Principles by Jack Canfield
I absolutely reach for this book when I need to boost myself. Yeah, I’m not the chirpy bird all the time. I love the way Jack illustrates his success principles one by one. If there ever was a book that could literally pick me up from the doldrums, this is it. I can read it over and over and still NOT get tired of it.
4. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
Now Blink is the kind of book that you read if you’re curious about intuition or what intuition really can do in everyday life. Blink is about how you know things you cannot explain. This book allows me to re-think gut instinct and pay more attention to that gut feeling we all sometimes have but don’t really bother about. I wrote about it too so if you want a pseudo-review that piques, go here.
5. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
Warning – if you are a staunch Catholic or Muslim or a faithful believer of any of the world’s oldest religions, reading this book will do 2 things to you. Either you fall off your chair laughing because the writing’s so funny and sarcastic or you will toss the book aside because it attacks all you’ve believed in. I’m the first type. I’m Buddhist you see so I don’t really believe in God (oooh, being blasphemous here!) and I believe way too much in karma and past lives so I had good fun reading Dawkins’ atheist outlook. Of course he can be annoying in some parts but for most parts, he really makes me see how questioning religion opens up … ta-dah…. more questions! He’s really fiendish and totally British so read Dawkins with an open mind. Or he really will open your mind.
6. Influence, Science & Practice by Robert Cialdini
I’m the geeky type in a way and I love research especially scientific research and their outcomes. Cialdini’s book is a fantastic journey into the psychology of influence. Social influence, that is. I once took a class in Psychology during university and enjoyed new ways of looking at things so this book was perfect in telling me why humans behave the way they do, the words you can use to get them to do what you want them to do and how you can use them in your life. For good outcomes of course. Each story is backed by real-life research that had been carried out. So expect nothing less than social science at work here.
7. Managing Oneself by Peter F. Drucker
This is a tiny, thin booklet. It’s not even a book and it was expensive. But the quality of a book lies not in its thickness, this much I know over the years of reading. You can find crap even in thick tomes. People can still write about nothing although they think they’re elucidating a point. But Drucker is Drucker. He is concise and precise, locking in his best ideas about self management (one of the important keys of business) in this tiny book with a cover that’s as plain as can be. It is an essential reminder that success starts with oneself first.
8. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne
One of the most popular books of its time and what a splash it caused for the business community. It was the MUST READ book of the century. While most business books talk about being on top of the competition, this book told you to get out and eliminate the competition and make them irrelevant! As it is written by 2 academics, the book tends to be brittle and dry in some parts but me being the “I-can-wade-through-any-academic-reading” person (thanks to doing my MA and being taught never to be afraid of text or citations), I found this book brilliant in its insights. It tells why Cirque de Soleil is in a class of its own apart from other famous companies like Samsung. Ever wondered why suddenly there’s a Korean wave/revolution all across the world? They use the Blue Ocean Strategy! (Did I mention Kim is Korean? But duh!)
9. A Whole New Mind by Daniel H Pink
If you haven’t read this book, man, where have you been? Besides being the kind of book you can feel pretty smart after you’ve read it, Pink’s book gives you clues and tips about how you can conquer the future. Yup, using both sides of your brain. The left and the right sides. Pink basically says that to survive in the future, you not only need IQ (very important in the past 40 years or so) but you also need EQ (very relevant now). The future belongs to people who can harness both IQ and EQ, creating products and jobs no one probably has heard of until they were created. I mean, did you know about Facebook before it appeared? Or about how essential iPods are now that you know what you missed before they came to the market?
10. Getting Things Done by David Allen
You can’t go through life if you haven’t organised it. And getting things done is one of it. Allen’s book teaches how you can overcome the eternal busyness of work to focus on what really matters – a.k.a your work! I mean, the real stuff. The stuff that you are paid to do. His method is practical with an aim on clearing away the messy stuff so you can focus on real stuff. Getting things done is almost cultish. Never have we had so much of technology but also never have we had so much to do so Allen’s book teaches you how to slice away at time-wasters and truly be productive. Everyone needs this book from freelancers, businesses to stay-at-home moms. I wrote about this too.
Another list coming up soon. I’ve got a pile of fave reads and this is just half of them.
Now’s your turn to share. What is your favourite book and why?

This Book Disturbed Me

I was reading this book just this week by a Singaporean writer.
It was just a random pick because I was getting bored by the other 2 books which I’ve yet to finish. And this book called out to me.
It has a green cover. Dark green.
Reading a book is like having a relationship. First impressions count. That’s called judging a book by its cover. If a cover looks good, it will be picked up. Then I browse. Next, I look at the table of contents. If it appeals, I jump right in.
It’s not shallow. It’s just how people in a ‘noisy’ information world process this overload of information. How we take short cuts to minimize time wastage.
I am not a discriminating reader – I read everything from fiction (except sci-fi) to non-fiction (business and management).
This book which I picked up was full of great information. It spoke about building a world-class business. The writer took examples from his own business and quoted other world greats like McDonalds, Apple, Microsoft.
Nic who had read the book earlier said while it was informative, it was skimming the surface. The information was just enough to get a would-be entrepreneur excited but then did not really give how-to or indepth techniques.
As Nic had critiqued the book, I wanted to find out if it were true. If you wanted to start a business and wanted someone to condense the most popular business books of the world into one single book, this book saves you time.
Of course, the writer tried to pack too much into one book. I appreciated that he tried to cover all manner of business in one go and make the book something of value to every reader.
What spoiled the book for me was his inattention to details. While I cannot fault him for grammar and typos (he is a business person, not an English major), I find it disturbing that his editor did not catch half the mistakes/typos in his book!
Before I read his book, I had a good impression of this person. He’s young and successful with a business spanning a few Asian countries. I like his no-nonsense writing style, direct and no waffling about. He has enough resources to hire a good editor to edit through and catch the silly mistakes.
But he apparently didn’t.
He overlooked the small details and that annoyed me. Imagine reading a paragraph and then seeing a capital letter in between for no reason whatsoever. Or reading till the end only to realize there’s a missing URL because the sentence is hanging. Let me not talk about kerning or spacing of the subheads – that will be going into the layout of the book.
Now I start to wonder if he really wrote it or used a ghost writer!
While I may be an extreme case of nitpicking, I think a good book is about both content and delivery. A shoddily edited book reflects (badly) on the writer. A shoddily written book meant the writer is not very careful with details.
In case you are wondering what the book is (now that I’ve piqued your interest), it’s one of Adam Khoo’s books.
I’ve a right mind to email him and tell him about these niggling mistakes! (But with Google, maybe he will be alerted that someone wrote a review of his book sooner or later.)
At least this will spare the next edition from aggravating other readers. Plus considering most of the people who gave positive reviews about the book are academics (and this is SINGAPORE!).
Do you think book authors have a responsibility to go through their books well with their editors and get their books properly proofread before they go to print? One or two errata is fine. But this is not one or two typos.
Oh well. That’s why this book disturbed me.
(Oh ya, I blogged about pizza at T-Jays and the chef sms-ed Nic to tell him he read that post. Never underestimate the world of technology! News spread fast.)