6 Brilliant Business Books That Are Highly Underrated

Mitch JoelPosted by

Not all of the best business books make it to the best-seller’s list. There are gems that have sold a little (and some that have sold a lot more) that never make it to any list… until now.

Last week, the Six Pixels of Separation Blog post, Books You Need To Read To Succeed In Business, garnered a bunch of great comments and suggestions for business books you must read to be successful. Plowing through the comments, there were also many people who agreed with the list of books provided or the amazing ones that were mentioned in the comments. It gave pause and inspired me to take another look at my bookshelf for some additional books – some not so obvious ones that have helped shaped business and marketing as we know it.

Here are 6 Brilliant Business Books That Are Highly Underrated (in alphabetical order):

1. The Art of Possibility – Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.

A beautiful book about what shall be in your life if you work at it. Zander was one of the best speakers at the TED conference this past year (you can see his astounding presentation here: TED Talks -Benjamin Zander – Classical music with shining eyes). He is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, an amazing speaker, and The Art of Possibility (which he co-wrote with his wife) is more life lessons than business book, but a more powerful weapon when applied to business.

2. Funky Business – Talent Makes Capital Dance by Jonas Ridderstrale and Kjell Nordstrom.

The world is changing (don’t believe me, take a look at the economy). These two crazy Swedes really spark with new ideas about how business is adapting and how we can all do our best to stay ahead of change or at least embrace it. The books is very well written, quirky and very fast-paced.

3. Never Eat Alone – And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz.

Never Eat Alone is all about the soft skills in business: how to make connections and how to keep connections. Networking seems so 1990s, and Ferrazzi really amps up how we can use technology to be much better at making lasting relationships in business. This is a great book and you should grab it if you have ever felt like you could do more to meet more people.

4. Small Pieces Loosely Joined – A Unified Theory of the Web by David Weinberger.

Weinberger should have been given a lot more praise and attention for Small Pieces Loosely Joined (instead the focus was on another book he co-authored titled, The Cluetrain Manifesto). Small Pieces Loosely Joined is all about how the Web connects us and is changing us. The book is one part Internet culture, one part philosophy and one part what business needs to know (and embrace) in this ever-changing world.

5. Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? – Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing by Bryan Eisenberg, Jeffrey Eisenberg, and Lisa T. Davis.

Waiting For Your Cat to Bark is geared more towards the online marketer (or the general Marketer). The Eisenberg brothers (along with Lisa) have created an amazing system for all us to get better at understanding what consumers are looking for online, and how we can help them find it. Waiting For Your Cat To Bark is fun and a highly important read if you work in the Marketing, Advertising or Communications space.

6. Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins by Richard Farson and Ralph Keyes.

Whoever Makes The Most Mistakes Wins is a small but important read. Trying things, being different or looking for new opportunities, this book on innovation is awesome. There are tons of quote-worthy content to boot and it doesn’t get trapped in the minutia that so many innovation books tend to fall into to.

What are your more obscure business books that have changed or shaped the way you operate?

20 comments

  1. The book that I just read and that has had an immediate impact on the way I view marketing is Life of Pi. I don’t know about obscure, and it’s definately not a “business” book, but it has influenced my thinking on marketing.
    Biggest take away: It’s all about the story and the amazing power that storytelling can have.
    Other must reads in the business category: World is Flat, E-Myth, Long Tail, Good to Great, 1 000 000 dollar consulting, Hot, Flat, Crowded.

  2. Steven Pressfield “The War of Art”. One of those brilliant small books that have you on your feet and ready to power on. It’s all about rooting out and defeating resistance, the enemy of all creativity/action. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve pointed to this one.

  3. With quotes like “Failure is an opportunity”, and “If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try and hold on to” I’d have to suggest the wonderfully accessible translation of the 1,500 year old Tao te Ching translation by Stephen Mitchell. If you dismiss it, thinking it is about NOT caring, or NOT doing, you don’t understand it, yet.

  4. Each of these two books present ideas which are revolutionary, practical and can be immediately integrated into your current business strategy:
    Return on Customer – Don Peppers and Martha Rogers
    Made to Stick – Chip and Dan Heath

  5. The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. A powerful book featuring critical lessons about the theory of constraints in manufacturing – but with lessons for any industry or discipline

  6. I swear by Ferrazzi’s ‘Never Eat Alone’ and actually included it in a post I did just last week on learning how to be a more efficient networker (particularly in and BEFORE) a job search.
    Another book I love is, Danny Meyer’s “The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business.” For anyone who has ever provided (or wants to provide) a service to someone (not just in the restaurant business) this is a great read.
    If you are passionate about food, then it’s even more fun!

  7. It’s good to see David Weinberger on both lists. I would also suggest his latest book, “Everything is Miscellaneous.”

  8. Interesting old academic book, “Social Psychology of Organizing” by Karl Weick – his main point is that organizations need to interact with their environment in order to survive, but often end up creating the environment they interact with and thus lose touch and fade
    miss ya man, matt

  9. Mitch,
    Your recommendations never fail to deliver. I picked up Clay Sharky’s ‘Here comes everybody’ after listening to SPOS.
    Thanks for taking the time to curate this stuff.

  10. “The Man Who Tried to Buy the World – Jean-Marie Messier” is my all time fav read, a great story of how one man tried to turn a water utilities company into a media empire and rather dramatically failed.
    Not necessarily any specific learnings from it but a great read all the same

  11. I’m a publisher, so I thought I’d say that upfront. All of our business books are excellent, but perhaps Lee Thayer’s Leadership: Thinking, Being, Doing is the best fit here. This book look’s as the way a leader thinks – not just about business, but about life. One message from this book is that a true leader nees to be “had” by a cause.
    It’s fascinating reading and definitely gets you thinking!

  12. Brilliant in it’s simplicity would be:
    A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech.
    Read as a young Brand Manager, it taught me how to unleash myself from conventional thinking to become more strategic and visionary.
    Caution: Dangerous for practical people…creates thoughts that anything is possible!

  13. I love The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. Its a different style of business book that helps us think outside-the-box/office/cubicle and look at how we can use technology to reshape our working lives.
    A great book to get you thinking of life’s possibilities and start dreaming again.

  14. Hello,
    Thanks for this list. I personally started a crazy project : read 52 of the best businesses books in 52 weeks in an attemp to pass the Personal MBA (a MBA for less than 1 500$) in one year ( see my blog http://www.books-that-can-change-your-life.net/2008/my-crazy-project-read-52-of-the-best-business-books-in-52-weeks-and-post-a-weekly-review-here-on-my-blog/ )
    The Personal MBA is a comprehensive list of 77 books (93 with the supplements) in 12 categories that is intended to deliver the 20% of the knowledge given in an MBA that give 80% of the results.
    None of the books are common between your liste and the PMBA one, so i think it is a great complement. Thanks for that 🙂

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