Back To Business Reading List

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Back to school or back to business, it’s that time of the year when all of us hunker down and try to make our numbers (or grades). It’s high season for great books and 2008 has some gems that I’m looking forward to reading.

Here are five news business books I’ve picked up that I can’t wait to read:

1. Slide:ology – The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte.

I had the pleasure of meeting Nancy Duarte at the TED Conference this year. This is how her publisher (O’Reilly) describes the book: "Presentation software requires professionals to think visually on an almost daily basis. But unlike verbal skills, effective visual expression is not easy, natural, or actively taught in schools or business training programs. slide:ology offers practical approaches that combine conceptual thinking and inspirational design, with insightful case studies from the world’s leading brands. Written by the President and CEO of Duarte Design, the firm that created the presentation for Al Gore‘s Oscar-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth." It’s a visually beutiful book and I already picked up a couple of ideas just by skimming through it. I can’t wait to deep dive on this content.

2. Crowdsourcing – Why the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business by Jeff Howe.

Here’s what says about this book: "First identified by journalist Jeff Howe in a June 2006 Wired article, “crowdsourcing” describes the process by which the power of the many can be leveraged to accomplish feats that were once the province of the specialized few. Howe reveals that the crowd is more than wise — it’s talented, creative, and stunningly productive. Crowdsourcing activates the transformative power of today’s technology, liberating the latent potential within us all. It’s a perfect meritocracy, where age, gender, race, education, and job history no longer matter; the quality of work is all that counts; and every field is open to people of every imaginable background. If you can perform the service, design the product, or solve the problem, you’ve got the job… Jeff Howe delves into both the positive and negative consequences of this intriguing phenomenon. Through extensive reporting from the front lines of this revolution, he employs a brilliant array of stories to look at the economic, cultural, business, and political implications of crowdsourcing. How were a bunch of part-time dabblers in finance able to help an investment company consistently beat the market? Why does Procter & Gamble repeatedly call on enthusiastic amateurs to solve scientific and technical challenges? How can companies as diverse as iStockphoto and Threadless employ just a handful of people, yet generate millions of dollars in revenue every year? The answers lie within these pages.

3. Click – What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why It Matters by Bill Tancer.

Here’s how Bill’s Blog describes Click: "Do we really understand ourselves?  We are fascinated by polls and survey data about our responses to stimuli from the outside world, data can provide interesting insight into what compels or repels us.  As the Internet becomes more ingrained in our lives, from reading the news, to communicating through email and social networks, to transacting online, the byproduct of our aggregate movements provides an even deeper insight into who we are. Click, provides a behind the scenes view into the daily analysis we conduct on the Hitwise research team. With a sample of over ten million Internet users U.S. and twenty-five million worldwide, insights can be gleaned on the sites we collectively visit, what we search for and what that tells us about ourselves. 

4. Always Be Testing – The Complete Guide to Google Website Optimizer by Bryan Eisenberg, John Quarto-vonTivadar and Lisa T. Davis.

I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Always Be Testing (and even provided a testimonial for the book), but it’s always a horse of a different buggy when you get the real finalized version. As always, I think Bryan Eisenberg’s books are must-reads for all Marketers. Here’s how the website describes the book: "Always Be Testing will help you understand how to set up website optimization tests and improve your conversion rates. Learn the theory behind the testing, understand Google Web Optimizer click reports, discover the ‘why’ of clicks, and decipher the valuable data. By the time you finish reading this book, no matter what your skill level, you will have learned how to set up tests and improve crucial page components with the help of real-world case studies and examples."

5. Here Comes Everybody – The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky.

I started reading this book many months ago, but I am enjoying it so much that I am only on page 90. I’m savouring every moment and I don’t want it to end (yes, I like it that much). Here’s what Publishers Weekly (via Amazon) has to say about Here Comes Everybody: "Blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 accoutrements are revolutionizing the social order, a development that’s cause for more excitement than alarm, argues interactive telecommunications professor Shirky. He contextualizes the digital networking age with philosophical, sociological, economic and statistical theories and points to its major successes and failures. Grassroots activism stands among the winners — Belarus’s flash mobs, for example, blog their way to unprecedented antiauthoritarian demonstrations. Likewise, user/contributor-managed Wikipedia raises the bar for production efficiency by throwing traditional corporate hierarchy out the window. Print journalism falters as publishing methods are transformed through the Web. Shirky is at his best deconstructing Web failures like Wikitorial, the Los Angeles Times’s attempt to facilitate group op-ed writing. Readers will appreciate the Gladwellesque lucidity of his assessments on what makes or breaks group efforts online: Every story in this book relies on the successful fusion of a plausible promise, an effective tool, and an acceptable bargain with the users. The sum of Shirky’s incisive exploration, like the Web itself, is greater than its parts."

What books are on your reading list for this quarter (or semester)?


  1. Hey Mitch, I have 3 of your 5 books listed my current reading list:
    1) here comes everybody
    2) always be testing &
    3) slide:ology
    plus: I’ve got these books on my next amazon order:
    1) The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures
    2) This one time at brand camp…
    Out of curiosity: how many books do you manage to read per month? Would be great if you could share your speed reading tips : )

  2. Hey Mitch,
    Thanks for sharing this list. One thing that always happens to me in book stores is being kind of overwhelmed with all the options.
    Seeing a list like this gives helps me narrow own the possibilities.
    Because I’m attempting to become a professional speaker the slide:ology book looks the most interesting to me.
    Some of the negative reviews on say that the book will only really help people who are all ready professional graphic designers. I’m curious about what you think about that?

  3. Moses – I read about one book per month (sometimes more, sometimes less). Right now, I’ve been terribly bad due to the writing of my book. That being said, I have some longer flights coming up, so I suspect I’ll tear through some pages. I don’t speed read. In fact, I’m rather anal about reading books and I tend to read from start to finish.
    Jen – I have not picked that one up (but now I will).
    Neil – as for slide:ology, I can see reviewers saying that, but putting together a presentation (as I do), I think we all need to better understand the visual part, so I don’t mind it at all. In fact, if you put the book, Give Your Speech, Change The World by Neil Morgan, then Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds and then slide:ology by Nancy Duarte you’re set.

  4. “Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-By-Numbers is the New Way To Be Smart”
    is a book that I recently found through Amazon which has peaked my interest and I think I’ll be picking it up soon.

  5. For me, I’m waiting for only one business book this Fall (other than yours Mitch!): Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.
    If I may, it’s not a business book, but I strongly recommend “Little Brother” by Cory Doctorow. It’s 1984 for the 21st Century.

  6. Thanks for the links – I will check them out – esp the crowdsourcing book. Looks cool.
    Oh – and “back to business?” When did we take a break? 😉

  7. Crowdsourcing ….
    funny thing is that i ran across this book for the 1st time this morning. it definitely caught my eye.
    Slide:ology … just made my list. i didnt know about their site or the book, but i’ve check them out based on reading this post.
    I manage a team of professional services people so i also tend to read a decent amount of management books.
    just Read: Squawk
    How to stop making noise and start getting results
    thanks for sharing your list

  8. Mitch;
    I’m almost finished “The New Rules of Marketing & PR” by David Meerman Scott.
    A good read with plenty of stuff the try out for myself and for others.
    My next conquest might be a Trump book…but that’s up for debate for now.

  9. Hey Mitch,
    An oldy but a goody – Paco Underhill, Why people buy is back on my list. Also just finished Don’t make me think – Steve Krug, good ole usability practices.

  10. @Mitch: Thanks all three of the books that you mentioned will be bought and read.
    @Sebastien: I’ve read “Little Brother” and loved it. I’m also pumped about Gladwell’s new book.

  11. Some great additions to the list – please keep them coming.
    Malcolm – I actually met Ian Ayres, the author of Super Crunchers, when we both spoke at a Google event in Mountain View – he’s a really nice guy, great speaker and super smart.
    Sebastien – I had not heard of Little Brother (going to get it now) and I can’t wait to see what Gladwell does next. It must be hard for him to always top himself (and yet he always does).
    Adam – we didn’t take a break, but most of the world does 😉

  12. Just finished Slide:ology a few weeks ago. It’s best in class. Combine it with Presentation Zen and you’ve got a pair that lead the field in crafting great slide presentations.
    For the speaking component add Jerry Weissman’s Presenting to Win, and anything by Geetesh Bjaj for the finer technical aspects of Powerpoint. Then you’re library is complete for wowing your audience.

  13. Some of you might be interested in the Business Book version of MiniBookExpo that we are holding over at right now. For two weeks, starting Sept 8 we’ve been featuring 3 different books that bloggers can sign up to get a copy to review.
    Click is on our list (I believe there are still a few copies of it left), plus Seth Godin’s Tribes, Think and Planet Google.
    Stop by and check it out. Read the rules and see all the books at
    Cheers .. Kate

  14. By far the best business book I’ve read this year was Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams. I have not read Crowdsourcing, yet I feel Wikinomics delves into the same topics. It really explains the paradigm shift being undergone in the business world right now.
    Other I might suggest (note: some not recent, but useful):
    1) Yes! 50 Scientifically proven ways to be persuasive by Cialdini
    2) Moneyball by Michael Lewis
    3) Rich Dad Poor Dad
    4) Who Moved my Cheese
    5) The Servant as Leader by Robert Greenleaf
    6) Tipping Pt & Blink
    7) Freakonomics

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