Category Archives: Business Books

Books about Business

Accidental Empires by Robert X Cringely

How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can't Get a Date by Robert X CringelyLast night I finished Robert X Cringely’s  Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can’t Get a Date (published in the 1990s).

I much preferred Founders at Work: Stories of Startup’s Early Days by Jessica Livingston (published in 2007).

I think what I liked about Livingston’s book was that since it was in interview-format, it was straightforward.

But Cringely’s book felt very gossipy.

Of course, Livingston had the benefit of writing her book a decade.

My opinion, don’t read this book — it’s more reflective of the time the book was written than of the computer industry.

Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can't Get a Date by Robert X Cringely

How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can't Get a Date by Robert X CringelyI’ve been very slowly reading Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can’t Get a Date  by Robert X Cringely.

So far I’m really not enjoying this book (published in the 1990s) about the start of the personal computer industry.

Click here to view the table of contents or here to read an excerpt.

Outliers: The Story of Success

The Story of Success by Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success was a very quick read.

I was not thrilled to read this book but decided to read it only after a friend loaned it to me.

I would rank the quality Gladwell’s books in the same order they were published: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, and way behind is Outliers: The Story of Success.

Outliers just seemed so contrived.

While each story was interesting, they didn’t seem to quite fit into a coherent argument. It felt like Gladwell was trying to turn what should have been a simple article for the New York Times (not even an article for the New York Times Magazine) into a bestselling book.

Also, some of the stories — particularly the one about the health of residents of Roseto, PA — are well known to the public, which made it seem like Gladwell was trying even harder to make a book out of a simple essay.

So while I think that folks should read The Tipping Point and maybe even Blink for the educational value, I highly recommend that you not bother with Outliers.

Stephen Baker's The Numerati

I went to the library the other day and picked up a copy of Stephen Baker’s The Numerati, which I first wrote about here.

The book is organized into seven chapters which describe ways that data is being analyzed in mass quantities: Worker, Shopper, Voter, Blogger, Terrorist, Patient, and Lover.

You’d think that Lover would be the most interesting but it had the least substance; Voter (about Josh Gotbaum of Spotlight Analysis) was by far the most interesting chapter.

The Numerati was such a quick read that I finished it in just a few short disappointing hours.

I felt Baker was stretching to fill out his book with examples of how mathematicians are dangerously invading our privacy by quantifying and analyzing our lives.

Still, it was entertaining; just keep your expectations low.

Strategy and the Fat Smoker: Doing What's Obvious But Not Easy by David H Maister

Doing What's Obvious But Not Easy by David H MaisterFinally read David H. Maister’s Strategy and the Fat Smoker; Doing What’s Obvious But Not Easy.

Here’s the table of contents:

Introduction I
Strategy 1
Strategy and the Fat Smoker 3
Strategy Means Saying “No” 19
It’s Not How Good You Are; It’s How Much You Want It 33
Are We In This Together? The Preconditions for Strategy 47
What’s Our Deal? 59
Client Relationships 75
Do You Really Want Relationships? 77
The Friendship Strategy 93
Doing It for the Money 107
Management 119
Tyrants, Energizers, and Cynics 121
Why (Most) Training Is Useless 131
A Great Coach In Action 143
A Natural Manager 159
Accountability: Effective Managers Go First 171
Selecting a Leader: Do We Know What We Want? 187
Putting it Together 197
The One-Firm Firm Revisited 199
Managing the Multidimensional Organization 219
The Trouble With Lawyers 229
The Chief Executive’s Speech 243
Passion, People, and Principles 251
Bibliography 257
Acknowledgements 259
About David Maister 261
Additional Material David Maister 263
Index 267

I wish I could highly recommend this book, as I do his other books (The Trusted Advisor and Managing The Professional Service Firm).

But I just wasn’t impressed. Maybe it’s because my expectations were so high; maybe it’s because his other books were so superb.

In any case, this book is worth skimming through but I don’t love it.

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferris

Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy FerrissLast weekend I also read a friend’s copy of The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferris.

Kind of cheesy at times — like most business books — but worth reading if you are interested in making a lifestyle change.

Click here to view the table of contents and to find excerpts.

Untying the Knot

Re-reading Lori Gottlieb’s March 2008 Atlantic article about settling — after being reminded of it by reading Caitlin Flanagan’s recent article in the Atlantic about being reminded of female adolescence and re-reading Lisa Belkin’s October 2003 New York Times Magazine cover story about highly educated women choosing to leave their careers for the joys of motherhood — has reminded me of yet another article: “Untying the Knot” by Melanie Thernstrom, published August 23, 2003 in the New York Times Magazine.

This article tells the sad story of the courtship, marriage, and divorce of Max and Kate to discuss marriage, divorce and love in modern times.

The truth is that most Americans do not marry for power, money and status. Nor do they marry out of social and economic necessity, as in an earlier era. They marry for love. Yet an enduring truth of our time is that marriage dissolves as often as it holds. So how is it that ordinary love ordinarily fails? If love is, as Wallace Stevens suggests, a dwelling ”in which being there together is enough,” how does silence fall on a thousand evenings and the possibility of intimacy flicker and die? How do lovers become lonely?

It’s a very sad article, but worth reading. A friend sent it to me when it was first published and I’ve kept it and re-read it about once a year since then.