Old Books, New Relevance

In this summer of the movie sequel, I’m finding that my favorite new business books are…re-releases. Recently I raved about Indecent Exposure, a great and pioneering narrative about the movie business. The good news is that this book is but one of several classics that HarperBusiness is re-releasing through its Essentials line. The relevance and resonance of each of these gems only deepen with each new cycle of business ideas and technology.

The Effective Executive, by Peter Drucker may have spawned more business books and products than any other in the past 50 years. Without this book there is no Stephen Covey, no David Allen, no legions of executive coaches and seminars; one could also make the case that such leadership/operations guides as the recent Execution also pay homage to Drucker’s work. There has always been a science of self-improvement and individual management, yet nobody has applied the keen insight and wisdom of Drucker. Though he first published the book in 1966, its core ideas grew out of 20 years of consulting with the country’s leading executives, and in fact was codified as a program for the senior executives of the Eisenhower administration. Drucker’s insights into the emerging role of the so-called "knowledge worker" as the core characteristic of this economy are put to work in this guide. This book focuses on five principles that enable one to manage others—and especially oneself—to get things done in a new and productive manner. "Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge are essential resources, but only effectiveness converts them into results. By themselves, they only set limits to what can be attained," he writes.

The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing, by Benjamin Graham, is certainly working its way towards earning the big promise of its subtitle. This new version is, technically, a re-rerelease. This 1949 classic has been periodically republished with new material. This version includes substantial material from a past version that was informed by excellent essays from Grahman’s acolyte Warren Buffet. The new issue includes even more new material, from financial writer Jason Zweig, who applies Graham’s ideas today’s economy, while pointing to web resources and other data for eager readers. Again, at a time when business cycles may have changed shape in terms of boom-and-bust patterns or inflationary numbers, this classic resoundingly proves the resilience of great ideas.

And finally, Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco, by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, is a marvelous read. These two Wall Street Journal reporters had a tremendous story to tell, and they pull it off with style. By sharing the remarkable details of the huge egos of this deal, set against the excesses of the late 80s, the authors give as good a window into the ethos of the time as any book you’d care to read.

Posted by tom at July 7, 2003 01:30 PM

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Read or print the Intro and Chapter 1 .

Read some book reviews at Inc, 1-800-CEO-READ, and the Miami Herald.

Read the publisher's press release.

Visit the companies that Tom discusses in the book

Hear a recent lecture by Tom on the Startup Garden


Read about other books and web sites about starting your own business.


Just Managing – articles that Tom wrote for The Industry Standard and some Business Articles written for Inc., Fortune Small Business, Harvard Management Update, and other places.



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