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Business Book Breakdown


I've reached my breaking point. It happened while I was trying to read a recently-published business book (title and author shall remain nameless, but I will say this particular book is currently ranked quite high on Amazon). I got about halfway through it and realized it was awful...just terrible.  Then I realized it's been a long, long time since I've read a truly inspiring business book.

So much of what's out there seems to be either a simple restating of the completely obvious or 4 pages of insight buried in 300 pages of filler.  Why is it so much easier (and significantly more rewarding) to find greater value in a 2- or 3-screen online article than a business book?  Part of it has to do with how much you're invested in the process, and I'm not just talking about money.  It's easy to go to the next article online if you lose interest in the current one; there's something about a book that makes me feel more guilty if I don't try to fight through the pain and read it completely.

I wound up putting this latest book aside.  It now sits atop my if-I-ever-get-stranded-on-a-desert-island-maybe-just-maybe-I'll-try-to-finish-reading-it stack.  I doubt I'll ever pick it up again though.  This latest experience has caused me to abandon all business books for the foreseeable future.  Life's simply too short to waste on reading bad books.

I used to block off time on the weekends to read from my stack of unread business books.  I'll now use that time to expand my horizons on new blogs, online articles and other websites I look forward to discovering in the weeks ahead.  If you know of any great ones that talk about business issues, innovation, marketing, sales, etc., please send them my way.


David Moldawer

Joe--honestly, I'd recommend this even if we didn't publish it: TALENT IS OVERRATED. Great book.

Kevin D. Washburn

Joe, have you read Iconoclast by Gregory Berns (9781422115015)? It's published by Harvard Business Press, but it has implications for many fields. As a business owner and educator, I'm finding it both informative and inspiring.

Steven C


Overall, I would have to agree with you. It seems like most business books fall under the category of...DUH. Non-descript comments to obvious observations. After reading a few, they all seem to blend into each other.
If you havent read it already, I would suggest taking a look at Built To Last. It reads more like a case study than a "10 ways to a million dollars". I think it is worthwhile and one of the more notable business books I have read.

-Steven C

Book Calendar

The last decent business book I read was Winning:The Answers by Jack and Suzy Welch. At points it can be rather pointed like Jack Welch, but there were a few insights in there worth reading about.


I am with you. I stopped reading business books. The traditional book of 300 pages was 300 pages because I think it fit the bookshelf. We don't have to buy (and even read) to really read 30 or even 3 pages.

stephen Baker

Hey Joe,
I'd be happy to send you a copy of the Numerati if you haven't read it yet. It's not a pure business book, but has plenty of business in it.
best wishes,
Steve Baker

Fran Toolan


I agree with you, most business books I read can be summed up in the first chapter. Almost all the other pages simply are used to justify the use of the book format.

One very notable exception is The Art of Profitability by Adrian Slywotzky. I tout this one whenever I can as it is completely the opposite of the above. I have read it at least 6 times.


Todd Sattersten


Swearing off business books is like saying you are going to completely stop watching movies because you haven't seen anything you liked lately.

Believe me, I know the pain of reading scores of business books (and scanning hundreds more) every year only to find a small pile that are worth the time.

It is great to see how your readers are stepping in to help get you over the business book slump.

We are going to start posting our Best of 2008 in the next couple of days. You might find a couple keepers there too.


Great post. The last four business books I read seemed more like 300-page infomercials -- little, if any, substance other than pushing other books, add-on products, seminars, etc. Makes you wonder if these authors consider their reading public foolish, or if they really believe they are delivering helpful info. Guess which one I think it is....



While I wouldn't say that there are no good business books, I would agree that many could convey the same useful learning points in a really well-written, long-format article. In fact, I read a ton of business articles and post annotated links to the best (defined as having timeless learning value) at a site I run, MBA Depot (http://www.mbadepot.com). I only post links to free articles, so maybe that can serve as a good source for you.


Joe Wikert

Thanks for all the suggestions but I'm staying away for awhile. Btw, Steven, I did read "Built to Last" several years ago and loved it. Book Calendar, I also read Welch's "Winning" and thought it was awful. Perhaps that's because I was comparing it to Welch's earlier book, "Welch: Straight From the Gut", which I thought was terrific. There's simply no comparison between those two books though, IMHO.

Michael A. Banks

The majority seem keen on telling you what to do without telling you how--and the latter is what buyers are seeking. I figure they've convinced themselves that there really is an easy secret route to to be found, if only one reads enough books.

Bob Meade

Here's a worthwhile read online. A New Yorker article by John Cassidy.
Anatomy of a Meltdown - Ben Bernanke and the financial crisis:


and for a blog, try the one by Paul Krugman, 2008 Nobel Laureate for Economics:


Marion from get-that-click.com

Joe, I completely agree with you. If you talk about business ebooks the fact is that many writers are guilty of taking existing content and just spinning the same regurgitated information in a different way.

Maybe its time for our writers step up and create some fresh and original content and explain how to implement the techniques they talk about.

It seems that a many don't show you how to do things because they have not practised what they are preaching.


I would argue that it's not just business books but non-fiction in general. Whatever one's views, life's definitely too short to read bad books.


I couldn't agree more, but the overwhelming preponderance of bad business books also challenges my understanding of the world. The books are so bad, it makes me wonder if I understand what they are or are for. Maybe business people are so different from me that they can extract valuable insight from books I find intellectually and stylistically laughable. Maybe they inhabit some bizarro world where good writing and good thinking are opposites.

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