Tag Archives: book reading

What is the Question that the Book You are Reading Can Answer?

Basically, we learn from one another.  And then, when we learn, we think, and probe, and keep learning on our own.

Sometimes the thinking and probing comes from what we read.  Sometimes it comes from a conversation.  But it definitely comes to the perpetually curious mind.

So, earlier this week, I had lunch with Dan Weston.  Dan has been coming to the First Friday Book Synopsis since… I don’t remember when.  He is a thinker, and an accomplished and valuable business consultant.  Among other things, we talked about the value of the book synopsis presentations – and how he uses them with his clients.  (and he does use them!).  He is a subscriber to our 15minutebusinessbooks.com site, where he, and anyone else, can get full access to audio recordings of our synopses, plus handouts — one at a time, or, subscribers can get all of the synopses, including at least two new ones per month, for one yearly price.

As we talked, I thought again about a simple yet profound idea – that each good business book answers a key business question.  (I do not remember who I first heard/read this from).

We jotted down a few titles, and asked “What is the question this book answers?”  Here’s a first attempt…

Book Title The Key Question it Helps you Answer
Mastering the Rockefeller Habits (Harnish) How do you grow your business?
The Checklist Manifesto (Gawande) How do you keep from letting something important fall through the cracks?
Made to Stick (the Heath Brothers) How do you sell a good/important idea?
Drive (Pink) How do you motivate individual employees?
The Black Swan (Taleb) How do you prepare for an unpredictable future?
The Inside Advantage (Bloom) What is your uncommon offering, wanted/needed by your core customer?
Where Ideas Come From (Johnson) Where do ideas come from?  (OK – this one was easy)

Anyway, you get the idea.

Now, here is your challenge.  What question do you need to answer right now in your business?  Discover that, and then find the book that helps you answer it.

This exercise really is worth your time!


By the way, our blogging colleague Bob Morris is really good at asking “what are the right questions?”


A too-Distracted Generation?

In my speech classes (I teach at one of the community colleges), the first assignment I make each semester is to read a book and prepare a written and oral review.  (No surprise there!).   Recently,  a student told me that he had never read a book in one focused period of time before.  It truly is a multi-tasking, focus-changing, distracted, ADD world we live in.

So I read with interest this short piece on one of the New York Times blogs:  there is one place left where people are reading books.  It is on the subway cars in New York City.  There are too many dead spots, I assume, so books (and magazines) are the reading matter of choice.  Here’s a taste:

Americans seem to be doing less recreational reading these days, spending time instead watching television, surfing the Web, sending text messages and talking on cellphones. But one place where a vibrant culture of reading remains strong — to some extent out of necessity — is the New York City subway.

Underground, separated from Internet and cellphone connections, straphangers still reach for dog-eared novels, carefully folded newspapers and all manner of magazines (and scripts and Bibles and self-help books).

If you were cut off from the internet and the cellphone, what would you read?

Some Books Just Aren’t Worth Reading all the Way to the End

My wife’s mother read the newspaper.  I mean she really read the newspaper — from cover to cover.  (She passed away last summer). When she would visit us, in Los Angeles and later in Dallas, the Sunday paper was a big challenge for her.  She would sit in the chair, and tackle that massive stack of sections — much larger than the Sunday papers she received in her home town of Abilene, Tx.  It took her a long time, but she plowed through each section.  When she finished, she would let out a sound that was a cross between relief, accomplishment, and exasperation.  And she would say simply:  “finally!”

I thought of this as I read two posts on Andrew Sullivan’s blog, In Praise Of Not Finishing Books, springing from an article in The Washington Times by Kelly Jane Torrance, referencing Tyler Cowen, a George Mason University economics professor, from his book “Discover Your Inner Economist.”  (Read these here and here and here).

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

No matter what you choose, though, you’re bound to run into the same problem eventually: What should you do when, 20, 50 or 100 pages in, you realize you just don’t like a book?  You could spend your entire summer slogging through it. Or you could take the advice of a prominent economist who simply advises: “Give up.”  Tyler Cowen, a George Mason University economics professor, makes the suggestion in his book “Discover Your Inner Economist,” which shows how to use economic reasoning to improve your life. Scarcity is one principle — a lack of attention and time keeps us from being as cultured as we’d like.  We should ask ourselves if reading a book we’re getting little out of is the best use of scarce resources.

This is a pretty good principle to follow for a number of business books.  I have stated more than once that many business books are not worth reading — they are worth having read.  There is no virtue in reading for reading’s sake.  The virtue is in learning (I’m speaking here of reading books as part of our “work/development.”  There is always virtue in reading for enjoyment.  But most people choose authors other than business book authors for such reading). 

Here’s another quote from the article:

“Don’t slog your way through books just so your reading list will conform with other people’s ideas about what’s hot or what’s smart. Find the books that compel you from first page to last.”  Don’t take these readers’ words for it. A no less august reader than Samuel Johnson declared, as Mr. Cowen quotes in his book, “A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good.”

This is one ofthe values provided by the First Friday Book Synospis.  We read the books, all the way to the end, so that you can save and invest your precious reading time for other books.  Or, we let you know that “this book” is worth the investment of your time.

I think the honesty of these articles is true, and  refreshing.  Some books really are worth “quitting on.”  (And no, I’m not about to name names or titles!)