Let's Take A Closer Look

Explaining complicated subject matter simply since 1986

Graduate students in the MBA classes I taught asked for book recommendations enough times that I finally put a list together.

These first four involve personal development.

  • On Writing Well, by William Zinsser. Fundamental principles and insights.
  • The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. The principles of English language composition and the rules of usage.
  • What Color Is Your Parachute, by Nelson Bolles. Mostly about job hunting, but the real value is in helping us to better know who we are.
  • On Looking: Eleven Walks With Expert Eyes, by Alexandra Horowitz. We pay so little attention to most of what is right in front of us that we are sleepwalkers in our own lives.

The next four are are indispensable for anyone who works with information.

  • The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Edward Tufte. Most of the people who build slide decks do not understand the principles of graphic arts and too often create chartjunk.
  • City: Rediscovering the Center, by William H. Whyte. Pioneering studies that provided a view of what is  seemingly invisible to those responsible for city planning.
  • Ogilvy on Advertising, by David Ogilvy. “When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”
  • Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, by Paco Underhill. The NY Times book review said Underhill did not simply study the store, but the precise mechanics of what human beings do in it.

This one I read after writing a dreary and muddy thesis on Job Satisfaction. It taught me the importance of interviewing in a manner that encourages people to tell stories their way.

  • Working, by Studs Terkel. The only Pulitzer Prize-winning blue-collar anthropologist interviews 100 people about the jobs they do. “People are hungry for stories. It’s part of our very being.” -Studs Terkel

The final book is excellent, but most would rather watch the BBC video interview with this Nobel Prize winner. http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/pleasure-finding-things-out/

  • The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, by Richard Feynman. “I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”  -Richard Feynman
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