Year in review: Business books of 2013

I love to read, although I don’t get to enjoy this hobby as much as I’d like. So far in 2013, I’ve read 30 books, including 10 that were released in 2013. Below, I summarize the subset in the business or professional development genres. Books are listed alphabetically by author. The rating scale runs from one star (don’t bother) to five stars (a must-read).

1. Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger, Simon & Schuster.  *****

In this quick and engaging read, author Jonah Berger opines on the subject of viral communications in a way that spans multiple industries, thereby making the material appreciable to an audience beyond the usual business community.  This approach, along with clear writing, made this my favorite business book of the year.

2. David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell, Little, Brown and Company. ***

My three-star assessment of this book has nothing to do with the writing itself, which is superb; rather, I did not find the examples compelling enough to make the case. Yet, the theories presented by Malcom Gladwell are interesting and thought-provoking, as always, and are definitely worth the read for renewed perspective.

3. What You’re Really Meant to Do, Robert Steven Kaplan, Harvard Business School Publishing.  **

If you’re looking for a quick read on how to maximize your potential at work, this book may be for you. The author provides an introspective road map for recognizing, understanding, and using your traits and values to reach your definition of success. However, there is very little discussion on how to handle the unavoidable bumps in the road, and the book suffers for its lack of depth in this area.

4. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg, Knopf.  ***

Although this was a decent book, it didn’t resonate with me. Much of the advice is not new — I have “leaned in” for years and have had a successful career because of it. And, the adage “it’s not what you know but who you know” remains an underlying theme of the book. Even so, it’s a well-researched analysis of the role of gender in the workplace.

5. The First 90 Days (Updated and Expanded): Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels, Michael D. Watkins, Harvard Business Review Press.  ****

This 2013 re-release is a decent read, particularly the early sections on onboarding. As a freelancer, I am often in the onboarding stage, so this book has been helpful in managing those expectations. An added bonus, however, was the theme of continual onboarding; that is, adapting to changes in the workplace.. For that reason, this is a book I will consult often. (For those so inclined, a mobile app is available for additional charge; I have not downloaded it.)

6. Financial Blogging; How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients, Susan B. Weiner, CFA, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.  *****

This was the book that was most helpful to me as a research writer-turned blogger. Soon after following Ms. Weiner’s advice, traffic to my blog increased considerably, and my level of apprehension decreased.  Today’s entry, in fact, was developed with the aid of the worksheets and checklists provided in the book.

What were some of your favorite business books of 2013? And, what is on your wish list for 2014?

Intimidated by blogging? This book can help.

Just as there are different kinds of music, there are different kinds of writing. That is what I told myself when I, a seasoned writer of 100-page research reports in the financial services industry, felt intimidated when attempting to blog. How could I convey my thoughts in fewer than 300 words and keep readers informed and engaged at the same time?

Thankfully, Susan Weiner came to the rescue with Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients (Susan B. Weiner, CFA ~ Published 2013 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform). The techniques presented in this book can pertain to many kinds of writing, yet were key in helping me focus on this new world of blogging. Especially useful were the worksheets on mind-mapping, blog post preparation, topic brainstorming (I no longer struggle with titles), and the blog post review checklist. Although I consider myself adept in using social media, the tips in Chapter 9, Promoting Your Blog, gave me greater — and actionable — insights to improve my online presence.

I recommend Ms. Weiner’s book very highly to all who want to — or who need to — maximize their blogging potential. Writers of all levels, from novice to long-timer, will find this a most useful reference.

Back to school: Books that revitalized my marketing career

Among my cherished hobbies is reading. My bookshelves are filled with volumes representing various genres, including the classics (Jane Austen is my favorite), ocean liner history, travel, business, and professional development. Additionally, I have a collection of contemporary literature on my e-reader.

I enjoy, as well, sharing my thoughts on the books I’ve read. I am a regular contributor to Goodreads, from where I also find recommendations for other books I might enjoy. (And, those are almost always spot-on.) Since returning to school to obtain my professional certificates in copyediting and marketing and branding, I’ve read some very helpful (and, at times, fun) books that are pertinent to my career.  I share my reviews, originally published on Goodreads, with the hope that others may find them useful.

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Mobile Marketing: An Hour a Day (Rachel Pasqua, Noah Elkin ~ Published December 26, 2012 by John Wiley & Sons)

I learned a great deal about mobile marketing from this book, some of which I am already putting into practice. Although this text was assigned reading for a college course I took over the summer, I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about this essential, emerging business and how to develop actionable plans for marketing through mobile media.

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eMarketing: The Essential Guide to Digital Marketing (Rob Stokes ~ Published 2011 by Quirk eMarketing (Pty) Ltd.)

This book was assigned reading for a university-level continuing education course in Internet marketing. The price could not be beaten; it was a free download from the publisher. The material was organized well and included useful charts for planning and measuring marketing goals. My main issue with the book, however, was that it could get confusing for the American learner as the book was published in a different continent. Many of the Web sites mentioned were not familiar to me and, as a trained grammarian, I found myself distracted by a form of written English with which I was unfamiliar. I’d consider this book a decent resource (especially that it is available at no cost), but not the only resource for those who wish to learn about eMarketing.

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Integrated Advertising, Promotion and Marketing Communication (Kenneth Clow, Donald Baack ~ Published December 27th 2010 by Prentice Hall)

Integrated Advertising, Promotion and Marketing Communications was assigned reading for a recent class in Integrating the Marketing Message — and was an excellent choice by the instructor. The chapters were organized in a way that made sense, particularly for a student like myself who had been away from the classroom for many years. I found the lead-in vignettes, integrated campaigns in action features, and examples of advertisements very helpful in expanding my understanding of the material. The only negative was its price — a used copy was going for roughly $140 at the time of my purchase. Still, in retrospect, it was a decent price for such an informative text that I know will serve well as a reference book for years to come

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Special mention: Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (Lynne Truss ~ Published April 2006 by The Penguin Group (first published 2003))

I don’t have to admit to being a stickler. Everyone who knows me is already aware of my grammarian tendencies. I read Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation on and off during a period three months, each time with a grin as I realized that I was not alone in my love of punctuation. And, that’s exactly what this book is about — the evolution of punctuation. Author Lynne Truss takes us on a journey from the early printed form of language to today’s emoticons while combining historical references with a bit of humor. Note that this is not a book about grammar; nor is it a definitive guide on how to use punctuation (as conventions vary between countries). Yet, for those of us who cringe at the misuse of the apostrophe or appreciate how a comma can change the meaning of a sentence, this is a wonderful read that will keep you entertained.

Have you read any good business books lately? Please share in the comments section, below.