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There are any number of events that could trigger a global apocalypse: climate change, a virus, nuclear war, an asteroid, the rise of artificial intelligence. Would anyone be able to survive? A group of elitist technology billionaires have seriously pondered this very question, spending a great deal of time and money to plan how they alone might outlive this inevitable catastrophic event, leaving the rest of us in the dust.

In Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires, professor of media theory and digital economics Douglas Rushkoff (Team Human) explains how this evacuation plan came to be and what it means for the future. When Rushkoff was invited to an exclusive desert resort for what he thought was a speech on the future of technology, he was shocked to find that his audience was just five super wealthy men “from the upper echelon of the tech investing and hedge fund world.” As it turned out, they had summoned him to pick his brain about how best to insulate themselves from “the very real and present danger” of a mass extinction, even asking him whether New Zealand or Alaska would be rendered less uninhabitable by the coming climate crisis.

Each chapter of Survival of the Richest focuses on a different aspect of how these tech billionaires have gotten to this place in our society and the origins of their entitled way of thinking. Rushkoff calls this Silicon Valley escapism “The Mindset,” a frame of mind that “encourages its adherents to believe that the winners can somehow leave the rest of us behind.” He skillfully uses his extensive background in media theory to explain The Mindset in such clear terms, it’s scary. For example, he proposes that The Mindset allows for the easy externalization of harm to others: Its very structure requires an endgame, with a clear winner and loser, in which the winners are the ones who have found “a means of escape from the apocalypse of their own making.”

Of course the irony in all of this is that “these people once showered the world with madly optimistic business plans for how technology might benefit human society,” Rushkoff writes. “Now they’ve reduced technological progress to a video game that one of them wins by finding the escape hatch.” Numbing and mind-blowing in equal measure, Survival of the Richest is a true story that seems straight out of a science fiction tale.

Numbing and mind-blowing in equal measure, Survival of the Richest reveals how tech billionaires are planning to survive a global apocalypse.

Most people couldn’t proclaim that they’ve concocted “nine of the biggest, boldest, and most world-changing supervillainous schemes” that are “both scientifically accurate and achievable” without inspiring great skepticism. But if anyone’s going to be a reliable source for dastardly plots bolstered by plausible project plans, it’s Ryan North, the bestselling author of How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler.

As a longtime writer for Marvel and DC comics, the Eisner Award-winner gets paid to come up with heinous and destructive crimes for fictional heroes to foil. In How to Take Over the World: Practical Schemes and Scientific Solutions for the Aspiring Supervillain, North harnesses his expertise as a “trained scientist and professional-villainous-scheme-creator” to craft highly detailed plans for achieving world domination. In “Every Supervillain Needs a Secret Base,” for example, he patiently yet firmly explains why the best place for a base is not inside a volcano. Perhaps the aspiring villain should build a floating lair in the ocean, or venture into the sky? North has analyzed every option, and he’s got recommendations—not to mention budgets, timelines and risk analyses for scenarios ranging from starting your own country to cloning dinosaurs to destroying the internet. The results are archly funny and always thought-provoking.

Clever illustrations by Carly Monardo up the fun factor, and sidebars take deep dives into carbon-capture technology, airspace ownership laws and more. How to Take Over the World is a wild journey that’s sure to leave readers pondering North’s assertion that “once [the world is] understood, it can be directed, it can be controlled, and it can be improved.” Whether they use his advice to achieve supervillainy or to flip the script and save the world is up to them.

If anyone is going to concoct highly detailed, scientifically accurate plans to achieve world domination, it’s Ryan North.

Business people—and the people who work for them—are forever looking for ways to be more efficient, more inspired, more informed. This quartet of books fits the profile: from the stock market to the Internet, business books to problem-solving, each of these titles will edify and entertain.

Problem-solving primer
Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People started out as a book for kids. Ken Watanabe, a Yale- and Harvard-educated management consultant for McKinsey and Company, wrote it in 2007 when the Japanese prime minister announced a focus on education via critical thinking skills instead of memorization. Watanabe felt compelled to do his part and created four case studies, or classes (e.g., Rock Bands and Root Causes, Soccer School Pros and Cons) to show how problem-solving tools can be applied to all manner of situations. Watanabe’s friendly, capable tone makes the book an enjoyable read; “tool boxes” and diagrams add clarity; and cute drawings make problem-solving playful. The book was Japan’s top business bestseller of 2007 and now it’s available in English.

How not to succeed in business
Today, we have Bernie Madoff, stock-fraud mastermind of a Ponzi scheme that robbed investors of a reported $50 billion. In the 1990s, there was Jordan Belfort, head of Stratton Oakmont, a Long Island brokerage firm that specialized in “pump-and-dumps”: using Belfort’s scripts, brokers cold-called potential investors and conjured up stories of demand for stocks. The firm then sold the overvalued shares, causing the price to fall and investors to lose their money. But Belfort and his minions made money and spent millions each month on drugs, prostitutes, cars and parties. Belfort chronicled much of this in The Wolf of Wall Street: Stock Market Multimillionaire at 26, Federal Convict at 36. In his follow-up, Catching the Wolf of Wall Street: More Incredible True Stories of Fortunes, Schemes, Parties, and Prison, he tells more tales of lying, cheating and debauchery—and denies responsibility for just about everything. The key themes of the book: things just happen to him; it wasn’t really stealing; did he mention he was married to a model? Despite his rock-hard abs, Belfort cooperates with the FBI; after depositions and recorded meetings with fellow fraudsters, he goes to prison for 22 months, does easy time and befriends Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong, who encouraged him to write this book). Oh, and did he mention he was married to a model? This might be a cautionary tale if Belfort were sorry for what he’d done; instead, he’s only sorry he got caught.

Business briefs
In keeping with their successful business model for 800-CEO-READ, which markets business books to businesses (the website offers top picks and reviews, plus links to order single or bulk copies), company founder and president Jack Covert and vice president Todd Sattersten have compiled The 100 Best Business Books of All Time: What They Say, Why They Matter, and How They Can Help You. It’s a busy executive’s dream: must-read titles are categorized so readers can concentrate on books that meet their needs (Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Big Ideas). “Where to Next?” items after each review suggest further reading, and sidebars recommend movies or offer inspiration via quotes. This is an excellent resource for anyone curious about business books but overwhelmed by all the choices.

We’re all friends here
MySpace has been in the news a lot these last few years, from unsigned musicians who found success via its pages to the rise of competitor Facebook. In Stealing MySpace: The Battle to Control the Most Popular Website in America,  Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin takes readers on a tour of the history and business battles behind the scenes of the cultural phenomenon. Founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson launched MySpace in 2003, and sold it to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in mid-2005 for almost $600 million. In the intervening years, the site’s founders and employees alternately struggled and succeeded as they learned how to manage burgeoning popularity (41.8 billion page views per month) and legal issues (spyware, use of the site by minors, and more). Angwin skillfully blends personal sagas with business dramas, which makes for a fascinating, entertaining read.

Business people—and the people who work for them—are forever looking for ways to be more efficient, more inspired, more informed. This quartet of books fits the profile: from the stock market to the Internet, business books to problem-solving, each of these titles will edify and entertain. Problem-solving primerProblem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart […]
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With every passing day, our world seems ever more gender-neutral. Nevertheless, some topics still fit pretty comfortably into the category of the “historical purview of men,” and some fine new publications have arrived to stake their claim as appropriate holiday gifts for special guys.

THE SPORTING LIFE
Bob Ryan recently retired after clocking in close to 50 years as a print sports reporter. But Ryan’s career also encompassed television, and through the miracle of ESPN, this less-than-obviously-telegenic fellow came to be known far and wide for his knowledge of sports and no-nonsense opinions about the controversial personalities who played them. In Scribe: My Life in Sports, Ryan offers an enjoyable memoir that spans his early days as a sports-crazy lad in Trenton, New Jersey, the launching of his career with The Boston Globe and on to the decades spent covering local teams, in particular his beloved Celtics. Ryan also covered baseball, football, the Olympics and golf, but it is no surprise that his most interesting words here concern basketball figures such as Red Auerbach, Bobby Knight and Larry Bird. Ryan’s on-air activities with ESPN continue, so this volume really serves as the capper to his newspaper days as a man on a steady beat.

FIXER-UPPER
Guys are certainly not alone these days when it comes to home repairs and general Mr. (or Ms.) Fix It concerns. Yet the phrase remains “nice to have a man around the house,” and the new fourth edition of The Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual updates a volume that’s been of value to amateur handymen since 1973. The coverage is exhaustive, from descriptions of the basic tools and accessories necessary to tackle any job to wonderfully detailed instructions for completing all manner of interior and exterior repair and remodeling projects. The editors assume the reader’s can-do spirit and dive right in with thorough descriptions of plumbing, electrical, landscaping, masonry and woodworking projects, along with step-by-step instructions supplemented by color photos and drawings. Even for those guys who may not muster the chutzpah to actually replace a toilet or asphalt shingles, this hefty tome will serve as a superior, safety-conscious general guide and reference for home use.

FIRE IT UP
In a health-conscious modern world, meat—especially red meat—has endured its share of revisionist dietary criticism. But that doesn’t stop acclaimed U.K. food writer Nichola Fletcher from providing endlessly supportive and knowledgeable text for The Meat Cookbook, which emerges as a salutary—and heavily illustrated—celebration of all things carnivorous. Fletcher’s lengthy opening section, “Meat Know-How,” is a storehouse of general info on meat, from assessing the various cuts to using cutlery, from modes of cooking to preparing sauces. The individual chapters focus on the specific meat categories—poultry, pork, beef, lamb, game and even offal (organ meats that require special cooking attention). A final section, “Home Butchery,” goes where most of us regular folks fear to tread, but it provides valuable information and useful diagrams for home kitchen prep, including good reminders on hygiene and safety. The hundreds of recipes by Christopher Trotter, Elena Rosemond-Hoerr and Rachel Green look nothing short of spectacular and provide a survey of meat dishes from across the globe.

FULL STEAM AHEAD
“Stunning” is one word that describes Train: The Definitive Visual History. This massive, gorgeously produced volume is nothing short of a feast for the eyes, at once an impressive publishing achievement and probably the definitive popular work on its subject. Produced under the supervision of the Smithsonian and general consultant Tony Streeter, the book’s beauty and authority outweigh even its serious poundage as it chronicles the development of locomotives and railroads, describes more than 400 train engines and railcars, explores worldwide rail journeys and features plenty of side trips over bridges and through tunnels. The detailing of the trains themselves is spectacular, all in vivid color and including the minutiae of technical specifications, which will enthrall any train buff. For those happy enough with the history alone, the text is enjoyable and comprehensive, filled with profiles of early 19th-century pioneer inventors, interesting facts about the industry’s expansion from England to Europe to the U.S., plus sidebars on the train’s roles as a prime mover of people and an engine of war.

WHAT A MARVEL
Finally, there’s Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Cover Art, yet another gloriously hefty volume. This one celebrates that perennial obsession of just about every young guy—and even some older ones. Historically, there was always a divide between lovers of DC Comics (Superman, Batman, etc.) and those who favored Marvel Comics, purveyors of Captain America, the Incredible Hulk, Wolverine, X-Men and many other iconic superheroes. Yet comparisons are odious, and at their best, Marvel’s covers were (and are) wonderful. This compelling gallery of enlarged examples pops with dazzling color and dramatic action, backed by Alan Cowsill’s captions and sidebars describing each print, along with capsule profiles of important artists such as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and John Romita Sr. The covers are divided into four historical periods—Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age and Modern Age—offering a striking overview of the development of the art form’s style, as well as comics’ reflection of societal changes. One cover even features President Obama!

 

This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

With every passing day, our world seems ever more gender-neutral. Nevertheless, some topics still fit pretty comfortably into the category of the “historical purview of men,” and some fine new publications have arrived to stake their claim as appropriate holiday gifts for special guys.
Review by

Nokia sends a wake-up call Many people mistakenly assume Nokia is a Japanese company. Its name sounds faintly Eastern and its field, mobile communications, could be part of a stereotypically Japanese electronics brand. But the 140-year-old Finnish company, named after a local mill and its river, made nearly a quarter of the 165 million cellular phones that were sold in 1998. From humble beginnings in the forestry industry, Nokia has transformed itself into the world’s leading supplier of telecommunications systems and equipment. Despite this recent growth, Nokia isn’t an overnight success, according to Dan Steinbock, author of The Nokia Revolution. In this fascinating evolutionary story, Steinbock chronicles the ups and downs, history and innovation Nokia has forged to build its strategic advantage. An intensely private company, Nokia has permitted few to enter its inner sanctum, but Steinbock, a professor at both Columbia Business School and the Helsinki School of Economics, has managed to do just that. He demonstrates how Nokia’s current strategic dominance was built from the company’s existing capabilities, documenting the creation and evolution of Nokia’s global strategy. Steinbock also explores the extraordinary care Nokia has given to its R&andD and innovative processes. Not to be missed, The Nokia Revolution is a story of competitive advantage and the strategy and vision required to achieve it.

Nokia sends a wake-up call Many people mistakenly assume Nokia is a Japanese company. Its name sounds faintly Eastern and its field, mobile communications, could be part of a stereotypically Japanese electronics brand. But the 140-year-old Finnish company, named after a local mill and its river, made nearly a quarter of the 165 million cellular […]
Review by

Travel just isn’t what it used to be. Between airport delays, traffic snarls and the hotel that forgot your wake-up call, the Road Warrior’s life is one hassle after another. It doesn’t have to be that way. This month, some on-the-road advice for business travelers. At last, someone has written a quick, sensible book of lists, reminders and advice for the occasional traveler, seasoned pro or neophyte. Organize Your Business Travel: Simple Routines for Managing Your Work When You’re Out of the Office by Ronni Eisenberg with Kate Kelly is a compact solution to many of the dilemmas, questions and organizational conundrums the confused business traveler encounters every time he steps out of the office.

Travel is a major headache for many professionals these days, but in the global corporate environment, it’s a necessary part of doing business. And for a successful trip, being organized is the best preparation. From who’s watching the kids to what kind of luggage works best for toting that new business casual wardrobe, organizing travel takes mental preparation. Organize Your Business Travel addresses an amazing number of these issues with rapid ease. It even covers car travel and how to organize your business life in an automobile.

Eisenberg has thought of everything. I tucked this book under my arm on a recent trip, and from mail management to childcare, I conquered the major obstacles keeping me from getting to my plane on time. With her encouragement I took a long, hard look at my travel gear and bought a new briefcase. Even my luggage was repacked with some practical advice from Eisenberg. I reassessed my need and understanding of the Palm Pilot and learned how to use one. If I can change my ways, anyone can. Organize Your Business Travel makes a great travel companion for consultants, or anyone else who travels frequently, for business or pleasure.

Down time is a major impediment to business travel. Airport delays, layovers and unscheduled time between appointments eat up productive work time. A new audiobook, Extreme Management: What They Teach at Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program by Mark Stevens provides an excellent alternative to wasted minutes. The audio outlines the key components of Harvard Business School’s elite Advanced Management Program (AMP), a nine-week course whose alums include CEOs and CFOs of many Fortune 500 companies. At its heart, Extreme Management is about excellence in leadership, uncovering financial and strategic tactics of the world’s best companies in amusing and informative anecdotal stories and interviews with AMP alums.

Stevens, president of a global marketing firm and author of several books on financial figures of the ’80s and ’90s, identifies the lessons and insights that faculty and students of the AMP found most compelling and sets out to condense what is ordinarily a nine-week, $44,000 regimen into a crash course that can be absorbed in the space of an airplane flight. The two-tape audio provides a simplified but not bare bones outline of the book and an easy way to pass travel time. While AMP raises mid-level managers to elite status, Extreme Management prompts the average business traveler to re-evaluate the office status quo. That’s hitting two birds downtime and leadership with one stone.

Speaking of travel-friendly business reading, The Power of Six Sigma: An Inspiring Tale of How Six Sigma Is Transforming the Way We Work by Subir Chowdhury is a quick book, easily finished on one airplane flight, that explains in a fictional format the principles behind the business initiative, Six Sigma.

For the uninitiated, Six Sigma is the latest fad in management strategy. Embraced by Allied Signal, GE and other major corporations, Six Sigma is a top-down approach used to develop quality in products, empower employees and fatten the corporate bottom line. The focus, experts say, is to eliminate waste, mistakes and inevitable rework by following a scientific structure to achieve results. Following on the heels of ISO 9000 initiatives and Total Quality Management, many are skeptical of Six Sigma’s charms.

The Power of Six Sigma is an antidote to the skepticism. Chowdhury explains in simple, interesting fashion the basic principles behind the initiative. Anyone who wonders why businesses don’t seem to respond to what customers want should read this intriguing little book, and as always, anyone in business should understand the latest management initiatives. Improvement is the name of the game in any business, and Six Sigma is another way to approach the game of business and win at it.

Have time in the airport to sink your teeth into something a little meatier? e-Volve!: Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow by Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, is a witty, intelligent look at the business culture created by emerging Internet companies and the resulting changes in the playing field for traditional businesses and other digital wannabes. Smart, clever and right on target, e-Volve is a valuable look at the coming age in the workplace.

When you open this book and see the song Kanter wrote to celebrate the e-volution, you may check the book jacket (as I did) to make sure this is a Harvard Business School title. But Evolve! The Song illustrates one main corollary of this tale.

Why are you so silent, has the cat got your tongue? Tech talk is what the older folks can learn from the young.

But the Net generation must absorb from the past, enduring values of service, how to build things that last. Yes, this is a big book to carry in your briefcase, but an excellent place to visit and revisit the trends of the New Economy and the cultural changes that economy has wrought. Often a flight is the only chance to catch up on reading and thinking about new ideas and business trends. The next time your airline announces Flight 207 has been delayed for an hour while we track down our flight crew, don’t get angry . . . look at it as an opportunity to expand your horizons.

Briefly noted The Thing in the Bushes: Turning Organizational Blind Spots into Competitive Advantage by Kevin Graham Ford and James P. Osterhaus. The thing in the bushes is a metaphor for core personnel problems that undermine the strategic advantage of great companies. Ford and Osterhaus, a consultant and a psychologist respectively, develop relational principles that help firms hunt down and destroy the thing. Even if your business doesn’t have a lurking bogeyman, The Thing is an interesting study in organizational behavior and its consequences for developing strategic plans.

Seven Power Strategies for Building Customer Loyalty by Paul R. Timm, Ph.D. A lot of companies flirt but never get married to customer service, says Timm. These days one of the main thrusts of Six Sigma initiatives is to provide customer-focused improvements in quality and service. Seven Power Strategies fills in the missing blanks with a seven-step employee empowerment process that helps build customer retention. Timm provides evaluation exercises and short, pointed stories to teach customer strategy step-by-step and gives the impetus for companies to walk down that wedding aisle.

Sharon Secor is a Nashville-based business writer.

 

Travel just isn’t what it used to be. Between airport delays, traffic snarls and the hotel that forgot your wake-up call, the Road Warrior’s life is one hassle after another. It doesn’t have to be that way. This month, some on-the-road advice for business travelers. At last, someone has written a quick, sensible book of […]
Review by

n the road again Travel just isn’t what it used to be. Between airport delays, traffic snarls and the hotel that forgot your wake-up call, the Road Warrior’s life is one hassle after another. It doesn’t have to be that way. This month, some on-the-road advice for business travelers. At last, someone has written a quick, sensible book of lists, reminders and advice for the occasional traveler, seasoned pro or neophyte. Organize Your Business Travel: Simple Routines for Managing Your Work When You’re Out of the Office by Ronni Eisenberg with Kate Kelly is a compact solution to many of the dilemmas, questions and organizational conundrums the confused business traveler encounters every time he steps out of the office.

Travel is a major headache for many professionals these days, but in the global corporate environment, it’s a necessary part of doing business. And for a successful trip, being organized is the best preparation. From who’s watching the kids to what kind of luggage works best for toting that new business casual wardrobe, organizing travel takes mental preparation. Organize Your Business Travel addresses an amazing number of these issues with rapid ease. It even covers car travel and how to organize your business life in an automobile.

Eisenberg has thought of everything. I tucked this book under my arm on a recent trip, and from mail management to childcare, I conquered the major obstacles keeping me from getting to my plane on time. With her encouragement I took a long, hard look at my travel gear and bought a new briefcase. Even my luggage was repacked with some practical advice from Eisenberg. I reassessed my need and understanding of the Palm Pilot and learned how to use one. If I can change my ways, anyone can. Organize Your Business Travel makes a great travel companion for consultants, or anyone else who travels frequently, for business or pleasure.

Down time is a major impediment to business travel. Airport delays, layovers and unscheduled time between appointments eat up productive work time. A new audiobook, Extreme Management: What They Teach at Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program by Mark Stevens provides an excellent alternative to wasted minutes. The audio outlines the key components of Harvard Business School’s elite Advanced Management Program (AMP), a nine-week course whose alums include CEOs and CFOs of many Fortune 500 companies. At its heart, Extreme Management is about excellence in leadership, uncovering financial and strategic tactics of the world’s best companies in amusing and informative anecdotal stories and interviews with AMP alums.

Stevens, president of a global marketing firm and author of several books on financial figures of the ’80s and ’90s, identifies the lessons and insights that faculty and students of the AMP found most compelling and sets out to condense what is ordinarily a nine-week, $44,000 regimen into a crash course that can be absorbed in the space of an airplane flight. The two-tape audio provides a simplified but not bare bones outline of the book and an easy way to pass travel time. While AMP raises mid-level managers to elite status, Extreme Management prompts the average business traveler to re-evaluate the office status quo. That’s hitting two birds downtime and leadership with one stone.

Speaking of travel-friendly business reading, The Power of Six Sigma: An Inspiring Tale of How Six Sigma Is Transforming the Way We Work by Subir Chowdhury is a quick book, easily finished on one airplane flight, that explains in a fictional format the principles behind the business initiative, Six Sigma.

For the uninitiated, Six Sigma is the latest fad in management strategy. Embraced by Allied Signal, GE and other major corporations, Six Sigma is a top-down approach used to develop quality in products, empower employees and fatten the corporate bottom line. The focus, experts say, is to eliminate waste, mistakes and inevitable rework by following a scientific structure to achieve results. Following on the heels of ISO 9000 initiatives and Total Quality Management, many are skeptical of Six Sigma’s charms.

The Power of Six Sigma is an antidote to the skepticism. Chowdhury explains in simple, interesting fashion the basic principles behind the initiative. Anyone who wonders why businesses don’t seem to respond to what customers want should read this intriguing little book, and as always, anyone in business should understand the latest management initiatives. Improvement is the name of the game in any business, and Six Sigma is another way to approach the game of business and win at it.

Have time in the airport to sink your teeth into something a little meatier? e-Volve!: Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow by Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, is a witty, intelligent look at the business culture created by emerging Internet companies and the resulting changes in the playing field for traditional businesses and other digital wannabes. Smart, clever and right on target, e-Volve is a valuable look at the coming age in the workplace.

When you open this book and see the song Kanter wrote to celebrate the e-volution, you may check the book jacket (as I did) to make sure this is a Harvard Business School title. But Evolve! The Song illustrates one main corollary of this tale.

Why are you so silent, has the cat got your tongue? Tech talk is what the older folks can learn from the young.

But the Net generation must absorb from the past, enduring values of service, how to build things that last. Yes, this is a big book to carry in your briefcase, but an excellent place to visit and revisit the trends of the New Economy and the cultural changes that economy has wrought. Often a flight is the only chance to catch up on reading and thinking about new ideas and business trends. The next time your airline announces Flight 207 has been delayed for an hour while we track down our flight crew, don’t get angry . . . look at it as an opportunity to expand your horizons.

Briefly noted The Thing in the Bushes: Turning Organizational Blind Spots into Competitive Advantage by Kevin Graham Ford and James P. Osterhaus. The thing in the bushes is a metaphor for core personnel problems that undermine the strategic advantage of great companies. Ford and Osterhaus, a consultant and a psychologist respectively, develop relational principles that help firms hunt down and destroy the thing. Even if your business doesn’t have a lurking bogeyman, The Thing is an interesting study in organizational behavior and its consequences for developing strategic plans.

Seven Power Strategies for Building Customer Loyalty by Paul R. Timm, Ph.

D. A lot of companies flirt but never get married to customer service, says Timm. These days one of the main thrusts of Six Sigma initiatives is to provide customer-focused improvements in quality and service. Seven Power Strategies fills in the missing blanks with a seven-step employee empowerment process that helps build customer retention. Timm provides evaluation exercises and short, pointed stories to teach customer strategy step-by-step and gives the impetus for companies to walk down that wedding aisle.

Sharon Secor is a Nashville-based business writer.

n the road again Travel just isn’t what it used to be. Between airport delays, traffic snarls and the hotel that forgot your wake-up call, the Road Warrior’s life is one hassle after another. It doesn’t have to be that way. This month, some on-the-road advice for business travelers. At last, someone has written a […]

For years, audiobooks have been our constant companions while cooking, cleaning and gardening—and in the age of COVID-19, we’re spending a lot more time doing those things than we used to. A few of the BookPage editors share the audiobooks that have been keeping us company in quarantine.


Cat, Deputy Editor

You Never Forget Your FirstOf all the quarantine reading and listening I’ve done, no audiobook has inspired more people to ask me for more information than You Never Forget Your First, Alexis Coe’s myth-busting biography of George Washington. Coe contextualizes and humanizes Washington’s victories and losses on the battlefield, his many (many) illnesses, his politics and home life in a whole new way, and it’s made all the more accessible by Brittany Pressley’s wry, clear narration. Most importantly, you’ll explore the hypocrisy in Washington’s fight for liberation from British rule while keeping black people enslaved. For readers interested in thinking critically about American history, this is a good start.

How to Do NothingI didn’t think it was possible to be more chained to my phone—and thus, more uncomfortable with my relationship to social media—but here we are in a pandemic, and nearly all our social interactions are now on screens. Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing has helped temper those feelings by providing guidance to resist the guilt of feeling unproductive and the demands on our attention. I find Rebecca Gibel’s narration to be hypnotic in its dryness, allowing me to reprioritize and realign where I give my focus.


Stephanie, Associate Editor

Red White and Royal BlueMy thoughts have increasingly strayed to the week each year my family spends at a condo on the Florida gulf—specifically, to the books I read on last summer’s trip, one of which was Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue, which feels like an Aaron Sorkin production with the more melodramatic moments of “The Crown.” When I decided to reexperience it via the audiobook, I’m not sure whether I was motivated by a desire to return to the world McQuiston’s ebullient romance between the president’s son and an English prince, to return to the beach itself or to transport myself to a happy moment in a simpler time. Probably a bit of all three. Regardless, the absorbing and rapid-fire story, paired with Ramón de Ocampo’s warm, exuberant narration (and fantastic British accent, when performing Prince Henry’s lines) made for the perfect, swoonworthy escape.

Ninth HouseNinth House is an addicting mystery set at a magical secret society at Yale University, author Leigh Bardugo’s alma mater. Narrators Lauren Fortgang and Michael David Axtell alternate between Galaxy “Alex” Stern and Daniel “Darlington” Arlington; of the two, Fortgang is the standout. Her performance is as sharp as Alex herself, who’s been through a lot before arriving at Yale. Scenes where Alex lets her rage and trauma surface are riveting as Fortgang snarls and performs through clenched teeth. Fortgang’s visceral performance of Alex’s anger makes the rare moments of genuine affection that Alex permits herself—particularly toward Hellie, a close friend, and Pamela Dawes, the society’s in-house researcher—moving in their tenderness, as Fortgang softens her voice to convey Alex’s vulnerability. Anyone looking to be swept up in a story of dark magic in which nothing is as it seems should give Ninth House a try.


Christy, Associate Editor

Heavy audiobookI read a hard copy of Kiese Laymon’s memoir Heavy when it came out in 2018 and loved it—in that had-to-lie-down-for-two-and-a-half-hours-afterward kind of way. (The book is aptly named.) When my professor assigned it for a graduate class I took this spring, I decided to give the award-winning audiobook a try for my second reading. Hearing Laymon’s words in his own voice was even more affecting than reading them on the page. In the audio version, you get the full playfulness of he and LaThon’s middle school riffing on words like “galore” (gal-low), “meager” (mee-guh) and “y’all don’t even know.” You also hear the full tenderness of Laymon’s conversations with his mother, in which they try to tell each other the truth about addiction, abuse, deception and love. When I finished listening to Heavy this time, I still had to lie down afterward to digest its contents—white supremacy, disordered eating and violence against Black Americans, among other things—but since a late afternoon stress-nap was already a staple in my quarantine routine, it turned out to be a perfect pandemic listen.

Trick Mirror audiobookI was two chapters into my hardcover of Trick Mirror when the audiobook became available to check out from the library. (Apparently, I had placed it on hold during pre-COVID times and then, along with all the other trappings of normal life, forgot about it.) Jia Tolentino’s nuanced essays are the sort of reading you want to absorb every word of, so I wasn’t sure the audiobook would be the best fit. But out of curiosity (and a desire to make good on the library’s monthslong waitlist), I checked it out and grabbed my headphones. Next thing I knew, I was three hours in and plumbing the depths of my to-do list for more things to work on so I could keep listening. With an engaging balance between the personal and the reported, Tolentino’s exacting explorations of feminism, the internet and the self lend themselves nicely to audio, as it turns out. And as for my to-do list, her intellectual, no-frills narration provided the perfect soundtrack for taking a walk, doing the dishes, brushing the cats, making banana bread and mending that tear in my duvet cover.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Discover more of our favorite audiobooks.

For years, audiobooks have been our constant companions while cooking, cleaning and gardening—and in the age of COVID-19, we’re spending a lot more time doing those things than we used to. A few of the BookPage editors share the audiobooks that have been keeping us company in quarantine.
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A recent article by Cullen Murphy in The Atlantic Monthly lamented the fate of common knowledge. In a technologically advanced society, he muses that we trade a broad understanding of arts, history and civics for a detailed understanding of the minutiae of obscure languages used to program Web sites. Instead of memorizing Rudyard Kipling’s "If," students now commit to memory the URLs of encyclopedia Web sites where they can pull up poetry at a moment’s notice. Murphy isn’t sure the search-engine future is a great place to be; it’s a world where everyone is a specialist and no generalists can be found.

Knowing a little bit about a lot is prime territory for most of those in business. That’s why Murphy’s lament hits home to those who rely on a small amount of knowledge in lots of areas to help solve business problems. Don’t know how to build a Web site? You can always find someone who does. Need help hiring? Here’s a book on human resource trends. Despite Murphy’s fears, liberal arts majors and generalists as businesspeople are still relevant. Someone has to put together the specialists to solve problems.

So what’s your problem? This month we look at books by specialists who can help generalists solve their problems. Despite Murphy’s fears, the collective wisdom of the ages has always been found in books. The generalists just know how to put all that knowledge to work.

Site savvy Prime examples of specialization are books on Web pages and e-commerce. Web sites seem like territory for all those nerds from high school who now drive Ferraris and Porsches. Web Pages the Smart Way: A Painless Guide to Creating and Posting Your Own Website by Joseph T. Sinclair is a simple step-by-step guide to building a Web page for personal or business use. This textbook offers clear and concise explanations on how to make a Web page and post it, how to make it look better than you thought it could, and how to add pictures and links to other Web sites. (Yes, a reason to use that expensive digital camera at home and work.) Large chapter headings, an easy to use contents section and easy-on-the-eye text make this a user-friendly guide to the kind of computer use many of us never dreamed we could master.

I followed Sinclair’s chapter by chapter approach over the course of several weeks, reading and experimenting whenever I had a few moments. Et voila! I am (almost) a Web expert. It was simple. Even if my Web site isn’t as pretty or useful as it could be, at the very least I can now converse cogently with a Web designer or other co-worker about specific company needs when it comes time to develop a site. And that’s key, understanding a specialist’s language.

Workin’ on the chain Supply chain management is similar territory. Developing a sense of supply chain issues is a necessary part of a business education whether you are a product manager, an engineer or a corporate attorney. When a vast array of businesses outsource components of manufacturing, specific language and models develop to describe the best practices for supply chain management. Which of these models is best? How do they compare? Unfortunately, even daily reading of The Wall Street Journal won’t impart a full education on the subject, but a new book can and will bring you up to speed. The Purchasing Machine: How the Top Ten Companies Use Best Practices to Manage Their Supply Chains by Dave Nelson, Patricia E. Moody and Jonathan Stegner is written by three experts in the field of supply chain management. Interwoven with stories of supply chain successes, the vocabulary and important advances in the field are expertly described. Starting with an overview of supply chain development, The Purchasing Machine underlines the traits "best practice" companies share.

While The Purchasing Machine was written for supply chain professionals, its modular structure and clear explanations make it a convincing choice as an educational tool for managers in other business areas. The non-supply chain professional will gain an overview but will also find that this book helps generate ideas for instituting supply practices in non-supply environments.

Web mastering Along with supply chain and Web development, e-policy is a highly specialized area of business management these days. While many of us don’t develop e-mail, Internet and software policies, we will, at some time or another, encounter a problem or disaster that relates to the use of these modern business tools. In The ePolicy Handbook: Designing and Implementing Effective eMail, Internet, and Software Policies Nancy Flynn, managing director of the e-Policy Institute, discusses risk management aspects of e-use. This is an eye-opening book that reminds everyone about the slippery slope of illegal software use, Internet harassment issues and even outside invasion in the form of costly computer viruses. The only way to effectively communicate these issues to colleagues or employees is to understand the issues yourself. The ePolicy Handbook is a primary tool in the effort to make your work environment virus-free as well as a legal place to enjoy Internet and computer use. The risks and rewards of developing good e-policy are many; having a basic understanding of complex e-issues is a businessperson’s best friend.

The E-Commerce Book: Building the E-Empire, Second Edition by Steffano Korper and Juanita Ellis is another new book that brings the complexity of e-commerce to the generalist. The authors tie together all the reasons even the seemingly best and brightest ideas in e-commerce have failed. Korper and Ellis evaluate and compare components of e-business models from major American Internet companies. From infrastructure to marketing to customer service to payment options and fulfillment channels, The E-Commerce Book is an overview of the many options available to developing Internet retailers. From a generalist’s point of view, this is an excellent book for understanding the differences between mainline retailing and Internet selling or marketing. Why does a corporate attorney or a supply-chain guy need to know a little about these Internet issues? Because traditional retailing and e-commerce have different shipping, payment and even legal consequences for your business. Generalists will be called on to solve these integration problems.

Spreading the word As a generalist, you are often asked to be the communicator for your division. Mary E. Boone’s Managing Interactively: Executing Business Strategy, Improving Communication, and Creating a Knowledge-Sharing Culture includes a section especially for you: "Engage People Who Don’t Report to You Crossing Organizational Boundaries." How do marketing pros communicate their needs and desires effectively to the communication department’s Web designers? How does a company like Cisco Systems connect customers, suppliers and employees in a vast web of information and do it effectively? This chapter gives you suggestions, culled from successful practices at multinational organizations, to effectively team-build across divisional lines.

Boone argues that the act of communication is as important as the technologies we use to connect with each other. And that’s the generalist’s job forging effective communication by understanding the bigger picture, the overall strategy and knowing a little about a lot.

Sharon Secor is a Nashville-based business writer.

 

A recent article by Cullen Murphy in The Atlantic Monthly lamented the fate of common knowledge. In a technologically advanced society, he muses that we trade a broad understanding of arts, history and civics for a detailed understanding of the minutiae of obscure languages used to program Web sites. Instead of memorizing Rudyard Kipling’s "If," […]

As technology disrupts and defines how we live our lives, two nonfiction books explore how it has shaped society up to this point and how it will affect what it means to be human in the future.

In a nondescript building in an office park in Southern California lies the future of human relationships. Or that’s what Abyss Creations founder Matthew McMullen would have us believe. In Sex Robots and Vegan Meat: Adventures at the Frontier of Birth, Food, Sex, and Death, journalist Jenny Kleeman speaks to CEOs like McMullen, as well as scientists, professors and ethicists, to investigate new technologies that are poised to change essential industries and human interactions.

As McMullen competes with other robotics companies to bring the first fully functional, lifelike sex robot to market, the world must contend with the ethical implications of subservient sex robots that are designed to look and act human but that consist of artificial intelligence, silicone and complex circuitry instead of warm flesh and blood. In other chapters, Kleeman investigates the new industry of plant-based, vegan “meat,” which tastes like a burger or steak without the abattoir, animal suffering or impact on global climate change. She then moves on to the future of childbirth (which involves artificial wombs called “biobags”) and a 3D-printed device that could make euthanasia more accessible. Thoroughly entertaining and written with humor and sly intuition, Sex Robots and Vegan Meat is an account of the future that will have you questioning whether technology is helping or hindering human progress.

As current technologies, especially artificial intelligence and robotics, continue to develop, they will force changes in how we structure our work and family lives. One example from history is the plow. It changed humans from egalitarian, freewheeling hunters and gatherers into a society of small families with strict gender roles and private land to cultivate. In Work Mate Marry Love: How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny, Harvard Business School professor Debora L. Spar examines historical links between technology, gender, work and family to imagine what the future might look like.

Starting in 8,000 B.C. and writing all the way into the present, Spar argues that nearly all the decisions we make in our intimate lives, including sex and marriage, are driven by technology. This detailed and deeply researched book lands at the intersection of history, feminist theory and futurism and will enrich your understanding of humanity’s pliant adaptability. Most of all, Work Mate Marry Love lends insight into whether technology can help us live more equal, fulfilling lives in the future.

 

As technology disrupts and defines how we live our lives, two nonfiction books explore how it has shaped society up to this point and how it will affect what it means to be human in the future. In a nondescript building in an office park in Southern California lies the future of human relationships. Or […]
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es for job seekers and employers It’s that time of year again. The days are short and dreary; your job seems tedious and boring. Staggering mountains of holiday bills convince you that career advancement should be a springtime priority.

We’ve all seen the TV commercial in which a prospective employee receives flowers and fruit baskets from CEOs trying to lure him to work for their companies. All he did was post his resume on the Internet. If he can do it, you think, so can I. A mountain of fruit baskets waits in your future! Who’s not thrilled about the prospect of your potential advancement? The human resources department at your present employer. As the clever commercial suggests, the HR game is getting tougher and tougher these days. It is not too strong a statement to say that successful hiring can directly affect a company’s bottom line.

In fact, Frederich W. Ball and Barbara B. Ball say the most critical battle waged in business today is the war for talent. They address this hot topic head-on in Impact Hiring: The Secrets of Hiring a Superstar. Today, these recruiting and interviewing experts say, job candidates aren’t interviewing to try to get a job; they interview to see if they even want a new job. Superstar candidates know that for every offer they receive, there are two or three more corporations queuing up to court them. This happened to a friend recently. Following an MBA program at a top school, he was offered seven jobs with different corporations; all considered him a superstar candidate. Each post offered significant pay and an array of wonderful benefits. All offered to help his spouse relocate, find childcare, even pay for closing costs on a new house. Ultimately his choice hinged on what the Balls call "knowing the candidate’s agenda." The financial strength of the company, the entrŽe to an interesting and challenging position and the strength of the senior management team led him to choose a job with a company whose culture reflected his own beliefs and whose corporate vision was filled with future possibilities. CEOs and human resource directors, as well as upper level managers with hiring responsibility, should read this book. Ball and Ball offer insight into the secrets of tapping and, more importantly, attracting superstar candidates. With keen understanding and years of corporate experience to boot, they outline the crucial steps every recruiter (for businesses big or small) needs to succeed when bringing a superstar player on board. While Impact Hiring offers insight into how to attract the best new recruits, Winning the Talent Wars: How to manage and compete in the high-tech, high-speed, knowledge-based, superfluid economy by management expert Bruce Tulgan traces the reasons companies lose their best talent. Tulgan says company loyalty is a thing of the past. The corporate downsizing and restructuring of recent years sent a clear message to employees: individuals must take responsibility for their own careers. Free-agency is an existing mindset for employees, and it will drive a more efficient market-driven economy, Tulgan believes.

Winning the Talent Wars explores the macro-level employment forces at work in the economy and confronts employers with the reality that they need to reevaluate their compensation systems to best attract and retain talented employees. Tulgan says employers must embrace the new economy and come to understand its effect on current employment trends. He stresses pay-for-performance approaches and wants businesses to turn managers into coaches, leading the team to perform. He challenges corporate leaders to "create as many career paths as you have people" and restructure the traditional notion of climbing the corporate ladder. His is an exciting proposition, one that will appeal to many 25- to 40-year-olds seeking jobs.

Winning the Talent Wars tells the stories of corporate executives who have gone to battle for talent and are beginning to win the war. "More and more of your best people are leaving, or talking about it, or thinking about it," Tulgan says. Learn strategy that allows retaining employees and hiring new ones to be a win-win situation.

In recent years, newspapers have seen a decline in classified advertising revenue as employers put more want-ads on the Internet. But not everyone, and certainly not every company, is taking advantage of the Internet revolution. Poor Richard’s Internet Recruiting: Easy, Low-Cost Ways to Find Great Employees Online by Barbara Ling is a great introduction to both looking for employees and looking for your own new job.

Why recruit on the Internet? For most businesses the advantages are easy to see. First, Ling says, it’s often free. And who doesn’t want to free up money for R&andD or salary incentives or customer research? Just look at the bottom line. The Web is quicker, can be read 24/7, is easy to use for both prospective employees and employers and is an easy form of corporate advertising.

Ling knows her subject area well. An online columnist for the Boston Herald, she has written on Internet recruiting and led seminars on the subject. After you’ve finished her comprehensive guide to web recruiting, you’ll be one step ahead of the competition.

Staying ahead of the competition is the idea behind Richard C. Whiteley’s Love the Work You’re With: A Practical Guide to Finding New Joy and Productivity in Your Job. What causes people to leave their jobs? Increasingly, personal satisfaction ranks high on the list of reasons. Employees, however, often find their new jobs also fail to offer an advanced level of personal enrichment. He likens this syndrome to a failed relationship. How many people walk away from one relationship only to make the same mistakes again in another? Whitely convincingly helps employees and their employers recognize unconscious patterns of attitude and behavior that mark unchallenging and passionless workplaces.

Sometimes, Whiteley says, employees live in fear that they will be downsized, discarded or laid off. They never develop their potential to enjoy their job because they go to work every day wondering, what next? Whitely encourages employees to see themselves as positive forces at work, responsible for their own level of job satisfaction.

Both employees and employers can benefit from Whiteley’s insights. In the competitive marketplace, he says, each employee, each CEO and each manager has to infuse the workplace with a spirit of energy. He offers a series of exercises and self-evaluations for employees. They should also be required reading for human resource professionals who watch long-time and long-sought employees walk out the door in search of the "perfect" opportunity.

Briefly noted The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley, one of design firm IDEO’s leaders, offers a rich and exciting ride through the mindset of a unique company. A leadership book with style, charisma and fun, this book also demonstrates how to capitalize on fresh ideas.
 

 Entrepreneur America: Lessons from Inside Rob Ryan’s High-Tech Start-Up Boot Camp by Rob Ryan. From Roaring Lion Ranch in Montana, the founder of Ascend Communications infuses this model of how to start a business with his unique humor, wit and practicality. Ryan shoots down entrepreneurial wannabes but goes on to tell them how to get up and continue the battle.
 

The PR Crisis Bible: How to Take Charge of the Media When All Hell Breaks Loose by Robin Cohn is the definitive source for what to do when the worst case scenario unfolds at your company. How to handle public relations crisis, how to prepare for them and, most importantly, how to handle them honestly is the goal of this deft manual. Required reading for every CEO.

Sharon Secor, who helped jump-start two businesses, is a Nashville-based writer.

es for job seekers and employers It’s that time of year again. The days are short and dreary; your job seems tedious and boring. Staggering mountains of holiday bills convince you that career advancement should be a springtime priority. We’ve all seen the TV commercial in which a prospective employee receives flowers and fruit baskets […]

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