Most people say that they’d like to read more but don’t have the time. But reading doesn’t just have to be something you have time for on beach vacations.
The most successful people find ways to squeeze reading time into the small conners of their days. Here are seven interesting business books that you can read while you eat lunch, instead of checking your email (again).
1. On Bullshit, by Harry Frankfurt
Harry Frankfurt is a professor of philosophy emeritus at Princeton University. His essay “On Bullshit” was originally published in 1986 but it became a short book in 2005. Frankfurt distinguishes between the liar and the bullshitter. The liar is concerned about the truth, so much so that he conceals it. The bullshitter, in contrast, is indifferent of the truth. He doesn’t care for it. He cares about impressing the listener and personal gain. Sound like anyone you know?
2. The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead, by Charles Murray
This book emerged out of a series of columns Murray wrote for the American Enterprise Institute. His advice is far reaching, from grammar and writing tips to relationship guidance to “the presentation of self in the workplace.” Some of it might appear old-school–“Don’t use first names with people considerably older than you until asked, and sometimes not even then”–but it’s refreshing. Here’s my favorite piece of advice. “Watch Groundhog Day repeatedly.” “[It is] a profound moral fable that deals with the most fundamental issues of virtue and happiness.”
3. The Peter Principle, by Laurence J. Peter
The Peter Principle: “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”
The implication? “Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.”
“Super-competence often leads to dismissal, because it disrupts the hierarchy, and thereby violates the first commandment of hierarchical life: the hierarchy must be preserved.”
4. Parkinson’s Law, by Cynil Parkinson
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
An elderly lady of leisure can spend the entire day writing and dispatching a postcard to her niece at Bognor Regis. An hour will be spent finding the postcard, another in hunting for spectacles, half an hour in a search for the address, an hour and a quarter in composition, and 20 minutes in deciding whether or not to take an umbrella when going to the mailbox in the next street. The totel effort that would occupy a busy man for three minutes all told may in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety, and toil.
5. The Laws of Simplicity, by John Maeda
John Maeda is the former president of the Rhode Island School of Design. He is an eminent graphic designer, visual artist and computer scientist. Maeda provides a plethora of design advice and creativity tips while expounding the virtues of design thinking in The Laws of Simplicity. If there is one takeaway from this book it is that creative projects typically benefit from reduction, removal and subtraction. My favorite sentence from the book: “Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.”
(Check out To Complete a Task, Leave the Power Cord at Home.)
6. A Technique for Producing Ideas, by James Webb Young
Young was an advertising executive with an interest in the psychology of creativity. His technique involved a five-step formula: Gather Raw Materials, The Mental Digestive Process, Unconscious Process, The Eureka Moment, and The Final Stage.
At 27 pages, it’s the shortest book here.
(Check out A 5-Step Formula For Generating Ideas From 1940.)
7. The Abilene Paradox, by Jerry Harvey
The Abilene Paradox describes an anecdote Harvey elucidates at the beginning of the book. A family in Texas is comfortably lounging when the father-in-law suggests that they drive to Abilene (53 miles away) for dinner. The wife and the husband agree, despite having reservations about the long drive. “I just hope your mother wants to go,” the husband said. “Of course I want to go,” the mother confirms. “I haven’t been to Abilene in a long time.”
They travel to Abilene and arrive home four hours later, exhausted. “It was a great trip, wasn’t it?” the husband said. “Well, to tell you the truth, I really didn’t enjoy it much and would rather have stayed here. I just went along because the three of you were so enthusiastic about going.”
“I now call the tendency for groups to embark on excursions that no group member wants,” Harvey concludes, ”the Abilene Paradox. Stated simply, when organizations blunder into the Abilene Paradox, they take actions in contradiction to what they really want to do and therefore defeat the very purpose they are trying to achieve.”