#h#What To Read#/h#
What should be in your home library this coming year? Whether you are a budding entrepreneur, a job seeker, an investor, or a business person seeking to become more of a player in your industry, publishers have got you targeted. Tens of thousands of titles flood the shelves each year, providing advice on everything from artistic accounting to yoga for success.
To help us sift through this overabundance of printed advice, we asked the business specialists at several public libraries to help out with two questions: What are their business-oriented patrons reading, and what are the best business reads for the new year. Rather than restrict them to the business sections (Dewey Decimal numbers 658 in most libraries), we gave them the whole range of their stacks, and asked them to choose.
Plainsboro’s public library is headed by director Ginny Baeckler (in the photo above), who keeps up with the latest business literature with the help of reference librarians Anne Rivera and Mary Ann Bartholomew,
“I give a copy of ‘Up the Organization,’ to every grad student intern I have,” says Baeckler without hesitation. Although it was written in l970, Robert Townsend’s classic retains its vital message, she says. It is a volume filled with a wise, but counter-intuitive wisdom, including this pithy advice on meetings: “Don’t have them.” As for motivation, “Up the Organization” advises: “Do it for fun and/or do it for profit, otherwise you shouldn’t be doing it.”
Tom Peters’ management handbook, “Thriving on Chaos,” also heads the Plainsboro list. It recites such take-charge tales as Lee Iacocca’s solution to being told that development of a convertible would take at least 10 months for marketing. To which he replied: “Order your mechanics to cut off the top of a sedan and test drive it yourself for a week.”
Meg Whitman’s financial comments on eBay (www.hub.ebay.com) also won high praise from the Plainsboro staff, as did any article or volume by veteran managerial pundit Peter Drucker. Less praised by Baeckler, though wildly popular, is Spencer Johnson’s recent bestseller “Who Moved My Cheese?” For Baeckler, “the book gives a simple allegory telling that change happens, so adjust to it. Fine, but I just don’t see the technical substance.”
To counter the increasingly ignored business maxim: if you can’t write it well, don’t write it, Rivera suggests a mandatory study of “Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation,” by Lynne Truss. “It is a sure competitive edge,” says Rivera. Finally, in chorus, the Plainsboro trio recommend reading the Wall Street Journal and the financial section of the New York Times every day.
Conctact the Plainsboro reference desk at 609-275-2897 or log on to www.lmxac.org/plainsboro.
‘You have to remember where you are,” said Randy Marsola, who has manned the reference desk at South Brunswick’s public library for the past seven years. “Central Jersey is a very techie area and an entrepreneurial area.” A lot of Marsola’s business questions rise into the very highest of tech stratospheres. Code crunchers who are eager to write and sell their own programs come in seeking very specific cyber manuals from the library’s ample technical collection. “These are not books with which you’d curl up before the fire,” says Marsola. “They are so complex it is all I can do to catalog them.”
Moving down the complexity scale, Marsola recommends “Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way” to entrepreneurs. This book details the life of England’s celebrity tycoon Sir Richard Branson. It tells how Branson made $6 billion through his various Virgin brand name enterprises, ranging from Virgin Air to a series of health clubs, music and media stores, car shops, and of course, Virgin Vodka. It provides out-of-the-box inspiration to those on the launching pad.
Marsola also recommends a magazine article, “YouTube Grows Up,” which is Wired’s December cover story, and which most libraries will have in their periodical rooms throughout the new year. “Here are a couple of guys who just out of their basement — part of it done right here in Princeton University — who worked and founded this giant project, which they have sold to Google for $1.2 billion,” he says. “This is what people draw hope from.”
He notes that he is constantly asked for “some kind of book that will show how Bill Gates got his start and made his billions.” In some cases, it is merely curiosity over a legend, but in others, it’s a cry for inspiration.
While we talk at the reference desk, a man with a squirming toddler comes up and asks if the library has any books on computerized drafting. He uses the drafting skills in his current job, and wants to start a computer modeling service. He figures this would be a good place to start. Marsola recommends a volume explaining the Autocad desktop drafting system, and leads him to it.
Contact the South Brunswick Library at 732-329-4000, ext. 7286, or log on to www.sbpl.
The Princeton Public Library offers the advantage of acting as host to a chapter of SCORE — the free counseling service for small and startup businesses. Catherine Harper, the library’s SCORE liaison, suggests that any business person’s first step be should be a visit the SCORE website (www.score.org). Some favorite features include “Top 10 Year-End Tax Tips,” “Renewing Yourself as Leader,” “Collecting Payment,” and Larry Tessler’s ever-popular “Location, Location, Location.”
While Harper agrees that central New Jersey residents are very technically minded, her own 14-year experience at Princeton’s reference desk differs slightly from Marsola’s in South Brunswick. “I have found just as many people coming in wanting to start a retail store as get into some highly technical operation,” she says. The library has, therefore, set up an entrepreneurs’ table on the third floor, right beside the SCORE meeting room. In the center of this intriguing display is “Startup: Your Own Clothing Store,” and right beside it, “Startup: Your Own eBay Service.”
Harper also recommends “Starting an Online Business for Dummies” by Greg Holden; “Small Business Taxes Made Easy” by Eva Rosenberg; and the fascinatingly-titled “Getting Rich in Your Underwear” by Peter I. Hupalo.
To attend a SCORE meeting, call Harper at 609-924-9529, ext. 221, or just come to the library in Princeton at 65 Witherspoon Street. Visit the library online at www.princeton.lib.nj.us/.
Mercer County’s library system boasts nine separate branches throughout the county, Bruce Petronio, reference librarian, dispenses advice on business reading at the Lawrence branch. He has fielded business questions for 15 years, and has sensed the startup excitement and monitored the trends. “The biggest shift I’ve seen is the move toward home-based businesses,” he says. “Not all of it’s web-based, though an increasing amount is.”
Petronio often sees the entrepreneurial excitement that gleams in the eyes of his patrons, and notices that in their haste they often forget the basics. On top of all the guerrilla marketing articles and tax shaving tips, he always pulls out Entrepreneur Magazine’s “Ultimate Book of Business Forms,” and a copy of Facts on File’s huge tome of Business Forms on File. While it may not be glamorous, “it’s all part of doing business,” he says.
Petronio searches among his ample business collection which includes many of his favorite basics, including the huge “Small Business Sourcebook,” edited by Sonia Hill, whose popularity is waning as that of “Gale’s E-commerce Sourcebook” rises. Then he pulls out a neglected, unexpected classic. He doesn’t have to comment, the title says it all, “Merriam Webster’s Secretarial Handbook.” Even executives need to learn to communicate cogently.
Contract Petronio at 609-882-9246, or visit www.webserver.mcl.org. — Bart Jackson
#h#Who’s Reading What#/h#
Some people say you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their shoes. But we didn’t want to do a story on shoes. Instead we set our sights on a somewhat loftier level — and decided you can tell a lot about a person by the books they read. To find out what you should be reading in 2007 we asked a random cross-section of movers and shakers in a variety of fields what was on their night table. Here are the results — decide for yourself what you think will make for good brain food this year.
Wes Brustad, president & CEO of the State Theater, New Brunswick:
In the Ghost Country (A Lifetime Spent on the Edge) by Peter Hillary and John E. Elder; Shadow Warriors (Inside the Special Forces) by Tom Clancy with General Carl Stiner; The Art of War by Sun Tzu, translated and commentary by Roger Ames; and The Samurai (The Philosophy of Victory) by Robert T. Samuel.
“Reading is essential to my life, almost like eating and breathing. I read to learn, to expand my world, to ‘sharpen the saw,’ to be sensitive to other cultures, and, of course, to escape into my imagination with a good novel. I can’t imagine being without the comfort of my bookshelves that let me open any path I wish within a minute or two.
Albert Stark, shareholder, Stark & Stark:
Saturday by Ian McEwan; The Collectors by David Baldacci; Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table by Ruth Reichl; Faith and Politics: How the “Moral Values” Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward by Senator John Danforth.
“I read a mixture of fiction and non-fiction — romance, mystery and memoir. I like to read political books by authors who hold opinions different from mine.”
Kurt Landgraf, president and CEO of Educational Testing Service:
State of Denial by Bob Woodward; Yanks: The Epic Story of the American Army in World War I by General John Eisenhower.
Dr. Richard Tang Yuk, conductor, music faculty, Princeton University; artistic director, the Princeton Festival:
The Moral Animal: Why we are the way we are: the new science of evolutionary psychology by Robert Wright; The Little Book of Chinese Proverbs compiled by Jonathan Clements; Toughest Show on Earth: My Rise and Reign at the Metropolitan Opera by Joseph Volpe; the latest issue of Money magazine
“While I also enjoy good fiction like Khalid Hosseini’s ‘The Kite Runner’ I find that in recent years I have become intrigued by books or articles that deal with human evolution, the continuing arguments for evolution vs. creation, and sociology, for example, ‘Respect in a World of Inequality’ by Richard Sennett.
Judy Hutton, CEO, YWCA Princeton:
What I Know Now, Letters To My Younger Self by Ellyn Spragins; Uprooting Racism by Paul Kivel; The Five Temptations of a CEO by Patrick Lencioni; Einstein on Race and Racism by Fred Jerome and Rodger Taylor.
“You will see the theme of racism in my selections. As the CEO of an organization whose mission is to eliminate racism and empower women, I want to make sure I am on top of all the issues. My charge is to ‘get beyond the conversation,’ and I am working hard to bring our organization to the next level. Ellyn Spragins’ book is an inspiration to all women. As far as ‘The Five Temptations of a CEO,’ that speaks for itself!”
Lauren Palena, entertainment director for the Triumph Brewing Company in New Hope; Princeton; and Old City, Philadelphia:
The Fabulous Girls Guide To Decorum by Kim Izzo and Ceri Marsh. “This book is great on how to be a classy, sophisticated, independent women in today’s society.”
Do You Love Me Or Am I Just Paranoid by Carina Chocano. “I am really into self-help books, and when it comes to relationships I tend to play the girl card and sometimes come off looking a little, how should I say, jealous and insecure. I tend to like older men so this book is a good reference to help you keep your cool and respect that you are secure and fabulous with just being you.”
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. “This book is AMAZING! I actually read the whole book in about three hours. It is a great book that helps you to think about why you are here on earth and how valuable each path we take on our journey in life is. It really helps you put things into perspective to try to find out what your mission in life is. I highly recommend it, it will change your whole outlook on life.”
Barry S. Rabner, president and CEO, Princeton HealthCare System:
Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond; Act of Treason by Vince Flynn.
“It’s 3 a.m. and I can’t fall back to sleep because I’m thinking about work. Reading does the trick. Either a thoughtful book like ‘Guns, Germs, and Steel’ or, better yet, a book like ‘Act of Treason,’ in which the main character is always right and always wins — real fiction!”
Jeff Nathanson, executive director, Arts Council of Princeton, conTEMPORARY Arts Center:
The Cave by Jose Saramago; The Plot Against America by Philip Roth; Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs; Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.
“I enjoy reading a wide range of books, and I have a particular fondness for humor and books that are thought-provoking, especially on socio-political and cultural issues. On occasion I like to escape with science fiction.”
Connie Mercer, executive director, HomeFront:
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Could Cure the World by Tracy Kidder; I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron; The Earth is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman; A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby K. Payne.
“Working with homeless families for the last 16 years has convinced me that literacy is the key which unlocks their ability to break the cycle of poverty.”
Jessica Durrie, president, Small World Coffee Corp:
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. “I am enjoying this book a great deal. She is very insightful, humorous, and has a great way with words. I can also relate to many of the issues she is dealing with in the book.”
The Small-Mart Revolution by Michael Schuman. “The issues brought up in this book are near and dear to me, as I am an independent small business owner. I think about what has happened to our own downtown in the 13 years I have lived in Princeton and as the Route 1 corridor has become increasingly populated with the big box stores.”
The Art of War by Sun Tzu. “A book about strategy that teaches us to think our way through problems rather than just reacting. He teaches strategy as a system of always improving our position.
“I always have a few books on my nightstand that pertain to leadership and management, which help to keep me on course in my work. And then of course I have a smattering of magazines: Gourmet, Cooks Illustrated, Conde Nast Traveller (maybe I’ll actually go on vacation!), Elle, and catalogs — these are there for the times of the weary mind.”
Michael Graves, founding principal and president, Michael Graves & Associates Inc.:
On Truth by Harry G. Frankfurt (Knopf, 2006); Italian Architecture of the 16th Century by Colin Rowe and Leon Satkowski (Princeton Architectural Press, 2002).
“I always keep at least two books to read and a sketchbook to draw at my bedside. The books usually vary as much as these two; one is academic and the other is from a book review I read.”
J. Robert Hillier, founder and chairman of the board, Hillier Architecture:
The Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut; The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman.
Michael Hierl, president & CEO, the Pacesetter Group of Companies, and chairman, Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
Instrument Flying by Richard L. Taylor; Bowling Alone by Robert D. Putnam; Succeed on Your Own Terms by Herb Greenberg and Patrick Sweeney.
“‘Instrument Flying’ is on top of the table because I’m trying to nearly finish my private pilot — instrument rating before the winter snow and ice stops me from flying until early spring. ‘Bowling Alone’ is an important read given the Chamber Foundation’s mission to promote greater civic engagement throughout the region. And I look forward to reading ‘Succeed On Your Own Terms’ because I heard Herb and Patrick speak earlier in the year at a Princeton Chamber forum, and I’m looking forward to learning more.”
Mikey Azzara, outreach coordinator, NOFA-NJ; market manager, Lawrenceville Farmers Market, farmer/educator/organizer:
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan; Oranges by John McPhee; Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children by Ann Cooper and Lisa M. Holmes; Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke.
“Some of my favorite books are definitely fiction but right now I most enjoy non-fiction and poetry.”
J. Seward Johnson Jr., artist, philanthropist, and founder of Grounds For Sculpture:
Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee; Missing Mom: A Novel by Joyce Carol Oates; Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties by Robert Stone; William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism by Robert D. Richardson.
“I have always chosen fiction as it instantly gives me another world to step into. ‘Prime Green’ and the biography of William James are new ventures for me and, in some strange way, comforting as they seem to confirm assumptions I have lived by.”
Karen Colimore, president and CEO, Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce:
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult; What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self by Ellyn Spragins; Ordinary Magic by John Wellwood.
“I think as a general rule Americans tend to spend far too much time viewing television. I currently don’t have a television, and I find that I spend a significant amount of time reading. I tend to read several books at the same time, one for entertainment, one that has short stories or quick vignettes that offer a quick read, and one book that has a philosophical component.”
Emily Mann, artistic director/resident playwright, McCarter Theater:
Black Girl/White Girl by Joyce Carol Oates; Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn; Life Is a Dream by Pedro Calderon de la Barca; Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.