Posted by: Bill von Achen | November 26, 2010

Favorite Business Books of 2010

For me, books have always been an important source of information on a wide range of subjects, and that’s especially true when it comes to business and leadership.  The good news is that publishers have recognized the widespread interest in a range of business-related topics, and there is no shortage of titles from which to choose.  The challenge is trying to separate the truly worthwhile reads from those that are merely hyping a reputation.

Some colleagues and clients of mine are avid readers, averaging 3-4 books a month (or more, in some cases).  My achievements in this regard have been more modest, and I can count about 20 different business books that I’ve added to my library during the past year.  Of those, here are five that I can highly recommend:

First, Break All the Rules, Marcus Buckingham—This modern classic from 1999 is still relevant today for its groundbreaking views on the role of management, and its focus on building on employee strengths instead of wasting time trying to overcome their weaknesses. 

Baseline Selling, David Kurlan—I lost count on how many times this past year I referred clients to this excellent primer on selling.   You have to take some of the author’s advice with a grain of salt (for instance, his approach to cold-calling is a bit too pushy for my taste), but it doesn’t take away from the book’s overall value.

The Genius in All of Us, David Shenk—A powerful antidote to the belief that talent is genetic, and an empowering prescription about how to get the most from your professional and personal life. Not long (about 140 pages, without the footnotes), but well worth the read.

Switch, Chip and Dan Heath—Probably the best business book I’ve read in 2010. The Heath brothers always manage to address complex issues with straightforward and memorable models that can be easily applied. (Bonus–Their website,, has lots of free tools drawn from the book.)

Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh—A breezy personal history on the guy who made Zappos a household name.  But the second section has some valuable commentary on the importance of company culture, and the connection between a company’s culture and its brand.  The book also includes some excellent “outside the box” ideas on how to build a supportive culture within a business context.

As for other titles waiting to be read, here are the books that are at the top of my list for the upcoming holidays and into 2011:

The Innovator’s Solution—Clay Christensen’s 2003 follow-up to his 1997 classic, The Innovator’s Dilemma, this book focuses on disruptive companies who outpace their competitors.

The Great Game of Business—By Jack Stack and Bo Burlingham, this book helped spur the Open-Book Management movement of the 1990s.

Strengths-Based Leadership—By Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, this book is based on Gallup’s on-going research into what makes great leaders and great teams. 

Getting Naked—Patrick Lencioni’s newest fable about practices that inspire client loyalty.

What were your favorite business books of the past year, and why were they your favorites?  What’s on your list to read in the coming months?  Post your suggestions and your comments here.




  1. Thanks for sharing your favoriates, Bill. Reading good books has always been my hobby too, although I should have done it more consistently. For 2010, your recommended book Mojo, by Marshall Goldsmith, was probably the best when it led me to reexamine and improve my attitude and behaviors in my job. It seemed to help others too when I shared the concepts with my friends and colleagues. So, once again, thanks for your recommendation. Among all the books I have read in the past 2-3 years, however, I would also have to mention Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational and James Surowiecki’s The Widsom of Crowds. These are popular books to many, I suppose. These books gave me a lot of intriguing insights in human being’s decision-making, and I enjoyed reading every paragraph of them and did not want to stop. Looking forward, for the next few months, I will be reading following four books that I purchased during the Thanksgiving week: (1) Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm; (2) Peter Drucker’s Management Challenges for the 21st Century; (3) Clayon Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma; and (4) Pat Gelsinger’s The Juggling Act: Bringing Balance to Your Faith, Family, and Work. These are all short books so hopefully as soon as I finish them (or not), I may be able to check out some of your favorites, too.

    Happy holiday!

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