West Points

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

So many books to choose from...

by Heather Gurewitz
Mendocino Women's Business Center Director

One of West Company's blog reader sent us the following question:

There are so many business books out there, how can an enterprising person tell which ones are worth their time? What are the common denominators of a good business book?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. As they say, "You can't judge a book by its cover." However, the following could be used to decide if a business book is right for you:

Avoid: Books that put easy and rich in the same sentence. Anyone promising easy riches or easy steps is probably full of it (and I don't mean riches).

Look for: Books that have specific strategies to help trouble shoot the problem you are trying to solve. Always look at the table of contents and see if it looks like it will address your interests. If they have worksheets all the better. Some even come with compact discs with templates that can help you apply the techniques discussed.

Avoid: Books that are overly technical for your knowledge base.

Look for: books that you will enjoy reading. If you are thinking about buying a book, open to the first page of chapter one, and start reading. If you are lost by the end of the page, it may not be right for you. And hey, if you spend a lot of time on the road, you may want to think about the audio version. Personally, I love audio books, mainly because I can drink a cup of tea, work on a jigsaw puzzle, and still absorb information. I still recommend previewing the book. Some of the best books have the worst audio voice recordings. Make sure it's tolerable.

Avoid: books that offer free money or grant sources for small business. Those are most definitely scams and a waste of money.

Look for: some of the classics like "Seven Habits of Highly Successful People," "Getting to Yes," or "Guerilla Marketing." These books have been sparking innovation in business for years. Or if you are looking for something with specific information, Nolo Press makes a number of (usually thicker and dryer) books about the legal aspects of starting and running a business. If you are looking for a good book on social media and viral marketing, check out "The New Rules of Marketing and PR" by David Meerman Scott or "The Power of Pull" by Hagel, Brown, and Davison.

Avoid: Books with big pictures of the author on the cover. (Note: This is questionable advice, but I always follow this rule. Again, this is my opinion and not that of West Company or the SBA, the WBC or SBDC. And in all honesty I do have a couple of really good business books with big old faces on them).

Finally: Don't spend money on something you don't actually have time to read.

West Company invests a lot of our resources into keeping up with trends, acquiring information, and developing workshops so that instead of spending months getting half way through a business book, you can take a West Company workshop and get the same information in 3 hours.

Of course there are some cases when that very special book is just what you need, get it from a local and independent book store!


  1. This post made me laugh out loud, and left me smiling. Useful parameters for choosing a business book, thank you.

  2. http://www.amazon.com/Small-Giants-Companies-Choose-Instead/dp/1591841496