One of my favorite times of the year is skimming my booklist from top to bottom several times and trying to pick my favorite ten books. The task was so hard that I cheated a bit by selecting honorable mentions and creating two other categories. In this show, my friend Shaefer Schuetz leads the discussion. If you need some book ideas for 2022, numerous business genres are covered in this conversation.
The Top Ten Books
There is no way that I can list these in order. These are ten memorable books where I took ample notes as I read them. In three cases, I got to interview the author. Two more have agreed to be on the show. We’re still working on another. Here’s the list in the order that I read them:
- Railroader by Howard Green (thank you, Howard)
- Many Unhappy Returns by Charles Rossotti (another class act)
- The Secret Life of Groceries by Benjamin Lorr (another cool dude, thanks Ben)
- It’s How We Play the Game by Ed Stack (the audio book I recommend to CEOs)
- Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin (watch her Masterclass)
- Made From Scratch by Kent Taylor
- The Lost Bank by Kirsten Grind
- Last Man Standing by Duff McDonald
- The Wisdom of Finance by Mihir Desai
- Billy, Alfred, and General Motors by William Pelfrey
Curious about my favorite three? That’s still not an easy task, but I’m good with this selection:
There were a handful of other books I read that deserve mentioning. There were a couple that I reread. One is not actually a book but an audio presentation by Dan Sullivan. I’ve included some brief notes on each title:
- Full Circle by Erin Callan. This book probably belongs in my thought-provoking section below. This book was one of substance and wisdom by a former CFO. Erin, if you are reading this, you are a hero. I respect what you did as you describe in your story. The professional world needs to hear your story. Oh yes, this book is for guys too.
- The Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns. This is embarrasing. I’ve lost track how many times I’ve read and listened to this little gem. Blair is the co-host of 2Bobs, one of my favorite podcasts. I recommend this book to every part-time CFO that I coach.
- Build Boldly by Bolanle Williams-Olley. This book is a sleeper, and I hope it gets more traction. I got lucky on this title because Bola’s publicist reached out to me to inquire about being a guest on the podcast. My expectations were not high on this book. Some one hundred pages later, I was blown away by the wisdom of this young CFO. Financial leaders in the early stages of their careers should study this book. We’re going to be hearing more from this talented influencer over the next few years.
- Everybody Ought to Be Rich by David Farber. I love this book. I read it again to prepare for my interview with the author in 2021 which was a thrill. If you like business history, add this to the list. Personally, it’s in my top three in the business history genre.
- Red Teaming by Bryce Hoffman was an unexpected home run. Bryce is the author of one of my favorite books, American Icon. When I asked him for an interview, he said, “Sure, but can we talk about my newer book?” What new book? Are you a business analyst? Are you a strategic planner? Are you constantly solving problems? Are you a fan of anything that Shane Parrish writes? Then you’ll like this book.
- Pure Genius is not a book but it should be. This classic audio presentation by Dan Sullivan covers many of the concepts his team teaches during the first two years in the Strategic Coach program. I listen to this annually. My kids even went through this content when they were teens. I’ll never forget the first time I shared my CDs with a CEO. “Mark, can I have my son listen to these?” I think you know the answer.
- The Trick by William Leath is hard to categorize and I’m surpised the book has not gained traction. If you like personal finance books, then prepare to be entertained and even challenged by this guy’s writing style.
- The Education of a Value Investor by Guy Spier is one of the best books I’ve ever read on value investing. I listened to it and read it in 2021, but in both cases, for about the third time each. I went throught this book again in order to prepare for an interview with Guy, and he nailed it not to mention nearly two hours of his time.
- Art’s Principles by the late Art Gensler was a quick and fun read. This book falls under CEO territory looking for daily inspiration and leadership ideas. I would have enjoyed meeting this remarkable architect.
- Finley Ball by Nancy Finley. I allow myself to read one baseball book a year. Well, I cheated. The second one was a short memoir by Doris Kearns Goodwin entitled Wait Till Next Year. Nancy’s book is about her famous unlce, Charles Finley who brought many colorful innovations to the game of baseball.
- The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told by Mark “Miami” Paul. I loved this book, another fun read and a true story. I also enjoyed my interview with Mark. If you like horse racing and some of the history behind that sport, you will not be disappointed.
- Invested by Charles Schwab. I’ll apply the tag ‘sleeper’ to this book too. This is not Shoe Dog good, but I found the book inspiring in that a dsylexic with no money who needed technology that did not exist was able to revolutionize a stodgy industry. Great read.
- The Beatles and Economics by Sam Staley helps us to understand economics and entrepreneurism through looking at the innovative side of the Beatles and their human capital. If the price scares you, then listen to my interview with Sam.
- The Complete Financial History of Berkshire Hatahaway by Adam Mead belongs on the bookshelf of evey Buffett acolyte. Adam was very generous with his time on a prior interview with CFO Bookshelf.
- Mind Over Matter by Ron Baker was a surprise in more than one way. First, Ron sent me a signed copy. While I felt obligated to read it, I was hooked from the beginning. That’s because I was familiar with many of the big ideas that are covered in Ron’s podcast along with Ed Kless called The Soul of Enteprise (my favorite podcast). I’m not calling this a primer on economics, but you’ll come away with a greater understanding of human, structural, and social capital. I love this book, but I wonder if it would be a better Masterclass.
- The Elegant Solution by Matthew May was referred by Ron Baker. Are you a student of TPS and/or Lean? Read it. COOs, this book is also for you. Favorite dicussion in the book–NUMMI.
- How Much Land Does a Man Need? is a Tolstoy short story. It’s mentioned in The Wisdom of Finance, and I immediately purchased and read it in one sitting. No kidding, a thought-provoker. More importantly, the story reminds me to carefully think about my priorities.
- The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. This is a book I revisit periodically. Oddly, there is one story that has had a profound effect on the way I think about consultants and business coaches. Lewis was a gifted thinker who could also write sci-fi and fantasy books which I never read. Accordingly, I need cheat notes each time I read this little gem.
I prefer reading history, autobiographies, biographies, and narrative non-fiction. I don’t read many how-to business books. I probably read five such books in 2021. Two stand out, and both are five-star reads:
- I confess that I expected very little from Scaling Up Compensation by Verne Harnish. As I read each chapter, I kept wondering, “Will he include … ?” Verne nailed it. No, he crushed it. Plus, I found the book balanced. You’ll know what I mean if you are a compensation expert. Five stars.
- I found The Thief in Your Company so fascinating that I asked Tiffany Couch for an interview which she granted. Biggest takeaways–victims rationalize too. They can’t believe they’ve been stolen from by the people they have brought into their inner circle. Many accountants understand the fraud triangle, but this forensic account explained the patterns of a thief.
- SwitchPoints by Judy Johnson. A tip of the cap to Howard Green on this title. I read this book after reading Railroader because I wanted to know how Hunter Harrison turned around the bad cultures he kept encountering. In one case, he hired Judy Johnson, and many of her tools to improve culture are in this practical book. Judy was also a guest on our podcast in 2021.
A Special Thanks to Shaefer Schuetz
I’ve already been receiving compliments about Shaefer’s interviewing skills.
This guy inspires me. He’s young, hungry, has a great sense of humor, and he embodies everything CFO Bookshelf believes in–lifelong learning and making a difference.
Shaefer works in a management position at Kansas City-based, City Rent a Truck. If you ping him on LinkedIn, he’ll accept your connection request. If you do reach out to him, let him know which book you plan to read on this list.