Where is Don Draper when you need him? I need an attention-grabbing title for top accounting books all of us should consider reading. I need his help because this is a topic where I need help on getting you past the headline.
I started with a list of 5 books, but I was forcing myself after the third title. Plus, I wanted books that were both mind-changing and interesting, Steven Bragg did not make the list, although I love his books. I didn’t want an owner’s manual on my list which is what his insightful and instructional books generally are.
Top 3 Picks in the Accounting Books Genre
I’m going to go in reverse order to build up suspense on such an exciting topic.
Weighing in at number 3 is I May Be Wrong, But I Doubt It. The title alone gets Mr. Douglas Hicks on my short list. I tried giving this book to my wife when it arrived in the mail–no such luck.
This is not the first book I read by the author. In the early ’90s, I enjoyed (actually devoured) Activity-Based Costing: Making It Work for Small to Mid-Sized Companies.
I May Be Wrong, But I Doubt It is a collection of essays on accounting, costing, analysis, and reporting. You’ll love the chapters on depreciation and the profit % to sales fallacy. Hicks writes with a little bit of an edge along with wit and wisdom–a much-needed style for what is typically
Call me weird or crazy, but I had a hard time putting down The End of Accounting. My biggest takeaway from the book is that GAAP-based financial reporting is becoming meaningless.
GAAP reporting is supposed to help investors make decisions. The authors argue the opposite is happening. Through their research, they state that only about 5% of reporting is useful and relevant to investors.
The authors include a remedy that includes a strategic business canvas which can be modified depending on the industry. The canvas includes narrative and facts on strategic resources, key business stats, and value created by the firm among other relevant information.
I read this in 1992, right before I read The Goal. You couldn’t pick a better book to set the stage for Goldratt’s classic. However, you might find Johnson’s book on the pitfalls of management and cost accounting a bit dated in today’s SaaS- and subscription-centric economies.
If you like history, then you’ll probably enjoy reading about the origins of cost accounting. Johnson and his co-author Richard Kaplan (The Balanced Scorecard) take us on a cost accounting journey from New England’s young textile mills to the growing railroad industry. We also learn how management and cost accounting adapted to decentralized organizations such as Dupont and General Motors.
While the book is heavier on criticism than prescription, the writing was a paradigm-shifter for me because, at that point, I started to question everything in business. I wanted to know the ‘why’ behind every management decision or practice, especially when it came to accounting and reporting.
Young financial leaders may not get as much out of the book as those of us who started our careers decades earlier. I’d still suggest you add this to your growing library of business books.
Name Your Top 3 Accounting Books
Now it’s your turn. Did I get this list right? What did I leave out? What does your Top 3 look like?