Verboten Books

Some books should be opened with caution. When unprepared, they may leave the unsuspecting reader confused, puzzled, head-shaking, and even utterly disgusted. To me, however, such books have always fascinated me. Again, and yet again, a title would catch my eye and wouldn’t let me go until I buy it and read it. Some of these books turned out to be not only merely interesting; they have added a real intellectual value in so far as enriching or changing my point of view. I decided to collect and document those books in the list below.

Each of them provides a specific mental short-cut or life-hack to the reader. They are eccentric, inconvenient, surprising, risqué – and often borderline verboten. They present genuine insights that I wouldn’t want to miss throughout my journey through my professional life. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I did.


In Search of Stupidity

M.R.Chapman, with a preface from Joel Spolsky; ISBN-10: 1590597214

Why did Tom Peters deliberately lie in his book “In Search of Excellence”? Why could Microsoft be so successful with MS-DOS, and why did Bill Gates actually not want to make it? What has happened to such promising products such as dBase, Word Perfect, and OS/2?

These interesting questions find their answers in this book. Merrill Chapman, a veteran of the IT industry (MicroPro, Asthon-Tate, Novell and many more were among his employers or clients) tells in a witty yet informative style of marketing disasters, bad decisions and cases of plain luck that we can learn from. If you are looking for answers to urgent questions like, “Our developers want to rewrite the system – should we do it?”, “How to market a software product?”, or if you are wondering why Microsoft, despite the allegedly poor code quality is a world leader in software business – then this book is right for you. It is an entertaining read: a lightweight, yet very useful stuff.


Why Business People Speak Like Idiots

Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway, Jon Warshawsky, ISBN-13: 978-0743269094

Everyday business is full of exotic expressions, euphemisms and skewed phrases. You are not fired, you are “outplaced.” Your idea is not stupid – it is sub-optimal. What’s worse: there are individuals the world of business who really take it all dead serious.

Unfortunately, this kind of “business speak” has a psychological explanation. It is not pretty, but that’s the price for finding out the truth.


The No Assh*le Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t

Robert I. Sutton, ISBN-13: 978-0446698207

You have always known it: something is not quite right with “some” people. Every time you have to deal with them, be that privately or in a business environment, you immediately feel it: you feel exhausted. Your “battery” is low. At the end of the proverbial day, you are done with life. All you can think of is going home, closing the door, turning off the phone, turning on the on TV and try forget what happened today. Unfortunately, tomorrow awaits another day with the same vicious cycle of fear, bullying, Machiavellian horror and never-ending hell. Yes, “hell is other people” said Sartre. especially when you are forced to deal with those kind of people.

This little book is a refreshing view of this problem. First of all, you realize that you are not alone. A fair portion of the population actually enjoys making you feel miserable. Some of them are borderline psychopaths. If you feel perpetually mistreated, tend to become increasingly depressed and realize that you hate your life, then this book gives you courage to change something to the better. Remember, the first step is to realize that you actually have a problem. Fix it, it’s easier than you might think.


Rip-Off! The Scandalous Inside Story of the Management Consulting Money Machinel

David Craig, ISBN-13: 978-1872188065

Have you ever considered becoming a professional business consultant? You hear that it is easy: walk around in a business suit, have no responsibility, making a lot of easy money and when you get bored, you simply move on to the next project. What a life that must be!

Sometimes, when something sounds too good to be true, then often it is. Even worse, the supposedly easy-going job turns out to be downright fraudulent. Consulting is dirty business. The author describes real-life examples of what it really is to be a consultant and how clients get ripped off.

It may sound like hysterical sensationalism, but unfortunately it isn’t. If your company needs help and you think a consultant will save the day for you, think again. Read this book first.


Bull*hit Jobs: A Theory

David Graeber, ISBN-13: 978-1501143311

Do you think your job is pointless? Do you count the minutes until you can finally punch the clock and finally get a “life?” Do even hate your job? You are in a good company. The author estimates, based on surveys, that some 40% of all jobs are apparently completely pointless. If you think about it for a while, it becomes obvious.

Why is that? The author has a theory and it is not pretty. Like in The Matrix, you have always known that something is not quite right with the world. Read on to find out more – you may be amazed.


Propaganda

Edward Bernays; ISBN-13: 978-9563100914

The term “propaganda” sounds like something from the darkest decades of the previous century. However, before it became a tool of war and oppression of millions, “propaganda” used to be a harmless concept – a simple marketing tool. Today, we would rather associate it with commercials than with war.

But the roots of “propaganda” run way deeper than harmless washing powder or toys ads. You might be surprised that there is a link between the famous psychologist Sigmund Freud, the first World War, cigarettes, and “public relations” (PR). The latter is a term created by Sigmund Freund’s nephew, Eduard Bernays – the author of this book. “PR” is the tool to attract the masses to otherwise irrational decisions. Sigmund Freud is the indirect forefather of hypes such as the Dotcom Hype, the iPhone, fashion crazes, management fads including “agile development” and countless others. This book is the key to understanding how the world works. This is a fundamental red-pill must-have.

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