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A Brief Guide to Business Classics by James M. Russell: Review

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Name of the book: A Brief Guide to Business Classics

Author: James M Russell

Publisher: Hachette


Price: Rs 399

Pages: 296

The author of the book is neither a businessman nor has any connect with the business, as per the background given in the book. But yes, the author has published two more brief guides, one on spiritual classics and the other on philosophical classics. It is very difficult to say if spirituality and philosophy have any effect on the selection of books. The title of the book is A Giveaway; it is a compilation of the best books on business as per the author. One of the featured books has been authored by the 45th President of the United States of America that is, Donald Trump. His first book, The Art of the Deal, which he co-authored with Tony Schwartz in 1987 is a part of this collection of business classics. Later, the book was in dispute, because both the authors claimed that the other did not contribute much in the book.

The author has listed 70 books chronologically starting from The Art of War by Sun Tzu and ending with the book on Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance published in 2015. Out of these, 36 books have been published between 2001 and 2015. It is a classic example of the fact that the events that are near in time period look more important.

While it is a fact that no two individuals list of 70 business books or for that matter, list of anything will be exactly the same, still there are some notable omissions.  Bhagavad Gita is immensely popular among the senior corporate executives in USA and Europe, Kautilya’s Arthasashtra, which had made India contribute almost 40% of world’s GDP for a long period of time as per Angus Maddison’s study are missing from the list. The omission is quite stark, because India is the only big economy in the world, which is growing, and companies across the world are looking to invest in India. Also, missings are the Bottom of Pyramid, The Path Breaking Work of C K Prahlad and Blue Ocean Strategy, which have influenced a lot of businesses. It will not be wrong to say, it is a collection of best business books from USA and Europe (China being an exception). This a problem one finds amongst almost all the authors of USA and Europe. One such example that stands out is “Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy” by Tim Harford, a book incidentally published by the same publisher.

The titles covered a range of areas of business, from sales and marketing to negotiation, entrepreneurship to investing, leadership to innovation, and from traditional and corporate models of business to start-up manuals and alternative angles on the subject. Author has included a few books, which are not perceived as business books, but do provide insights into the business. I consider it to be a high point of the book.

There is no repetition of the author, that is, no two books are there in the list by the same author. It is not clear if it was by design or default. There is no uniformity in the number of pages devoted to each book. It varies from two pages to five pages. There are two summaries of each book. First, each book is summarised to convey a brief idea of what each one has to offer the interested reader, while the second summary titled ‘Speed Read’ delivers a quick sense of what each writer is like to read and a highly compressed summary of the main points of the book in question. Speed Read is more interesting to read and has sharp take away for the reader.

One cannot find faults with the summary of books and they are written in a simple language and there is no business jargon. This is a book that could have avoided index, and rather given a list of books, which missed the cut and may be reasons for the same. Those who can’t spend time reading full business books, but still want to read them can opt for this book.