People sure like to rank things: best rock guitarists, greatest moments in sports, best restaurants in Baltimore.

The world of business books has its lists too, and many of the titles on those lists have literally changed our world. What’s more, the best titles have remained relevant decades or even centuries after they were originally published as guidelines for working and living, because of their originality, engaging style, and relevance to our lives and aspirations.

There’s certainly no shortage of such lists. Many of the popular business magazines (e.g., U.S. News & World Report) have come out with them; these day it seems like everyone has their own opinion of what constitutes the best. Most of these lists, though, are ephemeral and presented with little justification.

The question is: Is there an authoritative, well documented list of top business books? The answer is yes: Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten’s The 100 Best Business Books of All Time. The subtitle of the book, published in 2009 by Portfolio/Penguin, explains what makes this work worth reading: “What they say, why they matter, and how they can help you.” The book even divides its list up into topics to help you home in on the ones you need at a given point in your development: leadership, strategy, entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity, and so forth. Each entry is covered with a book review of 500-1,000 words, followed by suggestions on what to read next. While you may not agree with every selection, the essays at least make a case for why each title was chosen. The list sticks to modern books, but there are mini-essays on older works such as Wealth of Nations (1776) by Adam Smith, The Prince (1532) by Machiavelli, and The Art of War by Sun Tzu (possibly between 476 B.C. and 221 B.C.).

Browsing through Sheridan Libraries’ copy of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time is only the beginning, of course. We’re pleased to point out that we have seventy-three of the listed titles in our collection. The oldest book on the list, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, goes all the way back to 1931, and here’s the kicker: It’s currently checked out! The most revered candidates are there too, such as Peter Drucker (The Essential Drucker), Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence), and W. Edwards Deming (Out of the Crisis). Then there are the corporate success stories such as John F. Love’s McDonald’s: Behind the Arches and The HP Way by David Packard. The whimsical is represented by Gordon Mackenzie’s Orbiting the Giant Hairball and the philosophical by The Age of Unreason by Charles Handy.

In fact, there are so many angles to this work and so many ways to read it that you may just find the need to buy a copy yourself. Along with your JHU degree, you can do little to prepare yourself more fully for dancing your way through your professional (and personal) life than to read the books on Covert and Sattersten’s list.


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