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January 9, 2006

News & Opinion: Go Read The Number

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 8:35 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

I have a simple request: go read The Number, now.

We have seen this book coming ever since this summer. Free Press has gone to extreme lengths to make this a big book. We got the manuscript in July. Jack and I both read it. We thought it was brilliant.

The publisher printed 3,500 hardcover preview copies. That is unheard of. Publishers never want to spend this kind of money to promote a book. We used 100 copies of the special edition to spread to our movers and shakers.

This Saturday, I was in Barnes and Noble and the book was everywhere. It was on the front table. It was in personal finance section. There was even a special table sitting next to the checkout line with a sign asking "What is Your Number?"

Jeffrey Trachtenberg wrote a piece last month for the Wall Street Journal talking about all that Free Press has done to roll this book out. What is missing from the article is one thing -- the book is really good and that is why it will do well. In three months, people will be talking about this book like they talk about Freakonomics.

Let's get past the hype. This weekend, the book was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal by Glenn Ruffenach, editor for their retirement sections. Ruffenach's biggest problem with the book is that Lee Eisenberg suggests tried and true methods for reaching retirement with the money you need. I have two responses:

  1. Doctors tell people to eat right and exercise if they want better health. Yet, most people don't want to follow the advice that has been confirmed in study after study. Savings of 10% to 15% of your paycheck and spreading your investments are also great ideas that people can't seem to follow. People don't need new ideas; they need to follow the ones that are already proven.
  2. The reason that this book is going to strike a chord is because it is written in a wonderful narrative. Eisenberg has pulled together a wonderful set of stories that allow people to internalize the complexity of the topic. The stories stick with you. I don't remember the last time I read a book that sent me on a emotional rollercoaster like The Number did. I was clinically depressed halfway through the book, but like any good writer Eisenberg brings you back and gives you hope.

I think the storytelling is going to help people appreciate the simple but tough things that they need to do to prepare for retirement.

One more time...just so I am clear- go read The Number.


About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.