September 10, 2010

News & Opinion: Tomato. Tomahto.

By: Sally Haldorson @ 3:06 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

A short while ago, I wrote a defense of business books here on the 800-CEO-READ blog, contending that the business book genre includes such a wide range of subgenres that it doesn't deserve the disdain or dismissal it often receives as being pedantic or unappealing to a wider audience. Today, Todd Sattersten contributes a precise retort against the criticism the genre receives by quoting some of the most recent critics and showing the shortcomings of their arguments against the value of business books.

There is no right or wrong answer in the argument of whether most business books offer value to readers. As with anything, worth is relative. Author Youngme Moon who, while explaining her unique vision for her own business book about marketing, Different wrote:

Most business books are written for easy digestion. They are reductive in the way that subway maps are reductive; the elimination of unnecessary information creates a kind of conceptual isolation that is functionally efficient to the extreme.

In a busy world, functional and efficient are not dirty words (and I don't think Moon is implying that insomuch as making an observation.) Sometimes usefulness must supersede intricacy. But some critics take a hard stance again this kind of reductive treatment of the complex subject that is business, forgetting that subway maps are important for anyone who is visiting a city for the first time or doesn't have an instinct for direction or is trying a new path perhaps even to an old destination. To criticize the whole genre with a broad brush shows a distinct lack of knowledge about said genre. Youngme Moon's book is an example of a book that pushes the boundaries of what we traditionally think business books are. Moon writes:

This book could be described in much the same way [as marketing.] It is intimate. It is organic. It is idiosyncratic. It's even a bit disorganized. But in my mind, that's okay, because my aspiration is not to be deductive; it is to be discursive in the unpredictable way that people are discursive. In business, just as in life, sometimes the most illuminating insights can emerge from the throwaways.

No doubt there are critics who would take Moon to task for straying away from the more predictable "5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Marketing Budget" kind of approach. There is room for everyone here, folks. Tomato. Tomahto. And Todd, in his blog post, Surprise, Surprise, Someone Else Doesn't Like Business Books, shows just how erroneous it is to assert that all business books have no worth for modern readers.

(PS: to win a copy of Youngme Moon's Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd, head on over to inBubbleWrap and sign up for this week's giveaway of Different.


About Sally Haldorson

Sally Haldorson's job as 800-CEO-READ’s General Manager is to make 800-CEO-READ a great place to work for our employees, and a consistently high-performing customer service organization for our clients, authors, and our partners in the publishing industry. In addition to her General Manager duties ensuring collaboration, integration, and quality, she reads, writes, reviews, curates, and edits for the company. Helping craft The 100 Best Business Books of All Time used parts of both skill sets. Outside of work, she is most likely to be found hitting a tennis ball around or hanging out with her boys (husband, child, dog) at home.