WHAT IS IT?• A library of over 200 books• A blog• A series of printed books• A pair of apps• One-page summaries• One-sentence summaries• Training programmes andspeeches• A fertile source of new ideas
I am often asked the best way toget something out of business books. Having read over 200 of them(over 10 million words), here aresome thoughts.
1. WORK OUT THE LINE OF ARGUMENT Most business books should probablynot be books – what they are trying tosay can usually be expressed on lessthan a page. Head for the line of argument first,and then see if you want to delvedeeper.
2. READ THE FIRST CHAPTERReceived wisdom is that few peopleread beyond the first chapter, and inmany cases that is sufficient to get thegist of the book.
3. CHECK THE WORD COUNT Publishers usually force authors to hit aword count (typically 50,000minimum), to fulfil their obligations sothat the book looks substantialenough on the shelf. This is regardless of whether the authoractually needs that number of wordsto make their point. The longer it is,the more vague it may be.
4. CHECK THE LAYOUTGood business books are well laid out, sothat it is intentionally easy to grasp the ideafrom the cover blurb, the contents, and thestructure. These authors are generous andconfident enough to make their line ofargument evident at first glance, rather thanburying their thoughts in somethingimpenetrable, or deliberately usingobfuscation to make the subject seem morecomplex than it truly is.
5. LOOK FOR OTHER FORMATS These days, a printed book is often justone component of what is being said. Blogs, ebooks, video, podcasts andlots of other related content can oftenbe found to enhance (or prove thefrailty of?) the line of argument.
6. BEWARE CASE HISTORIES Many books carry on long after theirpoint is made, often padding out withcase histories that may or may not berelevant to the reader, and aresometimes in truth written by students ofthe author. Some case histories are actuallyfiction, or embellished story telling.
7. LOOK FOR SIGNPOSTS OR A SUMMARY Some books almost defy summarising, usuallybecause they deploy rolling narrative withminimal signposts and very little prescriptiveadvice on what to do as a result of theirobservations. Other books are kind enough to map this outclearly, which means they rarely requiresummarising as one goes along. Instead, this can be done at the end byreviewing the contents and chapter or sectionmarkers in the main body. If well designed, thesewill resonate well with the reader.
8. USE A BOOKMARK FOR NOTES Tiny points that capture the readersimagination on the way are different, and verypersonal. For these, keep a small piece of card as abookmark, and if there is a fascinating quoteor idea that is not clearly signaled in thecontents or section headings, then make anote of the page number to remind you whereit is when you have finished. This is especially helpful when the book is 400pages or more.
9. IGNORE THE DETAILThe reader should never feel pressure toabsorb every shard of information in a book. If the book has done its job well (usuallythrough a pleasant blend of clearsignposting and some intriguing referencespeppered throughout the narrative), then asynthesis of it should stick with the reader.
10. LOOK FOR DEBATE BETWEEN BOOKS For me, the fun lies not so much inprecisely what each book is saying, buthow it contributes to a total debate in theliterature. My thoughts on this are in an article I wasasked to write for the International Journalof Advertising.
HOW TO USE• Be inquisitive• Make the time• Understand the lines of argument• Take a view• Inform your work• Enjoy the debate• Ask Kevin to speak or train
KEVIN DUNCANMore detail at:www.greatesthitsblog.comAsk Kevin to speak or train:07979 email@example.comTwitter: @kevinduncan