Randy Mayeux has already shared his choices and all are eminently worthy, to which I presume to add a few others.
Please keep in mind that this list is (as are Randy and I) a work in progress.
The Right Values
True North by Bill George and Peter Sims
The Executive’s Compass by James O’Toole
The Highest Goal by Michael Ray
The Heart Aroused by David Whyte
The Right Strategy
The Opposable Mind by Roger L. Martin
Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
Unstoppable by Chris Zook
Enterprise Architecture as Strategy by Jeanne Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson
Fierce Leadership by Susan Scott
Encouraging the Heart by James Kouzes and Barry Posner
Maestro by Roger Nierenberg
True North by Bill George and Peter Sims
Words that Work by Frank Luntz
Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Influence by Robert Cialdini
The Back of the Napkin and Unfolding the Napkin by Dan Roam
Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
Functional & Effective Teamwork
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Organizing Genius by Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman
Collaboration by Morten Hansen
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Cultivating Creativity and Innovation
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson
Freedom, Inc. by Brian M. Carney and Isaac Getz
The Idea of Innovation and The Ten Faces of Innovation by Thomas Kelley
Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono
Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind by Guy Claxton
Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
Reality Check by Guy Kawasaki
The Other Side of Innovation by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble
Open Innovation and Open Business Models by Henry Chesbrough
Plus two additional categories:
Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice co-edited by Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana
The Talent Masters by Bill Conaty and Ram Charan
The Center for Creative Leadership Handbook of Leadership Development co-edited by Ellen Van Velsor, Cynthia D. McCauley, and Marian N. Ruderman
Extraordinary Leadership co-edited by Kerry Bunker, Douglas T. Hall, and Kathy E. Kram
Employee Engagement & Talent Management
A Sense of Urgency and Buy-In by John Kotter
The Art of Engagement by Jim Haudan
Engaging the Hearts and Minds of All Your Employees by Lee J. Colan
Growing Great Employees by Erika Andersen
William Rosenis an historian and writer as well as the author of the award-winning history Justinian’s Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe and the recently published The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention. Previously, he was an editor and publisher at Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and the Free Press for nearly twenty-five years. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
Morris: Before discussing Justinian’s Flea, a few general questions. First, what was your formal education and to what extent did it prepare you for a career in publishing?
Rosen: In the first act of Macbeth, Malcolm says of the title character’s predecessor as Thane of Cawdor, “Nothing in his life became him like the leaving of it.” If I were feeling flip, I’d say that nothing in college so helped my career like the leaving of it: My formal education – UCLA; history and economics – ended pretty informally when I dropped out in 1977 to pursue a career as a writer. That pursuit was delayed for more than thirty years, as the first job I found was working as a copywriter for a local Los Angeles publisher. Three years later, I moved to New York, got a job at John Wiley & Sons, and subsequently worked at Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster (again; they bought Macmillan in 1994) and The Free Press.
I’m not, of course, in the business of advising anyone to drop out of college (and if any of my children who haven’t yet graduated are reading this: don’t even think about it). I have been extraordinarily lucky, not least in my choice of career. The book publishing business, both when I entered it and – sort of – departed it, isn’t especially credential-happy: it is known, to its initiates, as the “accidental profession” for a reason. Academic training is unquestionably valuable; over the years, I hired a dozen editors with impressive assortments of postgraduate initials after their names, and most worked out brilliantly. But so have those with little or no formal education. The key measure, I think, is the ability to retain an enthusiasm for learning new things. Publishing nonfiction, to say nothing of writing it, is an educational activity, and it’s a lot easier to serve readers who want to learn new things if you share their desire.
Morris: You worked at three of the largest houses and worked with a number of prominent authors. What did you enjoy least about that work? What did you enjoy most? Please explain.
Rosen: Tough question. I loved editing…or, more accurately, I loved line editing manuscripts in which I thought I could actually improve the rhythm of the work. On the other hand, a lot of manuscripts are, sadly, incurable cases, and an editor’s best efforts can only transform disaster into mediocrity. Frustrating stuff. Then there were the people: I spent more than ten years as either an editorial director or publisher, and thoroughly enjoyed managing others: Hiring them, training them, communicating a strategy in a manner that others could understand and execute. For that matter, I enjoyed the company of almost everyone with whom I was able to work, colleagues and authors both. The only thing that everyone in book publishing has in common is affection for books, which is a pretty good place to start.
The most difficult aspect of the job was, for me, an unfortunate-but-unavoidable aspect of modern trade publishing. Since every house publishes many more titles than it can actively promote, editors, editorial directors, and even publishers are not just forced to decide which projects to support, and which to abandon; they must also compete with their own colleagues for the finite resources of the larger enterprise, including advertising and publicity budgets, sales department time, and even production department attention.
Last thing: Because the difference between a successful year and a failure– for an editor, anyway – usually comes down to only a few titles that outperform expectations, an awful lot comes down to luck…
Morris: Of all the changes that have occurred in the publishing industry over recent years, which do you consider to be most significant?
Rosen: When I started in publishing, Borders and Amazon didn’t exist and Barnes & Noble was a NY-based mini-chain that specialized in college textbook sales. The biggest accounts in the country were still department stores, and large publishers maintained dozens of local sales reps to call on independent booksellers. A big hardcover bestseller might hit 100,000 copies. Now more books are sold than ever – virtually all of them to three or four accounts – and every year dozens of hardcovers sell in the millions. It’s a big book business now, for good or ill.
Another, unrelated development: When I started in publishing, the single most profitable category was books-as-information, also known as reference publishing: everything from travel guides to dictionaries to encyclopedias. The Internet – not Internet retailing; the net itself – killed it.
Morris: Opinions are divided about whether or not the bound volume has become an endangered species since the emergence of electronic reading devices. What do you think?
Rosen: I’ve been told that e-books will represent more than half of all book sales in less than five years. The economic advantages are just too great; not just the elimination of printing, paper, and binding costs, which don’t really amount to more than a few bucks per copy at most, but the disappearance of returns, which are a huge and wasteful cost to publishers. This doesn’t mean that bound books will vanish completely, at least not for quite a while. But they will become economically insignificant.
Morris: Have you decided what to write about in your next book?
Rosen: Yes. But I’m superstitious about sharing just yet.