Reading for the “Personal MBA” in 2009

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions as such, but a quick review of what I read in 2008 prompted me to commit to reading the Personal MBA Recommended Reading List in 2009.

grep "^2008" ~/reference/books/read | less

One unexpected side-effect of implementing GTD and swapping my pre-millennial cell phone for a Palm Treo was that I read about 50 additional books last year. Nearly all of these titles were genre fiction: mystery, suspense, crime, sci-fi, horror, etc. I’ve never been good at keeping track of multi-volume series or prolific authors, and I hate reading out of chronological order. Once I had an effective way to manage lists and convert them into actions, I really made up for lost time.

I feel a need. A need…to read!

Now that I have a proven workflow for dealing with reading lists, it makes sense to try applying it to the sort of self-improvement that the Personal MBA reading list represents, as opposed to simply reading lots of popular fiction. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that—I hope.) It took a bit of time and some regular expressions, but I soon discovered that most of the books on the Personal MBA list are available at the NYPL. Indeed, nine listed titles were sitting on shelves I pass by nearly every day.


I deliberately left home early this morning so I could spend a leisurely bus ride entering tasks in my Palm. I timed it well, arriving at the library just as patrons were admitted; I didn’t even have to break stride, much less wait in the cold. I worked my way down from the top floor, Palm in hand, and then used the self-service machine on the ground floor to check everything out. The guard at the exit was still getting settled at his station when I left, and actually did a double-take when he saw my stack of books. Thirty minutes later—I took the subway this time—I was home with my first batch of materials:

  1. On Writing Well by William Zinsser
  2. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
  3. The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman
  4. Indispensable by Joe Calloway
  5. Growing Great Employees by Erika Andersen
  6. Purpose: The Starting Point of Great Companies by Nikos Mourkogiannis

The first three titles—Norman’s in particular—are books that I’d been meaning to read for years. (Only one was even on my “Someday/Maybe” list, though, so there’s still plenty of room for improvement in my system.)

What’s the Next Action?

Of course, except for peeking at the Norman book, I haven’t actually read anything yet. But that’s because I was doing the tasks I’d brainstormed on the first leg of my trip; my productivity halo remains untarnished for today.

This project should be an interesting test of my commitment to keep up with a reading list that actually requires serious, you know, reading. I’d say I’d post updates and book reviews to this blog as I go, but that would almost certainly be a lie. One New Year’s Resolutionesque project is probably too much as it is.