Three must-read books: Beyond Code, The Virtual Handshake and Pushing Water Uphill

There are tens of thousands of books published every year, which makes it darn hard to figure out what’s actually worth your time and attention. I have the same problem, even in the smaller confines of business books: what’s worth it, and what should be skipped? Certainly I don’t believe you can rely on the best seller lists to separate the chaff from the wheat, because what you think is good is likely different to what I think is good.
That’s why I try to cast a wide net when it comes to new books on the market, and that’s also why I’m pleased to count many book authors as friends and colleagues, allowing me to receive review copies of many different titles, including the three that I’m recommending today. Are they right for you, dear reader? Well, read on and you’ll be able to decide for yourself…

Beyond Code: Learn to Distinguish Yourself in 9 Simple Steps! by Rajesh Setty
I’ve known Rajesh for a year or two now, and we’ve had the pleasure of meeting face to face at the San Francisco Blog Business Summit a few months ago too. He is an exceptionally bright chap and very focused on quantifying and codifying the difference between the thousands of programmers and consultants who are mediocre at selling themselves and the handful of world-class experts for hire who command the highest rates and garner the most respect in the industry.

That’s exactly what Beyond Code is about: it offers up a simple recipe to help people in any field learn how to distinguish themselves, make a name for themselves, and become both better known and more successful. What’s even better is that Rajesh subscribes to the “say what you need to say and stop” school of writing, so this book isn’t enormous or overwhelming, but instead is a svelte 119 pages, attractively laid out, and very clear and simple to read. The holidays are coming up and this book would also be a terrific career present for smart folk you know who don’t seem to be able to figure out how to improve their professional standing.

Rajesh also managed the coup of having one of my personal favorite management gurus, Tom Peters, write his foreword. As Tom says: “Even if you are a happy camper or a big and mostly invulnerable company, you simply must take immediate charge of your “practice”… In short, both the Theory and the Practice prescribed in this book are right on. Read it as if your life depends on it. It does!”

The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online by David Teten and Scott Allen
The Virtual HandshakeIt should be no surprise that I learned about this book by meeting co-author Scott Allen online through LinkedIn and its offshoot My LinkedIn Power Forum. Indeed, he immediately impressed me as someone who was a superb networker, always friendly, always offering up ideas and help to people who had questions of any sort, from the most basic to fairly complex issues of how to communicate effectively in the online world.

That’s what their book The Virtual Handshake is about too: it’s a proper reflection of our times, a primer on how to embrace and get the most out of online networking sites like LinkedIn and generally how to do business, credible, trustworthy business, with people who you’ll never meet face to face. I do it all the time, personally, including co-moderating a busy discussion forum with a chap in Australia. We might meet someday, but there’s no question that building a relationship based on trust, credibility and professionalism is a new, and critical skill.

Just as Rajesh has tapped one of my favorite management gurus for his foreword, so have Teten and Allen managed to garner testimonials from a few of my other favorite business thinkers, including Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist), Dr. Robert Cialdini (author of the splendid book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion) and the founders of two social networking sites, Thomas Power (Ecademy) and Adrian Scott (Ryze). My take? This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn how to improve the effectiveness of their online networking and relationship building skills.

Pushing Water Uphill With a Rake: Memoirs of a Successful Failure by Steve Baker
Pushing Water Uphill with a RakeI’ve met and gotten to know Steve through a variety of professional networking events (online and off) herein Colorado and have been impressed by his wry wit and thoughtful commentary on situations. When he told me he’d written a book about his experiences as both a successful and unsucessful entrepreneur, I was intriguied, so when he gave me a copy of the book I had to sit down and read it. And it’s darn good. If you’re an entrepreneur with big dreams, this is a splendid reality check for you, a chance to learn about the highs, the excitement and adventure of a startup, and the lows, the devastating lawsuits and experience of watching a business crumble. It’s a particularly good counterpoint to Guy Kawasaki’s superb The Art of the Start too.

The back cover describes the book well: “When was the last time you met a guy who was sued for $1.4 billion? Steve Baker shares the challenges, excitement, and pure exhiliration of building an incredibly successful business. In less than a year, it grew to $500 million in revenues and included major business partners like Playboy Enterprises. His story also propels you through the shock, pain, and despair when the American Dream vaporized into total devastation. From triumphant success to personal tragedy, this fast-paced, energetic, humorous yet thought-provoking story demonstrates that there is a right way to manage success and failure.”

Since I’m sharing endorsements that authors have received for their books, I’ll also mention that Sam Addoms, Chairman of the Board of Frontier Airlines offered a testimonial and that Steve won the Colorado Independent Publishers Association’s 2004 National Writing Contest with this title. Oh, and there’s a wonderful anonymous testimonial too: “Thank you for writing this book. Our family business is going into financial ruin and all communication had shut down between us. Your book opened a much needed conversation that will help us get through the toughest time in our lives.”

Either electronically or in person, I know all of these authors and recommend all three of these books to anyone who wants to learn how to develop, package and market themselves more effectively, how to network in the new electronic age, and how to temper the unmitigated optimism and zeal of entrepreneurship with the reality of business, with its ups and downs.
There are also other splendid books on the market, and, indeed, some of them are still sitting on my shelf, waiting for me to find the time to read them (Hmmm… I think a book on “cloning yourself to improve productivity” could be a good addition too). What have you read recently that you thought was just a terrific must-read book?
Note: this page is also using the enhanced product previews capability from Amazon.com, currently in beta. Make sure you hover your cursor over the names of the books to see what happens. Doesn’t seem to work with all browsers, but when it does, well, cool, isn’t it?

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