On the back page of this month's Fast Company, Elizabeth Spiers takes venomous aim at Business Books, which she calls "the modern era's second-worst literary promulgator of intelligence reduction."
"Contrary to what your parents and teachers told you." she jabs, "reading does not necessarily make you smarter."
As a perhaps-too-fervent reader (and sometimes writer) of the said literary works, I would be incensed if I only knew what "promulgator" meant. Okay, I kid.
While Elizabeth has a point (indeed many biz books are repetitive, uninspiring and propagate theories that are obsolete by the time you plod through the volume), it's unfair to tar the entire genre with the same poisonous brush. Like the diverse array of novels at our reach (which Elizabeth is about to delve into with the release of her first "And They All Die In The End"), the biz book shelves are stocked not just with the regrettable and forgettable, but the well-intentioned and the classics. Giving up on them would be like abandoning the drinking of wine after being disappointed by a few five-buck bottles of plonk.
But I came here not to bury Elizabeth, but to praise Jospeh Jaffe, Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton, three biz book authors who do the field proud. And for different reasons.
Joseph just released Join The Conversation, his second great thought-provoker (following in the footsteps of "Life After the 30-Second Spot"). There are those in the biz book world who regurgitate the current jargon; Jaffe helps create and add relevance to it. He's a different kind of smart.
The book is a breezy read, filled with brand-name examples (both widely well-known and uniquely personal) and pertinent illustrations. But what sets it apart from the type that Spiers rails against, is the depth of its subject matter (marketing as conversation and vice-versa), and the way it exploits it to explain it. In other words, the book itself is more a conversation than a lesson, a list of rules, a pedantic Harvard treatise or a self-obsessed rant. And the way in which Joseph has chosen to market it--reaching out to the marketing community and harnessing the social media power of his connections--shrewdly proves his hypothesis. Prophecies have rarely been this self-fulfilling.
Followers of his popular blog JaffeJuice or clients of his innovation agency crayon may find some of what's inside Join The Conversation somewhat familiar...but unfortunately, not everyone reads marketing blogs or has the guts to hire a guy like Joseph. This is one of those books that will pop the eyes of newbies, allow us usual suspects to follow along with a wink of recognition...and perhaps give Elizabeth Spiers second thoughts. You can pick it up by clicking here.
But even if Spiers has a most carbonized hard-ass, she has to find a bit of love in her heart for the work of Drew and Gavin. Last year, they launched The Age of Conversation (that's a heckuva lotta conversations on the bookshelves, dontcha think?), a collective of 103 marketing writers from 12 countries (including a most honored yours truly), where everyone contributed for free and donated all proceeds of the project to Variety , The Children's Charity.
Well last week, the most dynamic of duos announced The Age of Conversation 2: Why People Don't Get It, which has attracted close to 300 potential authors to its swelling pages. Details on release date et al will be coming soon, so check this space.
In the meantime, if you STILL haven't picked up your copy, I'm urging and imploring you to HOLD OFF until March 29th, when the authors and friends are gathering together for a Bum Rush on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other book retailers. The Bum Rush was initiated by Chris Wilson of freshpeel, so I think it's only fitting to send you and some link-love over to him to find out the greater details and reasons why.
So there we go, Elizabeth. We biz folks may not be writing War and Peace, but with initiatives such as The Age of Conversation, at least some of us are trying to end the former and bring about the latter.