Wednesday, September 16, 2009

9-16-09: Books About Business

I have a habit of starting to read a book, then switching to another book, then another, and another, until eventually I sit down in one or two sittings and finish the rest of one of the books. Right now I have two that are in the more "rapid pace" cycle: Atlas Shrugged and The Smartest Guys in the Room.

I inherited both books from my late grandfather. I actually remember him reading The Smartest Guys in the Room a few years ago when I was visiting him one weekend at his home in Framingham, MA (I went to college in nearby Worcester). The lesson he tried to teach me from the book wasn't "be moral" or "don't defraud people out of millions or billions of dollars." It was: "Patrick, you need to go to Harvard if you want to get an MBA worth anything." He kept on it for some time.

I think he admired Jeff Skilling. My grandfather was a self-made millionaire, working hard and earning a Master's degree taking night classes for years. To make his admiration of Skilling even more peculiar was the fact that my grandfather was a CPA. He never commented on whether Skilling or Kenneth Lay were crooks. He did think they were quite brilliant. I'm about 1/3 of the way through that one.

The other book is the more famous, and epic, novel Atlas Shrugged by the great writer Ayn Rand. It was written in the 1950's, but it's pretty timeless. It's about a lot of things, but mostly industry. It brings in a lot of concepts like what it means to be human, to be charitable (in many different ways), and what it really means to be greedy. I'm about as far into this one as the other book, but I've found the parallel reading effort to be pretty interesting. Both books involve hard workers. Both involve brilliant men and women, competing against each other in major industries. One simply happens to be a work of fiction. The other: we only wish.

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