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"The Book on Business"
August 2003
by the Business Librarians at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Previous Issues


The Best Business Stories of the Year, 2003 Edition
Edited by Andrew Leckey and Allen Sloan. Vintage Books, 2003.

If you enjoy excellent business writing but start to glaze over the minute you hear phrases like "P/E ratio," this book - a selection of significant and interesting pieces of business journalism over the last year - is for you. As co-editor Allan Sloan rightfully observes, "At their best, business stories are just that: stories. They tell a tale or make a point but don't beat you over the head with business-ese. They just pull you along."

While corporate scandal is the most well represented story, the variety of subjects offered here defies stereotypes of what business writing is all about. "Yes We Have No Profits" tells the sorry riches-to-rags tale of Chiquita Banana, while Fortune reporter Carlye Adler analyzes whether it's worth paying the $2 million Krispy Kreme franchising fee. (It is.) Slate's Rob Walker provides a laugh-out-loud account of the state of his existence in "My Pro Forma Life" (sample: "I encourage you to focus on these pro forma results as a truer portrait of the state of my health than 'traditional measures,' which suggest that I have been dead for at least a year.").

The Wall Street Journal makes as much sense of Enron as anyone can hope for in 13 pages while the St. Petersburg Times sniffs out a sordid link between the Church of Scientology and a multi-billion dollar, publicly traded company. Maybe the single most impressive moment in the anthology comes courtesy of Malcolm Gladwell (of Tipping Point fame) who in "Smaller" takes Moore's Law one step further by successfully drawing a parallel between the evolution of the disposable diaper and the development of the microchip.

The thirty stories in this anthology offer a captivating review of the highlights and lowlights of the recent business world. They cover everything from the logistics of truck driving to Slinky manufacturing, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Speaking of icebergs, did you know they're harvested for vodka? See "The Iceberg Wars" p. 109.

Writing Effective E-mail: Improving Your Electronic Communication (rev. ed)
by Nancy Flynn and Tom Flynn. Crisp Publications, 2003.

Can you imagine how the business world ever functioned without e-mail? It wasn't that long ago that telephone calls, personal meetings, inter-office memos, and "snail mail" were the only means of communicating with employees, colleagues and customers. Now e-mail can get your message to one or thousands of intended recipients in a matter of seconds. It's efficient, timesaving, and so easy to use. But, like many other things that are almost too good to be true, it can lead to situations potentially disastrous for the unwary user.

This is why WRITING EFFECTIVE E-MAIL is a must-read for everyone who sends and receives e-mail in a business setting. We know, but often forget, that electronic messages are neither secure nor confidential. Your employer can monitor them at any time. You can be fired for sending offensive jokes and photos on your office computer, sued for defaming the company, and can seriously embarrass yourself (and damage your career) by revealing personal information that you wouldn't necessarily want to share with everyone in your company and beyond. There are numerous examples of real-life e-disasters here that will make you think twice before sending a message that could come back to haunt you.

Much e-mail is simply deleted before it is read - the subject line is vague, it is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, or it takes forever to get to the point. The authors offer many suggestions, examples, and exercises to help you become a more efficient e-communicator (which, incidentally, will come in handy for any kind of communication.) You'll learn a method for organizing your thoughts before you write, how to compose a subject line that captures the reader's attention (not be mistaken for spam), and how to convey your main point vividly and clearly.

Issues you may never have considered are neatly dealt with, such as how to compose gender-neutral messages without offending recipient "he's" or "she's", why cc's, "urgent", and "notify when read" options should be used with care, and the pros and cons of sending attachments. Numerous tips for controlling "in-box clutter" will help everyone who suffers from information overload. Employers in search of ideas for setting up company-wide e-mail policies and writing style guidelines will find them here and on the authors' useful website, www.epolicyinstitute.com. Sensible "netiquette" maxims abound: "write as though Mom, or an elevator crowded with colleagues or customers were reading your message" and "don't always let e-mail take the place of personal contact."

Presented in the no-nonsense, efficient style that its authors recommend, this book is designed to function as a teaching tool, and includes exercises and quizzes. It is part of the internationally known Crisp Learning series of training products, designed to relay their wisdom in no more than 50 minutes! Take this quick course to e-success.

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Also recommended are:

The Erotic History of Advertising
by Tom Reichert. Prometheus Books, 2003.

Dirty Rotten CEOs: How Business Leaders Are Fleecing America
by William G. Flanagan. Citadel Press, 2003.

Contact the business librarians, who also answer questions about business, money, and work, at (412) 281-7141 or at www.carnegielibrary.org/locations/downtown/contact.cfm.


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