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

Previous Issues


Five Past Midnight in Bhopal: the Epic Story of the World's Deadliest Industrial Disaster
by Dominique Lapierre and Javier Moro. Warner Books, 2002

It is not often that among our business books in the library we find one that can move you to tears and outrage, but this one surely will do that, as well as educate you about what is considered to be the worst industrial accident in history. On the windy night of December 11, 1984, in the ancient and beautiful city of Bhopal, India, a Union Carbide plant released a giant cloud of some of the most toxic gases known to man. This blew through the most heavily populated areas of the city, among them the teeming shantytowns surrounding the factory, a train station packed with passengers, and several large wedding celebrations. An estimated sixteen thousand people died agonizing and horrific deaths on the spot, and more than half a million suffered from the effects. Today, over 25 years later, there are still some one hundred and fifty thousand Bhopalis chronically ill as a result of the accident.

How did this happen? The Frenchman and the Spaniard that wrote "Five Past Midnight" could easily have portrayed this event as the inevitable outcome of wicked American corporate interests in the third world. However, they manage to remain even-handed in their portrayal of Union Carbide as a company with the best intentions. The plant in Bhopal was designed to produce the pesticide Sevin, developed as an environmentally safe alternative to DDT, a "miracle product" that would be "a weapon in the hands of all the farmers of the world." The authors use their powerfully evocative style to bring to life the misery of subsistence farmers ruined by insect infestations, as well as the personal goodwill shown by many "Carbide" managers and employees who also hope to bring stable employment, decent working conditions, and a safe and modern facility to a needy population. The company's safety policies were legendary.

But that eloquence is brought to bear most strongly in an unforgettable portrayal of the victims of this tragedy, as well as the individuals whose fatal errors in ultimately eroding the plant's safety standards were all too human. The forcefulness of this book comes from giving a human face - or rather, many human faces - to the history of the event. Generally only in novels do you meet such memorable characters as the tender bride Padmini who as a child narrowly escapes from a prostitution ring, and who is almost burnt alive on the gigantic funeral pyre; Ganga Ram, the resourceful leper who manages to finagle the first television the slum dwellers ever see; the saintly Scotswoman Sister Felicity, one of India's unheralded Mother Teresas; the smooth Argentine Eduardo Muņoz, who enthusiastically promotes Sevin to the Indian market as he slowly discovers the deadly dangers involved in its production; to name only a few. The texture of their lives is so vividly conveyed that as the inevitable tragedy approaches, you are swept into the story full of sympathy and foreboding.

We Americans, after the September 11 attacks, sadly know what it is to be witness to the dreadful killing of thousands of innocents. For those who want to help, the book concludes with information about an organization founded by Mr. Lapierre that funds humanitarian projects in India. Half of the royalties for this book go to support this fund.

50 Plus! Critical Career Decisions for the Rest of Your Life
by Robert L. Dilenschneider. Citadel Press, 2002.

Here is a manual for those of us entering our second half-century, and who find ourselves increasingly left out of the loop. The author, former CEO of Hill and Knowlton - one of the largest public relations firms in the world - and now head of his own consulting PR company, is a clear-headed and perceptive observer of emerging business trends, with a sense of how to take hold of them. He also knows what it takes to have an appealing image and an effective presentation.

Dilenschneider offers valuable advice for the many scenarios facing people over fifty. First he urges the over-fifty group to find ways to understand and connect to younger generations. Specific instructions for bridging the generation gap are: don't patronize, listen without being judgmental, don't force yourself into their milieu and keep up by reading a variety of magazines. Try to "think of yourself as a tourist in the country of the young."

For people over fifty longing for a new occupation, there is good advice and inspiration. Ask yourself, "isn't there something else I can do?" Dilenschneider offers compelling examples of radical career changes, including the lawyer who left the legal profession to start an antiques business with his wife, or the radiologist who loved photography and combined his two interests by becoming a catalog photographer for medical equipment companies.

Would-be entrepreneurs will also find value in 50 Plus! The author highlights the key issues in valuing a business for those considering becoming their own boss. If you are taking the consultant route, there is succinct advice on developing a client list, sending out "cold" letters, educating yourself about your market, and following up leads. However, he cautions that if you are seeking more freedom, starting your own business is not the way to achieve it. If you are looking for independence and creativity, forget about franchises. And if you are a consultant, you are always on call.

Regardless of whether you are changing jobs or creating a new one, don't underestimate yourself. Aim high. Dilenschneider above all emphasizes the satisfaction that can be achieved in the second half of your life, if you are canny and adaptable. If you're over 50, you may not have noticed, but the rules have changed! This book tells how to understand them and employ them to craft an even better half-century for yourself.

Secrets of Six-Figure Women; Surprising Strategies to UP Your Earnings and Change Your Life
by Barbara Stanny. HarperCollins, 2002.

One morning, Barbara Stanny's literary agent suggested that she write a book about women who make a lot of money, six figures or more. The author's gut reaction was "Why would I want to interview such women? They sound boring and intimidating." She then stopped in her tracks-could this attitude be the reason why she never made much money? The agent was rushing on. "I would love to know more about these women." "I would too," Stanny heard herself saying. The result is Stanny's distillation of interviews with over 150 women whose annual incomes range from $100,000 to $7 million.

From her interviews of female high earners (not just executives but women from a variety of professions), Stanny derived seven strategies that characterize financially successful women, and shows how using them can lead to higher incomes and increased self-esteem. She also reminds the reader that along the way there are often moments of self-doubt, even citing how as she was writing this book, she dealt with her own lack of confidence. She narrates how she turned her initial negativism around, and found ways to boost her income at the same time.

The bottom line seems to be attitude. After examining the situations of those whom Stanny calls "underearners", she encourages women to give up their traditionally timid and accepting ways in the workplace and to start to adopt more positive approaches. In the author's words, she wants to "open up a groove in your brain, to persuade you to stop settling for less and start opting for more." She believes that women can use her techniques not only to boost their income but also to personally grow in a profound way. The focus is on fulfilling one's values which is often accompanied by financial gain.

A number of books advise women on investing; this book addresses how to make more money in the first place. Through interesting narrations, exhortations, rules, questions, strategies, and even a handy list of "my favorite women's financial sites," this author will engage and challenge you, and may even send you up the income ladder.

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Also recommended are:

The Pretender: How Martin Frankel Fooled the Financial World and Led the Feds on One of the Most Publicized Manhunts in History
by Ellen Joan Pollock. Simon & Schuster, 2002.

Investing: The Last Liberal Art
by Robert G. Hagstrom. Texere, 2002.

Living on the Fault Line: Managing for Shareholder Value in Any Economy, Revised Edition
by Geoffrey A. Moore. HarperBusiness, 2002.

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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