Talking Books

“Reading is a conversation. All books talk. But a good book listens as well.” Mark Haddon

“Reading is a conversation. All books talk.

But a good book listens as well.”

Mark Haddon


The above quotation by award-winning novelist Mark Haddon (author of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time”), expresses perfectly the way I felt when I read Richard Koch’s 1997 masterwork The 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More with Less for the first (but by no means the last) time.

It was the first book I had ever read from cover to cover.

This book alone acted as the maximizer of our family firm’s business efficiency. It ‘talked’ to my soul, nourished my brain and ‘listened’ to my thoughts and concerns. The most precious lesson I learnt during my journey through its pages was that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Although I learned about it from Richard Koch, he did not invent the 80/20 Principle. It was already 100 years old and known as the Pareto Principle, after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. Pareto noted the 80/20 connection in 1896, when he saw that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. He later developed the principle by observing that about 20% of the peapods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.

When applied to our family business, it revealed that, indeed, 80% of our sales came from 20% of our customers. Similarly, 20% of our debtors were responsible for 80% of the money owed to us.

The book was an incredible revelation. We could now focus the majority of our efforts on the top 20% of our customers, which, according to Pareto, would lead us to even more profitable and successful outcomes. We adopted the 80/20 Principle and the results were impressive.

But the real revelation did not concern Koch’s book exclusively. It was thanks to him that I finally understood that the best way to get smarter is to read. And read a lot. And then read some more. It is no coincidence that when the celebrated American business magnate, investor and philanthropist Warren Buffet was asked about the secret of his success, he pointed to a stack of nearby books and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That's how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it." Buffet has estimated that he spends 80% of his waking hours reading.   

Five Books that have Impacted My Life

All of us start our day with 1440 minutes. Even if we have nothing else in life, at least we have these 1440 minutes, so we should invest them wisely. According to Warren Buffet and from my own experience of reading the “The 80/20 Principle”, we should all be investing a considerable amount of time in reading books (or, for my younger followers, in reading valuable material online!).

Listed below are five recommended business titles that have impacted my life:

1. “The Ultimate Sales Machine” by Chet Holmes

This book will be a classic for as long as businesses seek to improve their profits, their sales, and their future. It is by far the best sales book that I have ever read. From advice about being more productive to hiring great staff, it is filled with excellent strategies for every aspect of your business and life. Definitely one of my all-time Top Five.

2. “Speak to Win” by Brian Tracy

This book, which kicked-started my professional speaking career, is one of the most comprehensive and easy-to-read books on communication and presentation skills. As John Maxwell said, “Everyone communicates but few people connect”. By reading this book, you will increase your chances of connecting with your chosen audience.

3. “The Apple Experience” by Carmine Gallo

If you manage people or are in contact with customers, this is a must-read book. Filled with examples of great customer service experiences, it is an engaging guide to the thought process behind the emotional experience of an Apple store. Learn from the best! The lessons gained by reading this book can definitely transform your organisation.

4. “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy

Presenting a brilliant formula for living an extraordinary life, it is the new self-improvement ‘Bible’ that will help you climb the ladder of success three steps at a time. The ‘secret’ here – which worked for me and can work for you too – is to implement in practice what you learn by reading the book, which acts both as a manual and well as a fascinating read.

5. “Monster Loyalty” by Jackie Huba

I never thought that I would learn anything about customer loyalty from Lady Gaga! I can hum “Poker Face” but that was the extent of my interest until I discovered that the singer has a remarkable strategy for attracting and keeping her fans loyal. As the person who gifted me this book wrote in the dedication: “A great book on customer evangelism! I was never a Gaga fan until I read this book. Enjoy it.” You will too.

Reading books not only makes you smarter but it also helps you develop your verbal abilities, better your focus and concentration, use your imagination, look more interesting and thus more attractive, while reducing stress and improving your memory.

So what are you waiting for? Get reading today! I know that you are unlikely to have time to read Warren Buffet’s recommended 500 pages a day but I can promise you that any good book with which you decide to have a ‘conversation’ is bound to have a positive and inspiring effect on you and your work.