What I’ve Been Reading

1. Yes: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Robert Cialdini et al. I’ve recommended Cialdini’s book Influence to dozens of people — it belongs in everyone’s library. Yes is his latest book. It’s 50 short chapters with 50 easy social psych lessons on persuasion. Think of it as a compendium of all the recent findings in the field, and a brush-up on the more classic studies that Cialdini cited in his first book. I found this book quick, entertaining, and stimulating. Recommended.

2. Questions that Sell: The Powerful Process for Discovering What Your Customer Really Wants by Paul Cherry. On the surface this appears to be just another cheesy sales book. It’s not. Insofar as you believe that asking really good questions is a key part of success in sales, then this book should absolutely be part of your toolkit. Cherry reviews what makes a good question by categorizing them and offering tons of examples around each. For example, if you want to uncover the customer’s real problem, what do you ask? If you want to overcome a price objection with a question, what do you say? I posted full notes and examples over at Book Outlines.

3. McCain’s Promise by David Foster Wallace. The expanded version of the essay he wrote in 2000 for Rolling Stone magazine about John McCain’s campaign against Governor Bush. This is not Wallace’s best essay but there are still some outstanding points made about John McCain’s story and the paradoxes of his Straight Talk Express: Can you sell the fact that you can’t be sold? “Is it hypocritical that one of McCain’s ads’ lines in South Carolina is ‘Telling the truth even when it hurts him politically,’ which of course since it’s an ad means that McCain is trying to get political benefit out of his indifference to political benefit?”

4. The Entertainment Economy by Michael Wolf. Nearly nine years old, this is a bit dated but still was interesting coming from one of the more influential thinkers on the intersection of web and traditional media. The paragraph below about the distracting nature of sexual imagery was hilarious:

On March 21, 1997, between 12:32 and 12:36 PM, in the midst of a heavy trading period, volume on the New York Stock Exchange fell by a stomach-jolting 37 percent. What could explain this nosedive in the daily trading frenzy? There were no assassinations, no wars, no earthquakes, not even a peep out of Alan Greenspan. What happened was a feature story on CNBC. …At 12:32 it aired a four-minute special [graphic] report on cybersex. Wall Street pretty much stopped dead in its tracks, so much so that the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange called Bill Bolster, the president of CNBC, and said, “If you guys are ever going to do something like that again, please give me a heads up.

5. A Matter of Interpretation by Justice Antonin Scalia. A very accessible introduction to Scalia’s originalism and textualism, with response essays from eminent scholars and a final reply by Scalia. Worthwhile for any novice interested in constitutional interpretation or the jurisprudence of the modern Supreme Court.

6. Active Liberty by Justice Stephen Breyer. This was meant as a reply to Scalia’s book and presents a contrasting judicial philosophy. While I’m not sure where I stand on the content of either Scalia’s or Breyer’s book, I found Breyer’s book harder to read. There are probably better written books on the topic.

3 comments on “What I’ve Been Reading
  • Ben
    Re the last two consider also reading Nine. Never would I have thought that reading about the supreme court could be so engrossing.
    I can’t think of another author who could have come nearly as close to writing this book that covers the history of the court, the personalities and – oh yes – the politics (more than I want to believe)… a real wake-up call re when the net judge is appointed.

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