Business Law Blog

Joe's Suggested Reading List

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Like many of you, my ride to work in the morning is long and can feel like a giant waste of time. I have tried many diversions and distractions like riding my bicycle the 18 miles to work or taking the local RTD (Denver's transit system) and both of those tools have been useful. However, starting in March 2015, I discovered a way to make the commute, however I was making it, more enjoyable and useful; reading business management books on my commute.

I downloaded Audible and Overdrive to my smartphone and began listening to books on my way into work. Before anyone yells at me, I know I am likely late to the party on this idea. However, for me, this was an absolute game changer. The nuggets I found in the list of books below, felt too good to keep to my self. They have helped forge a new perspective on business and leadership. Some of the material has proven affirming (I felt like I was doing the right thing, even if I didn't know why) and some of it turned what I believed on its head. For those who are wondering, "yes," this is a full-throated endorsement of these books and a small, but meaningful insight into the type of culture I am very interested in instilling in my organization.

As the founder and majority shareholder of a law firm, I view myself as a small business owner first and a lawyer second. Don't get me wrong, I take representing my clients very seriously but so that I continue to be of value to my clients, I have to pay at least as much attention to the business of law as I do the practice. Of course, running a small law firm is time consuming and leaves very little time for the other important things in my life like spending quality time with my family and taking care of myself physically. So, I have had to look for small ways to inject efficiency into my day, in order to make room for everything.

Leaders Eat Last: Simon Sinek

leaders eat last One of my favorites, Sinek takes some guidance from military leaders and applies it to corporate leadership.

Start wth why: Simon Sinek

start with why I actually read (listened to) this one before, “Leaders Eat Last.” The book forced me as a founder to ask the important question of why I founded my firm in the first place.

The tipping point: Malcom Gladwell

Tipping-Point This book does an excellent job of explaining the phenomenon behind trends that stick.   It demystified, at least for me, the factors that contribute to the momentum that eventually leads to success.

Elon musk: Ashlee Vance

elon musk (1) Ms. Vance is not a Musk sycophant eager to praise the billionaire entrepreneur.  Rather, she gives a fairly balanced look at the life of successful business leader, who arguably succeeded on genius, despite his eccentricities. 

zero to one: Peter Thiel with Blake Masters

zero-to-one-1 From the co-founder of PayPal and a leader in Angel Financing, this book was great practically and theoretically.  I enjoyed it a great deal.  The narration was a little hard to take, but it easy to understand after reading this, why and how Peter Thiel has been as successful as he has been.

getting to yes: Roger Fisher and William Ury

getting to yes-1 I actually got to read this one twice.  It was a recommended read on Audible based on my other downloads and then it was assigned reading in my LLM program.  Very pragmatic in its approach to reaching a compromise even in adversarial situations.  As an attorney, this was particularly useful for negotiating settlements.

turn the ship around!: L. David Marquet

turn-the-ship-around-1 Marquet was a captain on a submarine with more than its share of problems.  Using a leadership style that went beyond empowerment to emancipation, he turned the vessel and its crew into one of the Navy’s finest.  Great content.  Narration was so-so.

good to great: Jim Collins

good-to-great-1 One of my first books in business leadership and I am glad it was. Collins’ research lends credibility to his findings, even when the companies that are the subject of his studies fall short of expectations.  Great illustrative stories and easy to latch onto concepts like the “hedgehog concept.”

great by choice: Jim Collins and Morton T. Hansen

Great-By-Choice-1 I have to admit, I got kind of hooked on Collins after “Good to Great,” and this title was a natural follow on.  This book focused on companies and their leaders who had moved through adversity to build extraordinary companies.  “Level 5” leadership was my favorite concept from this book.

entreleadership: Dave Ramsey

entreleadership-1 This book actually got the process started for me in becoming a student of the craft of being a business owner.  The timing of my reading the book was perfect, because the firm was going through some tough financial times and Ramsey is an advocate of “tough love” when it comes to being a disciplined business leader.  My only regret was not reading the book before founding the firm.  I think I could have avoided some painful missteps.

the snowball: Alice Schroeder

the snowball-1 Who doesn’t want to know more about the “Oracle from Omaha?”  North of 800 pages in text, the audio version is over 37 hours long and worth the week of reading (and of course I mean listening).  There were no shortcuts listed and Buffett certainly wouldn’t win and “Cult of Personality” awards. The book was a tribute to hard work, discipline, and trusting the principles that brought you success in the first place.

decisive: Chip Heath and Dan Heath

decisive-1 Here I found a very utilitarian book on the process of decision making.  Interestingly, the book starts by pooh-poohing what is conventionally referred to as the “Benjamin Franklin” decision making process.  It then unpacks some useful tools for making big decisions.

built to last: Jim Collins

built to last-1 This was the first of Jim Collin’s books, but it was never released in Audible format.  So, I had to actually check it out of the library and ended up reading it last.  Having already read three other tests by Collins, there was not a lot new here, but it was a good refresher.

the 5 choicesKory Kogon, Adam Merrill and Leena Rinne

5 choices-1 What you would expect from Franklin Covey Co., excellent tools for time management and task prioritization.  I am one of those people that needed a system for dealing with the barrage of messages and emails I get every day and this book helped.  There is still room for improvement, but I have made some progress.

blink: Malcolm Gladwell

blink This book explains the thinking we do before we think. It also teaches when and when not to rely on our first impressions like “the election of Warren Harding; New Coke; and the shooting of Amadou Diallo by police.”

the power of habit: Charles Duhigg

power of habit Duhigg gets at what it takes to build good habits and break bad habits. The science of will power, triggers, and how to break cycles and create new ones.  This book has more personal than business applications, but is still valuable.

delivering happiness: Tony Hseih

delivering happiness This is the story of the founding of Zappos, the world’s largest online shoe retailer.  The start of the book is largely anecdotal, but it picks up in the middle.  Most interesting is how Hseih lays bare his company’s corporate philosophy of letting employees be themselves and contribute to the company’s culture.

smarter faster better: Charles Duhigg

smarter faster better This book was born of the authors frustration of not being able to manage his time efficiently.  This was impressive considering Duhigg has written at least two national best sellers on this list.  The real life examples of “how we think” meaning more than “what we think.”

relentless: Tim S. Grover

relentless Honestly, not my favorite. There are certainly some good talking points here about the power of perseverance, but the author comes off really self-important; The players he holds out as extraordinary are, of course, legendary.  That was, honestly, the most interesting part of the book.

grit: Angela Duckworth

Grit This is one of my favorite books of the year, maybe of all time. The work is a result of years of study by the author and her peers in the field of clinical psychology and neuropsychology.  I found it riveting, useful, and most importantly practicable.

extreme ownership: Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

extreme ownership Jocko and Leif are great storytellers and their stories are worth hearing.  My hope is that no business owner would need their sage advise for too long.  Their wartime experiences and resulting high intensity leadership style seems most useful in extreme periods of stress or crisis.  Very enjoyable book overall.

the 5 levels of leadership: John C. Maxwell

The 5 Levels of Leadership Mr. Maxwell does a good job covering his versions of the Five Levels of Leadership from "positional" to "pinnacle."  My favorite part of the book was actually near the end where the author details some of the leadership lessons he learned from his relationship with UCLA coaching legend John Wooden.

smart collaboration: Heidi Gardner

smartcollaboration This book makes a very compelling argument for knowledge firms breaking down barriers to communication and sharing ideas and strategies.  It also makes a strong case for why clients of knowledge firms should want to pay for collaborative efforts.

managing the professional service firM: David Maister

managing the professional services This book is a soup-to-nuts text on starting, marketing, and managing the professional services firm.  The author is a Harvard professor who does an excellent comparative analysis of the firms he's advised over the years.  It's not sexy, but it is very informative.

influence: the psychology of persuasion: Robert B. Cialdini

influence This book covers the science of persuasion, but is not a "how-to."  Rather, it does a very good job of explaining why we give in to certain behavioral pressures, even when we make our mind up in advance to defend against such measures.

the speed of trust: Steven M.R. Covey 

the speed of trust Stephen Covey discusses the linear relationship between the speed of progress in an organization and the level of trust inside that organization. The book also covers how creating trust with customers and clients can help speed up transactions and lower the overall costs

the serendipity mindset: Dr. Christian Busch 

serendipity mindset[1]

Dr. Busch does a deep dive on creating serendipity in our personal and business lives.  While "creating good-luck" may sound like a gimmicky concept, the data the book present indicates that risk taking and vulnerability can lead to more positive opportunities.

eyes wide open: Isaac Lidsky

eyes wide open

Isaac was a teenage TV star who later lost his sight, went on to law school, clerked for the Supreme Court, started a multi-million dollar business, and then wrote a book about how losing his sight really taught him to see life as clearly as he could have ever imagined.  This book does a good job telling that story and teaching the lessons Mr. Lidsky learned.

the five dysfunctions of a team: Patrick Lencioni

5 dysfunctions of a team

This book does a really practical job, through illustration, or teaching the reader about the perils that easily beset leadership teams.  The examples come from a fictitious tech start-up that is loaded with talent and money, but lacking in focus and teamwork. 

drive: Daniel Pink


Daniel Pink describes himself as a trained lawyer who now writes for a living.  Drive is about Motivation 3.0, which includes autonomy, purpose, and mastery.  This book does a good job debunking the myths of "if/then" reward systems and advocates for cutting edge business practices like "ROW" (results only workplaces). It was thought provoking, to say the least. 

when: Daniel Pink


I was so impressed by Daniel Pink's "Drive" that I decided to go with another of his monosyllabic titles "When." This text handles the "when" of problems, rather than the "what?" You will ask yourself questions after reading this book like, "should I do this now or wait until the afternoon?" and "Are my high-schoolers going to school to early, if the job is really to learn?"  I am a fan of Pink's work now after two books.


About the AuthorJoe Whitcomb

Joe Whitcomb is the founder and president of Whitcomb, Selinsky, PC (WSM). In addition, he manages the firm and heads up the Government Procurement and International Business Transactions Law sections. As a result of his military service as a U.S. Army Ranger and as a non-commissioned officer in the Air Force, he learned mission accomplishment. While serving in the Air Force, he earned his Bachelor’s in Social Sciences and a Master’s in International Relations. His Master’s emphasis was on National Security and International Political Economics. After his military career, Joe attended law school at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.