Three Things I Learn from Kindle Highlights of The 100 Best

I have been thinking about a new recommendation project for business books.

To research that, I have been looking at the feedback we got on The 100 Best Business Books of All Time and one of the more interesting feedack loops are the Kindle highlights readers made in the book.

Searching Amazon’s Kindle site, I found a total of 37 highlights.

The data is not perfect. I had to combine some of the citations because the selections were duplicates.

Below I have listed the passages below that were highlighted more than 10 times:

  1. “Effective executives do first things first and they do one thing at a time.” – The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker (42)
  2. Drucker argues that rather than doing things right, knowledge workers must strive for effectiveness by doing the right things. – The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker (41)
  3. “Effective leaders do first things first and they do one thing at a time.” The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker (36)
  4. Three common time sponges that need to be considered include: “doing things that don’t need to be done, doing things that could be better done by others, and doing things that require others to do unnecessary things.” – The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker (35)
  5. Flow is “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” – Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (33)
  6. THE SEVEN HABITS 1. Be Proactive 2. Begin with the End in Mind 3. Put First Things First 4. Think Win/Win 5. Seek First to Understand . . . Then to Be Understood – The 7 Habits of Highly The Effective People by Stephen Covey (32)
  7. “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader.” Leadership is An Art by Max De Pree (20)
  8. “To ask, ‘What can I contribute?’ is to look at the unused potential in the job,” Drucker writes. He believes that communication, teamwork, self-improvement, and development of others all become natural extensions of contribution. – The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker (18)
  9. Leadership is at its best when “the vision is strategic, the voice persuasive, the results tangible.” – The Leadership Moment by Michael Useem (18)
  10. “The Effective executives do first things first and they do one thing at a time.” – The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker (17)
  11. ‘What values, personality traits, or characteristics do you look for and admire in a leader?’ ” Twenty characteristics captured the wide range of responses, and four of them came up consistently: honest, forward-looking, inspiring, and competent. – The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner (17)

There are a number of things that are interesting:

First, people love Drucker. More than half of the passages above came from our review of The Effective Executive. And the publishing marketplace reflects that with other books like The Daily Drucker, The Drucker Lectures, The Definitive Drucker and Inside Drucker’s Brain.

Second, all of these highlights come from the categories of personal development and leadership (which you could make a case for also being personal development). Again, no surprise here: personal development and leadership are #1 and #2 in the business book category.

The most important learning though is that every passage above contains the original words of the author. Most highlights are direct quotes that we used in the review of the book. A few of the quotes paraphrase, but capture the essence of what the author was saying. One popular highlight is the 7 habits from The 7 Habits.

This pattern is consistent with feedback from the lower rated reviews of The 100 Best that say Jack and I talked too much about the books and not what was inside the books.

It’s funny, because this is the same hangup I have with book summaries and how often I am reading someone else’s interpretation of the book and not what the book actually says.

I wanted people to be able to read The 100 Best and be conference room literate, meaning that they knew the main ideas in the book, but what this feedback shows is that being able to use the exact language the author did is just as important.

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