Aide Memoire: The “In Search of Stupidity” reading list

I’ve recently been reading Rick Chapman’s excellent In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High Tech Marketing Disasters on Kindle.

Towards the end of the book there’s a chapter on the avoidance of stupidity. In it he makes the point that an intense study of industry history by corporate management is a necessary, but not sufficient, pre-requisite for successful execution of business programmes. Or, as the relevant section is entitled, “You Shall Study the Past, and the Past Will Make You Less Stupid.”

Now, bearing in mind that the most recent version of In Search of Stupidity as of this writing (mid-2016) was published in 2008 some of the recommended reading may be less relevant than perhaps it was 8 years ago. Still, it’s history, and the past doesn’t change, and I certainly felt like all of the books in Rick’s list would make worthwhile.

I’ve therefore been scouring Amazon for them, and have managed to get hold of all of them, one way or another. For my own reference as much as anything else, I wanted an easy to find copy of the list, along with an indication of which format each book is available in/I’ve bought.

  • Where available, I’ve bought the Kindle edition, regardless of cost – I work away from home a lot so it’s both more convenient and probably better for the environment,
  • Some of the books are (or appear to be) out of print – in these cases I’ve bought them used; most are available at a reasonable price even if the sensibly priced offers aren’t the first in Amazon’s search results,
  • Of the remainder there are good offers on used copies – again, buying used is probably better for the environment, but you also have to consider the issue of author/publisher reimbursement. Regardless, if you’re a student on a budget or whatever, I’d recommend used.

Anyway, here’s the reading list and, by the way, I don’t make any money of these recommendations (in case it would bother you if I did).

Must Reads

Title and Author In Print Kindle
Apple: The inside Story of Intrigue, Egomania, and Business Blunders by Jim Carlton No No
Big Blues: The Unmaking of IBM by Paul Carroll No No
The Dream Machine: J. C. R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal by M. Mitchell Waldrop Yes Yes
Gates: How Microsoft’s Mogul Reinvented an Industry and Made Himself the Richest Man in America by Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews Yes Yes
Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution – 25th Anniversary Edition by Steven Levy Yes Yes
Joel on Software* by Joel Spolsky Yes No
Marketing High Technology: An Insider’s View by William H. Davidow Yes Yes
The Reckoning by David Halberstam Uncertain Yes
Selling Air by Dan Herchenroether No No

*There is also a less well received follow-up.

Recommended Reading

Title and Author In Print Kindle
Beer Blast: The inside Story of the Brewing Industry’s Bizarre Battles for Your Money by Philip Van Munching Uncertain No
On the Firing Line: My 500 Days at Apple by Gil Amelio & William L. Simon No No
Open Source: The Unauthorized White Papers (Professional Mindware) by Donald K. Rosenberg No** No
Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple : A Journey of Adventure, Ideas, and the Future Hardcover by John Sculley with John A. Byrne No*** No
The Product Marketing Handbook for Software by Merrill R. (Rick) Chapman No No
The Second Coming of Steve Jobs by Alan Deutschman Yes Yes
iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business by Jeffrey S. Young & William L. Simon No No
Once Upon a Time in Computerland: The Amazing, Billion-Dollar Tale of Bill Millard by Jonathan Littman No No

**And used copies are fudging expensive, suggesting either a very limited print run, or this really is worth reading.

***And used copies are not expensive at all which, given the 1987 publication date, suggests this may be an interesting cautionary tale on how you shouldn’t write an autobiographical text about how awesome you are until well after the outcomes are known. Of course, I could be wrong, but either way I can’t wait to get my grubby mitts on this.

By the way, if I’ve marked in print availability as uncertain it means that, whilst you might be able to get hold of a new copy of that book, my suspicion is that it’s probably new old stock and that the book may nevertheless be out of print.

Hope you find this useful. If I get time I may post some quick reviews.

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