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Bigwigs' Summer Reading Choices Don't Necessarily Go by the Book

June 08, 1997|MARTHA GROVES

Summertime, and the reading is easy. What do the corporate biggies stack beside their beach chairs? Is it the latest Danielle Steel, Tom Clancy or John Grisham? Or are the best business brains occupied with something loftier? Let's take a peek:

* Tom Peters, management consultant and co-author of "In Search of Excellence": He took 10 books on his recent whirlwind speaking tour through Monaco, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Australia. The fiction included "Collected Stories of Wallace Stegner"; Paul Theroux's "Kowloon Tong," which, Peters says, is a better take on the Hong Kong hand-over than any nonfiction work; Joan Didion's "The Last Thing He Wanted," about a newspaper reporter who inherits her father's role as an arms dealer; Britisher Philip Kerr's thriller "Esau," about the discovery of the Yeti, whom he calls a "missing link" in the development of man.

Peters is also reading the 6-year-old "Poor Richard's Legacy: American Business Values From Benjamin Franklin to Donald Trump," Peter Baida's examination of America's self-help bent. On a plane to Monaco, he raced through "The Synergy Trap: How Companies Lose the Acquisition Game," a nuts-and-bolts analysis by Mark L. Sirower about companies' failure to realize value from mergers.

* Jill Barad, chief executive of Mattel Inc., El Segundo: On a Hawaiian vacation, Barad plans to read Katharine Graham's autobiography, "Personal History," much of which deals with the publisher's leadership of the Washington Post. "She's a real role model for us all," Barad says.

* Danny Villanueva, chairman of Bastion Capital, a Los Angeles venture firm: Not a big fan of fiction, Villanueva leans toward biographies, autobiographies and management tomes. He's reading "The Death of Competition: Leadership and Strategy in the Age of Business Ecosystems," by James F. Moore, a book about how corporate relationships can lead to mutual success. On short airplane hops, he favors "Forbes Greatest Business Stories of All Time," by Daniel Gross and the editors of Forbes magazine. It includes short essays about J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Ray Kroc and other American business mega-stars.

* Fred Rosen, CEO of Ticketmaster Group Inc., Los Angeles: "I'm reading the annual report of Home Shopping Network," he deadpanned. A controlling interest in his firm was recently purchased by Home Shopping's parent company, HSN Inc. Planning a beach vacation in Europe, Rosen bought "The Tenth Justice," by attorney-turned-best-selling author Brad Meltzer. It's about a young lawyer who blabs a Supreme Court decision prematurely and must try to salvage his career.

* Donna Dubinsky, general manager of U.S. Robotics' Palm Computing division in Los Altos: During jaunts to Point Reyes, Calif., and Cape Cod, Mass., Dubinsky will tackle "Morality Play," a medieval murder mystery by Barry Unsworth; "Atticus," by Ron Hansen, a modern version of the parable of the prodigal son; "Bucking the Sun," Ivan Doig's history-laced, Depression-era novel about the building of a dam, with some murders tossed in; and "Chanel: A Woman of Her Own," a biography tracing Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel's rise from the depths of poverty to haute couture. Coco's as close as Dubinsky will get to a management book because she finds most of them "very boring," especially after a steady diet of trade publications and business weeklies.

* Last, but far from least, Peter F. Drucker, management thinker and professor at Claremont Graduate School, in his own words: "I don't take 'vacations.' I just allocate my time differently. And I organize my reading--and learning--year on a 12-month basis, beginning July 1 each year. For the 1997-98 year, I plan to read in two areas--one is always one country's major fiction. In 1996-97, I reread the French 19th century novelists; in 1997-98, I plan to reread the main Russian 19th century novelists. The other area is either history or a major scientific discipline. In 1996-97, I reread the anthropological and sociological classics; in 1997-98, I plan to read--many for the first time--the main books on the history of China. As to business books, I have no plans. I read them when I have to--and never for pleasure."


Does your company have an innovative culture? Tell us about it. Write to Martha Groves, Corporate Currents, Business Section, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053, or e-mail

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