Recommendations: Great Books To Read At Any Stage of Your Career

A reader asked for some recomendations for students and professionals at the beginning of their accounting /auditing career. These books are good at any point in your career.

I can update this selection periodically.

Let me know what you think.

I read this book while participating in the Harvard Business School “Leading Professional Services Firms” course. Don’t agree with everything in it, but gives a great survey of differences between professionals who excel at selling knowledge versus other products and services.


This was one of the first books given to me by my mentor at KPMG Consulting back in the day…



A great book about Enron by a great journalist. 




The preeminent book about Enron by one of my favorite journalists. Bethany now lives in Chicago with one of the Enron prosecutors!




Barbara Ley Toffler was an experienced hire at Arthur Andersen pre-Enron. She is also one of the top ethics experts in the US. She and I share many of the same impressions of the culture of the firms.



The Enron movie is compelling drama, even more so because it is all true.




 A book written by a former KPMG Communications Director. Gives a view of the firms from that perspective, which is great for marketing, branding, communications professionals to see differences with other industries.





30 replies
  1. Tenacious Truman
    Tenacious Truman says:

    Books is good.

    Here are some that I like.

    1. Final Accounting: Ambition, Greed, and the Fall of Arthur Andersen (Barbara Ley Toffler)

    2. 24 Days: How Two Wall Street Journal Reporters Uncovered the Lies that Destroyed Faith in Corporate America (Rebecca Smith/John Emshwiller)

    3. The Five Dysfunctions of A Team: A Leadership Fable (Patrick Lencioni)

    4. Socratic Selling: How to Ask Questions to Get the Sale (Emmett Wolfe)

    5. The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer (Jeffrey Liker)

    6. Love is the Killer App (Tim Sanders)

    7. The Likeability Factor (Tim Sanders)

    — Tenacious T.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    @FM – might want to spell check your post before the typo mongers start getting at you — I only caught one (Form not From).

    @TT — “Books is good” – huh? And you complain about typos. OK – you are probably joking around (I know you are smarter than that), but I surely cannot tell from the written word. Maybe you shouldn’t criticize the writing/typing of others so quickly if you intend to type “Books is good”.

  3. SocalPizza
    SocalPizza says:


    Yes, TT was making a joke. Jokes is good too on the internets. I hear Internet Explorer 9 will have a sarcasm detection tool… you might want to pick up the beta.

  4. Tenacious Truman
    Tenacious Truman says:

    Anony @ 3 —

    Let me rephrase my comment. “The subject of books is a good one.” Happy now?

    SoCalPizza @ 4 — Thanks bud.

    Anybody want to comment substantively on my book recommendations?

    — Tenacious T.

  5. CasperTheGhost
    CasperTheGhost says:


    Some interesting additions, I will definitely look for 1-3. FM, Consipiracy of Fools and The Smartest Guys in the Room should be required college reading. Preferably in a foreign language, while traveling and as part of a liberal arts education, based on other posts.

    Some other good reads:

    1. Den of Thieves
    2. Liars Poker
    3. Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco
    4. When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management
    5. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

    And some good PBS documentaries for geeky good measure:

    1. The Secret History of Credit Cards –
    2. The Ascent of Money –

    I look forward to more recommendations.

  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I admit – that the types of books listed above simply cannot hold my interest. I am guilty as charged of not reading these topics. But I will offer some of a completely different line of thought:

    1) The Physician, Noah Gordon
    2) Animal Dreams, Barbara Kingsolver
    3) Far Pavillions, MM Kaye
    4) Beach Music, Pat Conroy
    5) The Great Alone, Janet Dailey

  7. Lee
    Lee says:

    These are good-

    1.The World is Flat (Tom Friedman)

    2.No More Mondays (Dan Miller)

    3.Whole New Mind (Daniel Pink)

  8. fm
    fm says:


    The other side of the coin/companion volume to #1 should be 2001 Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz’s “Globalization and Its Discontents.”

    @10 Anon

    I could have a whole post about non-business books that any intelligent college graduate should read to gain a world-view, an open mind, and insight into human relationships. I read business books out of necessity. I should do another post of overrated, blowhard books that aren’t worth the time or money. I read literary fiction, biographies of creative people, poetry, and plays for enjoyment.

  9. 10-key Tramp
    10-key Tramp says:

    @Truman – good call on #1. That was my suggestion.

    I would also recommend: Financial Fine Print – Uncovering a Company’s True Value by Michelle Leder of

  10. Richard
    Richard says:


    Would love to see the list of overrated, blowhard books. That should start a lively discussion thread. Maybe create a new award for overpriced, worthless business writing, similar to the Razzies awards for worst movies. Although I think there are a few exceptions, I nominate any book ghost written for a former Fortune 500 CEO at the top of his notoriety and before the seemingly customary shenanigans he was involved in were exposed.

  11. fm
    fm says:


    Ok, Here’s three for starters:

    Good To Great by Jim Collins ( I would rename it, “Same Old Same Old To Mediocre At Best)
    Execution by Larry Bossidy ( I bought it, got 1/4 through it and wanted to shoot it.)
    Straight From The Gut by Jack Welch (I call it “Side Step Ethics To A Third Wife”)


  12. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    @fm – what do you think of “Play like a man, Win like a woman”. I find the title revolting… can’t imagine reading it. Have you? Anyone else?

  13. fm
    fm says:

    @16 Anonymous

    I don’t like any book, speech, or methodology that breaks down success or failure according to strict gender stereotypes. Yes, environment has a lot to do with ease of success in the future but it’s no guarantee one way or the other and doesn’t have to constrain forever. I know women who are ex-military and had parents in military or diplomatic service and they have the same environmental “advantages” as anyone who grew up playing football. People are different for many different reasons and we should not count on gender to give us all the clues or put value judgements on right or wrong characteristics for “success.” So, this book gets a #FAIL.

  14. beyondthenumbers
    beyondthenumbers says:

    I’m currently reading The Financial Numbers Game, Detecting Creative Accounting Practices by Charles W. Mulford and Eugene E. Comiskey. This looks like a good book for someone who is starting in a financial audit career.

  15. urizen
    urizen says:

    For new accountants —

    1. Intermediate Accounting by Kieso and Weygandt — for the basics (and as a mug stand and coffee table book)
    2. FAS 133 / FIN 46R / FAS 140 / FAS 157 / IAS 39 — read each 10 times including basis for training in depth, judgment, and technical virtuosity
    3. The Holy Bible or other religious work — for ethics and perspective (read continuously, carry prayer beads)
    4. Karl Marx’s Das Capital — accountants should understand the underlying business, clients always complain about this
    5. The Prince by Machiavelli — for strategery

  16. anonymous
    anonymous says:

    @20 – Nice list!! It looks like the prescription for someone aspiring to be the ‘complete accountant’. My public accounting tenure isn’t that long compared to some of the folks who post here so I still somewhat consider myself a “new accountant”, so I’ll give your list a try. How did you come about this list?..

  17. CasperTheGhost
    CasperTheGhost says:

    @urizen – some good ideas there, however to be the complete accountant in the Big 4 I think you need to have some books on “Child Psychology”, “Abnormal Psychology”, “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” and “The Divorce Organizer and Planner” for good measure.

    Any other suggestions for surviving accounting / Big 4 that go beyond accounting/finance ?

  18. urizen
    urizen says:

    @21 — years of prayer, meditation, auditing, and daydreaming. ask yourself, what are the qualities of a good accountant–intelligence, technical proficiency, judgment, a public conscience, fairness? but the greatest of these is fairness. audit failures and rumors of accounting scandal will come and go. people will talk, lawyers will sue, companies will lobby, politics will play out. some people like watching pundits rile up the base on tv, others like public hangings or find a cheap thrill in identifying “the enemy”, “the other”, the hated cartoon picture they draw of their neighbor in their own hearts. physician, heal thyself. while an accountant should follow current events (and even perhaps blogs) they should not get caught up in puerile interests. an accountant should be fair, humble, responsible. pride is a bias incapable of telling the truth, whether in the words of a CEO or a shout in the street. be an example to others. there are no perfect people, but strive for quality. don’t fall for easy social prejudices or bias (left or right). don’t be an inner ringer.

  19. Tenacious Truman
    Tenacious Truman says:

    In honour of urizen —

    Chapter IX —

    1. Then the Inhabitants of those Cities
    Felt their Nerves change into Morrow,
    And hardening Bones began
    In swift diseases and torments,
    In throbbings & shootings & grindings
    Thro’ all the coasts; till weaken’d
    The Senses inward rush’d, shrinking
    Beneath the dark net of infection.

    2. Till the shrunken eyes, clouded over,
    Discern’d not the woven hiprocicy,
    But the streaky slime in their heavens,
    Brought together by narrowing perceptions,
    Appear’d transparent air; for their eyes
    Grew small like the eyes of a man,
    And in reptile forms shrinking together
    Of seven feet stature they remain’d.

    3. Six days they shrunk up from existence,
    And on the seventh day they rested.
    And they bless’d the sevent day, in sick hope,
    And forgot their eternal life.

    4. And their thirty cities divided
    In form of a human heart.
    No more could they rise at will
    In the infinite void but, bound down
    To earth by their narrowing perceptions,
    They lived a period of years,
    Then left a noisom body
    To the jaws of devouring darkness.

    5 And their children wept & built
    Tombs in the desolate places,
    And formed laws of prudence, and call’d them
    The eternal laws of God.


    7. The remaining sons of Urizen
    Beheld their brethren shrink together
    Beneath the Net of Urizen.
    Perswasion was in vain,
    For the ears of the inhabitants
    Were wither’d, & deafen’d, & cold,
    And their eyes could not discern
    Their brethren of other cities.

    8. So Fuzon call’d all together
    The remaining children of Urizen,
    And they left the pendulous earth.
    They called it Egypt, & left it.

    9. And the salt ocean rolled englob’d.

    Thanks for reminding me of Blake; it’s been far too long since I picked up a book of his poetry and let it roll around in my head.

    — Tenacious T.

  20. Richard
    Richard says:

    To go the other direction from my previous post about overrated, blowhard business books, there are a couple of books that I read and reread related to basic information about the way businesses actually work and people actually behave, rather than the academic theory of organizations that most university students are fed:

    The Ropes to Skip and the Ropes to Know: Studies in Organizational Behavior by R. Richard Ritti & Steve Levy

    Buy Low, Sell High, Collect Early and Pay Late: The Manager’s Guide to Financial Survival by Dick Levin

    The Ropes, in particular, is enlightening about the differences between some of the “rose tinted glasses” type academic theories of the way things should work in organizations according to official policy and the way things actually work as a result of the policies being implemented by people who act in ways that are affected by the person’s prejudices, character flaws, and self-interest. It is an easy read, written in the style of parables or fables, each presenting a specific organizational moral.

    Surprisingly, both books were written by academics who apparently got tired of teaching the standard business management party line and felt the need to provide information based on the realities they had encountered in their dealings with real companies.

    Unfortunately, both books are out of print, so only available through used books sources and libraries.


  21. @Deloitte
    @Deloitte says:

    OK, I’m coming in late on this one, but work @Deloitte has been pressing lately and I haven’t had time to browse web commentary like I had the last time I posted to this site.

    FM@15 – “God to Great”was a great book – its only problem was that it wasn’t any good (at least not in how it was put into practice)

    I found this book to be atypical “here’s what we aren’t going to do but will say we are so everyone onboard will think we are doing it”. It reminds me of some of the lines in A Hard Days Night.

    This book was suggested reading @Deloitte a few years back (when JQ took the Global CEO role he championed it as reading material). I had read it previously. I remember sitting around the office (when it was announced) thinking to myself things like: “wow, this could be interesting if they really started to do what was in the book” and “these are the type of common philosophies and employee expectations businesses should be following that I have been voicing since I jumped on this ship”.

    I’m reading an interesting book right now: Traffic (should be titled why we all think we are better at something than other people)

    Before I started this book I would have easily stated that I am a great driver, probably the best, unless I’m driving in traffic or around other drivers who hog the road and block the flow of traffic without any consideration about who is behind them stuck in the traffic jam that they created, in which case I am one of the worst drivers, passing whole groups of cars on the right and weaving back into the fast lane as far up in the lineup as possible so as to be in position to take advantage of any similar opportunities that may arise.

    So, you’re probably saying “Yo, @Deloitte, the subject is business books!”

    Well, I only read nonfiction and everything I read I do so from the viewpoint of what can I learn from this book that is applicable or adaptable to business and business/relationship experiences. So far there has been plenty of content that directly relates to how and why people do things and think the way they do. I say that qualifies as business related.

    This book also falls right in line with my favorite subject: “The Mask of Sanity” (Cleckley) and its relationship to the Jekyll and Hide sides of everyone’s personality. Now, there’s a couple of good business books for you, and talk about being acountable.

  22. @Deloitte
    @Deloitte says:

    In the past when I posted to this site I would first read FM’s open comments/content and second read the entire list of postings. With my post above I must admit that I didn’t follow that course. I read FM’s opening content and only read the postings to 15 before writing my post.

    In doing so I missed urizen’s item # @20. I assume that the choice is based on the sections that relate the teachings of JC. Certainly most of the Old T would be off subject, especially the Kashrut dietary laws sections in the Books of L and D, as well as the biblical creation and Judea historical content.

    So, recognizing the value of u’s @25 post’s “years of prayer/meditation” aspect of that choice I personally, as an admitted non believer, would suggest The “Meditations of Marcus Aurelius” (who wrote on personal improvement and guidance to leadership) as a better source of ethics than what someone wrote that a person named JC possibly said. At least with Aurelius you considerably cut down on the question of existence, and you don’t have to wade thru the religious and other stuff (controversy).

  23. @Deloitte
    @Deloitte says:

    In another thread on re:theauditors someone posted that they had just read The Auditor: An Instructional Novella by James K. Loebbecke.

    As someone in Shared Services looking to learn more about what an auditor actually does in order to better understand how to best support and interface with someone in Client Services (especially AERS) is this a valid read?

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