Charles Pfeffer

Executive Coaching & Leadership Consulting

Recommended Readings

Always a voracious reader, Charles has long appreciated the value of reading for the variety of perspectives and the mental challenge it offers, as well as the way literature helps expand creative thinking. Below, he has provided an annotated list of some of the books that have had the strongest impact on him over the years. Happy reading!


Of all the management and business books I've read, these four stand out.

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy Richard Rumelt, Provides a simple and elegant definition of strategy, explains why vision, goals and aspirations are not the same as strategy and the illustrates the point through case examples.

Elephants Can't Dance — Lou Gerstner. Gerstner discusses how he effected a sweeping change in IBM's corporate culture in order to save the company.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team — Patrick Lencioni. Fascinating look at team dynamics — and how to overcome the pitfalls to which many teams succumb.

Leadership is an Art — Max DePree. This is a quick, but profound read that illustrates the value of a core philosophy in leading a company.

Strategy Safari — Henrey Mintzberg. Mintzberg makes clear that there are many ways to think about strategy (what it is as well as how it's done).

Other Non-Fiction

These books are extremely thought-provoking and can really change the reader's way of thinking.

The Complete Collected Poems — Maya Angelou. Her poetry is not only provocative, but also very addictive!

Guns, Germs, and Steel — Jared Diamond. Examines world history and posits that the dichotomy between the West and the Third World is due not to anthropologic reasons, but to the happenstance of differences in climate, availability of natural resources, and geography.

John Adams — David McCollough. This breakout biography of our second President is enhanced by the author's inclusion/examination of Abigail Adams's letters. It really exposes his “fatal flaws” — and shows how he was his own worst enemy. It is a great study of someone who leads best from behind the scenes, but found himself thrust into the spotlight.

Nothing Like it in the World — Stephen E. Ambrose. A gripping look at the building of the transcontinental railroad. Examines the horrific conditions in which those who physically built it suffered and gave their lives, as well as the obstacles the project itself faced along the way. (Similarly, I would recommend his book about the building of the Panama Canal, The Path between the Seas).

View with a Grain of Sand — Wislawa Szmborska. This Nobel Prize-winning poet writes about the beauty and absurdity of human existence in a way that pierces pretense.


I chose these particular books for their ability to inspire, the exposure to other cultures and ways of life they offer, and for their provocative nature.

Alias Grace — Margaret Atwood. Atwood examines a (real) notorious Canadian housemaid convicted in the murders of her employers, and imagines what the real story might be. Truly, every one of her books should be on this list; they are each wonderful.

The curious incident of the dog in the night-time — Mark Haddon. A mystery told in the first person by a teenager with Asperger's who overcomes the obstacles of his disorder to determine who killed his neighbor's dog.

Foucault's Pendulum — Umberto Ecco. This novel is about the power of stories to shape reality, sometimes for good, but in this case for evil.

The Good Earth — Pearl S. Buck. A classic. Tells of the struggles a peasant Chinese family faces in the early 1930's.

The Kite Runner — Khaled Hosseini. The story of an Afghani boy and the son of his father's servant, and the effect the Soviet invasion and subsequent rise of the Taliban have on their lives.

The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint — Brady Udall. A Native American boy is nearly killed on his reservation when a mailman inadvertently runs over his head. He survives (it is fiction, after all), and despite constant rejection in his life, stays true to his goal of tracking down the mailman to ease his conscience by letting him know that he (Edgar) survived.

The Old Man and the Sea — Ernest Hemingway. Another classic. The protagonist faces the challenge of his life.