That’s the verdict reached by the Wall Street Journal’s Carol Hymowitz, noting that new business books of late don’t include tomes by celebrity executives. Instead, Hymowitz notes, readers are seeking advice on the nitty-gritty tasks of running companies, analyzing complex data to make smart decisions and expanding undervalued assets. “We’re in a back-to-basics era with the names of many of the same authors still on best-seller lists,” says David Hathaway, a book buyer at Barnes & Noble in New York. “There’s no book by a big personality like (former General Electric CEO) Jack Welch on the horizon, and it’s a challenge trying to find the next big hit,” he adds.
Never mind that many execs namechecked may not even be working at their respective jobs anymore (thanks to mergers, oustings or other less savory reasons) and that CEOs tend to keep older books on their respective bookshelves. Private-equity investor and bankruptcy expert Wilbur Ross also thinks business books tend to be geared toward people in their early careers who are learning how to get along with bosses, motivate employees and advance. He cautions even these readers not to follow rigid prescriptions by big names. “What worked for Jack Welch won’t necessarily work in other cultures,” says Ross, known for restructuring failed companies. “You can’t isolate qualities of leadership that work in one place and transfer them wholesale.”