Mendoza School of Business

My reading life: Chuck Bamford

Published: November 25, 2014 / Author: Christine Cox

It’s easy to see why Chuck Bamford doesn’t get to read nearly as much as he’d like. An adjunct management professor who teaches strategy and entrepreneurship at Mendoza, he also serves as the managing partner of Bamford Associates LLC, a strategy design and implementation firm based in Charlotte, North Carolina. His expertise has made him an internationally sought after consultant and speaker.

Additionally, Bamford is the author of five textbooks that always seem to be in revision as publishers aim for two or three years between editions for each book. On top of that, he’s in the process of writing his own popular press book on strategy and his second novel (his first, Some Things are Never Forgiven, was published in 2012 by Penguin Press).

But even if writing is his main focus, Bamford does find spare moments to read, as he explains in this Q&A.

What are you reading now or what have you read recently?

I multitask in life, work and in my reading. This means that I’m always reading several books at a time, as bizarre as that sounds. I try to read one popular press business book each month in an attempt to keep up with my students who are always reading the latest publications. I’m also always entwined in some fiction novel that makes all my airplane travel bearable. Every book is on my iPad and goes with me everywhere.

On the business side I am rereading American Icon by Bryce Hoffman. It is an absolutely remarkable book that tracks the way that Alan Mulally brought Ford back from the brink. It is well written and provides sufficient detail for a business executive to use as a template for strategy implementation. On the fiction side I just finished (on a flight back to Charlotte) Michael Connelly’s The Black Box, part of his Harry Bosch series of detective novels. I like the intrigue, twists and method of approach used by Connelly and author Lee Child.

What do you read regularly?

I read the The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times on my iPad every morning. They are both great news sources and have been optimized for the iPad. I scan my Twitter feed multiple times per day. I have 50 or so business sites that I follow, and Twitter allows me to rapidly look at what is happening in the day. If I want to know more, the link is there.

Are there books every business student should read?

I am a strategy guy so most of the books that I believe every business student should read come from my C-Suite bias. Here are my absolute favorites:

• Sun Tzu: Art of War translated by Ralph Sawyer. Sun Tzu is the core of all strategy thought. I reread this book (it is only 63 pages long) every year and have done so for the past 25 years. Most of the CEOs that I deal with know the book and use the concepts. I’m a particular fan of this translation because Sawyer includes more than 100 pages of notes that add great detail to the reading.
Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? by Louis Gerstner Jr. This is a wonderfully written first-person narrative of his taking over IBM at its lowest point and completely changing the business model.
Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. What can I say? This is a must read for any business student. 
Management Challenges for the 21st Century by Peter Drucker. Despite its age, the advice and insights are timeless.
Outliers and The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell has an ability to take vast amounts of research and convert it into a readable, enjoyable and informative format. My take on all of his books is that the first 150 pages are spectacular. Something happens after that (perhaps his publisher requires his books to exceed 200 pages) such that I’m shaking my head. Read the first 150 “ish” pages of each. You won’t regret the effort.

Do you have a favorite book or books? What do you like about it/them?

Hands down my favorite book is The Green Mile by Stephen King. I have no idea how many times I have reread this book, but each and every time that I do, I simply marvel at King’s storytelling capability. He crafts together the present day issues of a nursing home environment where the elderly are at the mercy of the staff with a story of pain and redemption experienced by inmates and guards alike on death row in the 1930s. Every aspect of the story is woven together to provide insights into the consistency of good within some individuals (regardless of their actions) and the consistency of evil in others. I believe that great storytelling is a gift that allows the audience to contextualize a message in order to use it in their lives.


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