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Good Reads

When you hit the beach this summer, hit these books, too.

Profitable summer beach and pool reading need not be restricted to dry management treatises. These five nonbusiness books can enjoyably teach entrepreneurs how to run a business better.

Cooked: From the Streets to the Stove, From Cocaine to Foie Gras, by Jeff Henderson (Morrow, $24.95), is the memoir of an inner-city man who became a big-time cocaine dealer, was sentenced to 20 years, learned to cook in prison and is now an executive chef at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. Business lesson: You want overcoming adversity? I've got your adversity right here. Henderson's raw-told story of persistence and energy is relentlessly inspiring.

Shopaholic and Baby, by Sophie Kinsella (Dial Press, $24), is the latest in a million-selling series of comic novels about ├╝berconsumer Becky Brandon. Lesson: Why pay market researchers to study customers when you can delve directly into the mind of one (and have a hilarious time doing it)?

The Essential Wooden: A Lifetime of Lessons on Leaders and Leadership, by John Wooden and Steve Jamison (McGraw-Hill, $19.95), is, according to the publisher, a business book. But Wooden is a coach--arguably the best ever. Wooden coached the UCLA Bruins to 10 men's NCAA basketball championships without ever urging his players to win or scouting the competition. Lesson: Be your absolute best, and you'll do OK.

Against the Day, by Thomas Pynchon (The Penguin Press, $35), weighs in at 1,085 pages and covers a vast span of geography, culture, technology, science and more. Pynchon wraps a central story line around the bitter labor struggle between miners and mine owners in turn-of-the-century Colorado and, generally speaking, pits anarchy against commerce. Lesson: Last century's labor reforms have made everybody's lives easier.

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries, by Neil deGrasse Tyson (W.W. Norton, $24.95), is a collection of essays by the ablest science popularizer working at the moment. Tyson's profoundly informed musings on science, history, astronomy, Earth and the meaning of life elicit laughs as well as head-scratching revelations. Lesson: If astrophysicists can figure out the chemical composition of a star a billion light-years away, you can draft a vacation policy that gives you more downtime.

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This article was originally published in the June 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Good Reads.

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