There's nothing better during the year's most relaxed season than
escaping into a book, whether you're on the road or in a hammock.
Here are some suggestions for good reads, beginning with a few
dependable brand names -- authors bound to provide the right touch
of light summer entertainment for you or a client:
Robert Barnard. This prolific British author has a slew of
witty, intelligent mysteries under his belt. Barnard's trademarks
include maliciously devastating portraits of human stupidity and a
surprise twist at the end. If you're a music fan, check out one of
my favorite Barnard titles, "Death on the High C's," about murder
in an opera company.Sarah Caudwell. Another British master of mysteries, Caudwell
has written just three, but they're good enough to have become
classics of the genre: "Thus Was Adonis Murdered," "The Shortest
Way to Hades" and "The Sirens Sang of Murder."
Each features a
group of London lawyers who encounter murderous situations while
visiting picturesque locales (Venice, Greece and the Channel
Islands) whose culture becomes a part of the story. With plenty of
witty wordplay, Caudwell has a knack for enlivening topics that
would otherwise seem deadly boring -- such as the intricacies of
tax law in "The Sirens Sang of Murder."Marissa Piesman. Piesman also writes a mystery series, but her
books are light on plot and heavy on whimsical musings from her
sleuth, New York lawyer Nina Fischman. Favorite topics for Nina
include the fine points of life in New York, the differences
between Jews and the rest of the world and the difficulties of
navigating relationships when "ambivalence had been the keynote
speaker at all of [her] internal monologues for as long as she
Piesman's novel "Close Quarters" is a good read for this season
because it takes place at a summer house on Fire Island, where a
ladies' man is killed by an unusual method: poison administered in
a seasickness patch.Joe Keenan. Before Keenan became an executive producer for the
television show "Frasier," he used his talent for well-crafted
hilarity in two books chronicling the misadventures of show-tune
lyricist Philip, composer Claire and their wacky friend
In the first book, "Blue Heaven," Gilbert (who is gay) plans
marriage to a barracuda of a woman "for the gifts" from his
wealthy, Mafia-connected family; many funny complications ensue. In
the second, "Putting on the Ritz," the gang gets involved with a
pair of feuding billionaires, with Philip and Claire writing songs
for one of the billionaire's talentless wives. No murder mysteries
here, just killing laughs.
Besides the books mentioned above, I'd recommend three more:
"Thank You for Smoking," by Christopher Buckley. Think you're
in a tough profession? Consider Nick Naylor, spokesman for
tobacco's main trade association, whose daily irritants include
being compared to a Nazi war criminal and having to lie about what
smoking really does to you. This is wicked satire with an
outlandish plot (in which a patch again means danger).
"Tourist Season," by Carl Hiaasen. Hiaasen, known for a series
of novels that combine over-the-top violence with humor, does his
bit here to skewer Florida tourism. A terrorist group tries to get
all the tourists to go home, with tactics that range from choking
the president of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce with a toy
rubber alligator to kidnapping the Orange Bowl Queen."Smoothies," by Mary Corpening Barber, Sara Corpening and Lori
Lynn Narlock. OK, there's not much plot here; in fact, there's
none. But this is perfect summer reading. The point is how to keep
yourself nourished without breaking into a sweat in the kitchen,
with healthful blender drinks. Can't wait to try the honeydew melon
mint combination and the Almond Joyous (a chocolate-almond smoothie
whose flavor replicates that of the candy bar).
We asked two literate retailers what books they have their noses
stuck in these days:
I use reading for total mindless escapism! I love spy novels,
World War II novels, quick reads to clear my head. And I really
enjoy reading novels set in international destinations because I
love to compare an author's description of a city or country to the
One author I've been drawn to is John Maxim. He has a series of
books centered on a character named Bannerman, with a group of
retired assassins who are living in a small Connecticut town and
are occasionally forced out of retirement. When this happens, they
operate out of Bannerman's business, which happens to be a travel
agency. Is this an example of a new profit center for agents?
New Berlin, Wis.
"Net Worth," by John Hagel & Marc Singer. This fascinating
book takes us beyond the immediate future of e-commerce, explaining
that soon, Net users will become impatient when they can't find
what they want quickly enough and have too much junk mail.
"The Desert Queen," by Janet Wallach. This is a biography of
Gertrude Margaret Bell, the British woman who rode off into the
desert and singlehandedly formed the nation of Iraq. Yes, Lawrence
of Arabia crossed her path many times. Having recently toured Iran,
Syria and Yemen -- where women are still treated worse than dirt --
I found it fascinating that this woman could accomplish so much on
her own 80 years ago.
Travels With Rex
Turen's book picks
"The One to One
Future," by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers. This book debunks the
notion of mass marketing, making the case for cultivating the 20%
of your business that is the most loyal and profitable.
"The Millionaire Next Door," by Thomas J. Stanley and William D.
Danko, who quantify the shift of wealth in this country -- useful
if you have affluent clients. You'll learn that the typical
millionaire lives next door, not in Beverly Hills, and is most
likely to drive a Jeep Cherokee, and that 80% of the millionaires
in America are self-made. The term that most closely characterizes
their lifestyle, according to this study, is frugality.
Novelist and reporter Carl Hiaasen has written a short, biting
examination of the dark side of the Disney empire called "Team
Rodent." He claims that "Disney is so good at being good that it
manifests an evil."
I read and recommend anything written by Tom Peters, the
Stanford Business School guru whose best-seller "The Search for
Excellence" identified strategies of companies that truly strive to
be the best in their field.
Finally, I have been recommending "Feeding Frenzy" by Stuart
Stevens. This is a true story of three New Yorkers who drive across
Europe dining in 29 top-rated (in the Michelin guides) restaurants
in as many days. It's a mad dash -- but you will learn which of
these restaurants not to recommend to your clients.
Richard Turen is managing director of the Churchill Group, a
sales and marketing consulting firm, as well as president of the
agency Churchill & Turen Ltd., both based in Naperville, Ill.
Contact him at [email protected].Keeping customers happy
"To succeed in sales, you
must be a strategic thinker. A strategic thinker understands that
most sales take place after the fifth call -- and that most
salespeople quit after the first," writes Paul S. Goldner in his
book "Red-Hot Customers: How to Get Them, How to Keep Them."
Also, "a strategic thinker understands that you cannot be
successful in sales if you do not bring new and valuable
information to your customer at each point of contact in the sales
The thesis of Goldner's book is that a company needs a "red-hot
cause" -- a strong marketing position in which you differentiate
your agency from others.
Particularly useful in working with corporate clients is a
section on account management, in which Goldner, who owns a
computer-training company, provides a number of case histories
describing how he was able to hold on to clients by refining his
approach with a tool called a "value audit."
Published by Chandler House Press, the book costs $16.95 and is
available in bookstores nationwide.Going Hollywood
Thrifty Car Rental invited
travel agent winners of a booking contest to party with Hollywood's
finest at the fifth annual Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, held
in Los Angeles.
Pictured in front of the Shrine Auditorium are, left to right,
Scarlete Pelfrey, director of travel industry sales, Thrifty; Larry
Carnuccio, SatoTravel, Philadelphia; JoAnne Kimble, SatoTravel,
Annapolis, Md.; Jean Murray, SatoTravel, Goose Creek, S.C.; JoAnne
King, Sato Camp Ripley, Little Falls, Minn.; Melanie
Holland-Carter, Cole Travel, Lexington Park, Md.; Dale Peak,
SatoTravel, Salem, Mass.; Valerie Mac-Krell, SatoTravel, Patuxent
River, Md.; Rose Mastberg, SatoTravel, Silverdale, Wash., and Tey
Donley of Thrifty.
The winners were selected from entries in a contest held last
fall in conjunction with a consumer promotion that awarded Thrifty
customers free video rentals from Blockbuster.