5 books for CPAs to read on summer vacation

Love a good book? Consider these diverse and intriguing works.
By Cheryl Meyer

Busy season is over, and it's time for CPAs to relax—or at least try to unwind. Whether accountants are headed to the beach, the mountains, a resort, or a cabin on a lake, summer is the perfect time to finally sit down and read a book.

We asked several CPAs to offer their top picks for the best summer vacation reads, and to explain what they have gained from reading these distinctive books. Here are their suggestions.

Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz. Master networker Ferrazzi outlines a simple premise: One can achieve great things in life by connecting with others. Ferrazzi, who used his own connection abilities to pave his way to Yale University, Harvard University, and numerous executive posts, talks about the value of relationships, and how linking with others can propel one to success.

"The point of 'never eating alone' encourages you to get out of the office and meet as many people as possible," said James Bourke, CPA/CITP/CFF, CGMA, a partner at WithumSmith+Brown in Red Bank, N.J. "Never discount anyone that you meet. I've learned life is all about the people that you meet and the connections that you can make through them—it's like LinkedIn in real life!"

The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod. Night owls may find this book particularly engaging, since it focuses on starting your day early and the impact that can have on your day, your life, and your work. The author was inspired to write this book after surviving a serious automobile crash. Elrod not only learned to walk again but also went on to become an ultramarathon runner, international keynote speaker, hip-hop recording artist, and best-selling writer.

"I never used to be a morning person before reading this and am now able to get a lot done each morning before work," said Michael Chelena, CPA, assurance senior associate at RSM US LLP, in McLean, Va. "It really ensures that you have a positive day and gives you energy and focus throughout the day. It teaches everyone the importance of getting your body into good routines and ensures every day starts off on the right foot."

Originals, by Adam Grant. Through anecdotes and examples, Grant helps readers recognize good ideas, build a network, speak up, and manage doubt and fear, according to the book's promotional website. A teacher at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, he focuses on "choosing to champion novel ideas and values that go against the grain, battle conformity, and buck outdated traditions," noted publisher Penguin Random House in its description.

Dan Griffiths, CPA, CGMA, director of strategy and leadership at Tanner LLC in Salt Lake City and a member of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants board of directors, read this book recently while on vacation. "Adam breaks down what it is that leads to truly original thinking," he said. "Adam points out that the more expertise and experience people gain, the more entrenched they can become in a particular way of viewing the world. That sounds a lot like a CPA. We can all benefit from the regular practice of stepping away from our own experience and looking at things with a fresh perspective."

The Undoing Project, by Michael Lewis. Lewis, known for high-profile books such as The Big Short and Liar's Poker, focused his latest creation (published in December 2016) on two Israeli psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who collaborated and wrote a series of studies questioning previous assumptions about the decision-making process. The book highlights the friendship between the two and the beginnings of behavioral economics, and reveals how human failings often affect judgment and choices.

"CPAs can learn how to question, and possibly improve the process of decision-making in an uncertain environment by use of algorithms over intuition when information is available," said Jay Crom, CPA/ABV/CFF, managing partner at Bachecki, Crom & Co. LLP in San Francisco. "I now make efforts to seek more relevant information and to question intuitive-based decisions."

All the Gallant Men, by Donald Stratton and Ken Gire. This book isn't your normal self-improvement or business how-to tome. But it was a great inspiration for William Barefoot, CPA, CGMA, senior manager at WebsterRogers LLP in Florence, S.C. Stratton was aboard the USS Arizona when it was attacked in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The 19-year-old sailor from Nebraska suffered burns over two-thirds of his body, and is one of the ship's few living survivors. The book details how Stratton "overcame personal challenges to be part of America's victory in the end," Barefoot noted.

Barefoot outlined several themes from the book that can be adapted when it comes to serving clients.

First, determination and perseverance are vital at public accounting firms. "Some client situations may require an extra effort when conventional wisdom seems to indicate otherwise," he said.

The book also teaches the value of effective communication. Since many public accounting firms are divided into tax, audit, accounting, and consulting groups, clients are better served if these various departments "communicate with the client as a team, so everyone has a better understanding of the client's needs," Barefoot said. What's more, he added, "Cross-selling the firm's services and collaborating with colleagues benefits the firm and the client. Open communication throughout the firm can alert the right people when preventive or corrective action is needed regarding clients and staff."

Finally, this book warns against dismissing red flags too quickly. "CPAs should keep their heads up when working with clients," Barefoot noted. "Many times we are focused on completing the audit or completing the tax return and miss following up on potential problems or opportunities where we can offer additional services to our clients. We should ask questions and follow up with the client during or after the current project is completed, depending on the circumstances."

Cheryl Meyer is a freelance writer based in California. To comment on this article, contact Chris Baysden, senior manager of newsletters at the AICPA.

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