Meg’s Picks

New and Noteworthy Books for the Business-Minded Reader

Reviewed by Meg Trauner, Director of Ford Library at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business

The Art Of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan

By Charles Bronfman & Jeffrey Solomon (Jossey-Bass, 2010)

Cover of The Art of Giving

In the new philanthropy, donors seek to make a difference. They give purposefully, think strategically and monitor the results. Giving is a deeply personal process, but it’s also a business. This comprehensive guide to charitable giving shows nonprofits how to communicate with donors to help them make meaningful choices with their gifts. It also helps donors decide what types of gifts to give, how to structure their donations, and how to manage tax issues.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

By Daniel H. Pink (Riverhead Books, 2009)

Cover of Drive

In his new book, Daniel Pink argues that the incentive plans used by most organizations don’t work. Even worse, there is scientific evidence that money acts as a de-motivator. The most effective reward, it turns out, is intrinsic—performance of the task itself. Pink describes successful people as hard-working and persistent. They possess an internal desire to control their lives, learn about their world, and accomplish something that endures. In the final pages is a chapter summary, a cocktail party summary, plus a Twitter summary: “Carrots & sticks are so last century.”

Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (And How to Take Advantage of It)

By William Poundstone (Hill & Wang, 2010)

Cover of Priceless

Most people are unable to estimate fair prices accurately. More than just a number, price is dependent on context, and any given price can seem like a bargain or a rip-off, depending on how it’s framed. Poundstone delves into the psychology of pricing. He describes experiments by well-known psychology researchers (including Fuqua faculty member and behavioral economist Dan Ariely) and explains a variety of pricing tricks, some of which are centuries old. He also offers practical suggestions to use in price negotiations—such as threatening to walk away from the table rather than agreeing to an unacceptable starting point.

Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior

By Geoffrey Miller (Viking, 2009)

Cover of Spent

Why do Americans work long and hard to buy status products, when the pleasures they bring are so short-lived? Human evolution offers some answers. Evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller explains that humans evolved in small social groups in which image and status were important for attracting mates and rearing children. Modern humans still advertise their ability to survive and reproduce, unconsciously using status products to display their biological fitness to one another. Miller also discusses the engine of consumer capitalism—marketing—and how it creates psychological links between products and the possible status and sexual payoffs that may result from buying and displaying them. The book is well written and full of challenging insights and numerous examples.

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