Brain Pickings

6 Popular Business Books Adapted as Comics

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What 6th-century Chinese military strategy has to do with the art of closing a deal.

Comic books resonate so deeply with us because they speak to our brains’ fundamental visual bias, known as the pictorial superiority effect. A new series of books by SmarterComics is harnessing this human predilection and doing for nonfiction what The RSA has done for lectures, adapting popular business and strategy books by iconic thought-leaders into visually-driven narratives. Here are the first six of the series.

THE LONG TAIL

Based on the 2006 bestseller of the same name by Wired editor Chris Anderson, The Long Tail explores a counterintuitive side of business profits as Anderson declares the death of “common culture” and makes a case for the multiplicity of small niches, as opposed to the high-volume peaks of the mainstream, as the sweet spot of market opportunity.

THINK AND GROW RICH

In 1937, Napoleon Hill wrote what’s commonly considered the greatest wealth-building guide of all time. SmarterComics breathes playful new life into the now-iconic Think and Grow Rich, a blueprint for improving your life through the practical power of positive thinking, a cognitive toolkit to which many of modern history’s most famous millionaires and billionaires point as the secret to their success. A self-help book for the hard analytical types, Hill’s classic is considered a landmark publication in success philosophy and has shaped generations of subsequent business books.

MI BARRIO

Entrepreneur Robert Renteria grew up as an infant sleeping in a dresser drawer, then got drawn into drugs and gang violence as a teenager. But rather than letting his circumstances dictate and define him, he let them become a part of him as he grew from a childhood of poverty and abuse into a successful businessman and civic leader. In Mi Barrio (My Neighborhood), Renteria turns his story into a modern-day, real-life fable of persistence and hard work, extending an invitation to all of us to transcend the limitations of our circumstances and the burdens of our past.

HOW TO MASTER THE ART OF SELLING

Since its original publication decades ago, Tom Hopkins’ straight-shootingly titled How to Master the Art of Selling has remained true to — and widely acclaimed for — its title’s promise. Among the many sales scrips and tactics on everything from building trust to closing elusive deals are also a number of anecdotes, which seem to lend themselves particularly well to the storytelling format of a comic book.

OVERACHIEVEMENT

Originally written by performance coach and psychologist John Eliot in 2004, Overachievement offers an ambitious look at what it takes to be exceptional. Eliot explores a number of cognitive performance enhancers used by Olympic athletes, business moguls, surgeons, salesmen, financial experts, and rock stars, pointing to the importance of intuition and what he calls “the trusting mind” — the same idea, no doubt, that inspired Nike’s iconic “Just do it” slogan — as the fundamental make-or-break point of success.

THE ART OF WAR

Chinese military treatise The Art of War (not to be confused with Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art), attributed to philosopher and military general Sun Tzu, is one of the world’s oldest and most successful books on military strategy, dating back to late 6th century BC. The wisdom from this 2,500-year-old text remain required reading for today’s MBA classrooms, offering history-tested insight on how to prevail in any conflict, be it in on the battlefield or in the boardroom.

Besides the traditional printed editions, the books are also available in a variety of eletornic formats on the SmarterComics site.

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