My boss has decided that I need to improve my profile by taking some senior industry players out to lunch. I am worried that unless we talk about football or what's happened in the latest episode of Heroes, I will not be able to hold their interest and will come across as a bit of a thicko. As my first lunch is in two weeks' time, please can you turn me into a superhero and give me the ability to talk about any aspect of the media business - or indeed business in general - by suggesting a few business books I can read?
I must say I was surprised that, when I looked in my diary for the next six months, you hadn't included me on your list of senior industry players to take out to lunch. That said, however, I am still willing to offer you some advice.
Firstly, with only two weeks to go before your first lunch, you have not left yourself much time to swot up. However, most people will tell you that to fully grasp the message in any business book, you really only need to read the first chapter.
This will give you the gist of what you need to know - as the rest of the book is generally padding - and will supply you with enough sound-bites to make anybody think you have read the whole book.
However, rather than spending the next three days reading the first chapter of every business book in Waterstone's, I'd recommend you start by buying Stuart Crainer's The Ultimate Business Library: The Greatest Books That Made Management.
This is a summary of the best business books ever written, covering more than 80 books published over the past 200 years.
It is 300 pages long, but, once you have read it, most people will assume you have an MBA, as you will be able to quote from works such as Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations and Peter Drucker's The Practice of Management.
Next should be David Ogilvy's Confessions of an Advertising Man. This is not only a good read, with a few anecdotal stories that you can throw into the conversation over lunch, but it is also quite short - a must for any non-fiction book as far as I am concerned.
You should also buy a copy of The Week, although most agencies have a bundle of the magazine in their reception these days, so nick one from there. The Week is a round-up of all the best news stories of the previous week, and may make you seem more knowledgeable than you really are.
Finally, don't forget to Google your lunch guest. Well, you have to do something if the conversation dries up.
- David Emin is director of advertising at Mirror Group Newspapers and has 20 years' experience in national press. If you have a career dilemma you would like David to address, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. We will keep your name confidential.
This article was first published on Media Week