Our story thus far ...In math, two plus two is always four. In accounting, according to both an old joke and many recent indictments, two plus two is whatever a company wants it to be. How this came to be is the subject of More Than a Numbers Game: A Brief History of Accounting, a fascinating chronicle of the occasionally tortured evolution of modern-day U.S. accounting.
Author Thomas King investigates the origins of a number of current practices and standards to show how politics, economics, business demands and more have turned accounting from a tool for presenting clear and accurate information into a tool for presenting whatever managers want. And while one can't expect financial information to be as entertaining as this exploration of accounting's sometimes-shady past, one can at least ask that it be as brief, informative and useful.
John Wiley & Sons
When it comes to employee incentives, we have always thought the Royal Navy had the right idea - rum when they do well, and the lash when they don't. The busybodies at OHSA, however, frown on both, and after a series of punitive fines, we've been forced to look for more "enlightened" ways to keep our product monkeys in line. Fortunately, we recently received How to Recognize and Reward Employees, which offers 150 different ways to get your employees motivated, along with exercises, self-tests and checklists; and The Manager's Guide to Rewards, which approaches the subject primarily from the angle of compensation, showing readers, among other things, how to keep employees happy even when raises are paltry. OHSA inspectors will be pleased to note that neither book even mentions the cat-o-nine-tails.
Price: How to Recognize and Reward - $13.95; Manager's Guide - $24.95.
Get your money
When you think about it, your firm already has a collection agency - you just call it Accounts Receivable, or Billing. With the comprehensive advice in veteran collection agent Michelle Dunn's How to Make Money Collecting Money: Starting a Collection Agency, you can turn AR into a profit center. Dunn covers everything from writing good collection letters, to the applicable laws, to skip tracing (skip tracing!). Your first clients can be companies you do accounting and tax work for; they undoubtedly have customers who haven't paid, and once they see you're doing collections, they'll never dare to pay you late. Which makes us wonder - isn't your human resources director a lot like a bounty hunter?
Price: $43.99; e-book - $39.99.
Never Dunn Publishing
Spare an hour
Books like 60-Minute Estate Planner may seem like a threat to financial and estate planning professionals. After all, it comes complete with forms, charts, worksheets and step-by-step instructions that make it easy for laymen to do their own planning, with coverage of all the major issues, including advice on reducing and eliminating as much tax as possible, and preserving as much of their estate as possible for their heirs.
However, 60 minutes is an awfully long time, even to secure your family's financial future - it would require missing an entire episode of Desperate Housecats or So You Think You Wanna Be America's Next Top Survivor? Professionals can probably rest easy, and use the book to explain the process to their clients in small words.
Death to the Death Tax
Ben Franklin may have thought he made a good link between death and taxes, but it remained for a group of anti-tax crusaders to discover the idea that there was an actual tax on death: the inheritance tax, which from the mid-1990s they effectively campaigned to have repealed. Death by a Thousand Cuts recounts this amazing true story of political drama, brilliant propaganda and the shaping of America's tax policy. However you feel about the death tax, the book will make you glad that the power that controls our deaths is not the same one that controls our taxes.
Princeton University Press
Fear of numbers
There's a reason we here at New Products went into the word business: We suck with numbers. Having tried to split bar tabs with other word types, we can safely say that many people in publishing are similarly innumerate. We wouldn't go near our Finance Department without a gun and a camera, but for those who must, Accounting & Finance for Publishing Companies is an essential reference, offering a guide to the intricacies of magazine and book publishing financials, as well as pages of charts for budget and operating statement formats.
Red 7 Media
We understand that there are those who view the New Year as a time of fresh starts and bright new beginnings. We do not. But if you're among the optimists, and your New Year's resolution is to launch a new business, you'll want to take a look at Nolo's Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business, which covers everything from raising money to choosing a legal form for your business. And if you're setting up shop with other owners - or if you've decided to create or update a firm partnership agreement - you'll find all you need to know in Form a Partnership. We, meanwhile, will be avoiding all human contact until at least February.
Price: Small Business - $34.99; Form a Partnership - $39.99.
Some see the glass as half empty, others as half full. In his The Coming China Wars, business professor Peter Navarro sees the glass as half full - of war, economic collapse, environmental disaster and general chaos, and he warns that China could be at the bottom of it all. The Middle Kingdom may seem a long way away to accountants - no one's outsourcing tax returns there, after all - but it's home to one out of six people on the planet, and through the cheap goods they provide, the U.S. financial assets they buy and the natural resources they consume, they have an enormous impact on our economy.
Price: $25.99; volume discounts available.
According to Hoyle
Well-respected University of Richmond accounting professor Joe Hoyle has put together a collection of essays based on his decades in the classroom, Tips and Thoughts on Improving the Teaching Process in College, to offer concrete suggestions that teachers can implement right away to engage their students and enrich the educational environment. The book is available free online.
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