As the song says, “Summertime [in some parts of the world], and the livin’ is easy [or at least a little slower]…,” which means it’s time for another one of Knowledge at Wharton’s special book sections. The topics include advice on how companies can sidestep self-destructive behavior, like complacency and arrogance; how to build a “strange,” in the sense of extraordinary, workforce; and how to maximize your company’s various marketing initiatives. We also offer the story of one woman’s attempt to launch a beauty school in Afghanistan, insights from an executive coach on how to be a better manager, and a novel that presents a compelling, and in many ways disturbing, portrait of genetic research and the biotech industry. We hope you can sit back and enjoy some well-earned RR&R: Rest, Relaxation and Reading.

Making the Most of Every Marketing Dollar

In Marketing That Works: How Entrepreneurial Marketing Can Add Sustainable Value to Any Sized Company (Wharton School Publishing), the focus is on optimizing investments in every aspect of marketing, whether it’s targeting the right customer, delivering added value or generating better product ideas. Authors Leonard M. Lodish, Howard L. Morgan and Shellye Archambeau offer tools, tactics and strategies that companies can use to differentiate themselves in today’s marketplace. As the authors note, “Marketing, more than technology, is most often the reason for the success or failure of new ventures or new initiatives” in mature corporations.

To Marshall Goldsmith: Thank You for Writing This Book (And We’re Not Sucking Up)

Marshall Goldsmith, the founder of executive coaching firm Marshall Goldsmith Partners, has worked closely with more than 70 CEOs during his career. Forbes has named him one of the five most respected executive coaches. The Wall Street Journal ranks him among the top 10 executive educators. Now Goldsmith has assembled a book that distills the wisdom he and his stable of coaches usually dispense in person. Listed at $23.95, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful, written with Mark Reiter, is a bargain compared to the six-figure cost of receiving Goldsmith’s wisdom in person.

Avoiding the Traps That Can Cause Your Company to Self-Destruct

In The Self Destructive Habits of Good Companies … And How to Break Them (Wharton School Publishing), Jagdish N. Sheth, a marketing professor at the Goizueta Business School at Emory University, analyzes why companies that are at the top of their industry suddenly disappear from the landscape. He maintains that successful companies fall prey to complacency, arrogance, competency dependence, competitive myopia, territorial impulse, volume obsession and denial, and he then goes on to suggest ways companies can change course and avoid these traps. As Sheth notes in his introduction, “My view is that most companies can survive forever if they recognize and take steps to counter self-destructive habits or set up processes to keep them from arising in the first place.”

A Novel on Genetic Research: It’s ‘Fiction, Except for the Parts That Aren’t’

A mathematical parrot. A Dutch-speaking orangutan. A chimp that can pass for a boy. These are the otherworldly characters — and provocative thought experiments — that anchor best-selling author Michael Crichton’s most recent novel, Next. The book weaves together several storylines in order to trace the complex interplay of scientific innovation, legal loopholes and economic opportunity. Along the way, Crichton creates a troubling portrait of a biotech industry marred by corporate greed and moral uncertainty. Both thriller and policy piece, the book is also a compelling contribution to the debate over genetic research, according to our reviewer.

Is Your Workforce Strange Enough to Guarantee Competitive Advantage?

According to Daniel M. Cable, what characterizes successful companies these days is “a strikingly different, obsessively focused” workforce, one that — compared to competitors’ workforces — is “downright strange.” Cable, a management professor at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, makes his case in a new book titled, Change to Strange: Create a Great Organization by Building a Strange Workforce (Wharton School Publishing). To get the best results, Cable says, companies have to build a workforce “that is extraordinary in a way that customers care about.”

‘Life Behind the Veil’: Launching a Beauty School in Kabul, Afghanistan

From Reading Lolita in Tehran, an award-winning account of an underground Iranian women’s book group, to The Kite Runner, a best-selling novel about modern Afghanistan, tales of Islamic culture have entranced Western readers eager for a glimpse into a world that is at once far removed from theirs and yet fundamentally intertwined with it. A recent book adds to this genre. In Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil, author Deborah Rodriguez opens a window onto the private lives of Afghan women by explaining what it’s like to try and launch a business — in this case, a beauty school — in a remote, unfamiliar area. The tale, according to our reviewer, is heartwarming, eye-opening and ultimately chilling.