Reference Books for Entrepreneurial Thinkers


Each Monday I post the next section of my 2001 book, which was originally called (by the publisher) Hoover’s Vision but which I have now retitled The Art of Enterprise. I have posted over half of it already; click on the “Monday” column to see all the prior sections. The entire book can be downloaded as a PDF for $10 at



The excerpt from the book posted below has not been updated for new versions of these documents. Most of them are annuals, so make sure and get the one dated 2011 or 2010.





Spend a few hours with a basic data reference book, flipping from one section to the next. The two best are The Statistical Abstract of the United States and The World Almanac. Stop on a random table and think about what it means. Close your eyes and picture the activity or event (from shipping grain to winning the World Series) represented by the data. Or try Understanding by Richard Saul Wurman and the TED Conferences, a wonderful book of data by one of the top fellows in information design.

Key Reference Works that Everyone Should Have


The World Almanac.


The Almanac of American Politics by Michael Barone and Grant Ujifusa. Published every two years (most recently for 2000), this is the definitive reference book about our Governors, Senators, and Congressmen, including how they voted on key issues. To me, it is even more useful for its descriptions of each Congressional district and its people. No other book paints such a vivid portrait of the people in every part of the US. I could not live without it.


Places Rated Almanac by David Savageau.

Statistical Abstract of the United States: The National Data Book. U.S. Bureau of the Census. Annual. An essential source of data about every aspect of the US. Also available on CD-ROM. For historical trends, see the companion two-volume set, Historical Statistics of the United States.
And, for every business researcher, Economic Census 1997. Available online or on CD-ROM from the US Bureau of the Census. Updated every five years, then takes 3-4 years to get fully released. This is where I start every analysis of an industry.
For additional US data, try The Bureau of Labor Statistics. Especially useful is the Consumer Expenditure Survey, which looks at how people spend their money, available at A good source of government statistics and publications is the Bernan Press, Hoover’s sells numerous business reference books; see

World Statistics


World Development Indicators by The World Bank. Annual. Data. Indispensable guide to all the latest numbers for all the nations of the world.


The Statesman’s Yearbook: The Politics, Cultures, and Economies of the WorldEdited by Barry Turner. Annual. Alphabetical by country, covering every nation on earth. Lists of leaders, lists of states and provinces, lots of words and stats. I always keep the current issue near at hand, as do many of the world’s diplomats. The 2000 edition was the 136th annual number.


World Development Report by The World Bank. Annual. Data and text.

Human Development Report by United Nations Development Program. Annual. Data and text.
The World Bank Atlas by The World Bank. Annual. Maps and data.
The Global Competitiveness Report by Harvard University and the World Economic Forum – Michael Porter, Jeffery D. Sachs, Klaus Schwab, et. al. Annual. Consolidates several measures of the “vibrancy” of each nation. Very good.