Jump to content
The Wifcon Forums and Blogs
  • entries
  • comments
  • views

Recommended Reading

Vern Edwards


An assortment of books that I've looked at during the past year and that you might find to be of interest. Listed within each category by date.


1. The Art of Thinking Clearly, Dobelli (2013)

  • An informal, nontechnical, anecdotal presentation of good thinking practices. Short chapters with titles like: "Why You Should Visit Cemeteries: Survivorship Bias," "Why We Prefer a Wrong Map to No Map at All: Availability Bias," "Why You Systematically Overestimate Your Knowledge and Abilities: Overconfidence Effect," "Less is More: the Paradox of Choice," "The Difference Between Risk and Uncertainty: Ambiguity Aversion," and my favorite, "Never Pay Your Lawyer by the Hour: Incentive Super-Response Tendency." Fun read.

2. Asking the Right Questions, 9th ed., Browne and Keeley (2010)

  • Something you'd better learn how to do if you're going to be a manager or a contracting officer. An essential skill for critical thinkers.

3. A Rulebook for Arguments, 4th ed., Weston (2009)

  • Short and to the point. A useful handbook.

4. How We Reason, Johnson-Laird (2008)

  • A lengthy, detailed treatment.

5. Informal Logic: A Pragmatic Approach, 2d ed., Walton (2008)

  • This is simply an indispensable text for anyone who has to write a D&F, a justification for other than full and open competition, a source selection decision document, a request for equitable adjustment or a claim, or a contracting officer's final decision.

6. Logic and Contemporary Rhetoric: The Use of Reason in Everyday Life, 10th ed., Kahane and Cavender (2006)

7. The Craft of Argument, 3d ed., Williams and Columb (2006)

8. The Writing of Economics, McCloskey (1987)

  • We could all write better than we do. A nice little handbook. Check it out.


9. GPS Declassified: From Smartbombs to Smartphones, Easton and Frazier (2013)

  • The story of one of the greatest and most successful systems of all time. They had a sign over the entrance to the Air Force program office: "Our Mission is to Drop Two Bombs in the Same Hole. Period." If they'd only known.

10. A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon, Sheehan (2009)

  • The story of the beginning of program management as we know it and of one of the most important programs of the 20th Century -- the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile.

11. Project Vanguard: The NASA History, Green and Lomask (2009)

12. Sidewinder: Creative Missile Development at China Lake, Westrum (1999)

  • On time, within budget, and performance as promised. Perhaps THE most successful system development in U.S. history.


13. Decision Analysis for Management Judgment, 4th ed., Goodwin and Write (2009)

  • Decision analysis is one of the formal rational analytical methods that were developed after World War II. First named in 1966, it is distantly related to game theory, and related to tradeoff analysis and systems analysis. Decision analysis is prescriptive, not descriptive. it tells you how you ought to make decisions, not how people actually make them. This book is an excellent, nontechnical introduction to the topic. Should be studied by everyone who has to make important choices.

14. The Failure of Risk Management, Hubbard (2009)

15. Understanding Uncertainty, Lindley (2007)

  • A fine, nontechnical explanation of the concept.

16. Risk, Ambiguity and Decision, Ellsberg (2001)

  • A largely nontechnical exposition of the topics.

17. Probability Methods for Cost Uncertainty Analysis, Garvey (2000)

  • Very technical. You'll need some advanced math to follow it closely, but well-worth a look.


18. How to Read a Government Contract, Allen (2013-2014)

  • A handy book. Sadly, it's one of those super-expensive legal texts.

19. Calamari and Perillo on Contracts, 6th ed., Perillo (2010)

  • The most recent edition of the venerable textbook.

20. Contracts in a Nutshell, 9th ed., Rohwer and Skrocki (2010)

  • The most recent edition of the handy Nutshell series.

21. Elements of Contract Interpretation, Burton (2009)

  • An affordable treatment of an important topic.


22. Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon, Cassin, ed. (2014)

  • I love dictionaries, and this 1,297 page book is a very interesting one. Entries run from a paragraph to several pages in length and include terms like: Abstraction, Economy, Geisteswissenschaften, Kitsch, Nonsense, Principle, Proposition, Reality, Structure, Subject (very long entry), Word, Word Order, and Work. Great browsing.

23. Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away, Goldstein (2014)

  • Great, and great fun. Socrates lives!

24. Reflections on Judging, Posner (2013)

  • By the famous appellate court judge and public intellectual. He wrote an article for The New Republic entitled, "The Incoherence of Antonin Scalia," and Justice Scalia responded to it by calling him a liar. And you thought Wifcon Forum was tough.

25. Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data, Wheelan (2013)

  • Very successful popular treatment of statistics.

26. The Demon of Writing: Powers and Failures of Paperwork, Kafka (2012)

  • About the phenomenon of paperwork. Very interesting, and short.

27. The Thinker's Thesaurus: Sophisticated Alternatives to Common Words, Expanded 2d ed., Meltzer (2010)

  • Handy reference for writers.

28. Bureaucracy and Administration, Farazmand, ed. (2009)

  • For future SESs. Contains academic articles such as "Bureaucratic Links between Administration and Politics," "Bureaucracy: A Profound Puzzle for Presidentialism," "Public Service Ethics and Professionalism: A Primer for Public Officials," "The Wright Brothers Contract: Lessons in Ambiguity and Bureaucracy" (which cites my Wifcon article), and "The American President as a Bureaucratic Leader." Also includes articles about bureaucracy in other countries. Interesting stuff.

29. How Judges Think, Posner (2008)

  • Another interesting `book by the prolific Judge Posner.


Recommended Comments

The Demon of Writing: Powers and Failures of Paperwork, Kafka (2012)

  • Looks interesting to me, found it on half.com for $9.00. Going to pick it up.

I read Asking the Right Questions in a business consulting class I took in college. The structure and content is good, but for lack of a better phrase, it felt a little too elementary considering the content in my opinion (Didn’t hold my attention. May have been a personal interest issue, not exactly sure).

I’ve only read two books this year that stood out. I think they’re both fairly well known.

SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance, Levitt, Dubner (2011)

Follow on to Freakonomics, I think it’s a nice change once in a while to read about game theory, decision theory, etc. applied in a non-traditional/scholarly way. I’m not quite smart enough to know exactly how much of this book is crap, and how much is accurate without actually studying and digging into the subject material further, but defiantly held my interest.

How to Win Friends & Influence People, Carnegie (1990)

I read this based on a recommendation from a friend. I believe it is technically classified as a self-help book (which I’ve never found one interesting or useful at all), but has good material if you can apply it. If I could get program offices to think my ideas are theirs, I think I’d get less pushback from them on all fronts.

Nice list of reading material, can’t say I’ll read all of them, but at least try and hit the summaries.

Share this comment

Link to comment

Love the list, but I think i would add:

Blacks Law Dictionary (we are creating legal documents after all)

The Government Contracts Reference Book

Hodges' Harbrace Handbook (Because some of the grammer I see in the acquisition world is atrocious!)

Share this comment

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now