Book review: Build a Better Life by Stealing Office Supplies: Dogbert's Big Book of Business, by Scott Adams

originally posted elsewhere: November 11, 2003

tl;dr: One of the all-time best business books + Scott Adams best....

I cannot say enough positive things about Build a Better Life by Stealing Office Supplies: Dogbert's Big Book of Business (BABLBSOS), Scott Adams' first book and the one that started him on his path to fame, glory, and fortune. I bought my first copy in the early nineties at the MIT Tech Coop bookstore, when a fellow geek friend of mine said I absolutely had to read it - he just shoved it into my shopping tote. At that point in time I had never heard of Scott Adams, and I think the Boston Globe was one of a small handful of papers carrying Dilbert (it subsequently took two years of letter writing before my local paper agreed to carry it).

In BABLBSOS, Scott Adams covers his by now familiar territory of the world of American high tech business for the very first time. BABLBSOS is not a rehash of the daily Dilbert strip like so many other collections of Adams'. Rather, BABLBSOS is original material organized by topics, which collectively cover all major aspects of the workplace experience in a high tech company. Since Adams is exploring this material for the first time, and is not doing it in a daily comic strip form, the results are more hard-hitting and concise than Adams' subsequent books. Each page stands on its own and showcases in the best possible way Adams' brilliantly cynical understanding of how businesses all too often really function.

A book cover with the title, author's name, and subtitle, superimposed over a color cartoon drawing of a white, glasses-wearing dog walking on two legs through some grass while holding pens, rubber bands, and paper clips, with mountains, clouds, and the sun in the background

But BABLBSOS is more than just Scott Adams' best work. It also is one of the best business books and management guides ever created, and certainly the pithiest. All too many business books present prescriptions for how businesses should operate. BABLBSOS is the opposite: an "anti-business" book that shows how businesses actually behave, from the perspective of the employees. The challenge and guidance for managers, then, is to do the opposite of the pointy-haired boss, to avoid the situations that Adams presents.

After I originally read BABLBSOS, I recommended it to everyone I knew who would appreciate it (which is almost anyone who works for a living in a corporation), and used many of the panels in various presentations. I still keep a copy handy in my office for reference. So, as you can see, I cannot recommend Build a Better Life by Stealing Office Supplies highly enough.