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Minding the Store

Great Writing about Business, from Tolstoy to Now

Edited by Robert Coles and Albert LaFarge

In a course he taught at Harvard Business School, esteemed psychiatrist and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Robert Coles asked future hedge fund managers and other aspiring “masters of the universe”  to pause and reflect on their chosen profession, using literature to explore the experience of a very real world with its very real challenges and opportunities. This anthology shares with the wider world of corporate professionals, armchair entrepreneurs, indeed any student of commerce and literature, a riveting selection from that course’s readings, and beyond. The Wall Street Journal celebrated the inclusion of Jill Nelson’s “elegant, often hilarious prose, … James Agee’s iconic journal of the Great Depression,” and literary gems from the likes of John Updike and Raymond Carver that remind us “what genuine craftsmen can do with the American suburbs”—and beyond: from Tolstoy’s “Master and Man” to Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and John Cheever’s “Housebreaker of Shady Hill” (in which a businessman survives a moral crisis after stealing his neighbor’s wallet), Minding the Store is a generous, richly entertaining, and above all timely collection of classic literary gems illuminating the human predicaments and the moral quandaries of the business world.

Robert Coles, M.D., is James Agee Professor of Social Ethics (emeritus) at Harvard University, where he taught “Literature of Social Reflection,” a senior seminar, for a quarter century at Harvard College, as well as at Harvard Business School, Harvard Law School, and elsewhere. He is the author of the Children of Crisis series of books, among many others, and lives in Concord, Massachusetts.



“A powerful opportunity for personal reflection on the ethical dimensions of business.” —Tom Piper, Harvard Business School

“There’s more to business than sales and profits,” and Minding the Store explores “the greed, desperation, and other moral pitfalls on the road to making a fortune—or a living.” —Reuters

“Of the making of business books, there is no end. Of collections of the literature of business, however, there are few. All the more reason to welcome Minding the Store, an anthology of literary selections in which business plays a telling role.” Wall Street Journal

“Classic writing … to stir your thinking on business.” The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

“Some of the best writings by some of the best authors illuminate abiding issues about business and about life in a book that will inform and enlighten a broad readership.” —Michael Shinagel, Dean, Harvard Extension School

“I intend to assign the book to my MBA students because of the important ethical questions raised by the authors. … I also plan to give copies of the book to friends who love fine literature.” —James O’Toole, Bill Daniels Distinguished Professor of Business Ethics, University of Denver

Minding the Store
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The New Press, 2008

Ann Beattie ● Raymond Carver ● John Cheever ● Joseph Conrad ● Joseph Heller ● O. Henry ● Franz Kafka ● Sinclair Lewis ● Arthur Miller ● Jill Nelson ● Flannery O’Connor ● John O’Hara ● Gwendolyn Parker ● Walker Percy ● Studs Terkel ● Jean Thompson ● Leo Tolstoy● John Updike ● Colson Whitehead ● William H. Whyte ● Herman Wouk

See the table of contents and introduction.


Read our excerpt from Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt (1922).

Listen to Robert Coles in conversation with Kai Rysdall in “A Literary Approach to Business” on Marketplace aired nationwide on NPR, July 31, 2008 (begins at 22:30) [url]

Listen to Robert Coles in an hourlong conversation with Terrence McNally on “Free Forum,” California radio KPFK, November 25, 2008

Listen to Robert Coles and Albert LaFarge chatting about literature and the economy on “The Winner’s Circle With Dan Mulhern,” a half-hour segment broadcast on WJIM radio (1240AM, Lansing, Michigan), November 20, 2008

Robert Coles with New Press director Diane Wachtell, in front of the Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass., 2008.

The New Press window display at the Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass., 2008.