In 1995, Professor Phil Harmelink, CPA, the then Chairman of the academic Department of Accounting at the University of New Orleans (UNO) asked me to replace the legendary Freddy Herzog (who worked for the IRS for over 60 years) teaching Estate and Gift Taxation in the UNO Masters in Taxation program. While I was preparing to teach the course, which I taught for five years, it occurred to me that I should address what I reasoned was a deficiency in the education of students in the business school; some liberal arts exposure to something that would broaden the tax professionals as people.

So I developed a list of books that I felt the students should consider reading at some point during their lives, which I called “Recommended Supplementary Books- Accounting 4154-Estate and Gift Taxation,” and we spent at least ten minutes of every three hour night class session reviewing a book or two from the list, which includes at least one quote from each book. In the end, at least according to the evaluations, that ten minute “enrichment” was the most valuable and favorite part of each three-hour session.

What follows is my booklist. Thoughts?


Recommended Supplementary Books

Accounting 4154-Estate and Gift Taxation 

University of New Orleans

L. Paul Hood, Jr.

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations (A.S.L. Farquharson translation)(Knopf 1946, originally written between 161 and 180 A.D.), ISBN 0-679-41271-9.

“The future is where our greatest leverage is.” Joel Arthur Barker, Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future (HarperCollins 1992), ISBN 0-88730-647-0.

“To know you’re going to die, and to be prepared for it at any time. That’s better. That way you can actually be more involved in your life while you’re living…Devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning…Have you ever really had a teacher? One who saw you as a rare but precious thing, a jewel that, with wisdom, could be polished to a proud shine? If you are lucky enough to find your way to such teachers, you will always find your way back.” Mitch Albom, Tuesdays With Morrie (Doubleday 1997), ISBN 0-385-48451-8.

“Here’s my Credo: ALL I NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned: Share everything…Play fair…Don’t hit people…Put things back where you found them…Clean up your own mess…Don’t take things that aren’t yours…Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody…Wash your hands before you eat…Flush…Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you…Live a balanced life — learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some…Take a nap every afternoon…When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together…Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that…Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup — they all die. So do we….And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned — the biggest word of all — LOOK. Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten (Villard Books 1989), ISBN 0-394-57102-9.

“The most promising words ever written on the maps of human knowledge are terra incognita — unknown territory.” Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers (Vintage Books 1985), ISBN 0-394-72625-1.

“The process of learning often works as a metaphor does, yoking old ideas together to make something new.”  The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (Houghton Mifflin Company 1993),ISBN 0-395-65597-8.

“A son can bear with composure the death of his father, but the loss of his inheritance might drive him to despair.” Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince (Knopf, originally written in 1513), ISBN 0-679-41044-9.

“Jumping in to say what’s on our minds–before we’ve even acknowledged what the other person said–short-circuits the possibility of mutual understanding. Speaking without listening, hearing without understanding is like snipping an electrical cord in two, then plugging it in anyway, hoping somehow something will light up.” Michael P. Nichols, The Lost Art of Listening (The Guilford Press 1995), ISBN 0-89862-267-0. (now out in a second edition that rewrites and changes the above to “[T]alking without listening is like snipping an electrical cord in half and hoping that somehow something will light up.” P. 1 (The Guildford Press 2009), ISBN 978-1-59385-986-2.

“In The Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle’s philosophical enquiry into virtue, character and the good life, his challenge is to manage our emotional life with intelligence. Our passions, when well exercised, have wisdom; they guide our thinking, our values, our survival. As Aristotle saw, the problem is not with emotionality, but with the appropriateness of emotion and its expression. The question is, how can we bring intelligence to our emotions–and civility to our streets and caring to our communal life?” “But given the crises we find ourselves and our children facing, and given the quantum of hope held out by courses in emotional literacy, we must ask ourselves: Shouldn’t we be teaching these most essential skills for life to every child–now more than ever? And if not now, when?” Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books 1995), ISBN 0-553-09503-X.

“People who feel good about themselves produce good results….The best minute is the one I invest in people….Everyone is a potential winner. Some people are disguised losers, don’t let their appearances fool you….Goals begin behaviors. Consequences maintain behaviors.” Kenneth Blanchard, Ph.D. and Spencer Johnson, The One Minute Manager (Berkeley Books), ISBN 0-425-09847-8.

“Change–real change–comes from the inside out. It doesn’t come from hacking at the leaves of attitude and behavior with quick fix personality ethic techniques. It comes from striking at the root–the fabric of our thought, the fundamental, essential paradigms, which give definition to our character and create the lens through which we see the world.” Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Simon & Schuster 1989),ISBN 0-671-66398-4.

“I really admire your ability to get paid for this.” Scott Adams, The Dilbert Principle (Harper Business 1996), ISBN 0-88730-787-6.

“Unless communities have philosophers as kings, or the people who are currently called kings and rulers practise philosophy with enough integrity, there can be no end to political troubles or even human troubles in general.” Plato, Republic (Robin Waterfield translation) (Oxford University Press 1993), ISBN 9-780192-126047.

“[I]t is always hard work to find the mean in anything, i.e., it is not everybody, but only a man of science, who can find the mean or centre of a circle. So too anybody can get angry–that is an easy matter–and anybody can give or spend money, but to give it to the right persons, to give the right amount of it and to give it at the right time and for the right cause and in the right way, this is not what anybody can do, nor is it easy. That is the reason why it is rare and laudable to do well. Accordingly, one who aims at the mean must begin by departing from that extreme which is the more contrary to the mean; he must act in the spirit of Calypso’s advice,

“Far from this smoke and swell keep thou thy bark,”

for of the two extremes one is more sinful than the other. As it is difficult then to hit the mean exactly, we must take the second best course, as the saying is, and choose the lesser of two evils, and this we shall best do in the way that we have described, i.e., by steering clear of the evil which is farther from the mean…But in all cases we must especially be on our guard against what is pleasant and what is against pleasure, as we are not impartial judges of pleasure.” Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics (J.E.C. Welldon translation) (Prometheus Books 1987), ISBN 0-87975-378-1.

“A part of all you earn is yours to keep. It should be not less than a tenth no matter how little you earn. It can be as much or more as you can afford. Pay yourself first. Do not buy from the clothes-maker and the sandal-maker more than you can pay out of the rest and still have enough for food and charity and penance to the gods.” George S. Clason, The Richest Man in Babylon (Penguin Putnam), ISBN 0-451-20536-7.

“Human knowledge had become too great for the human mind. All that remained was the scientific specialist, who know “more and more about less and less,” and the philosophical speculator, who knew less and less about more and more. The specialist put on blinders in order to shut out from his vision all the world but one little spot, to which he glued his nose. Perspective was lost. “Facts” replaced understanding; and knowledge, split into a thousand isolated fragments, no longer generated wisdom. Every science, and every branch of philosophy, developed a technical terminology intelligible only to its exclusive devotees; as man learned more about the world, they found themselves ever less capable of expressing to their educated fellow-men what it was that they had learned. The gap between life and knowledge grew wider and wider; those who governed could not understand those who thought, and those who wanted to know could not understand those who knew. In the midst of unprecedented learning popular ignorance flourished, and chose its exemplars to rule the great cities of the world; in the midst of sciences endowed and enthroned as never before, new religions were born every day, and old superstitions recaptured the ground they had lost. The common man found himself forced to choose between a scientific priesthood mumbling unintelligible pessimism, and a theological priesthood mumbling incredible hopes.  In this situation the function of the professional teacher was clear. It should have been to mediate between the specialist and the nation; to learn the specialist’s language, as the specialist had learned nature’s, in order to break down the barriers between knowledge and need. And find for new truths old terms that all literate people might understand. For if knowledge became too great for communication, it would degenerate into scholasticism, and the weak acceptance of authority; mankind would slip into a new age of faith, worshiping at a respectful distance its new priests; and civilization, which had hoped to raise itself upon education disseminated far and wide, would be left precariously based upon a technical erudition that had become the monopoly of an esoteric class monastically isolated from the world by the high birth of terminology.”   Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster 1926) ISBN – 0-671-20159-X.

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult — once we truly understand and accept it — then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult. Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy. They voice their belief, noisily or subtly, that their difficulties represent a unique kind of affliction that should not be and that has somehow been especially visited upon them, or else upon their families, their tribe, their class, their nation, their race or even their species, and not upon others. I know about this moaning because I have done my share. Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them or solve them? Do we want to teach our children to solve them? Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems. Without discipline we can solve nothing. With only some discipline we can solve only some problems. With total discipline we can solve all problems.” M. Scott Peck, M.D., The Road Less Traveled (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster 1978), ISBN – 0-684-84724-8.