FIDELITY'S WORLD: THE SECRET LIFE AND PUBLIC POWER OF THE MUTUAL FUND GIANT, by Diana B. Henriques (Scribner, 416 pp., $26). You can't really say you ''know'' mutual funds, until you've read Diana B. Henriques's trailblazing and hard-hitting account of Fidelity Investments. Fidelity is to mutual funds what Microsoft is to computer software, or Toyota and General Motors are to automobiles. It is king of the hill. And the mutual-fund industry is currently the dominant player in the world of US high finance.
By the end of 1994, $1 of every $5 dollars invested by Americans in mutual funds was in a Fidelity Fund; on a typical day, Fidelity funds traded $1 billion worth of stock; and Fidelity funds owned 5 percent or more of some 700 public companies. Now that's power!
Ownership of Fidelity itself is unknown to most investors. The company is controlled by Edward C. ''Ned'' Johnson III, who hails from a Boston Brahmin retailing family. His daughter, Abby Johnson, is heir-apparent.
Fidelity, this book shows, has not escaped controversy. Henriques focuses on backroom machinations and financial wheeling and dealing. Still, Fidelity's achievement stands tall: It is huge precisely because it has delivered services, innovative products, and profits to its clients.
- Guy Halverson
HOW TO DRIVE YOUR COMPETITION CRAZY: CREATING DISRUPTION FOR FUN AND PROFIT, by Guy Kawasaki (Hyperion, 234 pp., $22.95). Former director of software product management for Apple Computer Inc. and a popular computer columnist, Guy Kawasaki cuts through the fluff and delivers what he promises in this easy-to-read page-turner that can help an organization get and keep the upper hand.
He preaches three old rules of thumb in fresh, insightful ways: know thy product, know thy customer, and, most importantly, know thy competition.
For example, try to find little features of your product (molehills) and make them into mountains - advertising Chubs Stackable baby-wipes containers as a colorful, Lego-like toy for infants. On a more flippant note, ''suck up to a research librarian'' when investigating the competition.
Throughout, Kawasaki offers instructive examples of how a wide range of companies, from Apple and Honda to the mom-and-pop startups, have trounced their competitors: The Colorado pizza chain that offered two pizzas for the price of one if customers brought in its competitors' Yellow Pages ads; the Portland, Ore., family restaurant known for its 130-square-foot play area; and Bob Curry's 5,000-square-foot hardware store in Quincy, Mass., that more than held its own against the 120,000-square-foot Home Depot.
- Shelley Donald Coolidge
COMPANY MAN: THE RISE AND FALL OF CORPORATE LIFE, by Anthony Sampson (Times Books, 353 pp., $27.50). It's too bad that Anthony Sampson did not cut the first 20 chapters of his book and begin with the last, ''Corporate Kings.''
There he arrives at a conclusion we already know: that the traditional company man of the mid-1970s is extinct because corporations have become more ruthless, even to their own employees. But we don't understand all the forces and changes that got us here.
The book does not hold to its promise of concentrating on ''the changing character of the middle-class company man.'' What readers get instead is a journalistic sweep of corporate history, going back to the British East India Company, measured out in small segments and flavored with selected quotes from novelists commenting on business life. The book has an ''I've read it somewhere else'' feel.
A lot of the author's history could have been woven into a tight, well-researched analysis of the forces affecting corporations and society in the past decade.
- David Mutch