Over the next month, I will be attending a variety of banking, private-equity and technology investor conferences. Because I will be in contact with so many smart, well-educated and experienced people, I want to make sure that I am knowledgeable about the newest trends in sales, marketing, leadership and improving my relationship with my employees. I have found that leaders and investors are readers. When they meet other leaders, the conversations will at some point turn toward what the other person has read and if they saw any value in the books. Over the past few months, I have read the following books, which have improved my knowledge in a variety of areas. Competing in a Flat World, by Victor and William Fung and Jerry Wind. This book focuses on how Li & Fung, a garments manufacturing giant, developed a worldwide network of best-of-breed partners in each part of the supply chain to build a successful company. Along with examples of their own company, they provide examples such as Nike ( NKE) and Apple ( AAPL) working together to develop a running shoe that incorporates the iPod. Strategic Risk Taking, by Aswath Damodoran. The best companies are smart risk-takers. They perform qualitative and quantitative analysis. This book provides business leaders with a process and methodology for evaluating risk and hedging against the failure of a venture that doesn't meet expectations. The only downside of this book is the lack of case studies usually found in books written by someone of Damodran's stature.