IF WORLDCOM INC.'S AUDACIOUS $37 BILLION bid for MCI Communications Inc. isn't proof enough of a new order in the telecom industry, consider Excel Communications Inc. in Dallas, the nation's fifth-largest long-distance carrier. Excel was started in 1989 by Kenny Troutt, an entrepreneur with a new idea: Use the marketing approach made famous by Amway Corp. to resell long-distance service. Troutt figured an army of independent dealers could sign up friends and family without costly ad campaigns. And customers probably would be more loyal to a service purchased from a neighbor than they would to AT&T.

Today, Excel's annual revenues are about $2 billion, and it's the fastest-growing U.S. phone company. It's a fascinating story--but not one you'll read in The Excel Phenomenon, the No.3 hardback on this month's best-seller list. Author James W. Robinson says he is independent of Excel, but his book reads like the work of a Stepford wife. Here's Robinson on Excel's founder: ''The self-confidence, the ceaseless supply of energy, the plainspoken ability to motivate others, the sense you get that he has never forgotten where he came from--these are the qualities many have seen in Kenny Troutt.'' The book is mostly tales of dealers who left their jobs to become rich, rich! It isn't a how-to guide--Robinson just exhorts readers to get out there and do it, because ''the rocket ship is taking off.'' It's enough to make you long for an AT&T sales call.


1. THE MILLIONAIRE NEXT DOOR by Thomas J. Stanley, PhD, and William D. Danko, PhD (Longstreet Press $22) The penny-pinchers shall inherit the earth.

2. F.I.A.S.C.O. by Frank Partnoy (Norton $25) Did Morgan Stanley victimize its customers?

3. THE EXCEL PHENOMENON by James W. Robinson (Prima $20) Building a $2 billion long-distance provider.

4. THE DILBERT FUTURE by Scott Adams (HarperBusiness $25) Prognostication from the prolific cartoonist.

5. WALL STREET MONEY MACHINE by Wade B. Cook (Lighthouse Publishing $24.95) A former cab driver's formulas for striking it rich.

6. BUFFETTOLOGY by Mary Buffett and David Clark (Scribner $27.50) An ex-daughter-in-law's take on Buffett's techniques.

7. SELLING THE INVISIBLE by Harry Beckwith (Warner $15) A collection of bite-size lessons on marketing.

8. INSIDE INTEL by Tim Jackson (Dutton $24.95) A through-the-keyhole view of the chipmaker and its hard-driving boss.

9. STOCK MARKET MIRACLES by Wade B. Cook (Lighthouse Publishing $24.95) Investing fundamentals--and infomercials for the author's many wares.

10. POUR YOUR HEART INTO IT by Howard Schultz and Dori Jones Yang (Hyperion $24.95) At Starbucks, the chief's cup runneth over.

11. DANGEROUS COMPANY by James O'Shea and Charles Madigan (Times Business $27.50) A scathing portrait of the consulting business.

12. REAL TIME by Regis McKenna (Harvard Business School $19.95) Speed is of the essence, says a Silicon Valley marketing wizard.

13. SUCCESS IS A CHOICE by Rick Pitino with Bill Reynolds (Broadway $25) Coach says work harder, harder!

14. GUNG HO! by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles (Morrow $20) How Walton Works #2 fired up its employees.

15. AGAINST THE GODS by Peter L. Bernstein (Wiley $27.95) Risk management in the making of the modern world.


1. THE SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE by Stephen R. Covey (Fireside $12) Habitually popular.

2. THE MOTLEY FOOL INVESTMENT GUIDE by David and Tom Gardner (Fireside $12) The online investment duo puts it on paper.

3. BUILT TO LAST by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras (HarperBusiness $14) How 3M, Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, and others became standouts.

4. THE 1998 WHAT COLOR IS YOUR PARACHUTE? by Richard Nelson Bolles (Ten Speed Press $16.95) The enduring job-search bible.

5. THE WALL STREET JOURNAL GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING MONEY AND INVESTING by Kenneth M. Morris and Alan M. Siegel (Fireside $13.95) Concise explanations enriched with graphics.

6. 1001 WAYS TO REWARD EMPLOYEES by Bob Nelson (Workman $10.95) Give them a champagne brunch, a casual-dress day--or plain old cash.

7. THE DILBERT PRINCIPLE by Scott Adams (HarperBusiness $11.95) The revenge of the cubicle dwellers.

8. YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin (Penguin $11.95) To achieve financial independence, restructure your life.

9. THE BEARDSTOWN LADIES' COMMON-SENSE INVESTMENT GUIDE by the Beardstown Ladies' Investment Club with Leslie Whitaker (Hyperion $10.95) Recipes for four-bean salad, five-hour stew--and 23% returns.

10. BARRON'S DICTIONARY OF FINANCE AND INVESTMENT TERMS by John Downes and Jordan Elliot Goodman (Barron's $11.95) What is an oligopsony anyway?

11. J.K. LASSER'S YOUR INCOME TAX 1998 by the J.K. Lasser Institute (Macmillan $14.95) Plan ahead.

12. INVESTING FOR DUMMIES by Eric Tyson, MBA (IDG Books $19.95) From stocks to small business--with cartoons, too.

13. GETTING TO YES by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton (Penguin $11.95) A Harvard team's step-by-step guide to conflict resolution.

14. PERSONAL FINANCE FOR DUMMIES by Eric Tyson (IDG Books $16.95) Lighthearted primer.

15. 1001 WAYS TO ENERGIZE EMPLOYEES by Bob Nelson (Workman $10.95) From morale-building to job-enrichment.

BUSINESS WEEK's Best-Seller List is based on a survey of chain and independent booksellers that carry a broad selection of books on economics, management, sales and marketing, small business, investing, personal finance, and careers. Well over 1,000 retail outlets nationwide are represented. Current rankings are based on a weighted analysis of unit sales in October.

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Updated Nov. 20, 1997 by bwwebmaster
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