IT'S A CAPTIVATING IDEA: Why not tell the Microsoft Corp. story from the point of view of the developers who created the company's world-dominating software products? Unfortunately, Barbarians Led by Bill Gates, No.6 on this month's hardcover best-seller list, lacks the insight of Tracy Kidder's classic account of technical creativity, The Soul of a New Machine. Instead, authors Jennifer Edstrom and Marlin Eller offer up a sneering diatribe against Chairman William H. Gates III--plus a backhanded defense of the company in the face of the Justice Dept.'s antitrust suit.

Their argument: Microsoft is too incompetent to be a threat to civilization. In his introduction, Eller, a former Microsoft developer, attributes the company's success to good fortune rather than ''Machiavellian brilliance,'' adding that life at Microsoft is ''like a Dilbert cartoon.''

To make his case, he and Edstrom (daughter of Gates's public-relations handler, Pam Edstrom) load the book with detailed accounts of petty rivalries and plans gone awry. Much of this stuff is merely boring. What's mean is their mockery of Gates, who can't possibly be this stupid. They claim, for instance, that he rejected Adobe Systems Inc.'s now-dominant PostScript technology for printing documents simply because it ''didn't have the word quick in the name!'' That's hard to believe. And it shows why this book is hard to take.


1 THE 9 STEPS TO FINANCIAL FREEDOM by Suze Orman (Crown $23) Practical and ''spiritual'' steps for managing money.

2 TITAN by Ron Chernow (Random House $30) John D. Rockefeller Sr., the devil and angel.

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

4 THE ROARING 2000S by Harry S. Dent Jr. (Simon & Schuster $25) The good times keep on rollin'.

5 SELLING THE INVISIBLE by Harry Beckwith (Warner $16) A collection of bite-size lessons on marketing.

6 BARBARIANS LED BY BILL GATES by Jennifer Edstrom and Marlin Eller (Holt $23) Microsoft, as seen by the daughter of a company publicist and a former software developer.

7 DIE BROKE by Stephen M. Pollan and Mark Levine (HarperBusiness $25) Forget about the will--and the conventional wisdom--says a financial adviser.

8 JACK WELCH SPEAKS by Janet Lowe (Wiley $16.95) Quotes from GE's man, culled from speeches, news stories, and his own writings.

9 THE ELECTRONIC DAY TRADER by Marc Friedfertig and George West (McGraw-Hill $34.95) Hopping in and out of the market electronically.

10 CONTRARIAN INVESTMENT STRATEGIES by David Dreman (Simon & Schuster $25) A fund manager's unorthodox advice.

11 THE GORILLA GAME by Geoffrey A. Moore, Paul Johnson, and Tom Kippola (HarperBusiness $26) Spotting high-tech stocks that dominate their market niches.

12 BLUR by Stan Davis and Christopher Meyer (Addison-Wesley $25) Finding focus in a world of constant change.

13 UNLEASHING THE KILLER APP by Larry Downes and Chunka Mui (Harvard Business School $24.95) How to ''achieve escape velocity from your current paradigm.''

14 GUNG HO! by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles (Morrow $20) How Walton Works No. 2 fired up its employees.

15 RAVING FANS by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles (Morrow $20) Turning customers into your biggest boosters.


1 THE SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE by Stephen R. Covey (Fireside $14) Habitually popular.

2 BUILT TO LAST by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras (HarperBusiness $15) How 3M, Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, and others became standouts.

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

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 $14.95) Concise explanations enriched with graphics.

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

7 THE ONE MINUTE MANAGER by Kenneth Blanchard PhD and Spencer Johnson M.D. (Berkley $11.95) Three management techniques, conveyed in brief story form.

8 1001 WAYS TO REWARD EMPLOYEES by Bob Nelson (Workman $10.95) Give them a champagne brunch, a casual-dress day--or plain old cash.

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

10 GETTING TO YES by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton (Penguin $12.95) A Harvard team's step-by-step guide to conflict resolution.

11 YOUR FIRST YEAR IN NETWORK MARKETING by Mark Yarnell and Rene Reid Yarnell (Prima $15) How to survive the first few months as a multilevel marketer.

12 THE E MYTH REVISITED by Michael E. Gerber (HarperCollins $15) Starting and maintaining a small business.

13 THE MOTLEY FOOL INVESTMENT WORKBOOK by David and Tom Gardner (Fireside $12) ''So where do I find stocks?'' and other queries, asked and answered.

14 INVESTING FOR DUMMIES by Eric Tyson, MBA (IDG Books $19.99) From stocks to small business--with cartoons, too.

15 HOME BUYING FOR DUMMIES by Eric Tyson and Ray Brown (IDG Books $16.99) Getting your dream house.

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 June.

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Updated July 23, 1998 by bwwebmaster
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