The holidays are the perfect time to catch up with some of the best business books of the year, or give one as a gift.
This year’s highlights include Wall Street crime capers, a memoir about challenging gender discrimination in Silicon Valley, and an intimate look at a small American town that’s been struggling since the Great Recession.
Take a look at our favourites this year and see what catches your interest.
‘Black Edge’ by Sheelah Kolhatkar
In 2014, the eighth employee of legendary investor Steve Cohen’s hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors was convicted of insider trading. Cohen himself was not found guilty but was barred from managing outside capital until 2018.
“Black Edge” is the story of the Justice Department’s investigation into SAC Capital, and New Yorker staff writer Sheelah Kolhatkar has made it as gripping as a thriller.
If you’re a fan of “Billions,” it’s worth checking out this authoritative take on the true story that’s often just as dramatic as fiction.
‘Janesville’ by Amy Goldstein
The 2016 US presidential election highlighted deep divides within the United States, and brought to the forefront the concerns of middle-class Americans whose jobs have disappeared due to increased globalization and the Great Recession.
Washington Post reporter Amy Goldstein embedded herself in a town particularly affected by these forces: Janesville, Wisconsin, which is also the hometown of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Through extensive interviews with all walks of life there, she explores why so many Americans have been struggling to make a living.
“Janesville” took the Financial Times and McKinsey’s 2017 business book of the year award.
‘Principles’ by Ray Dalio
Ray Dalio is as well known for leading the largest hedge fund in the world, Bridgewater Associates, as he is for the highly unusual (and controversial) philosophy of “radical truth” and “radical transparency” that he’s instilled into the firm.
Dalio told Business Insider earlier this year that since stepping back from a daily management role in March, he has focused on leaving a legacy of this philosophy, collected in this year’s volume – focused on his personal life and management principles – and an upcoming second volume, about the economy.
In this book, you’ll learn why Dalio has all of his 1,500 employees constantly rate each other’s performance in meetings via an iPad app, and why all of these meetings are recorded and archived.
‘Reset’ by Ellen Pao
Ellen Pao sued her company, Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, in 2012 for $US16 million in lost wages due to gender discrimination, which then led to her firing.The case went to trial in 2015 and became a spectacle in the tech world.
The court ruled in Kleiner Perkins’ favour on all four counts, but Pao continued to crusade for women’s rights in tech, and inspired an ongoing wave of women in the industry to speak up against ingrained sexism in the Valley.
“Reset” is Pao’s account of what happened, and what her experience of the past few years has taught her.
‘Tribe of Mentors’ by Tim Ferriss
Tim Ferriss, best known for his perennial bestseller “The 4-Hour Workweek” and his hit podcast, told Business Insider that he undertook his latest book project as much for himself as for his audience.
Ferriss had more than 140 people at the top of their fields answer questions about their life philosophies and best habits and routines.
The result, “Tribe of Mentors,” is a highly readable collection of wisdom that you can read all the way through or use as a point of reference.
‘The Four’ by Scott Galloway
Galloway, a clinical professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business and the founder of the digital intelligence firm L2, is known for his thought-provoking business analysis and opinions.
In “The Four,” he carefully explores why and how Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google became so successful. He explains, for example, why Jeff Bezos’ willingness to experiment and kill off projects that aren’t working has influenced its growth and how the seemingly crazy decision to open an Apple store helped the company totally dominate Samsung.
Overall, the book is a big help in understanding how so many of us have come to completely rely on these tech giants – and what the future holds for other, less powerful companies.
‘Unshakeable’ by Tony Robbins
Tony Robbins, the performance coach best known for his high-energy speeches, has made a crusade of spreading personal finance education the past couple of years.
“Unshakeable” is a much slimmer version of his 2014 book “Money: Master the Game,” and is based on 50 interviews with some of the world’s greatest investors, like Bridgewater’s Ray Dalio and investor Carl Icahn, and features extensive insights from Peter Mallouk. Mallouk was rated the No. 1 wealth adviser in the US by Barron’s three times, and brought Robbins into his firm Creative Planning in 2016.
“Unshakeable” is a quick read for those new to investing or anyone looking to take their personal finance knowledge to the next level.
‘Adaptive Markets’ by Andrew W. Lo
For the past few decades, economists have debated the implications of efficient market theory, which states that investors and markets are rational and efficient, and the implications of behavioural economics, which essentially states the opposite.
MIT Sloan School of Management professor Andrew Lo argues in “Adaptive Markets” that efficient market theory is just incomplete rather than wrong, and offers a new way of understanding how investors behave and markets adapt.
‘The Captain Class’ by Sam Walker
A few years ago, Wall Street Journal deputy editor and sports section founder Sam Walker developed a process to determine the 16 greatest professional sports dynasties around the world from the last century.
When he examined his list to find shared traits that could explain their success, he determined that each had a highly influential captain with a set of traits like exceptional emotional control and intense tenacity.
Walker’s investigation is, broadly speaking, a look at what it takes to be an elite leader in any field, and the history will especially resonate with even the most casual sports fan.
‘Everybody Lies’ by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
Stephens-Davidowitz is a Harvard-trained economist and former Google data scientist. In his book, he explores the myriad uses of Big Data and how the very definition of “data” is constantly expanding.
You don’t have to be a numbers nerd to have your mind blown by some of the findings in the book. Those findings include:Where you go to college doesn’t really matter. You can predict the unemployment rate with the number of Internet searches for pornography. And Netflix’s algorithm probably knows you better than you know yourself.
It’s an easy read that also leaves you full of fascinating tidbits to share at your next networking event – and will change the way you view the world around you.
‘Barking Up the Wrong Tree’ by Eric Barker
For years now, Barker has been running a super popular blog by the same name as the book, where he shares insights from social psychology that help readers tackle everyday challenges.
In the book, Barker uses compelling anecdotes and scientific research to debunk common myths around the science of success – as in, your high-school valedictorian might not have a better shot at wealth and fame then you do! What’s more, he gives readers tools for figuring out what success really means to them.
Barker writes in a conversational-bordering-on-jokey tone, so it’s really easy to follow. But he also takes the science of success seriously, so you won’t go more than a few pages without having learned something useful.
‘Insight’ by Tasha Eurich
As an organizational psychologist, Eurich helps people overcome obstacles to professional success – and a big one is being oblivious to their flaws and mistakes.
In “Insight,” she dives deep into the topic of self-awareness, and why it’s crucial to success at work – especially if you’re a leader. Each chapter juxtaposes an anecdote about a struggling client she’s coached with relevant scientific research, and ends with some practical exercises readers can use in their everyday lives.
These exercises – like inviting someone to a meal and asking them to tell you everything that’s wrong with you – take courage. But Eurich’s experience suggests that, if you do take her advice, you’ll be better positioned to advance in your career.
‘The New Rules of Work’ by Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew
Cavoulacos and Minshew are the cofounders, and COO and CEO, respectively, of popular career advice and job listings site The Muse. In “The New Rules of Work,” they share the most important lessons they have learned about finding and building your dream career.
The best part about this book is how actionable their advice is – for example, they don’t just tell you to email your dream company; they give you a template for sending those cold messages.
And while the authors get that taking control of your career can be scary and confusing, they also aren’t afraid to give real talk. As in, don’t wait for your boss to explain the path to promotion. You’re responsible for figuring out the skills you’ll need to advance.
‘The One Device’ by Brian Merchant
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, the device that made Apple the most valuable company in the world and transformed the way people interact with technology.
To mark the occasion, Motherboard senior editor Brian Merchant uses “The One Device” as a deep dive into the decisions and breakthroughs behind the development of the historic smartphone.
‘Pause’ by Rachael O’Meara
O’Meara remembers the day she met with her boss’ boss at Google to discuss her poor performance. In no uncertain terms, he said that her skill set wasn’t a match for her current position and she’d need to find a different role. Yes, it was scary – but it was also the wake-up call she needed.
So O’Meara took three months off through Google’s sabbatical program to figure out what her strengths were, remember what she loved, and most importantly, recharge. “Pause” is O’Meara’s recounting of that sabbatical, juxtaposed with advice on how readers can do the same thing – even if their company isn’t as generous with time off as Google is.
Today, O’Meara is (spoiler ahead!) still a Googler as well as a transformational leadership coach. In the book, she includes some psychological exercises to help readers who are struggling in their careers reframe their negative thoughts and prime themselves for success.
‘The Spider Network’ by David Enrich
“The Spider Network” is Wall Street Journal editor David Enrich’s definitive tale of how in 2006, six bankers from around the world formed an uneasy alliance to manipulate the small group of people that determined the value of Libor – the London interbank offer rate, which sets the interest rates for trillions of dollars of global loans – and make millions in the process. The scheme eventually fell apart in spectacular fashion.
Enrich takes a complex financial story and makes it read like an accessible thriller.
‘The Code of Trust’ by Robin Dreeke and Cameron Stauth
“The Code of Trust” is packed with fascinating nuggets, from a breakdown of the four personality types you’ll encounter at work to stories from Dreeke’s FBI career.
Dreeke, a current FBI agent who once ran a federal behavioural analysis program, guides readers through the best ways to earn someone’s trust and forge mutually beneficial relationships – without being sketchy.
Dreeke and his co-author Stauth overturn the so-called “golden rule” and advise readers to instead follow the “platinum rule“: Treat others as they want to be treated. That’s because everyone’s got a different communication style, different needs and wants. If you address people the way you’d want to be addressed, they will be less comfortable and less likely to want to work with you.
‘Dollars and Sense’ by Dan Ariely and Jeff Kreisler
Behavioural economist Ariely and lawyer-turned-comedian Kreisler team up to bring readers a surprisingly breezy exploration of the most common mental blocks to building wealth.
Those blocks include not considering “opportunity costs” – i.e. how else you could spend your money – and deciding on spending and saving in the present, as opposed to in advance. The authors share simple, practical strategies for overcoming each obstacle.
It’s the rare kind of book that makes you feel a lot smarter, while simultaneously giving you actionable tips for improving your daily life.
‘Finish’ by Jon Acuff
After publishing the bestselling career guide “Do Over” in 2015, Acuff returns to the self-improvement scene with a book about hitting your goals and staying productive.
It’s the kind of book you can (but don’t have to) read in a single sitting: Acuff shares lots of relatable anecdotes from his own life and career and delivers strategies that are simple but somehow revelatory.
For example, Acuff tells readers to “choose what to bomb,” i.e. acknowledge that you’re going to fail at something and choose in advance what that something will be. Remember, too, that hard work doesn’t have to be a slog – you’ll actually be more effective if you enjoy your work and cut yourself some slack.
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