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The 15 best business books to read this winter

Photo: iStock

The best kind of winter reading is a book that’s both informative and entertaining — a book that makes you feel smarter without boring you to tears.

They’re not always easy to find, but lucky you — we’ve found 15 of them. Below, you’ll see our favourites from psychologists, data scientists, CEOs, and other business experts.

Don’t be surprised if you devour more than one in a single week, and return to the office brimming with new ideas.

'Black Edge' by Sheelah Kolhatkar

Random House

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.

Find it here »

'Everybody Lies' by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

Amazon

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: It doesn't really matter where you go to college. 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.

Find it here »

'Barking Up the Wrong Tree' by Eric Barker

Amazon

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.

Find it here »

'Option B' by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

Knopf

'Option B' is a raw, powerful book centered on Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg dealing with the loss of her husband Dave Goldberg, who died unexpectedly in 2015.

With the help of Wharton psychologist Adam Grant, Sandberg uses her own experience to explore resiliency in the wake of a tragedy as well as how to best show compassion for others who are suffering.

Find it here »

'Insight' by Tasha Eurich

Amazon

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.

Find it here »

'Unshakeable' by Tony Robbins

Simon & Schuster

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.

Find it here »

'The Captain Class' by Sam Walker

Amazon

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.

Find it here »

'Psyched Up' by Daniel McGinn

Amazon

McGinn, an editor at Harvard Business Review, has devoted an entire book to the science of mental preparation for challenging moments.

The book consists of the author's interviews with successful people in a range of fields -- from athletes, to comedians, to military leaders -- as well as relevant psychological research.

Sometimes, the science is simpler than you might think. For example, most 'winning formulas' for getting your team psyched up before an important performance boil down to direction giving, expressions of empathy, and meaning-making. And according to McGinn's research, having a personal pre-performance ritual really can give you a boost.

Find it here »

'The New Rules of Work' by Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew

Amazon

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.

Find it here »

'Captivate' by Vanessa Van Edwards

Amazon

Van Edwards calls herself a 'recovering awkward person.' In 'Captivate,' she shares the secrets that have helped her become more charismatic, likable, and comfortable in social situations.

Those secrets are based on the research she's conducted at her human behaviour research lab, called the Science of People. (Van Edwards also runs a website by the same name.)

In the book, she shares tricks to spicing up small talk, making a solid first impression, being more popular, and tapping into people's personalities based on their language. It's the kind of advice you can use the instant you finish reading the book.

Find it here »

'Pause' by Rachael O'Meara

Amazon

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 still (spoiler ahead!) 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.

Find it here »

'Wild Ride' by Adam Lashinsky

Portfolio

The turmoil at Uber that led to cofounder Travis Kalanick's forced resignation is the tech story of the summer, and 'Wild Ride' is the definitive story of the rise before the fall.

Fortune senior editor at large Adam Lashinsky drew upon multiple extensive interviews with Kalanick and others to explore how Uber became a global ride-sharing empire.

Find it here »

'Popular' by Mitch Prinstein

Amazon

If you think that popularity was only something that mattered in high school, you're wrong, says Dr. Mitch Prinstein, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

'Popular' is an adaption of the class on the psychology of popularity he's taught at UNC and Princeton, and in it Prinstein explains that there are two types of popularity: likability and status.

By the end, you'll realise how your happiness and success have been shaped since early childhood by your perception of and ranking in both types of popularity, and why it's not too late to change.

Find it here »

'One Mission' by Chris Fussell and C.W. Goodyear

Portfolio

As Gen. Stanley McChrystal's aide-de-camp in the United States' Joint Special Operations Task Force, former Navy SEAL Chris Fussell experienced what it took to keep disparate special operations units, each with its own goals and culture, working toward common goals.

'One Mission' is Fussell's sequel to the 2015 book 'Team of Teams,' which he wrote with McChrystal. While the first one primarily focused on larger themes, 'One Mission' is a collection of practical solutions to inter-team conflicts that can arise in any organisation.

Find it here »

'Hit Makers' by Derek Thompson

Penguin Press

Derek Thompson, senior editor at The Atlantic, argues that the idea of 'going viral' has caused us to have overly simple perceptions of what makes a hit a hit.

Instead, Thompson takes you through painstaking research to show how record labels manufacture pop sensations, how Facebook's newsfeed shapes national discourse, and how Donald Trump took an unlikely path to the presidency.

Find it here »

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