Awards — Bulk Books — Business Books in Bulk — 800-CEO-READ

Awards

Thousands of business books are published each year, each with the potential to promote change and enlighten the way people think about business. We began recognizing these efforts in 2007 with The 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards, highlighting the best works in a number of categories. Each book is judged on the originality and applicability of its ideas and the quality of its content. Below is a list of all the books we have chosen over the years—overall winners, category winners and runners up.

-2016-

The 2016 800-CEO-READ Business Book of the Year

What Works: Gender Equality by Design Iris Bohnet | Belknap Press

We tend to rail at the gods when discussing gender inequality—fight the system! fight the power!—but don’t know how to wrest power away from them. In What Works, Iris Bohnet is more concerned that the glacial pace with which gender equality improves is due, in part, to unconscious bias. To counter these biases, she helps us identify our unwitting prejudices and then “design” a methodology for remapping how we habitually think:

Because the stakes are high by every measure, let me be clear. Far from all gender inequities are the result of unconscious bias, which is only one of the culprits unjustly disadvantaging some and benefiting others. And behavioral interventions are one instrument in our collective toolbox to correct for these injustices. Biases are, however, a clear cause of inequality, and behavioral designs can accomplish things that hammers cannot.

It’s true that What Works is a complicated book. Not because Bohnet isn’t a clear writer—she is both precise and engaging—and not because the methodology she presents is particularly daunting in terms of execution. It’s complicated because gender equality is complicated, especially if we want to make sure we don’t resort to knee-jerk namecalling or victim-blaming. It’s complicated because we simply aren’t aware of all the ways in which we are biased. But if we accept the optimistic premise that most people desire gender equality, and most organizations recognize the value of gender equality, then Bohnet’s approach, while uncomfortable because it makes us adjust our habits and acknowledge our shortcomings, is the way to make change.

LEADERSHIP & STRATEGY

category winner-Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways by William C. Taylor, Portfolio

category runners up

 

MANAGEMENT & WORKPLACE CULTURE

category winner-An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, Harvard Business School Press

category runners up

MARKETING & SALES

category winner-Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends by Martin Lindstrom, St. Martin's Press

category runners up

INNOVATION & CREATIVITY

category winner-Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson, Riverhead Books

category runners up

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT & HUMAN BEHAVIOR

category winner-Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport, Grand Central Publishing

category runners up

CURRENT EVENTS & PUBLIC AFFAIRS

category winners-Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, Crown

category runners up

NARRATIVE & BIOGRAPHY

category winner-Door to Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation by Edward Humes, Harper

category runners up

BIG IDEAS & NEW PERSPECTIVES

category winner-What Works: Gender Equality by Design by Iris Bohnet, Belknap Press

category runners up

 

-2015-

The 2015 800-CEO-READ Business Book of the Year

How to Fly a Horse will leave a positive, lasting impact on the life of a lone creative striver, on the thinking of the most traditional business practitioner, and on everyone in-between. Because of that, we believe it also have a great impact on the lives of organizations large and small.

The speed at which the modern business world changes demands creativity at every level, and this book’s broad content reassures business leaders and on-the-ground workers alike that new ideas can be found and progress created, as long as the hard yards are put in at all levels. Ashton affirms that:

The human race’s creative power is distributed in all of us, not concentrated in some of us. Our creations are too great and too numerous to come from a few steps by a few people. They must come from many steps by many people. Invention is incremental—a series of slight and constant changes. Some changes open doors to new worlds of opportunity and we call them breakthroughs. Others are marginal. But when we look carefully, we will always find one small change leading to another sometimes within one mind, often among several, sometimes across continents or between generations, sometimes taking hours or days and occasionally centuries, the baton of innovation passing in an endless relay of renewal.

Throughout How to Fly a Horse, Kevin Ashton marries history with modern innovation, fact with inspiration, making his book a joy to read, and exemplary story-telling at it’s finest.

2015 Category Winners and Runners Up

General Business

best in category - We Are Market Basket: The Story of the Unlikely Grassroots Movement That Saved a Beloved Business by Daniel Korschun and Grant Welker, AMACOM Books

We Are Market Basket is the story with a little bit of everything. It’s a great company history and narrative, a good management primer, the story of a family power struggle, and a battle between two visions of American Capitalism. It is a story so idealistic that it’s hard to believe it is realistic—that it really happened. It is the story of Market Basket employees striking, Market Basket customers boycotting the store, until a popular CEO and the business model he represented and fought for were reinstated. Tell me, how many stories have you heard of people protesting in favor of a CEO? the very foundations and philosophy of free enterprise.

best of the rest

Leadership & Management

best in category - Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family by Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia, Portfolio

I use Post-it tabs when I’m read to flag ideas I want to revisit later. In the case of Everybody Matters, I loaded up the entire book with them. Its management advice seemed tailor-fit for our small company, despite the fact that the book was written by the CEO of an enormous manufacturing company—an affirmation of author Bob Chapman’s humanistic approach to leadership. “The machinery we build is just the economic engine that enables us to touch lives.” Chapman says. “The flourishing of those lives is our paramount concern.” We believe this focus can and should be applied to every company of every size, a task made easier with Chapman’s book at hand.

best of the rest

Marketing

best in category - The Compass and The Nail: How the Patagonia Model of Loyalty Can Save Your Business, and Might Just Save the Planet by Craig Wilson, Rare Bird Books

Is the bottom line really the bottom line? Not always. Companies in the “responsible economy” measure more than just cash flow to determine their success, and more than number of purchases to determine their customer loyalty. Patagonia is one of those companies, and Craig Wilson spearheaded their multi-channel marketing efforts for nearly a decade. If you are looking for long-lasting love and not just a one-off purchase from your customer base, you can find Wilson’s brand loyalty secrets in his first book, The Compass and The Nail.

best of the rest

Sales

best in category - The Revenue Growth Habit: The Simple Art of Growing Your Business by 15% in 15 Minutes Per Day by Alex Goldfayn, Wiley

As a very busy sales person, I really appreciated the simple applicability that Alex Goldfayn brings to the world of often complex sales literature. This book is laid out in very short chapters, with digestible, immediately actionable tips for how we can be better at everything we do. Alex isn't preaching anything we didn't already know, but he reminds us of these simple tasks and lays out how to best experiment with and test them, find the ones that work and have tangible results for us, while eliminating the ones that don’t and our excuses for not doing the ones that do.

best of the rest

Entrepreneurship

best in category - Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business by Paul Downs, Blue Rider Press

Paul Downs' book is refreshing (to say the least), in that Downs doesn't pretend he has a blueprint for small business success. Rather, he painstakingly walks readers through actual experiences running his custom furniture business, revealing what too many business books gloss over: running and growing a small business is really, really hard, full of gut-wrenching decisions and littered with frustrating mistakes. Aspiring and acting entrepreneurs will glean lessons from these stories—both the failures and successes—but the real power of Boss Life is that it mirrors not only IPO chasing, start-up entrepreneurs, but the experience of millions of everyday business owners looking for, and working hard to build, a solid life for themselves and their employees.

best of the rest

Personal Development

best in category - Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle, Penguin Press

Reclaiming Conversation wasn’t a book we expected to see in the personal development category, but this very sophisticated look at conversation in the digital age quickly rose to the top of this year’s awards. Based on five years of research and interviews in homes, schools, and the workplace, Turkel finds that electronic devices have come to dictate how humans interact and that it has compromised our ability to truly relate to and empathize with one another. Ironically, it seems being constantly connected online is degrading our ability to connect in real life. This compelling book urges the reader to embrace the intimacy of face-to-face communication, and reclaim it as a real means of connection.

best of the rest

Innovation & Creativity

best in category - How to Fly A Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery by Kevin Ashton, Doubleday

It can be refreshing to take a break from the books in celebration of the rogue genius. The outstanding narratives like that of Jobs tend to mislead us into thinking of creation as a practice reserved for an elite few. How to Fly A Horse is the smelling salt to your fantasies of genius creativity. Kevin Ashton cites examples spanning centuries and demonstrating the intense collaborative nature of creation. In an age of increasing inequality of all stripes, it is refreshing to have this well-researched reminder that our world is pushed forward not by a few geniuses, but by millions of hard-working people.

best of the rest

Finance & Economics

best in category - America’s Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve by Roger Lowenstein, Penguin Press

America’s Bank is the genesis story of the Federal Reserve. And the fact that about half the people reading this will scoff at the mention of our national bank shows exactly why Roger Lowenstein’s history of the bank’s creation is so informative and important to the conversation today. Lowenstein’s tale weaves through the rise and fall of our first two national banks, the monetary dysfunction and uneven financial prospects of America as a young nation without a central bank, even as it rose as an industrial power, and leads us into the high drama and fascinating characters involved in creating the bank we know today. It is, as I wrote in an earlier review of the book, drama worthy of an original HBO series, and yet demonstrates practical politics at its best.

best of the rest

-2014-

The 2014 800-CEO-READ Business Book of the Year

If you look up and down our longlist of this year’s best books, you’ll see it’s littered with books at the intersection of business and new technology, computers, the internet, and whatever is coming next. It is just such an all-encompassing part of our lives now that we miss the forest of it for the trees of each aspect. Michael S. Malone’s Intel Trinity does a lot to explain how it became this way, and how Intel became “the most important company in the world” in the process.

But Malone's book is more than just a book about a company or industry making Moore's Law—the law that Intel launched into the world—a part of the modern human condition, as important as that story is. Because while most books end up in the General Business category because they don't fit into any other, Malone's tale ended up there because it fit in all our other categories. It is a tale of Innovation & Creativity, to be sure, and a tale of some of the most successful Entrepreneurship of the 20th Century, showing that it can be (and usually is) a collaborative effort and not the result of a lone wolf. And it gets into the nuts-and-bolts of the business, the Sales strategies and successes that built and sustained the company, and the Marketing strategies they employed when others' technologies started to catch up and even surpass their own. It is a story of the Personal Development not only of the three men in the subtitle of the book, but of so many characters whose talents Intel nurtured (like Geoffrey Moore of the aforementioned Moore's Law) and that Malone brings alive on the page. It does not have the Finance & Economic angle we usually focus on—usually either personal finance or bigger picture or behavioral economics—but it has something that may be more important; It tells the story of how Intel secured the financing to begin it's enterprise and how it managed the relationship with those that financed the company over time. And the truth is that the only reason we don't give more attention to books that talk about company and startup financing is that they're so few and far between. It's a story that should be told more often. Finally, the book has some of the best Leadership & Management stories and lessons we've come across in a long time. The three men at the center of the book had an interesting and tumultuous relationship in an industry and era that has changed life as we know it on this planet, and they were at the center of those changes.

For a book that could have, and almost does at times, get bogged down in microprocessor models and the like to tell its story, the readability of The Intel Trinity an impressive feat, and for that reason and so many others (have we mentioned just how good a journalist and writer Mike Malone is) The Intel Trinity deserves to be called the best book of 2015.

General Business

best in category - The Intel Trinity: How Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Andy Grove Built the World's Most Important Company by Michael S. Malone, HarperBusiness, ISBN 9780062226761

The Intel Trinity, starting with its description of Intel as “the World’s Most Important Company” in the subtitle, is a book that seems constantly teetering on hyperbole. But, just when you think it’s veering over the edge, Michael Malone makes a perfectly succinct point that brings the picture into focus and the story together in a way that makes you quickly realize he is a completely spot-on, and that your own version of events lacks a certain profundity. And that is not surprising, as this is a book that perfectly encapsulates the passing of an era when Silicon Valley’s first generation, a set of individuals that have changed life on this planet forever, is passing from the helm of companies into the history books.

“At its founding, Intel, the world’s most important company, had made a tacit promise to the world to uphold and preserve Moore’s Law into the indefinite future. Intel had never faltered, and as long as there was the tiniest hope at the furthest limits of human effort and imagination, it never would.” The Intel Trinity, page 488

best of the rest

Leadership & Management

best in category - The Road to Reinvention: How to Drive Disruption and Accelerate Transformation by Josh Linkner, Jossey-Bass, ISBN 9780470923436

Josh Linkner’s Road to Reinvention inspires an immediate reconsideration of your own commitment to innovation. Linkner instills a sense of urgency to his message, but not without providing us with thought exercises and strategies that illuminate just where our own businesses might be stagnating. It’s a cruel world out there, he seems to be saying, but, even as he uses the life, death, and (impending) rebirth of Detroit as his exemplar, he is an optimist, making clear that a smart, daring, and clear-eyed assessment of where you are and where you dream of going can help ward off any disrupters who come to play in your pool. Whether your business is in decline or is searching for a growth strategy—especially those who have little maneuverability in terms of cash or internal bandwidth—Linkner’s championing of creative thinking, flexibility, and personal responsibility, in the name of “proactive reinvention,” will not only change how you do at the business you do, but also keep it changing.

“Many organizations, once great, wither and die as a direct result of their deep entrenchment in the past. They discover too late that success isn’t about cracking the code once and then enjoying the spoils forever. Instead, it’s a moving target that we have to hit again and again.” The Road to Reinvention, page 2

best of the rest

Marketing

best in category - Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyel, Portfolio, ISBN 9781591847786

As we see a large amount of innovation entering into the tech world, Hooked is an essential read for entrepreneurs trying to create sticky products and ideas that people can’t live without. Written in a highly personal manner, the takeaways that Nir Eyel lays out at the end of every chapter are enough to keep you hooked, while providing valuable insight into users’ behavior and motivation which adds real value to Nir’s work.

“Altering behavior requires not only an understanding of how to persuade people to act—for example, the first time they land on a web page—but also necessitates getting them to repeat behaviors for long periods, ideally for the rest of their lives.” Hooked, page 25

best of the rest

Sales

best in category - UnSelling: The New Customer Experience by Scott Stratten & Alison Kramer, Wiley, ISBN 9781118943007

The rules of selling have fundamentally changed. Buyers and sellers have drastically shifted their focus to the online marketplace but Scott and Alison have written a great book to help businesses focus on where they should be aiming. Written in a fun and conversational manor, the book presents a clear picture of why certain efforts work and why other fail, and how to create value to a business before they even realize they need you.

“Unselling is what happens when you understand the humanity of your market, produce a quality product, and create experiences that lead to trusted referrals. UnSelling means stepping back from the funnel and focusing on everything else but the sale.” UnSelling, page 16

best of the rest

Entrepreneurship

best in category - The Responsible Entrepreneur: Four Game-Changing Archetypes for Founders, Leaders, and Impact Investors by Carol Sanford, Jossey-Bass, ISBN 9781118910757

The current global business climate is in need of a new entrepreneurial code—one that serves our ever-more-enlightened humanitarian goals. Our world can no longer afford big entrepreneurship that doesn’t serve to make positive global change. This is the task Carol Sanford takes up in The Responsible Entrepreneur, and the result provides a promise of a better future for new businesses and the world alike. The Responsible Entrepreneur provides a wealth of opportunity for those who want more than simply to earn a living. You can start a business, sure—but why not change the world while for the better while you’re at it? Carol Sanford will show you how.

“To play the game well is one thing. To play it with style and creativity is even better. But changing the game itself is a different level of play entirely, a level that you must be willing to master if you are to advance your path as a responsible entrepreneur.” The Responsible Entrepreneur, page 13

best of the rest

Personal Development

best in category - Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, Crown Business, ISBN 9780804137386

In a year when a number of our category winners are about or are written by heads of Silicon Valley companies, Essentialism opens with a story about one Valley company leader who decidedly bucked the tech industry’s overdo it culture by learning how to accomplish more by focusing on less, which this books teaches us how to accomplish. At a time in history when the entire idea of work—what it looks like and how it’s done—is being questioned, the path to Essentialism should be an important part, if not the very foundation, of the work conversation.

“Years from now (hopefully many), when you are at the end of your life, you may still have regrets. … What would you trade then to be back here now for one chance—this chance—to be true to yourself? On that day, what will you hope you decided to do on this one?” Essentialism, page 27

best of the rest

Innovation & Creativity

best in category - The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 9781476708690

Walter Isaacson extends his legacy as an expert biographer with The Innovators. It is on the surface a history that culminates in what we now call the Digital Age, but delivers much more than a simple history of inventions. Covering a period of more than 150 years, The Innovators is a study of some of the last century-and-half’s greatest minds—from Ada Lovelace to Sergey Brin—and a reminder that the digital tools we know today are born from human relationships and driven by a hope to improve the work and communication that we humans engage in daily.

“The collaboration that created the digital age was not just among peers but also between generations. Ideas were handed off from one cohort of innovators to the next [and] the collaborative creativity that marked the digital age included collaboration between humans and machines.” The Innovators, page 5

best of the rest

Finance & Economics

best in category - How the Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class by John Hope Bryant, Berrett-Koehler, ISBN 9781626560321

John Hope Bryant shows us how the economic engine of capitalism—an engine that has been building a burgeoning middle class all over the world as markets have opened up to it in recent decades—can be put to use to address the economic inequality and inequity right here at home, and help grow the American economy at the same time. Or, to rearrange and paraphrase the title of the book a bit, it is a book about rebuilding a navigable path to the middle class for poor folks and using that path to spur the growth that American capitalism needs to survive and thrive.

“The poor and the working class are not a problem to be dealt with but the keepers of an untapped opportunity that can be leveraged for the benefit of America. They are not just reliable consumers but also are future producers of economic recovery.” How the Poor Can Save Capitalism, page 40

best of the rest

-2013-

The 2013 800-CEO-READ Business Book of the Year

 

Richard Shell literally teaches the course on success at Wharton, so who better than he to write the book? His 2013 effort, Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success, is wonderful. It is an even-handed, well reasoned and researched, and incredibly written book that should find a home on the shelves, and in the hearts and minds, of anyone who wants to be more successful—and who doesn’t want to be more successful.

 

It is purposeful and very personably written, almost as if you’re hearing from an old friend. And, like the man who wrote it, it is also incredibly modest—which is probably why you won’t see it appearing on many other “best of” lists this year. It is not a super hip or a very “sexy” book. But it makes up for it in erudition, practicality, applicability, and if you’re open to it, profundity.

The profundity does not come cheap, however. This is not a book of encouraging yet empty slogans. It is not a quick fix or instant success formula. It does not tell you how to achieve fame or fortune. In fact, it warns that the unexamined pursuit of such things will turn you into a success addict—a hungry ghost—unable to feed an ever-expanding appetite for such status symbols. It does not succumb to the cult of ambition or the supposed power of positive thinking. In fact, writing about “The Positive Value of Negative Emotions,” he lets us know that “In fact, research shows that mildly depressed or pessimistic people tend to see reality more clearly than optimists,” that “The price of enlightenment seems to be suffering, not smiling.”

Yet it is, in the end, an incredibly uplifting book, not because it is filled with motivation and inspiration, but because it gives you the tools to lift yourself up.

It will require some work from you—the reader; Shell will have you searching inside yourself and answering some often difficult questions about what you truly want and why. After all, as Shell write, “If you allow others to define your goals for you, then there is a pretty good chance you will end up holding a prize you did not choose and do not want.”

But if you can figure out and define exactly what you’re looking for, and we believe reading Springboard can help you find that moment of clarity, then you can start to work toward finding and achieving it—the ultimate measure of success.

General Business

best in category - The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business by Rita Gunther McGrath, Harvard Business Review Press, ISBN 9781422172810

The world Rita Gunther McGrath paints is one in which the ubiquity of cost leadership and differentiation among industry leaders is waning, and the future for leaders of industries is one in which organizational identity and agility triumph. The End of Competitive Advantage shows us case after case of leading companies and their failures to adapt to changing markets. Floods of new technologies and market trends bring a challenge to companies: grab hold and start building something quickly, or else watch your brand wash away into obsolescence. Sustained success is no longer about what you sell and at what price, but rather how far you can forecast and how quickly you can adapt to the coming trends.

“Although executives realize that rapid change is the norm, the strategies they use to compete still draw on frameworks and practices that were most effective decades ago. Executives need a new set of strategy frameworks and practices for winning over the long haul, even as sustainable competitive advantages have become a thing of the past.” The End of Competitive Advantage, page 5

best of the rest

Leadership

best in category - Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A.G. Lafley & Roger L. Martin, Harvard Business Review Press, ISBN 9781422187395

This book relays the strategic approach P&G used over the 10-year period Lafley (with Martin as advisor) led the company to increase its market value to $100 billion. But this isn’t an industry book as much as it is a “story about choices, including the choice to create a discipline of strategic thinking and strategic practice within an organization.” And that’s truly what makes this book so good. It is, indeed, a story, and its two authors are invested in communicating the impressive work done at P&G and teaching this approach to others.

“The essence of great strategy is making choices—clear, tough choices, like what business to be in and which not to be in, where to play in the business you choose, how you will win where you play, what capabilities and competencies you will turn into core strengths, and how your internal systems will turn those choices and capabilities into consistently excellent performance in the marketplace. And it all starts with an aspiration to win and a definition of what winning looks like.” Playing to Win, page 46

best of the rest

Management

best in category - Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love by Richard Sheridan, Portfolio, ISBN 9781591845874

We all want a healthy and happy atmosphere at work. This book shows how the company Menlo Innovations built that for their employees, and how the rest of us can do the same. Beyond simple management tactics, the book gets into the core intricacies of emotion, personality, and skills, revealing qualities of a shared belief system that everyone could work from—to the point that some even joked they no longer needed to be paid.

“This journey to joy is personal. It has to be. You want a job or an organization that brings you joy. You want to enjoy that ‘good kind of tired’ at the end of the day, knowing you made your life just a little bit better today. … You’ll start to see joy, feel joy, and almost touch joy within our entire team. … There’s a unified purpose and a way to deliver it. Now nothing seems impossible.” Joy, Inc., page 245

best of the rest

Marketing & Sales

best in category - Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out by Marc Ecko, Touchstone Books, ISBN 9781451685305

It is very rare to read an entire business book from cover to cover, or find a story that is so interesting and captivating that it immediately puts perspective on how you channel your own creativity. Unlabel is that book. It is a success story, but it's one that shares the bruises, scars, and painful mistakes that every entrepreneur and business owner must overcome to succeed. Unlabel is a great mix of personal anecdotes from Marc Ecko’s own life, and helpful action tips that other small business owners and entrepreneurs can use to further their business and their lives outside of business. In a time where the majority of the world is forced to hustle, and fight in a competitive world, Unlabel is the perfect story of a man who clawed his way out of a garage, creating a multi-million dollar company in the process.  

“I am a brand, but I am not a label. … You too are a brand. Whether you know it or not. Whether you like it or not. A brand is not skin-deep. Labels are skin-deep, but a brand—a true, authentic brand—is made of blood and bones, skin and organs. A brand has a heartbeat.” Unlabel, page 1

best of the rest

Entrepreneurship & Small Business

best in category - Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed by Alexis Ohanian, Business Plus, ISBN 9781455520022

Alexis Ohanian’s deliberations on the infancy of the Internet provide ample fuel for the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Ohanian explains how the Internet supplants the old boundaries and obstacles of entrepreneurship in a purely physical world with digital tools, platforms, and ideas. The story of reddit and Ohanian’s subsequent adventures bolster his argument for the power of the Internet and the importance of it remaining free and accessible to all. Without Their Permission is an entrepreneur’s guide for the young. It is a reminder that the Internet hasn’t always been as it is now, and it is up to those young entrepreneurs to determine what it will be in the future.

“I’m motivated by all the awesome people whose ideas we’ve never benefitted from because of where they were born or because of their race, sex, or other characteristics. ... When all links are created equal, your ideas can win simply because people like them. The future of innovation will be made, not managed. We cannot (and should not) control it. Our responsibility is to get everyone on the paying field with the skills they need to succeed.” Without Their Permission, page 7-8

best of the rest

Personal Development

best in category - Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success by G. Richard Shell, Portfolio, ISBN 9781591845478

Success is an oft-tackled subject in business literature, so it’s easy to be cynical about there being any new angle to take on the matter. But G. Richard Shell, author of the classic Bargaining for Advantage and the terrific The Art of Woo achieves it in Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success by presenting us with a book that doesn’t define success as much as it provides readers with the tools to define it accurately and authentically for themselves. Why is this so important? In Shell’s words: “It is your life story you are writing, after all.” Shell opens his book with a retelling of his own circuitous path to success, written with great humility and insight, and the entire book is shared in a voice that is both instructive and generous. “What is Success?” and “How Will I Achieve It?” are questions you will be able to answer for yourself once you close the covers of this book.

There is no ‘secret’ you need to discover. And you do not have ‘one true purpose’ for your life that is your duty to find or die trying. The raw materials for success are tucked away inside you and your next big goal is probably within arm’s reach—if only you have the clarity of mind to see it Springboard, page 10-11

best of the rest

Innovation & Creativity

best in category - Unthink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius by Erik Wahl, Crown Business, ISBN 9780770434007

When we were young, we didn’t think much about creativity, we just used it all the time. As adults, we often wonder how to get that sense of wonder back. We fear the ridiculous, and are burdened by how we’re “supposed” to think, yet we hold a bounty of adventure, ideas, and inspiration within each of us. Looking to harness creativity and innovation? Unthink is our guide.

We secretly believe that creative genius is reserved for the chosen few—for the poets, the painters, the writers. The truth is that breakthrough creativity is in all of us. It is us. It is the process through which you and I discover all we were meant to be and do. Unthink, page 11

best of the rest

Finance & Economics

best in category - The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire by Neil Irwin, The Penguin Press, ISBN 9781594204623

The Alchemists not only provides those on the macroeconomic scene today with a better understanding of the history and role of central banks and bankers, it gives the general public insight into a world that is extremely powerful and very (and possibly necessarily) opaque, and leaves for future scholars a first draft history of the unprecedented, ad hoc institutional reaction to one of the biggest financial meltdowns the world has ever seen. And, in spite of it’s white collar content and buttoned-up policy wonkishness, it is also an interesting history lesson and a uniquely human drama that unfolds. Overall, it’s simply an important and entertaining read from Neil Irwin and The Penguin Press.

“The alchemists of medieval times never did figure out a way to create gold from tin, but as it turned out, it didn’t matter. A central bank, imbued with power from the state and a printing press, had the same power. With that power, it creates the very underpinnings of modernity. As surely as electric utilities and sewer systems make modern cities possible, the flow of money enabled by central banks makes a modern economy possible.” The Alchemists, page 8-9

best of the rest

 

 

-2012-

 

 

The 2012 800-CEO-READ Business Book of the Year

The Advantage is a smart, quiet book. The valedictorian of the business book class of 2012 whose extracurricular is the chess club rather than debate or pep. The title and cover are straightforward. The message isn't about making millions of dollars, turning the ship around, inspiring innovative excellence, breaking all the rules. Instead, the message is about prevention, about laying a solid groundwork of internal health to avoid the extremes mentioned above. To venture into a different metaphor, The Advantage is about eating your veggies, sharing a dessert rather than eating the entire slice, and taking a walk around the neighborhood each morning, rather than auditioning for The Biggest Loser to make a drastic and last-ditch change.

The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health. Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free, and available to anyone who wants it.

Despite its sensible qualities, or rather because of them, we are passionate about the importance of this book and recommend it to every manager or business owner who wishes to prevent organizational disease, rather than treat the symptoms when it's already too late to stop the spread. We love it's prime message of attending to the little things, so there aren't so many BIG things to contend with. And Patrick Lencioni, one of the biggest names in business books, is the right person to show you how to attain organizational health--nay, organizational excellence--and prevent the dysfunctions that come from such internal parasites as politics, unresolved conflict, confusion. Like anything that's valuable, organization health takes some working at. The payoff? Transformation.

An organization has integrity--is healthy--when it is whole, consistent, and complete, that is, when its management, operations, strategy, and culture fit together and make sense.

Lencioni values management and so he begins his thesis with this foundational truth: management affects every aspect of a company. He explains that he learned from an early age "that some of the things that took place in the organization where I worked made sense, that others didn't, and that it all had a very real impact on my colleagues and the customers we served." And management's contribution to the welfare of every person connected to the company intrigued him, leading him down the career path of writing books that offer practical solutions to solving persistent management problems.

An organization doesn't become healthy in a linear, tidy fashion. Like building a strong marriage or family, it's a messy process that involves doing a few things at once, and it must be maintained on an ongoing basis in order to be preserved.

The first thing companies must do to attain organizational health is decide that organizational health is worthy of their attention. Leaders "must humble themselves enough to overcome the three biases that prevent them from embracing it."

  • The Sophistication Bias: sometimes the practical is the most valuable
  • The Adrenaline Bias: it's not always the urgent that is the most critical
  • The Quantification Bias: the measurable isn't the only thing justifiable

Managers must then commit to practicing the 4 Disciplines:

  1. Build a Cohesive Team by building trust, mastering conflict; achieving commitment; embracing accountability; focusing on results.
  2. Create Clarityand achieve alignment by answering six critical questions (see the book for just what these questions are.)
  3. Overcommunicate Clarity through repetition of those answers to inspire belief.
  4. Reinforce Clarity by building systems that reinforce the answers without institutionalizing them.

Lencioni closes the book by spending some time with one of his favored topics (see his bestselling Death by Meeting): the meeting. Meetings cannot and should not be eliminated, Lencioni asserts, but they can be regulated. He suggests establishing four types of meetings--administrative, tactical, strategic, developmental--that are held at specific times or to solve specific problems. Both employees and leaders then know exactly what they are getting into and what is expected of them.

As dreaded as the "m" word is, as maligned as it has become, there is no better way to have a fundamental impact on an organization than by changing the way it does meetings.

As may now be apparent, with The Advantage Lencioni leaves his preference for fable writing (e.g. The Five Dysfuntions of a Team, The Five Temptations of a CEO, and one of our favorites, Getting Naked) behind. There are no fictional characters and narrative this time around, and while we'll miss Lencioni's talent for telling engaging tales, The Advantage still sings with the tenor of Lencioni's accessible and generous voice. The book is well-stocked with straight-forward advice about getting things right in your organization before they become wrong. Because if, or rather, when, things do go wrong as they are apt to in the life of a company, the organization's health will be strong enough to withstand and endure the assault. Therein lies The Advantage, and why we chose this book as our 2012 Book of the Year.

General Business

best in category - Private Empire: Exxon Mobil and American Power by Steve Coll, The Penguin Press

Steve Coll's case study detailing the extraordinary operation of ExxonMobil is an impartial peek into a world that, for most, is and always will be as opaque as the dense black matter they deal in. Readers are privy to a wealth of insider stories, and along the way Coll's narrative manages to impart some of the worldly wisdom that helps the corporation stay so successful. There's nothing small about Private Empire: big money, big oil, big drama, 700 pages. Coll's austere narrative is the most modest element present. But the publication of Private Empire could not be timelier; one can't resist wondering how the most consistently profitable corporation in the U.S. will transform and be transformed by the changing energy market.

best of the rest

Leadership

best in category - The Commitment Engine: Making Work Worth It by John Jantsch, Portfolio

Small business guru John Jantsch knows the importance of personal commitment, but from owning his own business and studying others, he knows that it's just as important to generate commitment to your business, to your ideas and values, your story, your products and services, in others—particularly in your employees and customers, but also in the businesses you partner with. If you can set a clear purpose and build a business around it that generates commitment in others, then you can let go of the controls and watch as your business seemingly runs itself.

best of the rest

Management

best in category - The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni, Jossey-Bass

What would happen if Patrick Lencioni–a truly elite business book writer–left the fictional story lines and characters more common to his work and wrote a straight-forward business book? In 2012, to our delight and every manager's benefit, we found out. In The Advantage, Lencioni presents the important, yet rarely addressed, issue of interpersonal barriers that prevent organizational health. These dysfunctions (e.g. politics or inter-team rivalry, lack of accountability, disruptive turnover, confusion) impair productivity and morale, which directly impedes success. Organizational wholeness–something attainable by all, Lencioni assures us–, trumps everything else in business. We agree.

best of the rest

Marketing & Sales

best in category - To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink, Riverhead Books

With the emergence of sites such as Amazon, YELP, Expedia, and Groupon, people think that we no longer need to sell or be sold to—that these electronic resources can help us find everything that we are looking for on our own. In To Sell is Human, Dan Pink not only demonstrates just how wrong this view is, but shows us that there is a new approach to moving people that involves three very human qualities and three surprising skills. Pink's in-depth study offers a fresh, perceptive, and—most importantly—practical look at the art and science of selling, and his insightful observations on sales will transform how you think about what you do at work, at school, and at home.

best of the rest

Entrepreneurship & Small Business

best in category - The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau, Crown Business

This book is not about getting rich, and it's not about being on the "leading edge." And, as the author tells us in his opening "manifesto," it is not about doing less work, it's about doing better work. Chris Guillebeau's new book is simply a very well written guide to independence via entrepreneurship. He offers insights on how to break away from the conventional workforce, but he augments his guidance with very relatable anecdotes and case studies that entertain, excite, and educate. The $100 Startup does offer cases in which people have made quite a bit of money, but the goal of the book is always to teach readers how to be self-supporting. This is the everyman's guide to entrepreneurship.

best of the rest

Personal Development

best in category - So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport, Business Plus

Career advice of the "Do what you love" variety is usually followed up with a "bust out of your cubicle, sacrifice all, and follow your passion" anecdote of success. It's the kind of advice that gets people who aren't excited about their work to get excited about, well, doing anything but what they are doing. Cal Newport takes a different angle to finding fulfilling work, advising instead that passion is an unreliable advisor, and people actually long for and are fulfilled by becoming really, really good at something. Newport's advocacy of "using the craftsman mindset to generate fantastic livelihoods" offers a refreshing and realistic alternative route to finding work you love.

best of the rest

Innovation & Creativity

best in category - The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? by Seth Godin, Portfolio

The Industrial Age and its factories required quiet productivity and standardization, and the people who worked in those factories were certainly no exception. But the Industrial Age is over. We live in a different time now, which Seth Godin calls "the connection economy." Connections involve people, but they also involve ideas, and as we make connections we create rather than replicate. Whether we're flight attendants, sales people, wait staff, managers, or painters, we can all make connections. We can all make art. The term "creative" often gets applied to a specific type of person. Godin shows us why that is wrong, how each of us can better understand what we are capable of, and what a huge resource of innovation that understanding can offer. Before addressing any challenge, we first must address ourselves. Godin shows us the way.

best of the rest

Finance & Economics

best in category - Finance and the Good Society by Robert J. Shiller, Princeton University Press

Financial Capitalism has a rather well deserved black eye coming out of a crisis largely of its creation. Robert J. Shiller makes no apologies for the financial industry or those in it, but takes a longer view and shows how financial innovation has advanced human goals and agency throughout history and can still be a force of good in society. He very adeptly and academically lays out the roles and responsibilities of the individuals within finance, and the role of finance within the larger society. Shiller demonstrates along the way that instead of demonizing finance, we could be doing our best to democratize it—that finding the solution to our problems and building a better future for all of us requires not a more profound anger, but a deeper understanding of finance and its role in our society. And most importantly, he provides us with one.

best of the rest

-2011-

 

 

The 2011 800-CEO-READ Business Book of the Year

Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by Jim Collins & Morten T. Hansen, HarperBusiness, ISBN 9780062120991 | Chaos and uncertainty are all around us. The economy is struggling, some have been out of work for years, and entrepreneurs are having a more and more difficult time creating success. Yet despite those things, there are organizations that are extremely successful. Looking at them on the surface, surmising their marketing techniques, management practice, and general strategy does not reveal enough to truly understand the "hows" and "whys" of their success.

Fortunately, ten years after his classic Good to Great, Jim Collins has teamed with with Morten T. Hansen to explain it all. They have spent the last decade digging deep into what makes these companies great, and figuring out how other managers and leaders can make similar choices for their own organizations. Their research is revealed in the book, Great By Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All.

It is a book perfectly suited to our times, containing the extensive research and free-thinking Collins is known for, while also being able to impart confidence in the knowledge that, despite the chaos and uncertainty, it is still your choices and not chance that control your fate. The principles, insights and lessons are presented through a variety of captivating case studies and comparison stories, from deadly vs. successful mountain climbing expeditions to the post-9/11 experience of Southwest Airlines. Survival is a strong theme throughout the book, and some of the details about the practices of these survivors (whom the authors call the 20 mile marchers) will surprise you.

Where will your company be in 5 years? 10 years? Will it be at all? These might be hard questions to ask, but can be more easily answered once you have an understanding of the principles in this book.

General Business

best in category - The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World by Daniel Yergin, Penguin Press

In The Quest, Daniel Yergin expands his Pulitzer Prize winning history of oil, The Prize, to capture the entire energy picture. The story he tells captures the immediacy of the headlines while at the same time revealing a deeper, more dramatic narrative of behind-the-scenes personalities and maneuvering. Taking us from the Caspian Sea to Nigeria, Venezuela to the Persian Gulf, China and everywhere in between, The Quest is 700+ pages of fascinating stories and detail.

best of the rest

Leadership

best in category - Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by Jim Collins & Morten T. Hansen, HarperBusiness

Based on nine years of research, Great by Choice is a book that identifies and studies enterprises that have not only excelled statistically, but did so in a particularly turbulent environment. But beyond the vital research—and this book presents plenty of it, with almost 40 pages of research notes at the back of the book—a book has to be readable, the advice applicable, the examples memorable to really get you thinking and inspire change. Ten years after the release of Good to Great, Jim Collins and Morten Hansen have done all of that, given us the perfect book for our times and the understanding that it is the choices we make—not chance—that determines a company's fate.

best of the rest

Management

best in category - Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers by Jeanne Liedtka & Tim Ogilvie, Columbia Business School Publishing

Most managers probably don't consider themselves designers—they manage people and processes. But consider this: Instead of just thinking about who does what, how and when, what if managers began to think about how these tasks interact with customers, how the space these activities are done in (both the real space and metaphorical space) create efficiency, buy-in, job fulfillment, and profitability? By treating management as a design process, managers can create systems that have quality built in rather than simply offering rules and guidelines for employees to follow. This book is the guide to making that shift, and is an important resource for those who lead people.

best of the rest

Marketing & Sales

best in category - The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk, HarperBusiness

Gary Vaynerchuck's first book, Crush It, details how to use social media to maintain and improve that business, and allow the personalities of people at all levels of a company to create real, authentic conversations about the way business is conducted. Filled with practical stories and ideas on how to use customer service, strategy, innovation, and sales and marketing to create a strong and trustworthy company, The Thank You Economy is the essential guidebook for leveraging social media to improve your business.

best of the rest

Entrepreneurship & Small Business

best in category - The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries, Crown Business

Written by a serial entrepreneur, this book examines the innovations made by his successful startups, lessons learned by those that weren't and how the actions that paved their way can be replicated and lead to radically successful businesses, according to Ries. Based on the precepts of lean manufacturing, The Lean Startup illustrates how to get closer to customers, design products and services they really want and then streamline processes and procedures to help business startups become more successful. Heady, but immensely interesting, the book can help startups succeed at a time when they desperately need to.

best of the rest

Personal Development

best in category - Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields, Portfolio

At first glance, Uncertainty looks like one of those niche books that will appeal primarily to born risktakers whose pursuit of a personal dream outruns any natural fear of failure. And, while it does offer many stories about uber-successful, seemingly fearless folks who look uncertainty in the eye and never blink, what is so good about Uncertainty is that it goes beyond the anecdotal. Author Jonathan Fields very clearly presents the tools, talents and traits that people such as Randy Komisar, Sebastian Junger, and Haruki Murakami have put into practice to navigate the unknown and find success. And practice is the key word here, for being able to tolerate uncertainty isn't the result of some innate DNA strand, but of the ability to make small changes and a commitment to doing the work that we are passionate about, despite the risk.

best of the rest

Innovation & Creativity

best in category - Best Practices Are Stupid: 40 Ways to Out-Innovate the Competition by Stephen M. Shapiro, Portfolio

Don't think outside the box. Make a better box. Shapiro's book looks at how to make improvements, find solutions to problems, and overcome a number of challenges by not following the usual methods. Through Shapiro's research, case studies, and insights, this is a book readers can instantly put into action, and when it comes to change, new ideas, and new approaches, those on the path to innovation first will have a head start toward success.

best of the rest

Finance & Economics

best in category - Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes, and What Capitalism Can Learn from the NFL by Roger Martin, Harvard Business Review Press

Roger Martin is making a run to eventually be included in every one of our awards categories. In 2007, he was on the Leadership shortlist for his book The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking. He led the Innovation & Creativity category in 2009 with The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking Is the Next Competitive Advantage. And now he has cracked the Finance & Economics category. This year's shortlist is full of books about economic and financial bad behavior, tricks, gimmick and wars. Martin's book is about fixing the game. There are many fixes in the book, but the big one is to break shareholder value theory's influence on the business world in the same way the NFL broke gambling's influence on the game in its early days—by not letting those who play the game gamble on it or, put in business terms, by segregating the actual market from the expectations market. The best books of the past few years have focused on the economic challenges of the recent past; it seems we're now finally beginning to see a transition to addressing the great many challenges we face in the future.

best of the rest

-2010-

The 2010 800-CEO-READ Business Book of the Year

Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeir Hansson Crown Business, 288 pages, $22.00 | This book created excitement around the office months before it came in, and the galley that we received before publication was passed around and beat up from use by the time the finished copies started to come in. Our conclusion: if you are an aspiring business book author or publisher and want to know what a truly exceptional business book looks like, Rework is the example.

The authors, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, created and run a company called 37signals, supplier of the Highrise, Basecamp and Backpack software that we at 800-CEO-READ use everyday. 37Signals is not large; in fact, it is intentionally small. Small, comfortable, and profitable. The business insights Fried and Hansson share in the book, written in contemporary language that is both accessible and exciting, is wisdom that our founder and president Jack Covert has said took him forty years to learn. And wonderfully illustrated throughout by Mike Rohde, that wisdom comes in an appealing visual package.

But beyond being the best-conceived and designed book of the year, what we really appreciate about Rework is its pragmatic nature—its emphasis on the problem at hand. As the economy continues its recovery, it encourages people in business to rethink some basic assumptions, offering logical ideas and solutions that are instantly applicable to the solo entrepreneur, the team leader, or the company owner.

General Business

best in category - Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc.—How the Working Poor Became Big Business by Gary Rivlin, HarperBusiness, 368 pages, $26.99

"There no doubt were ghetto grocers and poverty pimps long before the coinage of either of those terms and it was the writer James Baldwin who famously noted that it was very expensive being poor." So writes Gary Rivlin in Broke, USA. Making money off the poor is certainly not a new idea, but the size, reach and influence of the businesses doing it today is. From payday loans and check-cashing operations to rent-to-own schemes and subprime mortgages, Rivlin charts how the poverty industry became such big business and how it contributed to the systemic financial crisis the country ended up in.

best of the rest

Leadership

best in category - Bury My Heart at Conference Room B: The Unbeatable Impact of Truly Committed Managers by Stan Slap, Portfolio, 234 pages, $25.95

Stan Slap has penned one of the smartest and most compelling books on leadership ever produced. Slap uses his research with over 10,000 managers from seventy countries to focus on the major challenge a modern business manager faces—emotional commitment to the job. Slap's methodology is to help managers become committed first to themselves, to live those personal values at work without compromise, and to lead others with an integrity that stems from living those values. If you feel a divide between who your are at work and who you really are, Stan Slap's Bury My Heart at Conference Room B offers a remedy and a way to become a truly committed manager and better leader.

best of the rest

Management 

best in category - Getting Naked: A Business Fable about Shedding the Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty by Patrick Lencioni, Jossey-Bass, 220 pages, $24.95

Patrick Lencioni books are always a pleasure to read, and this one might be his best. Getting Naked is a business fable about a management consultant who learns some serious lessons about creating loyalty and trust. As with all Lencioni's books, you don't just read them, you experience them. He has a great talent for making you feel like you're a part of the story's central character, struggling with their challenges, and discovering their successes. And, once the book is put down, the insights gained feel real and personal, and that's the most you can ask for in a business book.

best of the rest

Marketing & Sales

best in category - The Man Who Sold America: The Amazing (But True!) Story of Albert D. Lasker and the Creation of the Advertising Century by Jeffrey L. Cruikshank & Arthur W. Schultz, Harvard Business Press, 435 pages, $27.95

In a day and age when Mad Men is bringing the story of the big New York ad agencies of the '60s into living rooms across America, Jeff Cruikshank and Andrew Schultz have vividly illustrated the incredible story of the man who set that world in motion. In The Man Who Sold America, they tell the story of Albert Lasker. Lasker was a man of great importance in the advertising world—as a master seller, a dealmaker, a team leader, and a visionary who created and applied industry methods to every part of society. This history of Albert Lasker's emergence into the ad world of 1898 and the way he transformed it still holds valuable professional lessons and insights that are still practiced and revered a full century later. And his story of personal turmoil provides valuable life lessons along the way.

best of the rest

Entrepreneurship & Small Business

best in category - Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, Crown Business, 279 pages, $22.00

Whether you're managing a company, running a small business, or want to start one, this book will change all preconceptions of how to do those things. It's not contrarian for its own sake, but intuitively insightful, and refreshing in a time where job security is not what it once was. It provides hope for what can be, and will go down in history as a business book that made a big difference.

best of the rest

Personal Development

best in category - Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath, Broadway Business, 305 pages, $26.00

In a category absolutely stockpiled with perspective-changing books, Dan and Chip Heath's Switch is a true triple-threat. Some of the books on this short list are strong on utility; some are rich in storytelling; some are intent on shocking you out of your career complacency: Switch does all of these things in one tidy, entertaining volume. Featuring the casual tone, unusual anecdotes, plentiful research, and constructive advice we've come to expect from the teachers-at-heart Heath brothers, Switch introduces readers to an imminently applicable strategy for making change stick. Change is hard, the Heaths understand, but by learning how to direct the rational mind, motivate the emotional mind, and set a path forward by setting goals, acknowledging success, establishing habits, and creating contagious behavior, transformation is possible, even probable. Ghandi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." The Heaths' Switch will show you how to change your corner of the world.

best of the rest

Innovation & Creativity

best in category - Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson, Riverhead, 326 pages, $26.95

We all know a good idea when we hear it, but do we always know how that idea came to life? Steven Johnson details the process via neurobiology, urban studies, and internet culture to reveal situations that helped foster big ideas. Not only is the book an interesting look at ideas that have shaped our lives, but Johnson also explains how we can learn from these situations to help develop our own good ideas. This book is an essential read in an era where innovation and creative thinking are critical.

best of the rest

Finance & Economics

best in category - Diary of a Very Bad Year: Confession of an Anonymous Hedge Fund Manager with n+1, Harper Perennial, 260 pages, $14.99

Michael Lewis is always the favorite in whatever category he chooses to write a book in, and The Big Short could have easily topped this list.But literary magazine n+1 has done something truly unique in its Diary of a Very Bad Year. The book sprouted out of an interview with an anonymous hedge fund manager (HFM) by the magazine's founder, Keith Gessen, to figure out how deflating home prices were going to affect a friend that had borrowed heavily against his home. That was in September of 2007, and the timing was serendipitous. The interaction led to a series of interviews with HFM as the housing market collapsed, and the global economy came tumbling down around it. As you catch up with HFM in each interview, you'll learn a great deal about modern finance and how it was brought to its knees, get an intimate view into what it was like working amidst the ensuing panic and be reminded of just how close we all came to the edge.

best of the rest

-2009-

The 2009 800-CEO-READ Business Book of the Year

Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System—And Themselves by Andrew Ross Sorkin, Viking Books

Even though Too Big to Fail was written during the same year the financial collapse occurred, Andrew Ross Sorkin has written what we predict will be the definitive book on the subject. Sorkin not only tells a gripping "perfect storm" story—reporting the gory details as our 401k's disappeared and our financial system became nationalized—but he humanizes the players as well, resulting in an imminently readable, albeit lengthy, book.

It's a sobering reflection and a critical reminder of what transpired in recent financial history. But it is the great stories and detailed, insider information—the sense one gets of being in the room while history is being made—that will place this book among the greats. 

Leadership

best in category - Maestro: A Surprising Story About Leading By Listening by Roger Nierenberg, Portfolio | Leadership is something that can be learned. However, the most respected leaders are not textbook cases, but those who wield the necessary traits and knowledge with a very personal sense of purpose. A parable, which Maestro is, is an ideal way to create a scenario for that sense of purpose to develop, as ideas are presented in ways that are interpreted personally by those who read them, rather than listed as bullet points or chapter summaries. By using the metaphor of a conductor and his orchestra, important details are revealed, from interpersonal communication skills, individual effort to benefit the group, group dynamic to celebrate the individual, and the role that listening (both physically and intuitively throughout all experience) plays in creating the most successful results.

best of the rest:

Management

best in category - The Four Conversations: Daily Communication That Gets Results by Jeffery Ford & Laurie Ford, Berrett-Koehler | At the core of management is the practiced skill of communication. The Fords present four kinds of the conversations and the best situations to use each of them. More performance conversations (asking for promises) and less understanding conversations (are you OK with all of this?) are needed, they say.

best of the rest:

Marketing & Advertising

best in category - Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust by Chris Brogan & Julien Smith, John Wiley & Sons | Social Media took off in big ways this year, and while technology has become an important tool for communication, marketing, and advertising, Trust Agents reels the tech-excitement back in by advocating a not-so-new element that is essential: trust. If the people who put out the messages aren't people we'd like to work with and buy from, their messages, no matter how easy to broadcast, won't hold their weight. It's not about how to master technology, but about being the kind of person, the kind of company, that people like to do business with. This book is filled with prime examples, great stories, and hard facts that convince us not to be blinded by innovation as we communicate with our audiences.

best of the rest

Sales

best in category - A Seat at the Table: How Top Salespeople Connect and Drive Decisions at the Executive Level by Marc Miller, Greenleaf Publishing Group | In A Seat at the Table, Marc Miller shows that selling is based on the simple concept that the only thing a customer desires is value. The value this book will have for salespeople is that in the discussions of the customers need for value, Miller guides the reader step by step how to provide strategic help for their customers and deliver new and different forms of value.

best of the rest

Finance & Economics

best in category - False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World by Alan Beattie, Riverhead Books | Alan Beattie not only provides engrossing snapshots of mankind's economic history; he demonstrates how naturally fragile economies are—and continue to be—and how they are guided by the choices we make, not by some invisible hand. It's a great lesson in these uncertain times that we are—or at least can be—in control of our own economic future.

best of the rest

Entrepreneurship & Small Business

best in category - Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur by Pamela Slim, Portfolio | "Should I go solo?" The collapse of companies and careers over the last year has many asking themselves exactly that question. It's the avalanche of concerns that follow like "What would I do?" to "Do I have enough money?" that stop most. The power of Escape from Cubicle Nation is that it removes all the roadblocks to saying "Yes."

best of the rest

Biographies & Narratives

best in category - The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, the Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals by Frank Partnoy, PublicAffairs | In The Match King, Frank Partnoy brings Ivar Krueger, the match king, and exciting (though terrifying) time to life. We learn how he cornered the market on matches in his native Sweden and using "creative" accounting was able to ride that success to riches beyond belief until the market collapsed and so did his house of cards. So brilliant is Partnoy's portrayal that I wanted to keep reading the book even as I walked to my car from the office at night. A great story, told well—there is nothing better.

best of the rest

Current Interest

best in category - Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System—And Themselves by Andrew Ross Sorkin, Viking Books | How could we not pick a book on the financial crisis to lead the Current Interest category this year? And if we are going to pick a book on it, how could it not be this one? Too Big To Fail is the definitive book on the events leading up to, as well as on the characters involved in, the financial meltdown. In his reporting, Andrew Ross Sorkin has managed to weave together an entertaining narrative and recreate a nearly unbelievable sequence of events on Wall Street and in Washington—one that will likely be referenced as long as the topic is studied.

best of the rest

Personal Development

best in category - Power of 2: How to Make the Most of Your Partnerships at Work and in Life by Rodd Wagner & Gale Muller, Ph.D., Gallup Press | Wagner and Muller contend that it is a myth, or a rarity at least, that the best work happens when one heroic person who is somehow more superiorly gifted than average wrestles an insurmountable task and wins. Instead, Power of 2 proposes that a great partnership can more reliably produce transcendent work by capitalizing on the strengths of both persons engaged in the venture. It's not a surprise then that Power of 2 was published by Gallup Press, the experts on strengths theory, and it is a pleasure to read a book that encourages collaboration based on strong research and communicated through enjoyable stories, particularly at time when many people are more often encouraged to "look out for #1."

best of the rest

Innovation & Creativity

best in category - The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking Is the Next Competitive Advantage by Roger L. Martin, Harvard Business Press | Design thinking is a popular trend in innovation thought this year and a number of good books submitted to this category offer various and useful treatments. The Design of Business by Roger Martin lays out the most applicable system to integrating design thinking into an organization or applying it to a singular problem. Martin also shows just how design thinking can reside harmoniously with more analytical or quantitative approach to strategy. Using memorable metaphors, Martin brings his professorial experience to the topic teaching the uninitiated and the theorist alike this new way of problem solving.

best of the rest

Big Ideas 

best in category - What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis, HarperBusiness | Don't be confused. This book is not about Google. Jarvis is delivering the virtues of clickable, linkable, searchable, and transparent using the Internet powerhouse as the metaphor. The thought experiments in the final third of the book (Google Cola, Google Capital, and The United States of Google to name a few) make concrete the ways in which the web is quickly changing what we expect from those who serve us.

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-2008-

The 2008 800-CEO-READ Business Book of the Year

"We Need You To Lead Us."

The call to action is clear and powerful, exactly what you would expect from Seth Godin. But when is the last time a book's subtitle expected so much from you? Most business books are created to sell you something—usually it's some way you'll be improved. Think about how that simple subtitle turns all of the reader's expectations around.

But that's nothing new for Seth Godin. He has built a body of work that challenges conventions and, at the same time, creates safe havens for heretics and radicals. If your job is spreading ideas (and here is a hint: it is everyone's job), Seth's library of books is for you.

The primary message of Tribes is that people want to be led. The Web can connect people better than ever before, but change can only happen when individuals step forward and take the lead. Leaders are successful not because of the position they hold, but rather the change they inspire. And contrary to popular belief, markets reward bold ideas—whether it's with the election of a politician, a fanatical response to a new cell phone or the top ranking of your YouTube video. Tribes is the right book for the right time.

As Seth asks in one of his final riffs, "What do you have to lose?"

Sales

 

best in category - The Contrarian Effect: Why It Pays (Big) to Take Typical Sales Advice and Do the Opposite by Michael Port and Elizabeth Marshall, John Wiley & Sons | Elizabeth and Michael show readers that times are changing in business, and that customers are being driven away by typical sales tactics. Filled with real life stories about companies and what works and what doesn't, The Contrarian Effect not only shows how the sales process is broken, but how to successfully build something to replace it.

 

 

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Leadership

best in category - Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin, Portfolio | This may be Seth Godin's most important book yet. It's human nature to want to be part of a group that shares a connection, passion and a common leader: a tribe. Technologies today have changed the make-up and creation of tribes, enabling them to communicate and grow in ways not possible in the past. In the future, tribes will lead revolutions and usher in change. All they need is the right leader. Will that be you?

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HR & Organizational Development

best in category - Reward Systems: Does Yours Measure Up? by Steve Kerr, Harvard Business Press | Harvard Business Press is doing business book fans everywhere a great service by publishing the Memo to the CEO series, a set of easily accessible and well-researched books from experts on leadership issues. In Reward Systems, Steve Kerr points out the problems with most reward (or incentive) programs, distilling years of experience to present a three-step process for creating a simple yet effective rewards system that will improve both performance and motivation in your workplace.

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Entrepreneurship & Small Business

best in category - The Knack: How Street-Smart Entrepreneurs Learn To Handle Whatever Comes Up by Bo Burlingham and Norm Brodsky, Portfolio | Brodsky and Burlingham have been writing their "Street Smarts" column for Inc. magazine since 1995, and now they have compiled that useful wisdom in this collections of stories about companies that have "the knack" for facing challenges and pursuing opportunities. The first chapter's description of gross margin and its make-or-break effect on a fledgling business alone earns it the top spot this year.

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Finance & Economics

best in category - Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity Edited by Michael Lewis, W. W. Norton | Panic compiles literature from "before, during, and after the panics that have punctuated, often, the most recent financial era." It includes accounts from newspapers, magazines, books and government reports and covers the 1987 stock market crash, the bursting of the Internet bubble, the Asian currency crisis and others. The brilliance of the book is that it provides a real-time view into what was happening in the minds of those involved in and reporting on these events.

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Advertising & Marketing

best in category - The Brand Bubble: The Looming Crisis in Brand Value and How to Avoid It by John Gerzema and Ed Lebar, Jossey-Bass | Companies put a lot of effort and money into their brands, which can sometimes be higher than the value they place on their customers. As this occurs, the number of quality performing brands decreases. According to Gerzema and Lebar, this is the brand bubble, and the result could have a serious blow to the economy. This powerful book addresses marketing's impact on the economy, the potential pitfalls of that impact, and then outlines a detailed 5-stage process for companies to follow to create a great return for its shareholders.

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Globalization

best in category - A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World by William J. Bernstein, Atlantic Monthly Press | In this astonishingly erudite book, William J. Bernstein chronicles the history of world trade, clearly expelling any myths one might have that globalization is a recent phenomenon. Starting in Sumer around 3000 BC with an account of a tribe of herders attacking a community of farmers at harvest time, and ending in the streets at the Battle of Seattle (the 1999 WTO protests), this book entertainingly covers centuries of human economic activity and progress.

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Fables & Parables

best in category - The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need by Daniel Pink and Rob Ten Pas, Riverhead Books | From the first crack of the magic chopsticks and the arrival of Diana, a "half human creature whose superpowers appear in a time of crisis," the reader is off to an incredible journey of self-discovery. Pink's book is the first business book to use the Japanese comic form called Manga, which not only keeps the pace lively but also allows the reader to feel part of the narrative by focusing on Johnny Bunko, who's thrust into unfamiliar territory on a quest to learn the 6 Career Secrets. Before you know it, it's over. But then somewhere, somehow a chopstick snaps and you find yourself wanting to read it over and over again.

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Biographies & Memoirs

best in category - The Thief at the End of the World: Rubber Power, and the Seeds of Empire by Joe Jackson (Viking, March 2008)

The fascinating story of Henry Wickham, who went to the jungle to find the seeds to the most valuable rubber–and pull off one of the greatest heists of all time–is told here with excitement, intrigue and homage to the wonders of science and industry. Through Wickham’s story, Joe Jackson reveals the importance of rubber during the Industrial Revolution and explains how advancements like vulcanization, which makes rubber harder and more usable, sparked worldwide demand and a renewed entrepreneurial spirit.

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Personal Development

best in category - Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life by Stewart D. Friedman, (Harvard Business Press, June 2008)

In Total Leadership, Stewart Friedman, founding director of the Wharton Leadership Program, presents a concrete methodology for building a more integrated life. His program is really a practice, requiring both action and reflection, that urges you to explore a triumvirate of qualities–Be Real (Act with Authenticity), Be Whole (Act with Integrity), Be Innovative (Act with Creativity)–to help you become a leader in every aspect (work, home, community and self) of your life.

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Innovation & Creativity

best in category - Do You Matter? How Great Design Will Make People Love Your Company by Robert Brunner and Stewart Emery with Russ Hall, FT Press | Design has long been an afterthought to company strategies. But it's the companies that embrace design that succeed (think Apple). Design is incorporated in every step along the way, making for an unforgettable experience that's user-friendly and genuine. That experience is what makes customers swoon for a company's product or service, and, ultimately, guarantees that a company matters.

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Industry

best in category - The Orange Code: How ING Direct Succeeded by Being a Rebel with a Cause by Arkadi Kuhlmann and Bruce Philp, John Wiley & Sons | ING Direct is an organization—within a traditional industry—that looks at the world differently. The Internet-based direct bank that started in 1996 and now has over 20 million customers in nine countries made its way to the top by adopting an incredibly simple banking model and helping its customers make informed and wise decisions. The Orange Code shows how ING succeeded in this current economy.

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New Perspectives

best in category - The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow, Pantheon | The Drunkard’s Walk is a wonderful addition to a growing category that Amazon recently called “Why We Act This Way.” Mlodinow provides vivid stories to explain how our decision-making becomes hampered by our insistence on finding patterns and causes where randomness is the only phenomenon at work. Read this book to gain thoughtful insights into human psychology and find a new way of looking at the world.

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-2007-

The 2007 800-CEO-READ Business Book of the Year

Sales

best in category - The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business With Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies by Chet Holmes, Portfolio | Chet Holmes gets to the heart of a matter quickly, and will teach you how to as well. While many others focus on just one aspect of a company, Holmes covers sales, marketing, and management, giving us the 12 key strategies needed to build a more efficient and effective workforce. The strategies are easy to implement and create a great blueprint for turning your entire company into the ultimate sales machine.

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Leadership

best in category - The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative by Stephen Denning, Jossey-Bass | Storytelling is one of the most effective ways of communicating ideas and motivating people to perform. In The Secret Language of Leadership, Denning defines the idea of "narrative intelligence," saying that leaders must use each mode of communication (whether questions, metaphors, conversations, or presentations) to inspire their audience. Only by using stories, he contends, will leaders become transformative leaders.

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HR & Organizational Development

best in category - One Foot Out the Door: How to Combat the Psychological Recession That's Alienating Employees and Hurting American Business by Judith M. Bardwick, AMACOM | In One Foot Out the Door, Judith M. Bardwick points to the economic recessions of the late '70s and early '80s as the time when our economy's unwritten "social contract"—be loyal to your employer and your employer will take care of you—fell apart. Bardwick calls for a "twenty-first safety net that will reduce the fear by providing financial support and a good sense of community..." With employee satisfaction a pressing issue in current business conversation, One Foot Out the Door brings together the issues and gets at what really needs to happen.

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Growing Great Employees: Turning Ordinary People Into Extraordinary Performers by Erika Andersen, Portfolio
Off-Ramps and On-Ramps: Keeping Talented Women On the Road to Success by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Harvard Business School Press
The Truth About Hiring the Best by Catty Fyovk, FT Press

Entrepreneurship & Small Business

best in category - No Man's Land: What to Do When Your Company Is Too Big to Be Small But Too Small to Be Big by Doug Tatum, Portfolio | Doug Tatum calls it "No Man's Land," a place where companies struggle to embrace the realities of being a bigger business while maintaining their entrepreneurial spirit. He delineates four Ms—market, management, model, and money (and later add momentum)—needed to meet the challenges inherent in turning a small, human-scale organization into a firm that can implement changes but still focused on the customer it first set out to serve. No Man's Land offers tools for navigating this pivotal transition.

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Finance & Economics

best in category - A Demon of Our Own Design: Markets, Hedge Funds, and the Perils of Financial Innovation by Richard Bookstaber, John Wiley & Sons | In this fascinating insider's account, Bookstaber reveals how some of the risk-management practices he helped create, such as hedging investments with portfolio insurance, have actually added instability to the markets. After taking a look at the developments of the past 25 years, the flaws within the system, and how the volatility of Wall Street does not reflect the "underlying real economy," he offers a prescription that is both simple and sensible.

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Advertising & Marketing

best in category - Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Random House | Made to Stick essentially answers the question, "Why do some ideas survive and others die?" Drawing on urban legends, political campaigns and parables, the authors outline six communication traits, as well as "the human scale principle" and the "Velcro Theory of Memory," tools any company can implement to improve the chances of sending worthy ideas into the marketplace. The Heath brothers' point is that it is possible for a framework or recipe to improve what you do. They've got a pretty good one for making ideas stick.

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Globalization

best in category - The Elephant and the Dragon: The Rise of India and China and What It Means for All of Us by Robyn Meredith, W. W. Norton | Robyn Meredith puts the extraordinary rise of India and China in perspective, dispelling myths and noting the differences in how they've opened up their economies. She shows how the different histories of the two countries have affected their rise, and discusses the steps America needs to take to remain competitive. Of the many books written on this topic recently, this one tops the heap.

 

best of the rest

Fables

best in category - The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly, Hyperion | The Dream Manager follows the story of a custodial company striving to overcome a significant turnover issue. As management tries to understand why employees come and go so often, they arrive at the conclusion that what is missing is motivation. The company hires a Dream Manager to assist employees in recognizing their dreams as well as making them a reality—and the results are remarkable. It is a story that reminds us that when our lives become overwhelming, our dreams are the foundation that gives us the drive to succeed.

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Biographies & Memoirs

best in category - Bill & Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World's Greatest Company by Michael S. Malone, Portfolio | Nobody writes books about Silicon Valley better than Michael S. Malone, and he's delivered another masterpiece with his latest release. Focusing this time around on the history of Hewlett and Packard, Malone has created the best biography of a high tech business this year, and does it by telling the inspiring tale of two of the most influential entrepreneurs of the twentieth century. This is a book of great character, reflecting well the great character of its subjects.

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Personal Development

best in category - Responsibility at Work: How Leading Professionals Act (or Don't Act) Responsibly by Howard Gardner, Jossey-Bass | This collection of essays, born from the interviews of more than 1,200 professionals, is a wide-ranging discussion about good work. Featuring essayists such as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (author of Flow) and Gardner himself (originator of the theory of multiple intelligences), the book provides a deeper understanding of the ethics that drive such iconic leaders as the late Anita Roddick of The Body Shop. Responsibility at Work will fuel inner reflection regarding all facets of social responsibility, from creativity to diversity.

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Innovation & Creativity

best in category - Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration by Keith Sawyer, Perseus | Back in 1990, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi published the phenomenal book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. He taught people how to achieve the state of mind where they are performing at their best or what some would call being in a groove. Group Genius is essentially Flow for groups. Keith Sawyer helps groups find their flow state and work together to harness their creative energy.

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Industry

best in category - The Last Tycoons: The Secret History of Lazard Frères & Co. by William D. Cohan | William D. Cohan takes readers into the mysterious and secretive world of Lazard and presents a compelling portrait of Wall Street through the tumultuous history of this exalted and fascinating company. Full of intrigue, and delving into both personal and professional affairs, this is one of this year's best-written books and a must-read for every business reader.

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New Perspectives

best in category - In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India by Edward Luce, Doubleday | Edward Luce has delivered an authoritative book on modern India, unveiling its great promise and many contradictions. Although its history and religious and political traditions are deeply rooted, India is emerging as a modern economy and global force. In Spite of the Gods captures India in transition as a country of great contrasts and does so with great affection and wit.

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