This time of year generates many “best books of the year” lists. I don’t have a single list of “best” so I’ll go with “good reads and rereads.” Here are a few favorites.
I reread "Too Big to Fail" by Andrew Ross Sorkin (2009) every year. It’s 600 pages of mostly men talking in meetings or on phones, we know the outcome and yet it reads like a thriller. It reminds me of the dangers of hubris and global connectedness but also that crisis is hard to live through and too easy to criticize later.
John Lanchester wrote "How to Speak Money" (2014) because he wanted to write a novel about London during the financial crisis and realized he didn’t know enough. It’s a guide and lexicon to finance-speak for the non-finance speakers among us. Explaining terms from “flat cat bounce” to moral hazard, Libor to the London Whale, he covers what you’ll need to know if you want to understand every word of the Wall Street Journal or Financial Times. He also put loads of it into his novel, "Capital" (2013).
I’m working on a project about how creative leaders grow the organizational cultures they want and several books make clear how very deliberate such leaders can be. "The Everything Store," by Brad Stone (2013), about Jeff Bezos at Amazon was an eye opener but shouldn't have been. Bezos had a plan right from the start and is relentless about building a firm and culture to get Amazon where he wants it to go. Likewise, Walter Isaacson’s "Steve Jobs" (2011) shows vividly how Jobs shaped the culture he wanted for that company, at that time, and how effective it was.
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Creativity is a hot topic these days and much of it centers on the idea that the lone creator is bunk, at least in business. Two books published in 2014 describe the the power of two or of groups in creativity: "Power of Two" (by Joshua Wolf Shenk) and "Collective Genius" (by a huge collective of people!).
My good reads aren’t always business books. "Year of Wonders" by Geraldine Brooks (2002) describes how inhabitants of a village in 17th century England chose self-isolation to prevent the plague from spreading outside its boundaries. Given today’s Ebola outbreak, the plague discussion was eerily prescient.
I also (try to) read SCIENCE magazine. Even the titles of the research articles are impossible to understand but they do great summaries “in English” for people like me. From archaeology to astronomy, from neuroscience to entomology, you wouldn’t believe how useful some science ideas are for business!
Finally, I’m rereading "Bittersweet Season" (2012) by Jane Gross, about caring for people who are aging. There are scads of books to guide parents on children from before they are born through teenage-hood, but no “manuals” on growing older. So I read it to remind me about what’s fundamentally important for us as humans: to care for and about one another.