December 15, 2009
News & Opinion: The 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards of 2009
The 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, 624 pages, $32.95
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.
best in category ➻ Maestro: A Surprising Story About Leading By Listening by Roger Nierenberg, Portfolio, 128 pages, $19.95 | 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:
- Fierce Leadership: A Bold Alternative to the Worst “Best” Practices of Business Today by Susan Scott, Broadway, 313 pages, $25.00
- Seven Lessons for Leading in Crisis by Bill George, Jossey-Bass, 139 pages, $19.95
- Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek, Portfolio, 246 pages, $24.95
- Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow by Tom Rath & Barry Conchie, Gallup Press, 266 pages, $24.95
best in category ➻ The Four Conversations: Daily Communication That Gets Results by Jeffery Ford & Laurie Ford, Berrett-Koehler, 238 pages, $19.95 | 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:
- Management Rewired: Why Feedback Doesn’t Work and Other Surprising Lessons from the Latest Brain Science by Charles S. Jacobs, Portfolio, 216 pages, $25.95
- The Upside of the Downturn: Ten Management Strategies to Prevail in the Recession and Thrive in the Aftermath by Geoff Colvin, Portfolio, 182 pages, $24.95
- The Upside of Turbulence: Seizing Opportunities in an Uncertain World by Donald Sull,
HarperBusiness, 276 pages, $27.99
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, 271 pages, $24.95 | 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
- Baked In: Creating Products and Businesses That Market Themselves by Alex Bogusky & John Winsor, Agate B2, 152 pages, $20.95
- Crush It!: Why Now Is the Time to Cash in on Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk, HarperStudio, 142 pages, $19.99
- I Love You More Than My Dog: Five Decisions That Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad by Jeanne Bliss, Portfolio, 206 pages, $22.95
- Up and Out of Poverty: The Social Marketing Solution by Philip Kotler & Nancy R. Lee, Wharton School Publishing, 341 pages, $34.99
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, 174 pages, $19.95 | 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
- How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Selling Your [Brilliant] Self in Any Situation by Frances Cole Jones, Ballantine Books, 208 pages, $15.00
- How to Sell When Nobody’s Buying: And How to Sell Even More When They Are by Dave Lakhani, John Wiley & Sons, 238 pages, $22.95
- Persuasion: The Art of Influencing People by James Borg, FT Press, 235 pages, $19.99
- Smart Selling on the Phone and Online: Inside Sales That Gets Results by Josiane Chriqui Feigon, AMACOM, 272 pages, $17.95
Finance & Economics
best in category ➻ False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World by Alan Beattie, Riverhead Books, 321 pages, $26.95 | 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
- The Miracle: The Epic Story of Asia’s Quest for Wealth by Michael Schuman, HarperBusiness, 422 pages, $29.99
- Misadventures of the Most Favored Nations: Clashing Egos, Inflated Ambitions, and the Great Shambles of the World Trade System by Paul Blustein, PublicAffairs, 344 pages, $27.95
- The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street by Justin Fox, HarperBusiness, 382 pages, $27.99
- Where Keynes Went Wrong: And Why World Governments Keep Creating Inflation, Bubbles, and Busts by Hunter Lewis, Axios Press, 384 pages, $18.00
Entrepreneurship & Small Business
best in category ➻ Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur by Pamela Slim, Portfolio, 340 pages, $25.95 | “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
- Duck and (Re)Cover: The Embattled Business Owner’s Guide to Survival and Growth by Steven S. Little, John Wiley & Sons, 213 pages, $22.95
- The Mom & Pop Store: How the Unsung Heroes of The American Economy Are Surviving and Thriving by Robert Spector, Walker & Company, 293 pages, $26.00
- What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World by Tina Selig, HarperOne, 195 pages, $22.99
Biographies & Narratives
best in category ➻ The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, the Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals by Frank Partnoy, PublicAffairs, 272 pages, $26.95 | 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
- But Wait ... There’s More: Tighten Your Abs, Make Millions, and Learn How the $100 Billion Infomercial Industry Sold Us Everything But the Kitchen Sink by Remy Stern, HarperBusiness,
- How to Castrate a Bull: Unexpected Lessons on Risk, Growth, and Success in Business by Dave Hitz with Pat Walsh, Jossey-Bass
- Riches Among the Ruins: Adventures in the Dark Corners of the Global Economy by Robert P. Smith with Peter Zheutlin, AMACOM
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, 624 pages, $32.95 | 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
- The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us and What We Can Do About It by Joshua Cooper Ramo, Little Brown and Company, 288 pages, $25.995
- Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded—And What We Need to Do to Remake Them by John Perkins, Broadway, 243 pages, $23.99
- Street Fighters: The Last 72 Hours of Bear Stearns, the Toughest Firm on Wall Street by Kate Kelly, Portfolio, 256 pages, $25.95
- This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly by Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth Rogoff, Princeton University Press, 496 pages, $35.00
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, 243 pages, $24.95 | 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
- Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod, Portfolio, 159 pages, $23.95
- Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization by Robert Kegan & Lisa Laskow Lahey, Harvard Business Press, 340 pages, $29.95
- The Leap: How 3 Simple Changes Can Propel Your Career by from Good to Great by Rick Smith, Portfolio, 209 pages, $24.95
- Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown, M.D. with Christopher Vaughan, Avery, 229 pages, $24.95
Innovation & Creativity
best in category ➻ The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking Is the Next Competitive Advantage by Roger L. Martin, Harvard Business Press, 191 pages, $26.95 | 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
- In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing by Matthew E. May, Broadway, 216 pages, $23.95
- Borrowing Brilliance: The Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the Ideas of Others by David Kord Murray, Gotham Books, 304 pages, $26.00
- Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation by Tim Brown with Barry Katz, HarperBusiness, 264 pages, $27.99
- The Business of Changing Lives: How One Company Took the Information Superhighway to the Inner City by Allan Weis with Valerie Andrews, Greenleaf Book Group, 198 pages, $19.95
best in category ➻ What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis, HarperBusiness, 257 pages, $26.99 | 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.
best of the rest
- Chief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation by Grant McCracken Basic Books, 272 pages, $26.95
- Green Intelligence: Creating Environments That Protect Human Health by John Wargo, Yale University Press, 371 pages, $32.50
- Think Twice: Harnessing The Power of Counterintuition by Michael Mauboussin, Harvard Business Press, 190 pages, $29.95
- Trade-Off: Why Some Things Catch On, and Others Don’t by Kevin Maney, Broadway, 213 pages, $23.00
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.