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April 1, 2016

The 100 Best Business Books of All Time: BIOGRAPHIES

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 3:34 PM – Filed under: Leadership & Strategy, Management & Workplace Culture, Personal Development & Human Behavior

How did they do it? That is the question we all want to ask when we meet someone famous or wealthy. We want to mimic them, thinking that is we just follow their footsteps we'll arrive at the same place. But, as Mark Twain said, "History rhymes; it does not repeat." Biographies provide a direction and a context so we can better plot our own course.

Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow

John D. Rockefeller, Sr.—history's first billionaire and the patriarch of America's most famous dynasty—is an icon whose true nature has eluded three generations of historians. Now Ron Chernow, the National Book Award-winning biographer of the Morgan and Warburg banking families, gives us a history of the mogul "etched with uncommon objectivity and literary grace… as detailed, balanced, and psychologically insightful a portrait of the tycoon as we may ever have" (Kirkus Reviews). Titan is the first full-length biography based on unrestricted access to Rockefeller's exceptionally rich trove of papers. A landmark publication full of startling revelations, the book will indelibly alter our image of this most enigmatic capitalist.

My Years with General Motors by Alfred P. Sloan, Jr.

Only a handful of business books have reached the status of a classic, having withstood the test of over thirty years' time. Even today, Bill Gates praises My Years with General Motors as the best book to read on business, and Businessweek named it the number one choice for its "bookshelf of indispensable reading." My Years with General Motors became an instant bestseller when it was first published in 1963. It has since been used as a manual for managers, offering personal glimpses into the practice of the "discipline of management" by the man who perfected it. This is the story no other businessman could tell—a distillation of half a century of intimate leadership experience with a giant industry and an inside look at dramatic events and creative business management.

The HP Way: How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company by David Packard

In the fall of 1930, David Packard left his hometown of Pueblo, Colorado, to enroll at Stanford University. There, he befriended another freshman, Bill Hewlett. After graduation from college, Hewlett and Packard decided to throw their lots in together. They tossed a coin to decide whose name should go first on the notice of incorporation, then cast about in search of products to sell. Today, the one-car garage in Palo Alto that housed their first workshop is a California historic landmark: the birthplace of Silicon Valley. And Hewlett-Packard has produced thousands of innovative products for millions of customers throughout the world. Their little company employs 98,400 people and boasts constantly increasing sales that reached $25 billion in 1994. While there are many successful companies, there is only one Hewlett-Packard. Because from the very beginning, Bill and Dave had a way of doing things that was contrary to the prevailing management strategies. In defining the objectives for their company, Packard and Hewlett wanted more than profits, revenue growth, and a constant stream of new, happy customers.

Personal History by Katharine Graham

An extraordinarily frank, honest, and generous book by one of America's most famous and admired women—a book that is, as its title suggests, both personal and history. It is the story of Graham's parents: the multi-millionaire father who left private business and government service to buy and restore the down-and-out Washington Post; the aggressive, formidable, self-absorbed mother, known in her time for her political and welfare work, and her passionate friendships with men such as Thomas Mann and Adlai Stevenson. It is the story of how The Washington Post struggled to succeed—a fascinating and instructive business history told from the inside (the paper has been run by Graham herself, her father, her husband, and now her son). It is the story of Phil Graham—Kay's brilliant, charismatic husband (he clerked for two Supreme Court justices), whose plunge into manic-depression and eventual suicide are movingly and charitably recounted. And, best of all, it is Kay Graham herself—brought up in great wealth, yet understanding nothing of money; half Jewish, yet—incredibly—unaware of it; naive, awkward, yet intelligent and energetic, and married to a man she adored. How he fascinated and educated her, and then in his illness turned from her and abused her, destroying her confidence and her happiness, is a drama in itself, followed by the rarer drama of her new life as the head of a great newspaper and a great company—a woman famous (and feared) in her own right. In other words, here is a life that came into its own with a vengeance—a success story on every level.

Moments of Truth by Jan Carlzon

In a time of great turbulence in the airline industry, Carlzon offers a prescription for corporate leadership that is backed by solid achievement. Moments of Truth is about the importance of responding to a changing marketplace, and offers proof that the search for corporate excellence is neither monopolized by, nor restricted to, American finance and industry. Carlzon highlights the importance of the activist manager and emphasizes how forcing decision making down to the corporate cutting edge can have a real impact.

Sam Walton: Made in America: My Story by Sam Walton, with John Huey

Meet a genuine American folk hero cut from the homespun cloth of America's heartland: Sam Walton, who parlayed a single dime store in a hardscrabble cotton town into Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world. The undisputed merchant king of the late twentieth century, Sam never lost the common touch. Genuinely modest, but always sure if his ambitions and achievements, Sam shares his thinking in a candid, straight-from-the-shoulder style.

In a story rich with anecdotes and the "rules of the road" of both Main Street and Wall Street, Sam Walton chronicles the inspiration, heart, and optimism that propelled him to lasso the American Dream.

Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson

Losing My Virginity is the unusual, frequently outrageous autobiography of one of the great business geniuses of our time. When Richard Branson started his first business, he and his friends decided that "since we're complete virgins at business, let's call it just that: Virgin." Since then, Branson has written his own "rules" for success, creating a group of companies with a global presence, but no central headquarters, no management hierarchy, and minimal bureaucracy.

Many of Richard Branson's companies—airlines, retailing, and cola are good examples—were started in the face of entrenched competition. The experts said, "Don't do it." But Branson found golden opportunities in markets in which customers have been ripped off or underserved, where confusion reigns, and the competition is complacent.

And in this stressed-out, overworked age, Richard Branson gives us a new model: a dynamic, hardworking, successful entrepreneur who lives life to the fullest. Family, friends, fun, and adventure are equally important as business in Branson's life. Losing My Virginity is a portrait of a productive, sane, balanced life, filled with rich and colorful stories.