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April 1, 2016

The 100 Best Business Books of All Time: NARRATIVES

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 3:12 PM – Filed under: Current Events & Public Affairs, Innovation & Creativity, Leadership & Strategy, Management & Workplace Culture

When writers visit offices and factory floors, their reporting captures the romance of what many find so compelling about the pursuit of business. They also see the organizational dysfunction, and its roots in our personal flaws. These books capture the tales of both fortune and failure at their capitalist extremes.

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

A brilliantly reported true-life thriller that goes behind the scenes of the financial crisis on Wall Street and in Washington.

In one of the most gripping financial narratives in decades, Andrew Ross Sorkin-a New York Times columnist and one of the country's most respected financial reporters-delivers the first definitive blow- by-blow account of the epochal economic crisis that brought the world to the brink. Through unprecedented access to the players involved, he re-creates all the drama and turmoil of these turbulent days, revealing never-before-disclosed details and recounting how, motivated as often by ego and greed as by fear and self-preservation, the most powerful men and women in finance and politics decided the fate of the world's economy. 

American Steel: Hot Metal Men and the Resurrection of the Rust Belt by Richard Preston

The story of the collapse of the American steel industry is an old one, but it's not the story Richard Preston tells. His is a tale of renewal, about a renegade company called Nucor, planted at the heart of the Indiana rust belt. Like all good stories, Preston's has unique elements of atmosphere—the skunky stench of hot slag, the primordial heat thrown from liquid metal, some truly original characters, and a thrilling climax.

Preston chronicles the nearly superhuman effort by the Nucor Corporation, America's ninth-largest steel company to build a revolutionary new steel plant from the ashes of the midwestern Rust Belt. Elegantly written and compulsively readable, American Steel has all the elements of a great novel: amazing characters, gripping suspense, towering machinery, and a driving mission.

The Force by David Dorsey

In this fascinating book, reporter David Dorsey turns a year on the Xerox sales force into an emotionally charged human drama. The Force tracks Fred Thomas and his sales team from the shiny glass office building where work starts at dawn to the rolling green country clubs where they woo customers, from the smoke filled bars where they unwind to the plush suburban bedrooms where they try to forget the pressures of the day. And as the year unfolds, the reader is swept into the compelling, and marginally absurd, craving that takes over their lives: will they make their quota? The New York Times wrote: "Highly compelling … The Force manages to combine some of the chilling fascination of David Mamet's play about Florida land salesman, with the sympathy of that play's forerunner, Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman."

The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean & Peter Elkind

Enron was thought to epitomize a great New Economy company, with its skyrocketing profits and share price. But that was before Fortune published an article by Bethany McLean that asked a seemingly innocent question: How exactly does Enron make money? From that point on, Enron's house of cards began to crumble. McLean and Peter Elkind investigated much deeper to offer the definitive book about the scandal that brought down one of the most admired companies of the 1990s. Countless books and articles were written about it, but only The Smartest Guys in the Room holds up a decade later as the definitive narrative.

When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management by Roger Lowenstein

In this business classic, Roger Lowenstein captures the gripping roller-coaster ride of Long-Term Capital Management. Drawing on confidential internal memos and interviews with dozens of key players, Lowenstein explains not just how the fund made and lost its money but also how the personalities of Long-Term s partners, the arrogance of their mathematical certainties, and the culture of Wall Street itself contributed to both their rise and their fall.

When it was founded in 1993, Long-Term was hailed as the most impressive hedge fund in history. But after four years in which the firm dazzled Wall Street as a $100 billion moneymaking juggernaut, it suddenly suffered catastrophic losses that jeopardized not only the biggest banks on Wall Street but the stability of the financial system itself. The dramatic story of Long-Term's fall is now a chilling harbinger of the crisis that would strike all of Wall Street, from Lehman Brothers to AIG, a decade later.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, is leading a revolution. Reinventing his team on a budget, he needs to outsmart the richer teams. He signs undervalued players whom the scouts consider flawed but who have a knack for getting on base, scoring runs, and winning games.

Moneyball is a quest for the secret of success in baseball. In a narrative full of fabulous characters and brilliant excursions into the unexpected, Michael Lewis follows the low-budget Oakland A's, visionary general manager Billy Beane, and the strange brotherhood of amateur baseball theorists. They are all in search of new baseball knowledge—insights that will give the little guy who is willing to discard old wisdom the edge over big money.

The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

Most startups fail. But many of those failures are preventable. The Lean Startup is a new approach being adopted across the globe, changing the way companies are built and new products are launched.

Eric Ries defines a startup as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. This is just as true for one person in a garage or a group of seasoned professionals in a Fortune 500 boardroom. What they have in common is a mission to penetrate that fog of uncertainty to discover a successful path to a sustainable business.

The Lean Startup approach fosters companies that are both more capital efficient and that leverage human creativity more effectively. Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, it relies on “validated learning,” rapid scientific experimentation, as well as a number of counter-intuitive practices that shorten product development cycles, measure actual progress without resorting to vanity metrics, and learn what customers really want. It enables a company to shift directions with agility, altering plans inch by inch, minute by minute.

Rather than wasting time creating elaborate business plans, The Lean Startup offers entrepreneurs—in companies of all sizes—a way to test their vision continuously, to adapt and adjust before it’s too late. Ries provides a scientific approach to creating and managing successful startups in a age when companies need to innovate more than ever.