From memoirs of leading business people, to tantalizing accounts of business battles, to deeply analytical books that analyze the success equation, this year has served up an excellent selection of business titles.
Here are three already-released business titles that are worth reading over the summer.
(Related: 10 Books Every Investor Should Read)
Grit by Angela Duckworth
This book is about the tenacity that underscores most successful ventures and individuals. Grit has a heartwarming message for entrepreneurs and seasoned business people alike: Effort trumps talent. In other words, the more tenacious and hardworking you are, the better your chances of success. This is not a new discovery or revelation. What makes Duckworth’s message compelling is her use of examples and research from an assortment of fields and sciences, ranging from the humanities to business. To be sure, Duckworth, who previously won a MacArthur “Genius” research grant, does not discount the role of talent and luck in determining success for a venture or individual. However, she provides enough reasons (and examples) to encourage and spur hard workers into action. According to the Scientific American, Grit is “a lucid, informative and entertaining review of the latest research on grit and how it can be developed.”
Breaking Rockefeller: Peter B. Doran
In times of oil prices that have roiled the energy markets, what could be a better read than a book about the breakup of Standard Oil? At first glance, the situation today and the one at the turn of last century may seem different. Then, Standard Oil held an 80 percent monopoly of the world’s oil supply. Two upstarts - Royal Dutch company and Shell - joined forces along with the U.S. Department of Justice to bring down the behemoth. (Read Who is Most Affected by Oil Prices?)
However, the situation today is not too dissimilar in that the hegemony of traditional oil suppliers, such as large multinationals and cartels (such as OPEC), has been challenged by upstarts in the shale industry. Supply has outstripped demand, as it did during the turn of last century.
While not as comprehensive as Daniel Yergin’s The Prize, Breaking Rockefeller is a satisfying read nonetheless because it is a crash course on the politics and economics of oil markets without the attendant jargon. Instead, Doran, who is the vice president for research at the Center for European Policy Analysis, focuses on the people who drove the story forward. These range from Marcus Samuel, a businessman who founded Shell and craved a royal title, to Henri Deterding, who was responsible for expanding Royal Dutch in the Far East, to Rockefeller, who, Doran says, tried underhanded and unscrupulous tactics to deter competitors. In his review of the book, Roger Lowenstein (author of Warren Buffett’s biography) writes that the book “emulates the best oil literature, in which geology and geopolitics go hand in hand.”
Rise of the Robots: PAGES
Money Changes Everything: William Goetzmann
The central premise of this book is that money made civilization happen. In other words, money came first and civilization (and organization of society) followed. Money, according to Goetzmann, is a “movement” technology, just like automobiles. It has and will evolve over time to change with circumstances. Goetzmann, who is a professor at the Yale School of Management, perambulates through the history and evolution of money to make his point. In the words of the FT reviewer, “he (Goetzmann clearly sees the problems as bumps in the road towards a richer and more advanced civilization. Bubbles, crashes, and bailouts are sidebars in this history: Money Changes Everything is centrally a celebration of progress.