There are some books that never stop selling, and which the world’s most influential people recommend across generations. I have read several during my time and I think that it’s good to put together a list s to determine which business histories and management and investing guides have been most critically acclaimed.
- ‘Barbarians at the Gate’ by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar
“Barbarians at the Gate” is a genre-defining book, proving that in the right hands, a business story that may seem too complex or arcane to anyone outside of Wall Street can become a gripping and relevant tale. Burrough and Helyar take extensive reporting on the contentious $25 billion leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco in 1988 and make it read like an epic drama about limitless greed at the expense of employees. “Barbarians at the Gate” is considered the best business book ever written by former GE CEO Jeff Immelt, New York Times and CNBC report Andrew Ross Sorkin, and MarketWatch columnist Jon Friedman.
2) ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’ by Clayton M. Christensen
“The Innovator’s Dilemma” is required reading for Silicon Valley, and received praise from late Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, explains that the more successful a company becomes, the more difficult it is for it to innovate. Since it was first published in 1997, it has inspired countless entrepreneurs to disrupt industries, as well as avoid being disrupted once they achieve success.
‘3) Too Big to Fail’ by Andrew Ross Sorkin
“Too Big To Fail” is the definitive story of the financial crisis of 2007-2008. It’s so intricately reported that Sorkin can confidently lend cinematic quality to his scenes. It won him the presitigious Gerald Loeb Award for excellence in financial journalism.
4) ‘Liar’s Poker’ by Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis is one of the biggest names in journalism, but before he was a writer, he was an aspirational young bond trader. After four years at Salomon Brothers, at the height of the Wild West days of loosely regulated Wall Street, Lewis left finance and decided to write a tell-all of his experience. It’s a hilarious and smart firsthand account that also serves as a time capsule.
5) ‘The Black Swan’ by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Taleb coined the term “black swan,” which refers to events that are virtually impossible to predict but become endlessly rationalized in hindsight. He argues that systems most closely tied to predictive models are those that are most vulnerable to collapse in the case of a black swan event. The importance of Taleb’s theories is demonstrated by how passionately people have argued for and against them, but one of most significant fans of “The Black Swan” is Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman, who said it changed his worldview.
6) ‘The Smartest Guys in the Room’ by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind
American energy company Enron was among the most highly praised companies in the world in the late 1990s. Then, in late 2001, an intricate conspiracy of fraud and insider trading at the very top of the company unraveled, and the $63 billion company declared bankruptcy. Drawing upon hundreds of interviews, McLean and Elkind give a definitive account of what went down.
7) ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins
This should be a textbook by itself. Over the course of five years, Jim Collins and his research team studied 28 elite corporations to determine what separated great from merely good companies. The resulting management book is the opposite of anecdotal fluff prevalent in the genre. And it’s made an impact since it was first published in 2001 – Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, Vodafone chairman Gerard Kleisterlee, and EY senior partner Mark Otty name it as a major influence.
8) ‘The Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries
Ries first proposed his “lean startup” approach in 2008, and codified it in his 2011 book. Startups that follow these guidelines experiment and discard failures ruthlessly, pivoting to a new angle if necessary. These ethos can also be applied to mature companies. Billionaire tech investor Marc Andreessen called it “A must-read for every entrepreneur” and former GE CEO Jeff Immelt required all of his managers read it.
9) ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman
Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics for his foundational work in behavioral economics, the novel blending of psychology with economics. His 2013 book is a thorough yet accessible introduction to his ideas – ideas that explore how humans do not always make rational decisions, and are driven by unconscious biases and impulses.
Nassim Taleb said it’s as world-changing as Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” and Sigmund Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams.”
10) ‘Reminiscences of a Stock Operator’ by Edwin Lefèvre
First published in 1923, “Reminiscences of a Stock Operator” is a fictional but highly accurate look at life on Wall Street in the early 20th century. For decades, investors have remarked at how it’s stood the test of time, and former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan called it “a font of investing wisdom.”
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