Business Books Worth Reading for Your New Year

As 2012 draws to a close, it’s only natural look back on the year – was it a successful one business-wise…were goals met or even exceeded? – and look forward to the coming year with ideas on how to make it even more fulfilling.

I’d like to share some books that have educated and enlightened me, and helped me run my business better and smarter. (Descriptions courtesy of Amazon.com.)

  1. Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space & Make the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne
    Written by the business world’s new gurus, Blue Ocean Strategy continues to challenge everything you thought you knew about competing in today’s crowded market place. Based on a study of 150 strategic moves spanning more than a hundred years and thirty industries, authors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne argue that lasting success comes from creating ‘blue oceans’: untapped new market spaces ripe from growth.
  2. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Done by Atul Gawande
    In his latest bestseller, Atul Gawande shows what the simple idea of the checklist reveals about the complexity of our lives and how we can deal with it. The modern world has given us stupendous know-how. Yet avoidable failures continue to plague us in health care, government, the law, the financial industry—in almost every realm of organized activity. And the reason is simple: the volume and complexity of knowledge today has exceeded our ability as individuals to properly deliver it to people—consistently, correctly, safely. We train longer, specialize more, use ever-advancing technologies, and still we fail. Atul Gawande makes a compelling argument that we can do better, using the simplest of methods: the checklist. In riveting stories, he reveals what checklists can do, what they can’t, and how they could bring about striking improvements in a variety of fields, from medicine and disaster recovery to professions and businesses of all kinds.
  3. The Finch Effect: The Five Strategies to Adapt & Thrive in Your Working Life by Nacie Carson
    As Darwin famously observed, the beaks of each generation of Galapagos Island finches change to accommodate shifting food resources, allowing the birds to survive by adapting their capabilities to the new environment. Today’s business people should take note: In the post-crisis economy, traditional career strategies spell professional extinction, but the fluid new “gig economy” offers tremendous potential for anyone willing to adapt. Based on her popular blog and drawing on her leadership development experience, Nacie Carson explains what it takes to make it in today’s world of work.
  4. Thinking Fast & Slow by Daniel Kahneman
    In the highly anticipated Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities—and also the faults and biases—of fast thinking, and reveals the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and behavior. The impact of loss aversion and overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the challenges of properly framing risks at work and at home, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning the next vacation—each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems work together to shape our judgments and decisions.
  5. The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry) by Siva Vaidhyanathan
    In this provocative book, Siva Vaidhyanathan examines the ways we have used and embraced Google–and the growing resistance to its expansion across the globe. He exposes the dark side of our Google fantasies, raising red flags about issues of intellectual property and the much-touted Google Book Search. He assesses Google’s global impact, particularly in China, and explains the insidious effect of Googlization on the way we think. Finally, Vaidhyanathan proposes the construction of an Internet ecosystem designed to benefit the whole world and keep one brilliant and powerful company from falling into the “evil” it pledged to avoid.
  6. Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead With Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard E. Boyatzis & Annie McKee
    Drawing from decades of research within world-class organizations, the authors show that great leaders excel not just through skill and smarts, but by connecting with others using Emotional Intelligence competencies like empathy and self-awareness. The best leaders, they show, have “resonance”–a powerful ability to drive emotions in a positive direction to get results–and can fluidly interchange among a variety of leadership styles as the situation demands. Groundbreaking and timely, this book reveals the new requirements of successful leadership.
  7. King Authur’s Roundtable: How Collaborative Conversations Create Smart Organizations by David Perkins
    Your organization functions and grows through conversations–face-to-face and electronic, from the mailroom to the boardroom. The quality of those conversations determines how smart your organization is. This revelatory book shows you how the Round Table of Arthurian legend can help foster collaboration and transform today’s world of business, nonprofits, and government.
  8. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan & Al Switzler
    The New York Times and Washington Post bestseller that changed the way millions communicate.
  9. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life & Business by Charles Duhigg
    In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation.
  10. Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries by Peter Sims
    What do Apple CEO Steve Jobs, comedian Chris Rock, prize-winning architect Frank Gehry, the story developers at Pixar films, and the Army Chief of Strategic Plans all have in common? Bestselling author Peter Sims found that all of them have achieved breakthrough results by methodically taking small, experimental steps in order to discover and develop new ideas.

While not technically about business, these books give practical advice, draw parallels from the “real” world that are useful in business, or help place who we are and what we do in a larger world view context.

  1. Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis
    Michael Lewis’s investigation of bubbles beyond our shores is so brilliantly, sadly hilarious that it leads the American reader to a comfortable complacency: oh, those foolish foreigners. But when he turns a merciless eye on California and Washington, DC, we see that the narrative is a trap baited with humor, and we understand the reckoning that awaits the greatest and greediest of debtor nations.
  2. Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales
    Examining stories of miraculous endurance and tragic death—how people get into trouble and how they get out again (or not)—Deep Survival takes us from the tops of snowy mountains and the depths of oceans to the workings of the brain that control our behavior. Through close analysis of case studies, Laurence Gonzales describes the “stages of survival” and reveals the essence of a survivor—truths that apply not only to surviving in the wild but also to surviving life-threatening illness, relationships, the death of a loved one, running a business during uncertain times, even war.
  3. Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts & Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson
    For educators of all disciplines, this third edition of a bestseller provides K–12 examples of how Web tools such as blogs, wikis, Facebook, and Twitter allow students (substitute businesses) to learn more, create more, and communicate better.
  4. Endgame: The End of the Debt Supercycle by John Mauldin & Jonathan Tepper
    Greece isn’t the only country drowning in debt. The Debt Supercycle—when the easily managed, decades-long growth of debt results in a massive sovereign debt and credit crisis—is affecting developed countries around the world, including the United States. Endgame details the Debt Supercycle and the sovereign debt crisis, and shows that, while there are no good choices, the worst choice would be to ignore the deleveraging resulting from the credit crisis.

I hope you will discover the same benefits from reading them that I have! Do you have any other books to recommend?

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