Wisdom//

The Best Business Books of 2018

These books make for perfect holiday reading or last-minute gifts.

PATCHARIN SAENLAKON/Getty Images
PATCHARIN SAENLAKON/Getty Images

By Richard Feloni and Shana Lebowitz

  • It was hard to keep up with all the great books published in 2018 — but a few stood out as insightful, entertaining, and helpful.
  • We’ve defined “business books” as reporting on businesses and the economy, as well as career and finance guides.
  • Highlights include “Bad Blood” by John Carreyrou, “Imagine it Forward” by Beth Comstock, and “Big Debt Crises” by Ray Dalio.

If you’ve got some time off to finally catch up on your reading, or you’re still looking for a last minute holiday present, now’s a great time to look through the best business books of 2018.

This year’s highlights include a corporate tale of deception that seems too good to be true, an executive’s memoir that’s also a comprehensive career guide, and investing insights from two of the greatest to ever do it.

Here are our favorites.

‘Bad Blood’ by John Carreyrou

The medical device startup Theranos was once the world’s hottest startup, its founder Elizabeth Holmes— deemed the “youngest self-made female billionaire” — a revolutionary. But after some digging into the company, it all unraveled.

Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou has the definitive account of what happened at Theranos, and how it was revealed to have been built on lies, secrecy, and an oppressive culture.

It’s a story that sometimes sounds too wild to even be true, but Carreyou’s narrative is an excellent piece of journalism.

Find it here »

‘Imagine It Forward’ by Beth Comstock with Tahl Raz

“Imagine It Forward” is Beth Comstock’s memoir of her near 30-year career as an executive at General Electric and NBC.

It’s full of juicy tidbits, like the time Comstock interviewed with Steve Jobs for a position at Apple and her meetings with Jack Welch. But the book also features practical advice for people at any level of an organization, like the idea that you can’t expect a promotion to fall in your lap if you never expressed that you wanted it.

The book inspires readers to be creative and innovative, constantly pushing boundaries, regardless of their level in the corporate hierarchy. Comstock writes that she used to hand out “permission slips” to managers, so they would feel free to take risks that could potentially benefit the organization. The idea is to stop making excuses about why you can’t take on big challenges and start holding yourself accountable.

Find it here »

‘Principles for Navigating Big Debt Crises’ by Ray Dalio

Ray Dalio is the founder and co-CIO of the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates. Last year, he offered his account of the firm’s highly unusual culture and how it’s an extension of his life philosophy with “Principles: Life and Work,” but this year he released a book on the economy.

“Principles for Navigating Big Debt Crises” arrived on the tenth anniversary of the financial crisis, and shows how Dalio and his team learned from and navigated it.

It’s a dense book, not unlike an economics text book, but you’ve got Dalio as your guide throughout, keeping the material as clear as possible. It’s essential reading if you want to truly understand what happened in the last crisis and what to expect from the inevitable next one.

Find it here »

‘Mastering the Market Cycle’ by Howard Marks

Like Dalio, Oaktree Capital cofounder and co-chairman Howard Marks is another one of the world’s most successful investors.

He and his business partner are best known for buying $10 billion worth of assets in the depths of the financial crisis, when hysteria reigned, and on the rebound they were rewarded with a profit of $6 billion for their Oaktree clients and $1.5 billion for themselves and their partners, according to the New York Times.

In “Mastering the Market Cycle,” Marks shares tactics for understanding the stages of the market cycle and assessing where we are at a given moment. His tools will allow you to invest confidently, and not let the latest headlines lead you to an impulsive decision that loses you money.

Find it here »

‘Brotopia’ by Emily Chang

Bloomberg Technology host and executive producer Emily Chang has conducted multiple interviews with the most powerful people in tech, and in “Brotopia,” she’s taking a look at how the promise and glories of Silicon Valley can be real — but only for men.

Chang drew from interviews with tech’s foremost women, including Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, to illustrate how women risked their careers to pave the way for others, and sheds light on how the Valley has a long way to go in terms of treating women as equals.

Find it here »

‘Great at Work’ by Morten Hansen

After conducting a five-year study of more than 5,000 managers and employees, Morten Hansen outlined his findings about what contributes to high performance in “Great at Work.”

Hansen, a management professor at University of California at Berkeley, describes seven “smarter work practices,” based on the study results and anecdotes he gathered from people in a range of industries.

The book includes a welcome wake-up call: Stop blaming your bossfor your inability to focus. In fact, Hansen recommends saying “no” to at least some of the responsibilities your boss assigns you, citing your desire to do a stellar job on the projects already on your plate.

Hansen also offers a fresh take on the concept of “following your passion.” Instead, he proposes “matching” passion and purpose, or finding a way to do what you love and contribute to an organization (or society as a whole).

Find it here »

‘Leaders’ by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Jeff Eggers, and Jason Mangone

Stanley McChrystal retired from the US Army as a four-star general in 2010, after leading America’s Joint Special Operations Command and the American-led coalition in the War in Afghanistan.

Over the last eight years, he’s had time to reflect on himself, his career, and the notion of leadership. In “Leaders: Myth and Reality,” McChrystal and his coauthors use profiles as far-flung as iconic designer Coco Chanel and al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to simultaneously examine what effective leadership looks like while dismantling the “Great Man Theory” that posits all great successes and failures onto a single person.

The book will challenge your assumptions of leadership, regardless of what your position is, and is at its best when McChrystal reflects on his own experiences.

Find it here »

‘The Dichotomy of Leadership’ by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Jocko Willink and Leif Babin were US Navy SEAL commanders when McChrystal was in charge of special operations, and like McChrystal, they have applied leadership lessons from the military to the business world.

Their second book, “The Dichotomy of Leadership,” draws from their time in the highly decorated SEAL Team 3 Task Unit Bruiser when it was deployed in Iraq, as well as what they’ve learned from working with more than 400 clients through their leadership consulting firm, Echelon Front.

In it, they present their leadership principles and how each is a balancing act, and must not be taken too far.

Find it here »

‘The Job’ by Ellen Ruppel Shell

Journalist Ellen Ruppel Shell offers a comprehensive look at how the world of work is changing, based on extensive research and reporting.

Among her most compelling findings: It can be dangerous tofind too much meaning in your work because, once you’re no longer doing that particular job, you may feel a loss of identity. Advanced education doesn’t necessarily lead to higher incomes or greater success, even though the two are linked. The so-called “skills gap” has more to do with a lack of opportunity then a lack of competence.

Regardless of where you are in your life and career, “The Job” will give you a glimpse into what your own professional future might look like, and how that reflects broader political and socioeconomic trends.

Find it here »

‘Capitalism in America’ by Alan Greenspan and Adrian Woolridge

Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and Economist correspondent Adrian Wooldridge take on an ambitious project, but succeed in presenting a coherent narrative on the evolution of capitalism in the US.

Greenspan and Wooldridge approach the subject as historians, preventing the book from getting too wonky, and create a vivid analysis of how economic innovation and destruction shaped the country and eventually the entire world.

Find it here »

‘Powerful’ by Patty McCord

Patty McCord was Netflix’s chief talent officer from 1998 to 2012. She and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings created the company’s culture deck, which has been viewed millions of times.

In “Powerful,” McCord distills the lessons she learned at Netflix and as a consultant into harsh — but useful — insights any manager can use.

For example, McCord says that your coworkers are not your family. If someone’s not going to help move the team or the organization forward, the manager has to let that person go. Similarly, Netflix encourages employees tointerview for jobs at other companies — and talk about what they learn with their managers.

McCord herself was let go from Netflix in 2013. “I am the ultimate product of the culture that I helped create,” she told Business Insider.

Find it here »

‘Saudi America’ by Bethany McLean

Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and Economist correspondent Adrian Wooldridge take on an ambitious project, but succeed in presenting a coherent narrative on the evolution of capitalism in the US.

Greenspan and Wooldridge approach the subject as historians, preventing the book from getting too wonky, and create a vivid analysis of how economic innovation and destruction shaped the country and eventually the entire world.

Find it here »

‘It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work’ by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

Basecamp is known for its unconventional people practices: Employees at the small web app company work from places all over the world and everyone gets a $5,000 annual vacation stipend.

“It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work” is essentially a polemic against the modern workplace, broken down into super short essays about Basecamp’s unique culture. For example, every time someone quits or is fired, a detailed “goodbye announcement” email is sent around to the entire company. The idea is to be as honest and as transparent as possible. Salaries are largely non-negotiable, to avoid paying people for their haggling skills instead of their performance.

Overall, it’s an easy but thought-provoking read that will make you rethink the way you work, lead, and live.

Find it here »

Originally published on Business Insider.

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