The year 2013 was a big one for business-related books. We were able to get behind-the scenes glimpses of some of the biggest tech corporations in the world, and we were challenged to think about gender issues and how digital technology will continue to transform the future.
If the next two weeks afford you some down time, pick up one of these books at your local bookstore or download them for your e-reader. A book can help you understand both business history and current trends in way you can’t get from scanning today’s headlines or reading several blogs. In his book Today We Are Rich, Tim Sanders, notes that articles and blogs are “surface level research, the same general knowledge that everyone else you know reads too” but adds “Many of the most successful executives I know are voracious book readers.”
Here then are five of the most important business books of the past year. We ended with four more honorable mentions for you to consider.
Here are top business books of 2013
by Sheryl Sandberg
Hardcover, 240 pages
Knopf, March 11, 2013
If her goal with her book Lean In was to get people thinking and talking about gender equality in the 21st workplace, Sheryl Sandberg was definitely successful. Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer followed up her popular Ted Talk on “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders” from 2010 with this 2013 best-seller. Sandberg uses research, personal experience, practical tips and some humor to challenge her readers to “lean in” more fully at the office. Her book is not just aimed at women, however. The Harvard-educated authors asks that men serve as real partners in the home and with family responsibilities so that women can stay active and engaged in their careers during the child-rearing years. An interesting side-note: Lean In is the only book on Amazon’s top 20 list for 2013 to sell more print copies than Kindle editions.
“It has been nearly two decades since I entered the workforce and so much is still the same. It is time for us to face the fact that our revolution has stalled. The promise of equality is not the same as true equality. A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes. The laws of economics and many studies of diversity tell us that if we tapped the entire pool of human resources and talent, our collective performance would improve. Legendary investor Warren Buffet has stated generously that one of the reasons for his great success was that he was competing with only half the population. The Warren Buffets of my generation are still largely enjoying this advantage.”
by Charles Krauthammer
Hardcover, 400 pages
Crown Forum, Oct. 22, 2013
Whether you love him or hate him, you’ve got to admit that Charles Krauthammer has been an influential American voice over the past 30 years of American politics and business. A syndicated columnist for The Washington Post since 1985, Krauthammer is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and The New Republic, a panelist on Inside Washington and a contributor to FOX News. Here we have a collection of some of his best work, including essays on such diverse topics as the death penalty, speed chess and border collies. In his introduction, the writer, who won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1987, talks about his insider’s view of Washington and how it has affected his life.
“This book was originally going to be a collection of my writings about everything but politics. Things beautiful, mysterious, profound, or just odd. Working title: There’s More to Life than Politics. But in the end I couldn’t. For a simple reason. The same reason I left psychiatry for journalism. While science, medicine, art, poetry, architecture, chess, space sports, number theory and all things hard and beautiful promise purity, elegance and sometimes even transcendence, they are fundamentally subordinate. In the end, they must bow to the sovereignty of politics.”
by Brad Stone
Hardcover, 353 pages
Little, Brown and Company, Oct. 15, 2013
Bloomberg BusinessWeek writer Brad Stone tells the story of how Amazon grew from its first office in a Seattle garage to become a global internet marketplace. Stone wrote this book with Jeff Bezos’s blessing, and he did so after interviewing some 300 current and former Amazon employees. The book looks at Amazon not just as a company but as the constantly evolving brainchild of a very driven businessman. In other words, it is impossible to separate the man from the company.
“Bezos has proved quite indifferent to the opinions of others. He is an avid problem solver, a man who has a chess grand master’s view of the competitive landscape, and he applies the focus of an obsessive- compulsive to pleasing customers and to providing services like free shipping. He has vast ambitions – not only for Amazon but to push the boundaries of science and to remake the media. In addition to funding his own rocket company, Blue Origin, Bezos acquired the ailing Washington Post newspaper company in August 2013 for $250 million in a deal that stunned the media industry.”
by Malcolm Gladwell
Hardcover, 320 pages
Little, Brown and Company, Oct. 1, 2013
Using the Biblical account of the underdog David and the giant warrior Goliath as a starting point, Gladwell challenges his reader to think in new ways about advantages, disadvantages and opportunities and how they determine our success in life. Is being an underdog an advantage? Is having the Ivy League diploma better than being a “big fish” at a smaller, less prestigious university? Like he did with his earlier books, Outliers, Blink, and The Tipping Point, the author uses his storytelling techniques to weave a book that is both historical and personal in nature.
For example, Gladwell explores how certain disadvantages motivate people to be successful. For example, he points out many influential people who happen to be dyslexic, and he notes that 12 of our 44 American presidents (including both Presidents Washington and Obama) grew up without their fathers.
“Why has there been so much misunderstanding about that day in the Valley of Elah? On one level the duel reveals the folly of our assumptions about power. The reason King Saul is skeptical about David’s chances is that David is small and Goliath is large. Saul thinks of power in terms of physical might. He didn’t appreciate that power can come in other forms as well – in breaking rules, in substituting speed and size for strength. Saul is not alone in making this mistake…We continue to make that error today, in ways that have consequences for everything from how we educate our children to how we fight crime and disorder.”
by Jared Cohen and Eric Schmidt
Hardcover, 336 pages
Knopf, April 23, 2013
Jared Cohen, head of Google Ideas, and Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, join heads to take a look at the revolutionary changes the internet has bought and is still bringing to the world. They also brainstorm about the as yet uncharted territory where digital technology might take us in the next 50 years or so. While this book provides no real answers, it does lay down a lot of interesting questions. Among them are: How much privacy will we continue to give up in the digital age? Will technology make terrorism easier? Will the citizen or the state become more powerful and at what cost?
“The accessibility of affordable smart devices including phone and tablets will be transformative in these (developing) countries. Consider the impact of basic mobile phones for a group of Congolese fisherwomen today. Whereas they used to bring their daily catch to the market and watch it slowly spoil as the day progressed, now they keep it on the line, in the river, and wait for calls from customers. Once an order is placed, a fish is brought out of the water and prepared for the buyer. There is no need for an expensive refrigerator, no need for someone to guard it at night, no danger of spoiled fish losing their value (or poisoning customers) and here is no unnecessary overfishing. The size of these women’s market can expand as other fisherman in surrounding areas can coordinate with them over their own phones. As a substitute market economy (which would take years to develop), that’s not a bad work-around for these women or the community at large.”
by Nick Bilton
Hardcover, 304 pages
Portfolio, Nov. 5, 2013
by Fred Vogelstein
Hardcover, 272 pages
Sarah Crichton Books,