Two of 2014’s most controversial books – Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century and Michael Lewis’s Flash Boys – will go head to head in an attempt to become the Financial Times’s 10th business book of the year.
They join a longlist of 16 contenders for the award, backed for the first time in 2014 by McKinsey.
Piketty’s book about rising inequality – published in French in 2013 but eligible for the 2014 prize in its English translation – was criticised by the FT for data errors but fiercely defended by the author. Lewis has caused a storm with his argument that high-frequency traders rig the equity markets.
Other longlisted books stirring up debate are Hack Attack, Nick Davies’s investigation of the impact of the UK phone-hacking scandal on Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, and The Glass Closet, Lord Browne’s analysis of why lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff still feel compelled to hide their sexuality at work – as the former BP chief did.
Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee have also created waves with The Second Machine Age about the promise of new technology. Walter Isaacson makes the longlist with The Innovators, out in October, on the people behind the digital revolution. Julia Angwin looks at the dark side of data in Dragnet Nation.
The judges of the award will select a shortlist of up to six finalists on September 24. The £30,000 prize will be awarded on November 11.
From Hacking To Fracking, This Year’s Cracking Business Books’ Titles by Financial Times
Cracking Business Books’ Titles: Capital in the Twenty-First Century
Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty
What are the grand dynamics that drive the accumulation and distribution of capital? Questions about the long-term evolution of inequality, the concentration of wealth, and the prospects for economic growth lie at the heart of political economy. But satisfactory answers have been hard to find for lack of adequate data and clear guiding theories. In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty analyzes a unique collection of data from twenty countries, ranging as far back as the eighteenth century, to uncover key economic and social patterns. His findings will transform debate and set the agenda for the next generation of thought about wealth and inequality.
Piketty shows that modern economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge have allowed us to avoid inequalities on the apocalyptic scale predicted by Karl Marx. But we have not modified the deep structures of capital and inequality as much as we thought in the optimistic decades following World War II. The main driver of inequality–the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth–today threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values. But economic trends are not acts of God. Political action has curbed dangerous inequalities in the past, Piketty says, and may do so again.
Cracking Business Books’ Titles: China’s Second Continent
An exciting, hugely revealing account of China’s burgeoning presence in Africa—a developing empire already shaping, and reshaping, the future of millions of people.
A prizewinning foreign correspondent and former New York Times bureau chief in Shanghai and in West and Central Africa, Howard French is uniquely positioned to tell the story of China in Africa. Through meticulous on-the-ground reporting—conducted in Mandarin, French, and Portuguese, among other languages—French crafts a layered investigation of astonishing depth and breadth as he engages not only with policy-shaping moguls and diplomats, but also with the ordinary men and women navigating the street-level realities of cooperation, prejudice, corruption, and opportunity forged by this seismic geopolitical development. With incisiveness and empathy, French reveals the human face of China’s economic, political, and human presence across the African continent—and in doing so reveals what is at stake for everyone involved.
Cracking Business Books’ Titles: Creativity, Inc
Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture—but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.”
For nearly twenty years, Pixar has dominated the world of animation, producing such beloved films as the Toy Story trilogy, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up, and WALL-E, which have gone on to set box-office records and garner thirty Academy Awards. The joyousness of the storytelling, the inventive plots, the emotional authenticity: In some ways, Pixar movies are an object lesson in what creativity really is. Here, in this book, Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques that have made Pixar so widely admired—and so profitable.
Cracking Business Books’ Titles: Dragnet Nation
We see online ads from websites we’ve visited, long after we’ve moved on to other interests. Our smartphones and cars transmit our location, enabling us to know what’s in the neighborhood but also enabling others to track us. And the federal government, we recently learned, has been conducting a massive data-gathering surveillance operation across the Internet and on our phone lines.
In Dragnet Nation, award-winning investigative journalist Julia Angwin reports from the front lines of America’s surveillance economy, offering a revelatory and unsettling look at how the government, private companies, and even criminals use technology to indiscriminately sweep up vast amounts of our personal data. In a world where we can be watched in our own homes, where we can no longer keep secrets, and where we can be impersonated, financially manipulated, or even placed in a police lineup, Angwin argues that the greatest long-term danger is that we start to internalize the surveillance and censor our words and thoughts, until we lose the very freedom that makes us unique individuals. Appalled at such a prospect, Angwin conducts a series of experiments to try to protect herself, ranging from quitting Google to carrying a “burner” phone, showing how difficult it is for an average citizen to resist the dragnets’ reach.
Cracking Business Books’ Titles: Flash Boys
Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt (US title), Flash Boys: Cracking the Money Code (UK title) by Michael Lewis
Flash Boys is about a small group of Wall Street guys who figure out that the U.S. stock market has been rigged for the benefit of insiders and that, post–financial crisis, the markets have become not more free but less, and more controlled by the big Wall Street banks. Working at different firms, they come to this realization separately; but after they discover one another, the flash boys band together and set out to reform the financial markets. This they do by creating an exchange in which high-frequency trading—source of the most intractable problems—will have no advantage whatsoever.
Cracking Business Books’ Titles: Fragile by Design
Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit by Charles W. Calomiris
Why are banking systems unstable in so many countries–but not in others? The United States has had twelve systemic banking crises since 1840, while Canada has had none. The banking systems of Mexico and Brazil have not only been crisis prone but have provided miniscule amounts of credit to business enterprises and households. Analyzing the political and banking history of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil through several centuries, Fragile by Design demonstrates that chronic banking crises and scarce credit are not accidents due to unforeseen circumstances. Rather, these fluctuations result from the complex bargains made between politicians, bankers, bank shareholders, depositors, debtors, and taxpayers. The well-being of banking systems depends on the abilities of political institutions to balance and limit how coalitions of these various groups influence government regulations.
Cracking Business Books’ Titles: GDP
GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History by Diane Coyle
Why did the size of the U.S. economy increase by 3 percent on one day in mid-2013–or Ghana’s balloon by 60 percent overnight in 2010? Why did the U.K. financial industry show its fastest expansion ever at the end of 2008–just as the world’s financial system went into meltdown? And why was Greece’s chief statistician charged with treason in 2013 for apparently doing nothing more than trying to accurately report the size of his country’s economy? The answers to all these questions lie in the way we define and measure national economies around the world: Gross Domestic Product. This entertaining and informative book tells the story of GDP, making sense of a statistic that appears constantly in the news, business, and politics, and that seems to rule our lives–but that hardly anyone actually understands.
Cracking Business Books’ Titles: Hack Attack
At first, it seemed like a small story. The royal editor of the News of the World was caught listening to the voicemail messages of staff at Buckingham Palace. He and a private investigator were jailed, and the case was closed. But Nick Davies, special correspondent for The Guardian, knew that it didn’t add up. He began to investigate, and ended up exposing a world of crime and cover-up, of fear and favor—the long shadow of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.
Hack Attack is the mesmerizing story of how Davies and a small group of lawyers and politicians took on one of the most powerful men in the world—and beat him. It exposes the inner workings of the ruthless machine that was the News of the World, and of the private investigators who hacked phones, listened to live calls, sent Trojan horse emails, bribed the police, and committed burglaries to dig up tabloid scoops. Above all, it is a study of the private lives of the power elite. It paints an intimate portrait of the social network that gave Murdoch privileged access to government, and allowed him and his lieutenants to intimidate anyone who stood up to them.
Cracking Business Books’ Titles: House of Debt
The Great American Recession resulted in the loss of eight million jobs between 2007 and 2009. More than four million homes were lost to foreclosures. Is it a coincidence that the United States witnessed a dramatic rise in household debt in the years before the recession—that the total amount of debt for American households doubled between 2000 and 2007 to $14 trillion? Definitely not. Armed with clear and powerful evidence, Atif Mian and Amir Sufi reveal in House of Debt how the Great Recession and Great Depression, as well as the current economic malaise in Europe, were caused by a large run-up in household debt followed by a significantly large drop in household spending.
Cracking Business Books’ Titles: Shredded
Shredded: Inside RBS: The Bank that Broke Britain by Ian Fraser
‘The definitive account of the Royal Bank of Scotland fiasco. It’s an engaging, if in some ways infuriating, tale of how self-serving bank executives systematically broke the rules, lent with astonishing recklessness, abused customers and got suckered by Wall Street – before ultimately dumping their mess on taxpayers. Fraser doesn’t just point the finger at Royal’s clueless bankers. He also expertly chronicles the role of misguided regulations, captured supervisors and deluded politicians in fuelling this catastrophe.’ – Yves Smith, founder of Naked Capitalism and author of econned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism ‘This book should be posted through the letterbox of every taxpayer in Britain.’ – David Mellor, former chief secretary to the Treasury and secretary of state for National Heritage ‘Ian Fraser has spotted stories, uncovered scandals and written about them in a detailed and accessible way that leaves many other financial journalists in the dust.’ – Eamonn O’Neill, director of the MSc course in investigative journalism at the University of Strathclyde At its zenith, the Royal Bank of Scotland was the world’s biggest bank. It had assets of $3 trillion, employed over 200,000 people, had branches on every high street and was admired and trusted by millions of borrowers and investors. Now the mere mention of its name causes anger and resentment, and its former CEO, Fred Goodwin, is reviled as one of the architects of the worst financial crisis since 1929. In Shredded, Ian Fraser lifts the lid on the catastrophic mistakes that led the bank to the brink of collapse, scrutinizing the role played by RBS’s directors, who failed to check Goodwin’s hubris, the colleagues who were overawed by his despotic leadership style, the politicians who created a regulatory free-for-all in which banks went virtually unsupervised, and the investors who egged Goodwin on. As more and more toxic details emerge about the bank’s pre- and post-bailout misconduct, which stretches from the ruination of numerous small businesses in the UK and Ireland to the criminal fiddling of Yen Libor, and from the alleged manipulation of global foreign-exchange markets to the wholesale ‘mis-selling’ of US mortgage bonds, Ian Fraser examines what the future holds for RBS and whether it can ever regain the public’s trust.
Cracking Business Books’ Titles: Sons of Wichita
Like the Rockefellers and the Kennedys, the Kochs are one of the most influential dynasties of the modern age, but they have never been the subject of a major biography… until now.
Not long after the death of his father, Charles Koch, then in his early 30s, discovered a letter the family patriarch had written to his sons. “You will receive what now seems to be a large sum of money,” Fred Koch cautioned. “It may either be a blessing or a curse.”
Fred’s legacy would become a blessing and a curse to his four sons-Frederick, Charles, and fraternal twins David and Bill-who in the ensuing decades fought bitterly over their birthright, the oil and cattle-ranching empire their father left behind in 1967. Against a backdrop of scorched-earth legal skirmishes, Charles and David built Koch Industries into one of the largest private corporations in the world-bigger than Boeing and Disney-and they rose to become two of the wealthiest men on the planet.
Cracking Business Books’ Titles: The Boom
Russell Gold, a brilliant and dogged investigative reporter at The Wall Street Journal, has spent more than a decade reporting on one of the biggest stories of our time: the spectacular, world-changing rise of “fracking.” Recognized as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and a recipient of the Gerald Loeb Award for his work, Gold has traveled along the pipelines and into the hubs of this country’s energy infrastructure; he has visited frack sites from Texas to North Dakota; and he has conducted thousands of interviews with engineers and wildcatters, CEOs and roughnecks, environmentalists and politicians. He has also sifted through reams of engineering reports, lawsuit transcripts, and financial filings. The result is an essential book—a commanding piece of journalism, an astounding study of human ingenuity, and an epic work of storytelling.
Cracking Business Books’ Titles: The Glass Closet
The Glass Closet: Why Coming Out Is Good Business by John Browne
Part memoir and part social criticism, The Glass Closet addresses the issue of homophobia that still pervades corporations around the world and underscores the immense challenges faced by LGBT employees.
In The Glass Closet, Lord John Browne, former CEO of BP, seeks to unsettle business leaders by exposing the culture of homophobia that remains rampant in corporations around the world, and which prevents employees from showing their authentic selves.
Cracking Business Books’ Titles: The Hard Thing About Hard Things
Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, offers essential advice on building and running a startup—practical wisdom for managing the toughest problems business school doesn’t cover, based on his popular ben’s blog.
While many people talk about how great it is to start a business, very few are honest about how difficult it is to run one. Ben Horowitz analyzes the problems that confront leaders every day, sharing the insights he’s gained developing, managing, selling, buying, investing in, and supervising technology companies. A lifelong rap fanatic, he amplifies business lessons with lyrics from his favorite songs, telling it straight about everything from firing friends to poaching competitors, cultivating and sustaining a CEO mentality to knowing the right time to cash in.
Cracking Business Books’ Titles: The Innovators
Following his blockbuster biography of Steve Jobs, The Innovators is Walter Isaacson’s revealing story of the people who created the computer and the Internet. It is destined to be the standard history of the digital revolution and an indispensable guide to how innovation really happens.
What were the talents that allowed certain inventors and entrepreneurs to turn their visionary ideas into disruptive realities? What led to their creative leaps? Why did some succeed and others fail?
In his masterly saga, Isaacson begins with Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s. He explores the fascinating personalities that created our current digital revolution, such as Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J.C.R. Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Tim Berners-Lee, and Larry Page.