8 Top Business Books From 2014 Summed Up In A Paragraph

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Here is an excerpt from 250words.com on 8 popular business books published in 2014 and then reviews on business books such as Creativity, Inc., Things a Little Bird Told Me, Left Brain, Right Stuff, Think Like a Freak, Social Physics and more.

Dozens of excellent non-fiction books were published in the first half of 2014. To save you some time, we picked eight of the best releases and distilled each into one paragraph. The books cover a variety of topics. Creativity, Inc. and Things a Little Bird Told Me discuss innovation; Left Brain, Right Stuff and Think Like a Freak explore tips to improve judgment and decision making; and in Social Physicsthe director of the Human Dynamics Lab at MIT, Alex Pentland, writes about “idea flow.” More via  250words.com and below.

Business Books #1: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

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.

Filled with his trademark humor and straight talk, The Hard Thing About Hard Things is invaluable for veteran entrepreneurs as well as those aspiring to their own new ventures, drawing from Horowitz’s personal and often humbling experiences.

Business Books #2: Creativity, Inc.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace

From Ed Catmull, co-founder (with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar Animation Studios, comes an incisive book about creativity in business—sure to appeal to readers of Daniel Pink, Tom Peters, and Chip and Dan Heath. Forbes raves that Creativity, Inc. “just might be the business book ever written.”

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.

Business Books #3: Money

Money: The Unauthorized Biography by Felix Martin

From ancient currency to Adam Smith, from the gold standard to shadow banking and the Great Recession: a sweeping historical epic that traces the development and evolution of one of humankind’s greatest inventions.

What is money, and how does it work? In this tour de force of political, cultural and economic history, Felix Martin challenges nothing less than our conventional understanding of money. He describes how the Western idea of money emerged from interactions between Mesopotamia and ancient Greece and was shaped over the centuries by tensions between sovereigns and the emerging middle classes. He explores the extraordinary diversity of the world’s monetary systems, from the Pacific island of Yap, where value was once measured by immovable stones, to the currency of today that exists solely on globally connected computer screens. Martin shows that money has always been a deeply political instrument, and that it is our failure to remember this that led to the crisis in our financial system and so to the Great Recession. He concludes with practical solutions to our current pressing, money-based problems.

Money skips nimbly among such far-ranging topics as John Locke’s disastrous excursion into economic policy, Montesquieu’s faith in finance to discipline the power of kings, the social organization of ancient Sparta and the Soviet Union’s ill-fated attempt to abolish money and banking altogether. Throughout, Martin makes vivid sense of a chaotic and sometimes incoherent system—the everyday currency that we all share—in the clearest and most stimulating terms. This is a magisterial work of history and economics, with profound implications for the world today.

Business Books #4: Left Brain, Right Stuff

Left Brain, Right Stuff: How Leaders Make Winning Decisions by Phil Rosenzweig

Left Brain, Right Stuff takes up where other books about decision making leave off. For many routine choices, from shopping to investing, we can make good decisions simply by avoiding common errors, such as searching only for confirming information or avoiding the hindsight bias. But as Phil Rosenzweig shows, for many of the most important, more complex situations we face—in business, sports, politics, and more—a different way of thinking is required. Leaders must possess the ability to shape opinions, inspire followers, manage risk, and outmaneuver and outperform rivals.

Making winning decisions calls for a combination of skills: clear analysis and calculation—left brain—as well as the willingness to push boundaries and take bold action—right stuff. Of course leaders need to understand the dynamics of competition, to anticipate rival moves, to draw on the power of statistical analysis, and to be aware of common decision errors—all features of left brain thinking. But to achieve the unprecedented in real-world situations, much more is needed. Leaders also need the right stuff. In business, they have to devise plans and inspire followers for successful execution; in politics, they must mobilize popular support for a chosen program; in the military, commanders need to commit to a battle strategy and lead their troops; and in start-ups, entrepreneurs must manage risk when success is uncertain. In every case, success calls for action as well as analysis, and for courage as well as calculation.

Business Books #5: Invisibles

Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion by David Zweig

What do fact-checkers, anesthesiologists, U.N. interpreters, and structural engineers have in common? When they do their jobs poorly, the consequences can be catastrophic for their organizations. But when they do their jobs perfectly . . . they’re invisible. 

For most of us, the better we perform the more attention we receive. Yet for many “Invisibles”—skilled professionals whose role is critical to whatever enterprise they’re a part of—it’s the opposite: the better they do their jobs the more they disappear. In fact, often it’s only when something goes wrong that they are noticed at all.

Millions of these Invisibles are hidden in every industry. You may be one yourself. And despite our culture’s increasing celebration of fame in our era of superstar CEOs and assorted varieties of “genius”—they’re fine with remaining anonymous.

David Zweig takes us into the behind-the-scenes worlds that Invisibles inhabit. He interviews top experts in unusual fields to reveal the quiet workers behind public successes. Combining in-depth profiles with insights from psychology, sociology, and business, Zweig uncovers how these hidden professionals reap deep fulfillment by relishing the challenges their work presents.

Business Books #6: Things a Little Bird Told Me

Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind by Biz Stone

Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter, discusses the power of creativity and how to harness it, through stories from his remarkable life and career.

THINGS A LITTLE BIRD TOLD ME

From GQ‘s “Nerd of the Year” to one of Time‘s most influential people in the world, Biz Stone represents different things to different people. But he is known to all as the creative, effervescent, funny, charmingly positive and remarkably savvy co-founder of Twitter-the social media platform that singlehandedly changed the way the world works. Now, Biz tells fascinating, pivotal, and personal stories from his early life and his careers at Google and Twitter, sharing his knowledge about the nature and importance of ingenuity today. In Biz’s world:

  • Opportunity can be manufactured
  • Great work comes from abandoning a linear way of thinking
  • Creativity never runs out
  • Asking questions is free
  • Empathy is core to personal and global success

Business Books #7: Think Like a Freak

Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

he New York Times bestselling Freakonomics changed the way we see the world, exposing the hidden side of just about everything. Then came SuperFreakonomics, a documentary film, an award-winning podcast, and more.

Now, with Think Like a Freak, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have written their most revolutionary book yet. With their trademark blend of captivating storytelling and unconventional analysis, they take us inside their thought process and teach us all to think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally—to think, that is, like a Freak.

Levitt and Dubner offer a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems, whether your interest lies in minor lifehacks or major global reforms. As always, no topic is off-limits. They range from business to philanthropy to sports to politics, all with the goal of retraining your brain. Along the way, you’ll learn the secrets of a Japanese hot-dog-eating champion, the reason an Australian doctor swallowed a batch of dangerous bacteria, and why Nigerian e-mail scammers make a point of saying they’re from Nigeria.

Business Books #8: Social Physics

Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread—The Lessons from a New Science by Alex Pentland

From one of the world’s leading data scientists, a landmark tour of the new science of idea flow, offering revolutionary insights into the mysteries of collective intelligence and social influence

If the Big Data revolution has a presiding genius, it is MIT’s Alex “Sandy” Pentland. Over years of groundbreaking experiments, he has distilled remarkable discoveries significant enough to become the bedrock of a whole new scientific field: social physics. Humans have more in common with bees than we like to admit: We’re social creatures first and foremost. Our most important habits of action—and most basic notions of common sense—are wired into us through our coordination in social groups. Social physics is about idea flow, the way human social networks spread ideas and transform those ideas into behaviors.

Thanks to the millions of digital bread crumbs people leave behind via smartphones, GPS devices, and the Internet, the amount of new information we have about human activity is truly profound. Until now, sociologists have depended on limited data sets and surveys that tell us how people say they think and behave, rather than what they actually do. As a result, we’ve been stuck with the same stale social structures—classes, markets—and a focus on individual actors, data snapshots, and steady states. Pentland shows that, in fact, humans respond much more powerfully to social incentives that involve rewarding others and strengthening the ties that bind than incentives that involve only their own economic self-interest.

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