Top business books of 2014: 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.
Top business books of 2013: The Everything Store
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone
Amazon.com’s visionary founder, Jeff Bezos, wasn’t content with being a bookseller. He wanted Amazon to become the everything store, offering limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptively low prices. To do so, he developed a corporate culture of relentless ambition and secrecy that’s never been cracked. Until now.
Brad Stone enjoyed unprecedented access to current and former Amazon employees and Bezos family members, and his book is the first in-depth, fly-on-the-wall account of life at Amazon. The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon is the book that the business world can’t stop talking about, the revealing, definitive biography of the company that placed one of the first and largest bets on the Internet and forever changed the way we shop and read.
Top business books of 2012: Private Empire
Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power by Steve Coll
In this, the first hard-hitting examination of ExxonMobil—the largest and most powerful private corporation in the United States—Steve Coll reveals the true extent of its power. Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power pulls back the curtain, tracking the corporation’s recent history and its central role on the world stage, beginning with the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989 and leading to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The action spans the globe—featuring kidnapping cases, civil wars, and high-stakes struggles at the Kremlin—and the narrative is driven by larger-than-life characters, including corporate legend Lee “Iron Ass” Raymond, ExxonMobil’s chief executive until 2005. A penetrating, news-breaking study, Private Empire is a defining portrait of Big Oil in American politics and foreign policy.
Top business books of of 2011: Poor Economics
Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo
Why do the poor borrow to save? Why do they miss out on free life-saving immunizations, but pay for unnecessary drugs? In Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo, two practical visionaries working toward ending world poverty, answer these questions from the ground. In a book the Wall Street Journal called “marvelous, rewarding,” the authors tell how the stress of living on less than 99 cents per day encourages the poor to make questionable decisions that feed—not fight—poverty. The result is a radical rethinking of the economics of poverty that offers a ringside view of the lives of the world’s poorest, and shows that creating a world without poverty begins with understanding the daily decisions facing the poor.
Top business books of of 2010: Fault Lines
Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy by Raghuram Rajan
Raghuram Rajan was one of the few economists who warned of the global financial crisis before it hit. Now, as the world struggles to recover, it’s tempting to blame what happened on just a few greedy bankers who took irrational risks and left the rest of us to foot the bill. In Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy, Rajan argues that serious flaws in the economy are also to blame, and warns that a potentially more devastating crisis awaits us if they aren’t fixed.
Rajan shows how the individual choices that collectively brought about the economic meltdown–made by bankers, government officials, and ordinary homeowners–were rational responses to a flawed global financial order in which the incentives to take on risk are incredibly out of step with the dangers those risks pose. He traces the deepening fault lines in a world overly dependent on the indebted American consumer to power global economic growth and stave off global downturns. He exposes a system where America’s growing inequality and thin social safety net create tremendous political pressure to encourage easy credit and keep job creation robust, no matter what the consequences to the economy’s long-term health; and where the U.S. financial sector, with its skewed incentives, is the critical but unstable link between an overstimulated America and an underconsuming world.
Top business books of 2009: Lords of Finance
Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed
It is commonly believed that the Great Depression that began in 1929 resulted from a confluence of events beyond any one person’s or government’s control. In fact, as Liaquat Ahamed reveals, it was the decisions made by a small number of central bankers that were the primary cause of that economic meltdown, the effects of which set the stage for World War II and reverberated for decades. As yet another period of economic turmoil makes headlines today, Lords of Finance is a potent reminder of the enormous impact that the decisions of central bankers can have, their fallibility, and the terrible human consequences that can result when they are wrong.
Top business books of 2008: When Markets Collide
When Markets Collide: Investment Strategies for the Age of Global Economic Change is a timely alert to the fundamental changes taking place in today’s global economic and financial systems–and a call to action for investors who may fall victim to misinterpreting important signals. While some have tended to view asset class mispricings as mere “noise,” this compelling book shows why they are important signals of opportunities and risks that will shape the market for years to come. One of today’s most respected names in finance, Mohamed El-Erian puts recent events in their proper context, giving you the tools that can help you interpret the markets, benefit from global economic change, and navigate the risks.
The world economy is in the midst of a series of hand-offs. Global growth is now being heavily influenced by nations that previously had little or no systemic influence. Former debtor nations are building unforeseen wealth and, thus, enjoying unprecedented influence and facing unusual challenges. And new derivative products have changed the behavior of many market segments and players. Yet, despite all these changes, the system’s infrastructure is yet to be upgraded to reflect the realities of today’s and tomorrow’s world. El-Erian investigates the underlying drivers of global change to shed light on how you should:
- Think about the new opportunities and risks
- Construct an appropriately diversified and internationalized portfolio
- Protect your portfolio against new sources of systemic risk
- Best think about the impact of central banks and financial policies around the world
Top business books of 2007: The Last Tycoons
The Last Tycoons: The Secret History of Lazard Frères & Co. by William Cohan
Wall Street investment banks move trillions of dollars a year, make billions in fees, pay their executives in the tens of millions of dollars. But even among the most powerful firms, Lazard Frères & Co. stood apart. Discretion, secrecy, and subtle strategy were its weapons of choice. For more than a century, the mystique and reputation of the “Great Men” who worked there allowed the firm to garner unimaginable profits, social cachet, and outsized influence in the halls of power. But in the mid-1980s, their titanic egos started getting in the way, and the Great Men of Lazard jeopardized all they had built.
William D. Cohan, himself a former high-level Wall Street banker, takes the reader into the mysterious and secretive world of Lazard and presents a compelling portrait of Wall Street through the tumultuous history of this exalted and fascinating company. Cohan deconstructs the explosive feuds between Felix Rohatyn and Steve Rattner, superstar investment bankers and pillars of New York society, and between the man who controlled Lazard, the inscrutable French billionaire Michel David-Weill, and his chosen successor, Bruce Wasserstein.
Top business books of 2006: China Shakes the World
“Let China sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world.” Napoleon’s words seem eerily prescient today, as the shock waves from China’s awakening reverberate around the globe. Award-winning journalist James Kynge takes measure of the tremors made as China’s ravenous hunger for jobs, raw materials, energy, and food — and its export of goods, workers, and investments — drastically reshapes world trade and politics. Through dramatic stories of the people who are driving China’s transformation — entrepreneurs and visionaries, factory workers and store clerks — Kynge describes the breakneck rise of China, the extraordinary problems the country now faces, and the consequences of both.
Top business books of 2005: The World Is Flat
The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas Friedman
“One mark of a great book is that it makes you see things in a new way, and Mr. Friedman certainly succeeds in that goal,” the Nobel laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz wrote in The New York Times reviewing The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century in 2005. In this new edition, Thomas L. Friedman includes fresh stories and insights to help us understand the flattening of the world. Weaving new information into his overall thesis, and answering the questions he has been most frequently asked by parents across the country, this third edition also includes two new chapters–on how to be a political activist and social entrepreneur in a flat world; and on the more troubling question of how to manage our reputations and privacy in a world where we are all becoming publishers and public figures.
The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century is an essential update on globalization, its opportunities for individual empowerment, its achievements at lifting millions out of poverty, and its drawbacks–environmental, social, and political, powerfully illuminated by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Lexus and the Olive Tree.
See the full list here.