June 27, 2014 4:44 pm

Summer reading: Business

Andrew Hill picks his books of the year so far

Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace, Bantam, RRP£20/ Random House, RRP$28

Catmull defies the curse of the “founder memoir” – a business genre in which the author uses the pulpit of success to lecture readers about how he or she did it – with his account of the ups and downs of Pixar, the animation studio. From the creative chaos, he and Wallace manage to conjure lessons about how to handle innovative and imaginative obsessives, whose very perfectionism may sometimes be a liability.

. . .

Flash Boys: Cracking the Money Code, by Michael Lewis, Allen Lane, RRP£30/ WW Norton, RRP$27.95

Lewis touched a nerve with his book about the growth of high-frequency trading. He takes the view that, under the guise of providing useful liquidity to markets, high-speed data lines and powerful programs in fact give traders a split-second to take advantage of other investors. What nobody disputes is that Lewis has wrought another great narrative from an esoteric topic.

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Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade, by Adam Minter, Bloomsbury, RRP£18.99/ $26

Minter, the China-based son of a junkyard owner, is ideally placed to tell the story of what happens to the goods that the rest of the world decides to recycle. The answer is that they end up being broken up, shredded and melted down in China to help fuel the appetite for raw materials of one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. One sobering conclusion is that recycling, with its by-products of more pollution and human health problems, is no environmental panacea for western consumers.

Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits, by Kevin Roose, Grand Central Publishing, RRP$27

By tracking young recruits to Wall Street – and allowing them to remain anonymous – Roose opens a window on to the incentives to join the Lower Manhattan rat race before the financial crisis. He charts the transformation highly qualified newcomers undergo as they are inducted into its biggest financial institutions. FT reviewer Sujeet Indap, himself a former investment banker, disputed the idea that America was worse off for encouraging talented graduates into the profession, but lauded Roose’s in-depth reporting.

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Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less, by Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao, Random House Business, RRP£14.99/ Crown Business, RRP$26

The two Stanford professors tackle one of the biggest challenges for growing businesses: how to get larger without becoming entangled in bureaucracy. Most of the book is practical and spiced with entertaining case studies. They do not shy away, either, from pointing out that it may sometimes make sense to stay small.

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The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters, by Gregory Zuckerman, Portfolio, RRP£14.99/ $29.95

Authors are mining the “shale gas revolution” for stories about the pros and cons of fracking. Zuckerman is generally supportive of the technique in a book laced with colour and detail. Ed Crooks, reviewing in the FT, said that by focusing on the characters at the centre of the phenomenon, Zuckerman had managed to tell “a classic American story” of creativity, bravado and the quest for great wealth.

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