Last updated: September 20, 2005 9:37 am

Synopses of the short-listed books

The World is Flat

THE WORLD IS FLAT
by Thomas L. Friedman
Penguin/Allen Lane; Farrar, Strauss & Giroux

When scholars write the history of the world twenty years from now, and they come to the chapter "Y2K to March 2004," what will they say was the most crucial development? The attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the Iraq war? Or the convergence of technology and events that allowed India, China, and so many other countries to become part of the global supply chain for services and manufacturing, creating an explosion of wealth in the middle classes of the world's two biggest nations, giving them a huge new stake in the success of globalization? And with this "flattening" of the globe, which requires us to run faster in order to stay in place, has the world gotten too small and too fast for human beings and their political systems to adjust in a stable manner?

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IN Management

In this brilliant new book, the award-winning New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman demystifies the brave new world for readers, allowing them to make sense of the often bewildering global scene unfolding before their eyes. With his inimitable ability to translate complex foreign policy and economic issues, Friedman explains how the flattening of the world happened at the dawn of the twenty-first century; what it means to countries, companies, communities, and individuals; and how governments and societies can, and must, adapt. The World Is Flat is the timely and essential update on globalization, its successes and discontents, powerfully illuminated by one of our most respected journalists.

Thomas L. Friedman has won the Pulitzer Prize three times for his work at The New York Times. He is the author of three best-selling books: From Beiruit to Jerusalem (FSG, 1989), winner of the National Book Award for nonfiction and still considered to be the definitive work on the Middle East, The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (FSG, 1999), and Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11 (FSG, 2002). He lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with his family.

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Freakonomics
FREAKONOMICS
by Steve Levitt and Stephen Dubner
Penguin/Allen Lane; William Morrow

Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? What kind of impact did Roe v. Wade have on violent crime?

These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much heralded scholar who studies the stuff and riddles of everyday life -- from cheating and crime to sports and child rearing -- and whose conclusions regularly turn the conventional wisdom on its head. He usually begins with a mountain of data and a simple, unasked question. Some of these questions concern life-and-death issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: freakonomics.

Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and co-author Stephen J. Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives -- how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they set out to explore the hidden side of ... well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.

What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a surfeit of obfuscation, complication, and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and -- if the right questions are asked -- is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking. Steven Levitt, through devilishly clever and clear-eyed thinking, shows how to see through all the clutter.

Freakonomics establishes this unconventional premise: If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work. It is true that readers of this book will be armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand cocktail parties. But Freakonomics can provide more than that. It will literally redefine the way we view the modern world.

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The Travels of a T-Shirt

THE TRAVELS OF A T-SHIRT
by Pietra Rivoli
Wiley

The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy takes the reader on a fascinating, around-the-world journey to reveal the economic and political lessons from the life story of a simple t-shirt. Over five years, business professor Pietra Rivoli traveled from a Texas cotton field to a Chinese factory to a used clothing market in Africa, to investigate compelling questions about the politics, economics, ethics, and history of modern business and globalization. Using the story of the t-shirt to illustrate the major issues of the globalization debate, this uniquely entertaining business book offers a surprising, enlightening, and balanced look at one of the major topics of our time.

Pietra Rivoli is Associate Professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, where she specializes in international business, finance, and social issues in business. She is the author of International Business and has been published in numerous academic journals, including the Journal of International Business Studies, the Journal of Business Ethics, Business Ethics Quarterly, and the Journal of Money, Credit and Banking.

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Disney Wars
DISNEYWAR
by James Stewart
Simon & Schuster

"When You Wish Upon a Star," "Whistle While You Work," "The Happiest Place on Earth" -- these are lyrics indelibly linked to Disney, one of the most admired and best-known companies in the world. So when Roy Disney, chairman of Walt Disney Animation and nephew of founder Walt Disney, abruptly resigned in November 2003 and declared war on chairman and chief executive Michael Eisner, he sent shock waves through the entertainment industry, corporate boardrooms, theme parks, and living rooms around the world -- everywhere Disney does business and its products are cherished.

DisneyWar is the breathtaking, dramatic inside story of what drove America's best-known entertainment company to civil war, told by one of our most acclaimed writers and reporters.

Drawing on unprecedented access to both Eisner and Roy Disney, current and former Disney executives and board members, as well as thousands of pages of never-before-seen letters, memos, transcripts, and other documents, James B. Stewart gets to the bottom of mysteries that have enveloped Disney for years: What really caused the rupture with studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, a man who once regarded Eisner as a father but who became his fiercest rival? How could Eisner have so misjudged Michael Ovitz, a man who was not only "the most powerful man in Hollywood" but also his friend, whom he appointed as Disney president and immediately wanted to fire? What caused the break between Eisner and Pixar chairman Steve Jobs, and why did Pixar abruptly abandon its partnership with Disney? Why did Eisner so mistrust Roy Disney that he assigned Disney company executives to spy on him? How did Eisner control the Disney board for so long, and what really happened in the fateful board meeting in September 2004, when Eisner played his last cards?

Here, too, is the creative process that lies at the heart of Disney -- from the making of The Lion King to Pirates of the Caribbean. Even as the executive suite has been engulfed in turmoil, Disney has worked -- and sometimes clashed -- with a glittering array of stars, directors, designers, artists, and producers, many of whom tell their stories here for the first time.

Stewart describes how Eisner lost his chairmanship and why he felt obliged to resign as CEO, effective 2006. No other book so thoroughly penetrates the secretive world of the corporate boardroom. DisneyWar is an enthralling tale of one of America's most powerful media and entertainment companies, the people who control it, and those trying to overthrow them.

DisneyWar is an epic achievement. It tells a story that -- in its sudden twists, vivid, larger-than-life characters, and thrilling climax -- might itself have been the subject of a Disney animated classic -- except that it's all true.

James B. Stewart is the author of Heart of a Soldier, the bestselling Blind Eye and Blood Sport, and the blockbuster Den of Thieves. A former Page-One editor at The Wall Street Journal, Stewart won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for his reporting on the stock market crash and insider trading. He is a regular contributor to SmartMoney and The New Yorker. He lives in New York

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The Search
THE SEARCH: How Google and its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business
by John Battelle
Nicholas Brealey; Portfolio

What does the world want? According to John Battelle, a company that answers that question -- in all its shades of meaning -- can unlock the most intractable riddles of both business and culture. And for the past few years, that's exactly what Google has been doing.

Jumping into the game long after Yahoo, Alta Vista, Excite, Lycos, and other pioneers, Google offered a radical new approach to search, redefined the idea of viral marketing, survived the dotcom crash, and pulled off the largest and most talked about initial public offering in the history of Silicon Valley.

But The Search offers much more than the inside story of Google's triumph. It's also a big-picture book about the past, present, and future of search technology, and the enormous impact it is starting to have on marketing, media, pop culture, dating, job hunting, international law, civil liberties, and just about every other sphere of human interest.

More than any of its rivals, Google has become the gateway to instant knowledge. Hundreds of millions of people use it to satisfy their wants, needs, fears, and obsessions, creating an enormous artifact that Battelle calls "the Database of Intentions." Somewhere in Google's archives, for instance, you can find the agonized research of a gay man with AIDS, the silent plotting of a would-be bombmaker, and the anxiety of a woman checking out her blind date. Combined with the databases of thousands of other search-driven businesses, large and small, it all adds up to a goldmine of information that powerful organizations (including the government) will want to get their hands on.

No one is better qualified to explain this entire phenomenon than Battelle, who cofounded Wired and founded The Industry Standard. Perhaps more than any other journalist, he has devoted his career to finding the holy grail of technology -- something as transformational as the Macintosh was in the mid- 1980s. And he has finally found it in search.

Battelle draws on more than 350 interviews with major players from Silicon Valley to Seattle to Wall Street, including Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and CEO Eric Schmidt, as well as competitors like Louis Monier, who invented AltaVista, and Neil Moncrief, a soft-spoken Georgian whose business Google built, destroyed, and built again.

Battelle lucidly reveals how search technology actually works, explores the amazing power of targeted advertising, and reports on the frenzy of the Google IPO, when the company tried to rewrite the rules of Wall Street and declared "don't be evil" as its corporate motto.

For anyone who wants to understand how Google really succeeded -- and the implications of a world in which every click can be preserved forever -- THE SEARCH is an eye-opening and indispensable read.

John Battelle is a cofounding editor of Wired and the founder of The Industry Standard, as well as TheStandard.com. He is currently program chair for the Web 2.0 conference, a columnist for Business 2.0, and the founder, chairman, and publisher of Federated Media Publishing, Inc.

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Fast second

FAST SECOND: How Smart Companies Bypass Radical Innovation to Enter Dominate New Markets
By Constantinos C, Markides Paul Geroski
Wiley;Jossey Bass

Discover why being a "fast second" is often more financially rewarding than being at the cutting edge.

If you get there first, you'll lead the pack, right? Not necessarily! The skill-sets of most established companies, say strategy experts Constantinos Markides and Paul Geroski, are far better suited to scaling up newly created markets pioneered by others (in other words, being "fast seconds") than to creating these markets from scratch. In Fast Second, they explore the characteristics of new markets, describe the skills needed to create and compete in them, and show how these skills match up with different types of companies. Drawing on examples of successful fast-second firms such as Microsoft, Amazon, Canon, JVC, Heinz, and many others, they illustrate how to determine which new markets have the potential to be successful and how to move into them before the competition does, when to make a move into a new market, how to scale up a market, where to position a company in the market, and whether to be a colonizer or a consolidator.

Constantinos C. Markides is professor of strategic and international management and holds the Robert P. Bauman Chair of Strategic Leadership at the London Business School. He is the author of numerous articles and books, including All the Right Moves: A Guide to Crafting Breakthrough Strategy, and is coauthor of Strategic Thinking for the Next Economy from Jossey-Bass.

Paul A. Geroski was until recently professor of economics at the London Business School. His research interests were innovation, competitive strategy, and competition policy. He is currently the chairman of the Competition Commission in the United Kingdom.

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