Summer reading 2016: Business

Andrew Hill picks his books of the year so far

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Alibaba: The House that Jack Ma Built, by Duncan Clark, Ecco, RRP£18.99/ RRP$27.99

If Alibaba, the sprawling online retailer, is one of China’s most interesting companies, then Jack Ma, its founder, is one of the country’s most fascinating entrepreneurs. Clark has been witness to the rise of both since 1999. Reviewing the book for the FT, Charles Clover said it was a “must-read for anyone hoping to navigate China’s new economy”.


Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines, by Thomas Davenport and Julia Kirby, Harper Business, RRP$29.99/ RRP£20

The human race’s comeback was overdue after the recent wave of books on the rise of the robots, and Davenport and Kirby provide a fine call to action for flesh-and-blood workers by emphasising the collaborative possibilities of new technology. The spread of cognitive computing and artificial intelligence will threaten jobs, they concede, but the book lays out ways humans can meet and profit from the challenge.


Dear Chairman: Boardroom Battles and the Rise of Shareholder Activism, by Jeff Gramm, HarperCollins, RRP£20/ RRP$29.99

A book on US corporate governance built round a series of letters from shareholders to company bosses is an unlikely beach read. But Gramm, who himself runs a hedge fund, is an engaging and critical guide to a century of US activism and activists, including Ross Perot and Warren Buffett.


Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, by Adam Grant, Viking, RRP$27/ WH Allen, RRP£20

Grant stamps his hallmark of original research, fine writing and practical fresh insights on to this book about how innovators make breakthroughs — not always in the predictable ways you may think. “Procrastinate strategically” is one nugget that will please anyone who has ever pushed a deadline.


The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, Bloomsbury, RRP£18.99/ RRP$28

Our obsession with what millennials are thinking and doing means we have not truly thought about what will happen at the other end of our — and their — lives. Gratton and Scott, London Business School professors, offer thought-provoking insights and practical guidance about how living to 100 will change attitudes to careers, personal finance, corporate organisation and relationships.


The Industries of the Future, by Alec Ross, Simon & Schuster, RRP£20/ RRP$28

Ross, a former innovation adviser to Hillary Clinton, set out to write the book he wished he had had as a young man to alert him to the coming digital revolution. FT reviewer Stephen Cave called it “lucid and informed” on everything from genomics to the blockchain, but readers will have to reconvene in 20 years to decide just how prescient he is.

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