Biographies and economics dominate

Two towering figures of business and economics are among the subjects of the six finalists

Heavyweight biographies of two towering figures of global business and economics are among the six finalists for this year’s Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.

The seven judges chose the shortlist – including Volcker, William Silber’s newly published life of Paul Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman, and Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson’s account of the life and work of the late chief executive of Apple – from 17 longlisted titles. Lionel Barber, the FT’s editor, called it “the strongest list in terms of quality” since the prize was launched in 2005.

The judges will select the winner on November 1, and the £30,000 prize will be presented at a dinner in New York that evening to the book that “provides the most compelling and enjoyable insight into modern business issues”. Authors of each of the five other finalists will receive £10,000.

The 262 entries for this year’s award included many books about the US economy, timed to appear before the presidential election. But the shortlist reflects a broader range of topics of global relevance.

The finalists include The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, John Coates’ analysis of the biology of financial traders. Vindi Banga, a partner with private equity firm Clayton Dubilier & Rice and one of the judges, described it as an “important book” that looks “at the only business situation where response times have to be as quick as in war or sport”.

The judges also drew attention to Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, which traces the roots of power and prosperity to the nature of economic and political institutions. Shriti Vadera, former UK minister and an adviser to multinationals, praised the book for its “great sweep of politics and economics and history”.

In a strong year for in-depth investigations of companies, journalist Steve Coll’s Private Empire, which dissects the power base of ExxonMobil, the US oil and gas company, earned a place on the shortlist. Jorma Ollila, who brought his insight as chairman of Royal Dutch Shell to the judging table, said the book “captures the DNA of the company marvellously well”.

Rounding out the list is What Money Can’t Buy, Michael Sandel’s exploration of the moral limits of markets. Lynda Gratton, professor at London Business School, said it was a “thought-provoking antidote” to the usual market-driven discussion of business and the economy.

The Shortlist
TitleAuthorPublisher
The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk-taking, Gut Feelings and the Biology of Boom and Bust
John CoatesUS: The Penguin Press, UK: Fourth Estate
Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power
Steve CollUS: The Penguin Press, UK: Allen Lane
Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography
Walter IsaacsonUS: Simon & Schuster; UK: Little, Brown
Volcker: The Triumph of Persistence
William L. SilberBloomsbury Press
UK cover
What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits Of Markets
Michael J. SandelUS: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, UK: Allen Lane
UK cover
Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty
Daron Acemoglu and James A. RobinsonUS: Crown Business, UK: Profile Books
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

More on this topic

Suggestions below based on Business Books

The biology of banking

John Coates’s ‘The Hour Between Dog and Wolf’ shows how financial traders are slaves to their hormones – and what to do about it

Generation Jobs

Apple’s messianic co-founder fits into a long tradition of US business leaders but he was, above all, one of a kind

Not for sale

Our romance with capitalism is a Faustian bargain, but two critiques warn that giving free rein to markets comes at the cost of giving up a part of our soul

The wealth of nations

The FT’s chief economics commentator reviews two new books on the role of political institutions in a country’s economic success