Reading list that mixes low deeds and high hopes

The legacy of the financial crisis still shapes the longlist

“Thou Shalt Remember That People Forget” is the first commandment from economist Alan Blinder’s After The Music Stopped, an analysis of the financial crisis and one of a few titles on this year’s business book of the year longlist that tries to cement the memory of what went wrong.

Making It Happen, Iain Martin’s soon-to-be published account of the rise and fall of Royal Bank of Scotland, Anita Raghav­an’s The Billionaire’s Apprentice, about the Galleon insider trading case and its impact on the Indian-American elite, and Neil Irwin’s sweeping history of central banking, The Alchemists, also offer cautionary tales from the credit crunch.

Two of the longlisted books explicitly draw a line under the attitudes and approaches that dominated the pre-crisis business world. Moisés Naím declares The End of Power, analysing the consequence of leaders’ decaying pot­ency across the business, economic and political spectrum. Rita Gunther McGrath, meanwhile, challenges Michael Porter’s theory that companies can secure enduring dominance in The End of Competitive Advantage.

Among the trends testing corporate strategy are: the proliferation of so-called Big Data, analysed in the book of the same name by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier; the fierce competitive edge of growing east Asian economies, covered by Joe Studwell in How Asia Works; and the rapid adaptability of internet-based companies such as Amazon, whose rise Brad Stone explores in The Everything Store.

Will the changes wrought by these trends mark a definitive end to cycles of damaging financial, economic and business turmoil? Almost certainly not. Blinder’s conclusion, for instance, is that “high leverage, sloppy risk management, shady business practices and lax regulation” will be back.

But, five years on from the low-point of the crisis, the longlisted books also contain the seeds of change. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer and author of Lean In, argues that a rising generation of female executives – and their enlightened male counterparts – are challenging establish­ed business norms.

In Scarcity, Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir contend that improved understanding of how lack of time, cognitive “bandwidth” and money affect behaviour could temper financial excess and even relieve poverty. Angus Deaton’s The Great Escape traces advances in wealth and health that offer hope of an exit from historic human inequality. Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan, in The Org, even find grounds for optimism in the mundane functioning of offices and corporate bureaucracies, which facilitate collective achievement.

Finally, Adam Grant’s Give and Take suggests why and how a generous attitude can repay the giver, in business and life.

TitleAuthor/sPublisher
After the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead
Alan BlinderThe Penguin Press
The Alchemists:
Inside the Secret World of Central Bankers (UK subtitle)
Neil IrwinHeadline Business Plus
The Alchemists:
Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire (US subtitle)
Neil IrwinThe Penguin Press
Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think (UK cover)
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth CukierJohn Murray; Eamon Dolan Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think (US cover)
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth CukierJohn Murray; Eamon Dolan Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The Billionaire’s Apprentice: The Rise of The Indian-American Elite and The Fall of The Galleon Hedge Fund
Anita RaghavanHachette Book Group/Business Plus
The End of Competitive Advantage: How to keep your strategy moving as fast as your business
Rita Gunther McGrathHarvard Business Review Press
The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be
Moisés NaímBasic Books
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (UK cover)
Brad StoneTransworld/ Bantam Press; Little, Brown
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (US cover)
Brad StoneTransworld/ Bantam Press; Little, Brown
Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success
Adam GrantWeidenfeld & Nicolson; Viking (Penguin)
The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality
Angus DeatonPrinceton University Press
How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World’s Most Dynamic Region
Joe StudwellProfile Books; Grove Press
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
Sheryl SandbergWH Allen/Random House Group; Knopf
Making it Happen: Fred Goodwin, RBS and the Men Who Blew Up the British Economy
Iain MartinSimon and Schuster
The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office
Tim Sullivan and Ray FismanTwelve
Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much
Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar ShafirAllen Lane; Times Books/Henry Holt
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