Globalisation is back in the spotlight of the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award, 11 years after Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat won the inaugural prize.
The 15 books on this year’s longlist take the reader from Brazil to China via Silicon Valley, and from the Renaissance to the 22nd century. Many examine the consequences, good and bad, of the economic convergence and technological change Friedman identified. The award will go to the book that provides the most compelling and enjoyable insight into modern business, from economics to management and finance.
The 15 contenders include The Fix by Jonathan Tepperman, who looks at how governments are coming up with solutions to seemingly intractable political and economic problems that have sprung up alongside global growth, including inequality and corruption.
Less optimistically, Brazillionaires by Alex Cuadros examines the relationship between the Brazilian state and its super-rich elite.
In Alibaba, insider Duncan Clark traces the rapid rise of the Chinese internet group and its founder Jack Ma. His analysis of one of the newest entrants into the ranks of the world’s most powerful companies sits alongside an investigation into one of the older members of that group — Bechtel, the secretive US engineering and construction company founded in 1898 — in The Profiteers by Sally Denton.
Antonio García Martínez’s at times scabrous guide to the mores of Silicon Valley, Chaos Monkeys, forces its way on to the longlist, alongside the more sober The Smartest Places on Earth by Antoine van Agtmael and Fred Bakker. Their book heralds the revival of the American rust belt, swept away by the first long wave of globalisation.
This year’s longlist bookshelf bows under the weight of serious economic histories, including Robert Gordon’s The Rise and Fall of American Growth,
in which the economist challenges the expectation of growth that underpins much optimism about the future of the world. Deirdre McCloskey’s Bourgeois Equality looks at the role of ideas in fuelling economic expansion since the 18th century, taking issue along the way with 2014 winner Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Meanwhile, Ian Goldin and Chris Kutarna make the case that we are living through a “second Renaissance” — with all the risks and opportunities that entails — by comparing it with the first, in Age of Discovery.
Banking and finance find their place in Rana Foroohar’s Makers and Takers, a critique of how finance has come to dominate the US economy. Sebastian Mallaby’s biography of Alan Greenspan, The Man Who Knew, to be published in October, looks at the life and times of the former Federal Reserve chairman and his role in that evolution. In The Curse of Cash, to be published later this month, Kenneth Rogoff makes the controversial case for scrapping paper money.
Behavioural science is less prominent in the longlist this year than in previous years, but Robert Frank’s Success and Luck applies behavioural economics to the question of how people rise to the top — picking holes in meritocracies. Iris Bohnet provides, in What Works, a practical guide for any employer seeking to offset the unconscious bias holding back women in organisations, from orchestras to internet companies. Finally, in The 100-Year Life, Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott tackle the question of how our lives, relationships, careers and institutions will have to change as more people live to 100.
The judges will pick a shortlist of up to six books on September 7, and the £30,000 award will be presented to the winning author or authors on November 22 at a dinner in London.
The 2016 longlist at a glance
Age of Discovery by Ian Goldin and Chris Kutarna
Alibaba by Duncan Clark
Bourgeois Equality by Deirdre McCloskey
Brazillionaires by Alex Cuadros
Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez
Makers and Takers by Rana Foroohar
Success and Luck by Robert Frank
The 100-Year Life by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott
The Curse of Cash by Kenneth Rogoff
The Fix by Jonathan Tepperman
The Man Who Knew by Sebastian Mallaby
The Profiteers by Sally Denton
The Rise and Fall of American Growth by Robert Gordon
The Smartest Places on Earth by Antoine van Agtmael and Fred Bakker
What Works by Iris Bohnet