BusinessWeek ranks business books that are the most recent bestsellers and provides a short summary.
1. StrengthsFinder 2.0: A New and Upgraded Edition of the Online Test from Gallup’s Now, Discover Your Strengths by Tom Rath. Are you unsure where your true talents lie? Do you feel that you are both a person who gets things done and someone who offers penetrating analysis? Well, you can discover whether you are truly an “achiever” or an “analytical” by completing the online quiz. Then, the book will give you “ideas for action” and tips for how best you can work with others. More of a patiencetester than strengthsfinder, the quiz/book is probably best for those who have lots of time on their hands.
2. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss. Author Ferriss isn’t shy about tooting his own horn: He says he “speaks six languages, runs a multinational firm from wireless locations worldwide, and has been a world-record holder in tango, a national champion in kickboxing, and an actor in a hit television series in Hong Kong.” Is this the sort of person you really want to be taking advice from? Anyway, Ferris offers recommendations and resources for everything from eliminating wasted time to oursourcing your job and getting cheap airfare. Discover your dreams and live them!
3. Women & Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny by Suze Orman. Why is it that women need so many pep talks about money? In her eighth personal-finance book, Orman does little more than echo the now-tired sentiment that “women still don’t want to take responsibility when it comes to their money.” It seems that gals have “a totally dysfunctional relationship” with lucre, and therefore it’s necessary for more trees to die to help them get on top of the situation. There’s plenty of inspirational talk along with basic information on bank accounts, credit reports, retirement planning, and insurance. Strictly for beginners.
4. Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism by Kevin Phillips. Former Nixon campaign aide turned critic of capitalism Kevin Phillips is back with a book that links the current “global crisis of American capitalism” to the politics of peak oil, the rise of financial mercantilism, the triumph of market fundamentalism, and even the spread of religious conservatism. Philips’ thesis is one that’s now being trumpeted by a bevy of other writers: The financial disaster signals the moment when the U.S. empire begins to follow past powers, from Rome to Britain, into long-term decline.
5. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. You probably don’t realize it, but life is a series of highly improbable yet earthshaking events. That’s the argument of The Black Swan, which in many ways is a re-do of the author’s 2001 best-seller, Fooled by Randomness. The highly entertaining new book, though, is longer, better-grounded, and with more advice about how to live in the presence of deep unpredictability. The core of The Black Swan argues that economists, journalists, and corporate planners behave as if they’re living in predictable “Mediocristan” when they’re really in “Extremistan.” It’s a richly enjoyable read with an important message.
6. Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance by Marcus Buckingham. Buckingham is the co-author of two best-selling books that were the foundation of what he terms “the strengths movement,” First, Break All the Rulesand Now, Discover Your Strengths. This time he considers how to apply your skills for best advantage. Like the book StrengthsFinder 2.0, this volume sends you to the Web for initial instruction. Then there are drills and inspirational passages, including lessons on how to create a strong team.
7. Earth: The Sequel: The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming by Fred Krupp and Mariam Horn. Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund, and colleague Horn provide a look at the entrepreneurs and investors who are reinventing energy in hopes of staving off global warming. Among their pioneers are a tribe of Native Americans who are harnessing wave power from the ocean and a hotelier who employs hot springs as an energy source. There’s lots of food for thought for readers interested in a greener planet.
8. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Dan Heath. Calling Malcolm Gladwell: Just remember, it’s the sincerest form of flattery. In this “complement to The Tipping Point,” the brothers Heath set out to define just what makes some ideas stick in the mind while others melt away. They discover six principles that are essential to getting people to pay attention to, believe, and care about an idea. With a host of stories involving everyone from baseball great Leo Durocher to venture capitalist John Doerr, there’s plenty to keep marketing directors entertained during their next plane trips.
9. Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber. A simple fable about animals who face devastating change-and can’t bear to deal with it. Does this sound familiar? This year’s Who Moved My Cheese? maybe? Anyway, skip the story about icebergs and penguins and go directly to page 130 for the authors’ “eight step process of successful change.” Then, spend the time you’ve saved mulling over how these commonsense suggestions can be put into place at your organization
10.How Come That Idiot’s Rich and I’m Not? by Robert Shemin. Self-professed “Rich Idiot” Shemin offers a narrative that describes his rise to riches and the lessons learned that can help readers. Does this sound like Robert Kiyosaki? Well, Shemin’s account isn’t so different, offering as it does an action plan and a set of rules for success.
11. The Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash by Charles R. Morris. Morris, a lawyer and former banker, has written a dandy of a short book on what lay behind the great credit bubble. In a mere 194 pages, the author manages to explicate the forces behind the origins and popping of the bubble, the decline in the value of the dollar, and the emergence of sovereign wealth. He even takes a stab at what might come next. Highly recommended.
12. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely. “We are pawns in a game whose forces we largely fail to comprehend,” says MIT economist Ariely. The author then proceeds to demonstrate what he means by describing a series of his economics experiments, including ones in which subjects abruptly switch to a cheaper brand of chocolate when the price is discounted trivially from one penny to the “irresistible” price of zero. Entertaining and enlightening.
13. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter. Are there things you do that have helped you succeed so far, but that how have your career idling in neutral? Executive coach Goldsmith identifies 20 such ways of behaving, from an obsessive need to show how smart you are to a habit of withholding information. The authors also provide a program to help you change your irritating ways. But will this stuff really help you get ahead? Let’s put it this way: Don’t pass up any chances to marry the boss’s daughter.
14. The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael Watkins. You have been given a new positionâ€”and just three months to make a go of it. How can you rise to the challenge? In this volume, Harvard Business School professor Watkins offers the results of a three-year investigation into leadership transitions. He provides tips for arriving at a positive working relationship with your boss, building a productive team, balancing personal and professional demands, and more.
15. It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff. When U.S. Navy Captain Abrashoff took over the U.S.S. Benfold, he came to understand that no matter how technologically advanced one’s enterprise, you have to motivate the crew to achieve. His recommendations: Reward high achievers, lead by example, create a climate of trust, and lots more. The lessons aren’t exactly original, but the unusual context makes this a worthy addition to the literature of motivation.