The good, the bad and the very best
Business people—and the people who work for them—are forever looking for ways to be more efficient, more inspired, more informed. This quartet of books fits the profile: from the stock market to the Internet, business books to problem-solving, each of these titles will edify and entertain.
Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People started out as a book for kids. Ken Watanabe, a Yale- and Harvard-educated management consultant for McKinsey and Company, wrote it in 2007 when the Japanese prime minister announced a focus on education via critical thinking skills instead of memorization. Watanabe felt compelled to do his part and created four case studies, or classes (e.g., Rock Bands and Root Causes, Soccer School Pros and Cons) to show how problem-solving tools can be applied to all manner of situations. Watanabe’s friendly, capable tone makes the book an enjoyable read; “tool boxes” and diagrams add clarity; and cute drawings make problem-solving playful. The book was Japan’s top business bestseller of 2007 and now it’s available in English.
How not to succeed in business
Today, we have Bernie Madoff, stock-fraud mastermind of a Ponzi scheme that robbed investors of a reported $50 billion. In the 1990s, there was Jordan Belfort, head of Stratton Oakmont, a Long Island brokerage firm that specialized in “pump-and-dumps”: using Belfort’s scripts, brokers cold-called potential investors and conjured up stories of demand for stocks. The firm then sold the overvalued shares, causing the price to fall and investors to lose their money. But Belfort and his minions made money and spent millions each month on drugs, prostitutes, cars and parties. Belfort chronicled much of this in The Wolf of Wall Street: Stock Market Multimillionaire at 26, Federal Convict at 36. In his follow-up, Catching the Wolf of Wall Street: More Incredible True Stories of Fortunes, Schemes, Parties, and Prison, he tells more tales of lying, cheating and debauchery—and denies responsibility for just about everything. The key themes of the book: things just happen to him; it wasn’t really stealing; did he mention he was married to a model? Despite his rock-hard abs, Belfort cooperates with the FBI; after depositions and recorded meetings with fellow fraudsters, he goes to prison for 22 months, does easy time and befriends Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong, who encouraged him to write this book). Oh, and did he mention he was married to a model? This might be a cautionary tale if Belfort were sorry for what he’d done; instead, he’s only sorry he got caught.
In keeping with their successful business model for 800-CEO-READ, which markets business books to businesses (the website offers top picks and reviews, plus links to order single or bulk copies), company founder and president Jack Covert and vice president Todd Sattersten have compiled The 100 Best Business Books of All Time: What They Say, Why They Matter, and How They Can Help You. It’s a busy executive’s dream: must-read titles are categorized so readers can concentrate on books that meet their needs (Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Big Ideas). “Where to Next?” items after each review suggest further reading, and sidebars recommend movies or offer inspiration via quotes. This is an excellent resource for anyone curious about business books but overwhelmed by all the choices.
We’re all friends here
MySpace has been in the news a lot these last few years, from unsigned musicians who found success via its pages to the rise of competitor Facebook. In Stealing MySpace: The Battle to Control the Most Popular Website in America, Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin takes readers on a tour of the history and business battles behind the scenes of the cultural phenomenon. Founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson launched MySpace in 2003, and sold it to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in mid-2005 for almost $600 million. In the intervening years, the site’s founders and employees alternately struggled and succeeded as they learned how to manage burgeoning popularity (41.8 billion page views per month) and legal issues (spyware, use of the site by minors, and more). Angwin skillfully blends personal sagas with business dramas, which makes for a fascinating, entertaining read.