The 20 best business books of 2016

caption
Curl up with something scintillating over the holidays.
source
Flickr/Pedro Ribeiro Simões

It’s hard to keep track of every awesome business book that was published in 2016.

We’ve got your back. Below, we’ve rounded up the best reads out there focusing on entrepreneurship, negotiation, and more. There’s everything from the story of two psychologists who rocked economists’ world to a guide to making a career change from a former Googler.

It’s the perfect list to choose from if you’re looking for something scintillating to curl up with over the holidays – or for a last-minute gift.


‘Shoe Dog’ by Phil Knight

source
Amazon

Nike is not only the world’s biggest athletic company, with a market cap of about $88 billion. It’s also, remarkably, been a worldwide leader of “cool” since the 1970s.

It all started with a new college grad named Phil Knight who sold running shoes out of his parents’ garage.

Knight is retired as the chairman of Nike this summer, and his book “Shoe Dog” is the definitive story of how he laid the foundation of an empire. It’s a well-written and emotionally engaging story about an entrepreneur growing as a human being alongside the company in which he completely invested himself.

Find it here »


‘Payoff’ by Dan Ariely

source
Amazon

In this brief and easy read, Duke University behavioral economist Dan Ariely argues that human motivation is a lot more complex than we might be inclined to believe.

Case in point: Pizza motivates employees to perform better in the long term than money. Letting people take ownership of a project and giving them credit for it makes them more inclined to do it well.

Managers especially can harness the power of intrinsic motivation, or doing a good job for the sake of doing a good job. But you can use the same strategies on yourself – for example, when you know you need to work out for health reasons but don’t really want to.

Find it here »


‘The Undoing Project’ by Michael Lewis

source
Amazon

In “The Undoing Project,” “The Big Short” author Michael Lewis tells the fascinating story of two of history’s most important psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and the late Amos Tversky.

And while this isn’t a business book per se, Kahneman and Tversky’s research on judgment and decision-making led to the founding of the field of behavioral economics, and is the reason Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2002.

Find it here »


‘Pivot’ by Jenny Blake

source
Amazon

Career coach and former Googler Jenny Blake guides readers through the steps required to make a career change. It could be a big one – starting your own business – or a small one – taking on new responsibilities in your current role.

If there’s anyone who gets how intimidating it can be to make a career change, it’s Blake. She started out on the AdWords product training team at Google; then helped launch Google’s Career Guru program; then left Google after publishing her first book, “Life After College,” to start a business based on her blog and book.

The main thing to know about Blake’s pivot plan is that it involves a lot of careful planning and introspection – so even if the final outcome doesn’t look exactly the way you imagined it, presumably you won’t wind up broke, unemployed, or regretful.

Find it here »


‘Chaos Monkeys’ by Antonio Garcia Martinez

source
Amazon

“Chaos Monkeys” is to Silicon Valley what Michael Lewis’ 1989 tell-all “Liar’s Poker” was to Wall Street.

Antonio García Martínez went from finance to the startup scene, and then became Facebook’s first ads-targeting product manager. In “Chaos Monkeys,” Martínez tears away the sheen of Silicon Valley’s carefully maintained world-saving image, sparing no juicy detail.

Find it here »


‘Never Split the Difference’ by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz

source
Amazon

Former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss will help you get what you want – not half of what you want. That won’t leave anyone satisfied.

Based on years of working with terrorists and criminals, Voss and Raz outline the surprising psychology behind negotiations.

For example, they explain why focusing on what your negotiation partner wants can help you reach the desired outcome, and why you should encourage your negotiation partner to tell you “no” in order to get to an ultimate “yes.”

Find it here »


‘The Man Who Knew’ by Sebastian Mallaby

source
Amazon

Journalist Sebastian Mallaby has the definitive biography of Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987-2006.

Through a wealth of research, Mallaby shows that Greenspan was as much a politician as an economist. He gives a nuanced look at the highs and lows of Greenspan’s legacy, and how both aspects have shaped modern finance.

Find it here »


‘Designing Your Life’ by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

source
Amazon

Burnett and Evans are professors in the design program at Stanford University; together they teach a course by the same name as the book.

The idea behind both the course and the book is to help people apply the principles of design thinking– a strategy for improving on a product or experience – to their personal and professional lives.

Let’s say you’re feeling unfulfilled at work. Before you jump ship or resign yourself to a life of misery, the authors suggest keeping what they call a “Good Time Journal.” You keep track of your daily activities and which you enjoy the most, and try to redesign your current or next gig so you do more of what you love.

Find it here »


‘Tools of Titans’ by Tim Ferriss

source
Amazon

The 4-Hour Workweek” author Tim Ferriss started his podcast, “The Tim Ferriss Show,” in 2014 as a way to have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their fields.

He’s conducted more than 100 interviews with a wide range of highly successful people, from award-winning actors to Navy SEALs to billionaire entrepreneurs.

He’s distilled his favorite lessons from these interviews in his new book “Tools of Titans.”

Find it here »


‘Smarter Faster Better’ by Charles Duhigg

source
Amazon

Duhigg is a New York Times journalist and the author of another bestseller, “The Power of Habit.” In this book, he argues that the key to productivity and creativity is systematic thinking and behavior.

Based on his research into Disney executives, airplane pilots, and teams at Google, Duhigg describes what those systems look like.

Consider the production of the hit Disney film “Frozen,” for example. Duhigg suggests that the creative team succeeded by combining old ideas – princesses and sisters – in new ways. In other words, anyone can learn to be creative if they embrace the power of new perspectives.

Find it here »


‘Negotiating the Nonnegotiable’ by Daniel Shapiro

source
Amazon

The founder and director of the Harvard International Negotiation program distills years of experience – leading conflict-management initiatives in the Middle East and working with high-powered business executives – into practical tips.

The overarching theme behind all these tips is that rationality isn’t always the best way to mend a rift; instead, both parties in a negotiation have to be willing to get in touch with the conflict’s more emotional underpinnings.

One way to do that: Find a metaphor to represent the conflict relationship. The goal of the exercise is to do what Shapiro calls “talking about emotions without talking about emotions” – which is considerably easier than addressing them directly.

Find it here »


‘Makers and Takers’ by Rana Foroohar

source
Amazon

Time editor Rana Foroohar explores Wall Street’s rising influence over Washington through exclusive interviews with the likes of Warren Buffett, declaring that “the key lessons of the financial crisis of 2008 still remain unlearned.”

In his review of the book, Vanguard founder John Bogle said it “brings alive the shady dealings that have been part of the recent rise of finance (the takers). Wall Street has prospered beyond measure by consuming far too much of the value created by the real economy (the makers).”

Find it here »


‘Pre-Suasion’ by Robert Cialdini

source
Amazon

This book is a follow-up to psychologist and “Influence at Work” president Robert Cialdini’s 2006 book “Influence,” often considered a must-read for business students and for anyone interested in the psychology of persuasion.

In his latest book, Cialdini shows readers how to set the stage for getting what they want – from themselves and others.

Here’s an example of how you can influence yourself: If you want to stop eating dessert, you can make an “if/when/then” plan. “If/when the waiter asks if I’d like dessert, then I will order mint tea.” You notice the circumstance and associate it with the behavior you want.

And here’s a strategy for persuading other people: If you want your boss to like your ideas, ask for their advice, as opposed to their opinion. It will make them feel like an ally, as opposed to an evaluator.

Find it here »


‘Grit’ by Angela Duckworth

source
Amazon

Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, won the MacArthur “genius” award for her pioneering work on “grit.” That is, a combination of passion and perseverance that plays a huge role in determining your success in life – more so even than intelligence or innate talent.

In this bestselling book, Duckworth provides both research and anecdotal evidence to suggest that grit is what drives the success of West Point cadets, spelling-bee champs, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

To be sure, “Grit” and the psychology behind it have its critics, some of whom say that the research doesn’t add anything especially new. Regardless of where you stand, the book is a compelling read that will encourage you to start questioning your own potential for achievement.

Find it here »


‘The Inevitable’ by Kevin Kelly

source
Kevin Kelly

Kevin Kelly, one of the founders of Wired magazine, has established himself as a guru of Silicon Valley.

“The 4-Hour Workweek” author Tim Ferriss un-ironically calls Kelly “the most interesting man in the world” and legendary tech investor Marc Andreessen dubbed “The Inevitable” an “automatic must-read.”

In it, Kelly gives you a sneak peek at the future, and how it will be shaped by maturing forces like artificial intelligence and the on-demand economy.

Find it here »


‘Superbosses’ by Sydney Finkelstein

source
Amazon

If you’re a manager – or if you have hopes of ever becoming one – this book could change the way you think of successful leadership.

Finkelstein, a professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, says that if you look at the key players within any industry, you’ll notice that most of them at some point worked for the same individual.

Finkelstein calls these individuals – whose ranks include fashion designer Ralph Lauren and Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels – “superbosses.” They’re managers who spawn the next generation of talent by turning their employees into stars.

The book’s main argument is that any manager can become a superboss by developing the key traits and behaviors that Finkelstein outlines, like fearlessness, authenticity, and not being afraid to let a great employee go.

Find it here »


‘Sprint’ by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz

source
Amazon

Ever wonder how you could bring some of Google’s magic into your office without installing a quirky slide between floors or investing in an on-site chef? “Sprint” can help you out.

It’s a guide from Google’s venture capital arm GV. Its design partners Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz explain how to implement their signature five-day “sprint” session.

They’ll show you how they’ve used this method to launch game-changing products with companies like Blue Bottle Coffee, Slack, and Nest.

Find it here »


‘Earning It’ by Joann Lublin

source
Amazon

Lublin is the management news editor at The Wall Street Journal, and she was one of the publication’s first woman reporters.

For “Earning It,” she interviewed dozens of high-powered women – including IBM chief Virginia Rommetty, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and Popeyes CEO Cheryl Bachelder – about how they overcame obstacles on the path to success.

Some women faced blatant discrimination; others had to reboot their careers after getting fired; still others had to figure out how to manage their marriage to an equally professionally ambitious partner. The stories contain valuable lessons for anyone – no matter their gender – hoping to fulfill their potential and build a meaningful life.

Find it here »


‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport

source
Amazon

In 2016, nearly anyone living in the developed world has a short attention span from years spent jumping among smartphone apps and web browser tabs.

It’s not a benign cultural change, argues Georgetown professor and bestselling author Cal Newport, because the greatest output is the result of what he calls “deep work.”

Newport’s book of the same name explains how one can build sessions of deep work into their work days to get more top-quality work done in the span of an hour than they otherwise would in the entire day.

Find it here »


‘The Power Paradox’ by Dacher Keltner

source
Amazon

Power trips don’t last long, Keltner argues.

The University of California, Berkeley psychologist has spent years studying power dynamics in different relationship contexts, and he says the key to lasting influence is showing empathy for other people – listening to their ideas and incorporating those ideas into your plan.

It’s true in middle school, and it’s true in business.

Keltner offers some tips on becoming more empathetic, and in turn more powerful: Ask open-ended questions, listen actively, and ask others what they would do in a particular situation before offering advice.

Find it here »