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The 20 best business books of 2015

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elon musk

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Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

Whether you’re looking for a last-minute gift or want to make sure you didn’t miss a must-read, it’s worth checking out the year’s best business stories, career guides, and management studies.

From a biography of Elon Musk to a look inside Google’s management structure and an introduction to behavioral economics, we’ve picked our favorite business books of 2015.

‘Elon Musk’ by Ashlee Vance

Musk is the billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. He says his mission in life is to prevent the human race from destroying itself.

Vance, a Bloomberg Business reporter, gained unprecedented access to Musk and those closest to him. He paints a picture of a man who has always felt a desire to change the world despite having difficulty finding his place in it, and an inspiring leader whose intensity can sometimes be difficult for the people he works with.

Find it here >>

‘Work Rules!’ by Laszlo Bock

Since joining Google as its senior vice president of People Operations in 2006, Bock has seen the company transform into a powerful global business, growing from 6,000 employees to nearly 60,000. In that same time, Google has regularly topped lists of the best places to work.

Bock takes readers behind the scenes and explores the management strategies that have helped make Google exceptional, from differentiating between employee development and performance and “paying unfairly.”

Find it here >>

‘Misbehaving’ by Richard Thaler

Thaler is an economist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business best known as “the father of behavioral economics.”

In traditional economics, people are presumed to be purely rational actors; in reality, people’s decisions are also influenced by biases and impulses that often have nothing to do with logic.

“Misbehaving” serves as an introduction into Thaler’s way of understanding markets, and it’s filled with his colorful wit.

Find it here >>

‘Extreme Ownership’ by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Willink is the retired commander of the most highly decorated special-operations unit of the Iraq War: US Navy SEAL Team Three Task Unit Bruiser, which served in the 2006 Battle of Ramadi.

In this book, cowritten with one of his former platoon commanders, Babin, the authors explain the lessons they learned in combat, which they’ve taught to corporate clients for the past four years in their leadership-consultancy firm, Echelon Front.

Find it here >>

‘Unfinished Business’ by Anne-Marie Slaughter

In 2009, Slaughter became the first female director of policy planning for the State department under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She left her position two years later after deciding that she was unhappy with how her job prevented her from being the mother and wife she wanted to be. Slaughter explained her story in the 2012 article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” and it became one of The Atlantic’s most-read stories ever.

Slaughter is now the president and CEO of the New America think tank, and her new book is a hopeful argument on what corporations and individuals can do to truly make professional men and women equals.

Find it here >>

‘Rise of the Robots’ by Martin Ford

“Rise of the Robots” was named the 2015 Financial Times’ business book of the year.

Robots are increasingly intelligent and they’re coming to take your job, says Ford, a software developer and entrepreneur.

But rather than being a warning from a tech-fearing Luddite, Ford guides readers through the surprising evolution of artificial intelligence from simple task-based machines into quick-thinking programs that can replace service workers, journalists, and programmers.

Find it here >>

‘Phishing for Phools’ by George Akerlof and Robert Shiller

Coming off their 2009 book “Animal Spirits,” the pair of Nobel laureate economists now turn their attention to how forces that are deceptively phishing for profits are upsetting Adam Smith’s concept of the invisible hand.

That markets are always driving toward an equilibrium in which supply meets demand is a fundamental concept of economics, but Akerlof and Shiller argue that there have long been those who craft demand that otherwise would not exist, as seen in places ranging from Cinnabon locations to gym memberships.

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‘Leadership BS’ by Jeffrey Pfeffer

Pfeffer, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, has had enough of popular, saccharine-sweet leadership books and conferences based on emotion and hunches rather than any real data.

“Leadership BS” is his research-based counter-argument claiming “that strategic misrepresentation isn’t as harmful as you think, that breached agreements are a part of business, that immodesty is frequently a path to success, and that relying on the magnanimity of your boss is a bad bet.”

Find it here >>

‘Losing the Signal’ by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff

In 2008, BlackBerry phones were synonymous with Wall Street. If you were in the business world, you needed one. But when the 2010s came around and smartphones operating on iOS and Android grew in popularity, BlackBerry was all but wiped out. By the end of last year, the company had just 0.4% of the smartphone market.

Globe and Mail reporters McNish and Silcoff chronicle the remarkable story of how BlackBerry creator Research in Motion built an empire and then suddenly lost it all.

Find it here >>

‘Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!’ by Nicholas Carlson

Carlson, the editor-in-chief of INSIDER and a Business Insider alum, turned his 2013 long-form article on Yahoo’s polarizing CEO into a full-length book.

It’s a detailed look at Mayer’s rise to power and her attempt to turn Yahoo from a has-been back into a pillar of the tech world. It’s especially interesting now, as the situation at the company grows grim once again and many players in the book are turning against Mayer.

Find it here >>

‘Presence’ by Amy Cuddy

Cuddy is a social psychologist at Harvard Business School who got mainstream attention from her 2012 TED Talk “Your body language shapes who you are,” which has been viewed online about 40 million times.

Her book explains the ways that your brain’s self-perception can be manipulated to overcome insecurity and allow you to be more confident and assertive.

Find it here >>

‘How Music Got Free’ by Stephen Witt

The story of how the digital music industry crushed the CD industry has been old news for years now, but Witt takes a look at the personalities who accelerated the spread of piracy to profit off the death of the physical album.

Witt uncovers the largely untold stories of people like the German entrepreneurs who invented the mp3 file and Dell Glover, the compact disc factory worker who leaked some of the biggest albums of the aughts, leaving record label execs frustrated and scared.

Find it here >>

‘Rising Strong’ by Brené Brown

Brown is a professor at the University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work whose work in the field gained a mainstream audience thanks to her viral TED Talk from 2010.

In her latest book, she argues that the most resilient people have a “tolerance for discomfort” and analyzes the way they learn to accept and move past tragedy and failure.

Find it here >>

‘Digital Gold’ by Nathaniel Popper

Last year, Newsweek caused a stir when it ran a cover story claiming it had identified the creator of the online currency Bitcoin. Soon after the report, members of the Bitcoin community were convinced Newsweek found the wrong guy.

Popper, a New York Times reporter, seems to have discovered the actual man behind Bitcoin, and “Digital Gold” is the most complete look at the currency’s history, concluding that it has passed the point of being a mere fad.

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‘Team of Teams’ by Stanley McChrystal, Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell

For the past four years, retired US General Stanley McChrystal has overseen his management consulting firm and periodically taught at Princteon, where he shares the lessons he learned as the head of America’s war in Afghanistan and as head of Joint Special Operations command before that.

His book is a personal exploration of the latest in management theory regarding complex systems, whether in the battlefield or in the office.

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‘Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader’ by Herminia Ibarra

Ibarra, an INSEAD professor, wrote an unconventional leadership guide on how to succeed in today’s fast-paced world.

For example, she challenges the importance of having “authenticity,” a recent buzzword in business, saying there is such a thing as being too honest and the line can be perilously thin.

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‘Friend and Foe’ by Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer

Galinsky, a Columbia Business School professor, and Schweitzer, a Wharton professor, team up to argue that humans have evolved to a point where their successful relationships are founded on a balance between competition and cooperation

Their book explores some of the most effective ways to strike this balance in the workplace, simultaneously gaining power in your organization and building trust among your peers. 

Find it here >>

‘Bold’ by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler

Serial tech entrepreneur and futurist Peter H. Diamandis and author and performance consultant Steven Kotler follow up their bestselling book “Abundance” with a look at the technologies and entrepreneurs redefining our world.

The book has valuable insight from the likes of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson.

Find it here >>

‘Red Notice’ by Bill Browder

Browder is a hedge fund manager and the former largest foreign investor in Russia. After making millions of dollars, he exposed corrupt oligarchs who were robbing various companies he was invested in — and then President Vladimir Putin expelled him from Russia. A few years later, his attorney was arrested and beaten to death in an isolation chamber, which led him to avenge his lawyer’s death by exposing corruption at the highest levels of the regime.

The New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin writes that the book is “part John Grisham-like thriller, part business and political memoir” and is “hard to put down.”

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‘Superforecasting’ by Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner

Tetlock is a Wharton professor whose 2005 study concluded that corporate and political forecasts are only slightly better than chance. What he found especially interesting, however, is that there was a very small group of forecasters whose predictions managed to be consistently accurate.

“Superforecasting,” co-written with Gardner, is a look at what makes these experts so far superior to all others attempting to predict the future, and draws upon interviews with sources ranging from former General David Petraeus to former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin.

Find it here >>