- Flickr / Ellen Munro
- Summer vacation is a great time to catch up on reading. It’s even better if the books you choose will make you more productive and happier when you head back to work.
- We picked out 15 business books from this year and last year that we found particularly entertaining and insightful.
- Those books include “Bad Blood” by John Carreyrou, about the massive Theranos scandal, and “The Geometry of Wealth,” about getting a handle on your finances.
The best kind of summer reading is a book that’s both informative and entertaining – a book that makes you feel smarter without boring you to tears.
They’re not always easy to find, but lucky you – we’ve found 15 of them. Below, you’ll see some of our favorite business books from this year and last.
Don’t be surprised if you devour more than one in a single vacation week, and return to the office brimming with new ideas.
‘Bad Blood’ by John Carreyrou
- Knopf Doubleday
The medical device startup Theranos was once the world’s hottest startup, its founder Elizabeth Holmes – deemed the “youngest self-made female billionaire – a revolutionary. But after some digging into the company, it all unraveled.
Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou has the definitive account of what happened at Theranos, and how it was revealed to have been built on lies, secrecy, and an oppressive culture.
‘Brotopia’ by Emily Chang
Bloomberg Technology host and executive producer Emily Chang has conducted multiple interviews with the most powerful people in tech, and in “Brotopia,” she’s taking a look at how the promise and glories of Silicon Valley can be real – but only for men.
Chang drew from interviews with tech’s foremost women, including Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, to illustrate how women risked their careers to pave the way for others, and sheds light on how the Valley has a long way to go in terms of treating women as equals.
‘Dream Teams’ by Shane Snow
In “Dream Teams,” Snow, who is a journalist and an entrepreneur, takes a look at what makes great teams so effective.
He draws on neuroscience, psychology, and business, and brings in historical examples like the Wright brothers and the Wu-Tang Clean to illustrate his arguments – all of which are applicable to the modern workplace.
‘Principles’ by Ray Dalio
- Simon & Schuster
Ray Dalio is as well known for leading the largest hedge fund in the world, Bridgewater Associates, as he is for the highly unusual (and controversial) philosophy of “radical truth” and “radical transparency” that he’s instilled into the firm.
Dalio told Business Insider earlier this year that since stepping back from a daily management role in March, he has focused on leaving a legacy of this philosophy, collected in this year’s volume – focused on his personal life and management principles – and an upcoming second volume, about the economy.
In this book, you’ll learn why Dalio has all of his 1,500 employees constantly rate each other’s performance in meetings via iPad app, and why all of these meetings are recorded and archived.
‘Black Edge’ by Sheelah Kolhatkar
- Random House
In 2014, the eighth employee of legendary investor Steve Cohen’s hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors was convicted of insider trading. Cohen himself was not found guilty but was barred from managing outside capital until 2018.
“Black Edge” is the story of the Justice Department’s investigation into SAC Capital, and New Yorker staff writer Sheelah Kolhatkar has made it as gripping as a thriller.
If you’re a fan of “Billions,” it’s worth checking out this authoritative take on the true story that’s often just as dramatic as fiction.
‘Applied Empathy’ by Michael Ventura
Ventura is the CEO of strategy and design firm Sub Rosa, and over the course of his career he’s worked with organizations include Google and the United Nations.
“Applied Empathy,” based partly on a course Ventura taught at Princeton, helps readers to see the world from other people’s perspectives in order to create better products and services for them.
‘The Meaning Revolution’ by Fred Kofman
Kofman was trained as an economist, but he’s best known in the world of tech as a master of leadership, and he’s mentored the likes of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
“The Meaning Revolution” is a manual that distills the leadership philosophy he developed over his training sessions and his career at LinkedIn, which he recently let for Google.
It offers all employees, regardless of their place in their company’s hierarchy, a plan for becoming a better team member, able to accomplish far more than they could through a typical self-serving approach.
‘Off the Clock’ by Laura Vanderkam
Vanderkam has already published multiple books about time-management and productivity. In “Off the Clock,” she helps readers realize how much time they have outside of working hours – and how best to utilize it so that they feel happier and more fulfilled.
Vanderkam expertly interweaves anecdotes from people who underwent “time makeovers,” philosophical meditations on time and memory, and practical tips for organizing your time at work and at home.
‘Own It’ by Sallie Krawcheck
- Crown Business
Sallie Krawcheck has taken everything she learned as “the most powerful woman on Wall Street” – with all of its ups and downs – and used that to create Ellevest, an investing platform designed for women.
In “Own It,” a career guide for women that includes anecdotes from her life, Krawcheck argues that we need to abandon the phrase “empowering women” and recognize that women can together leverage power they already have.
‘Sh*tshow!’ by Charlie LeDuff
- Penguin Random House
Charlie LeDuff is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter based in Detroit whose style of gonzo journalism breaks through the veneer of the powerful.
“Sh*tshow” isn’t exactly a business book, per se, but LeDuff’s dispatches from struggling communities across the United States, from Flint to the Mexican border, illustrate the economic hardships that led to the current chaotic political climate.
It’s a read that’s more authentic, illuminating, and entertaining than much of the “America’s heartland” reporting that’s been published in the wake of Trump’s election.
‘In Praise of Wasting Time’ by Alan Lightman
“In Praise of Wasting Time” is a concise treatise on the benefits of doing what, in the moment, seems like nothing. Lightman is a physicist, novelist, and essayist who’s taught at Harvard and MIT. His latest book explores the benefits of leaving some periods of time unscheduled, of simply letting our minds wander.
A reviewer on Goodreads said one of her favorite passages begins: “I suggest that we should think of the time spent in creative thought, in quiet reflection and contemplation, in mental replenishment, in consolidation of our identity and values in positive terms – not as what it is not, but as what it is.”
‘The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World’s Most Successful People Launched Their Careers’ by Alex Banayan
At age 18, Banayan hacked – and won – “The Price is Right.” At age 19, he became the youngest venture capitalist ever, working at Alsop Louie Partners.
He’s now 25 years old, and has been named to Business Insider’s list of the most powerful people under 30.
In “The Third Door,” Banayan takes readers along with him as he tracks down people like Bill Gates and Lady Gaga to ask them exactly how they set foot on the path to success. According to Banayan’s research, what all these successful people have in common is that they took the third door: finding a path even when it seemed like there was none.
‘The Captain Class’ by Sam Walker
A few years ago, Wall Street Journal deputy editor and sports section founder Sam Walker developed a process to determine the 16 greatest professional sports dynasties around the world from the last century.
When he examined his list to find shared traits that could explain their success, he determined that each had a highly influential captain with a set of traits like exceptional emotional control and intense tenacity.
Walker’s investigation is, broadly speaking, a look at what it takes to be an elite leader in any field, and the history will especially resonate with even the most casual sports fan.
‘My Morning Routine’ by Benjamin Spall and Michael Xander
So many of us are obsessed with morning routines – finding the perfect one, learning how successful people have organized theirs.
In “My Morning Routine,” Spall and Xander share the morning habits of people like Twitter cofounder Biz Stone and General Stanley McChrystal, and guide readers in setting up a routine of their own to kickstart a productive day.
‘The Geometry of Wealth’ by Brian Portnoy
Portnoy is a behavioral finance expert – he holds both a doctorate and a CFA degree. In “The Geometry of Wealth,” he explores what it means to be truly wealthy, i.e. to fund a fulfilling life.
The “geometry” in the title refers to Portnoy’s use of a circle, a triangle, and a square to explain how we adapt to circumstances, prioritize, and simplify. It’s all about being intentional and self-aware: knowing what you value and what you need to do to get there.