The Year’s 20 Best Books For Business Leaders

The list of the 20 best books published in 2018, guaranteed to amuse, inform, astound, and occasionally, annoy.

As the title suggests, these 20 outstanding reads are not ‘how to’ books about business, but about the deeper things you need to know to deal with the fundamental challenges of our complex and volatile world.

On a daily basis, global executives encounter things like platform complexity and shifting trade policies, the explosive growth of economies in China and India, the changing attitudes and desires of employees and customers, social revolutions by women and minorities, and, of course, dealing with government actors demanding preferential policies. Then, of course, there’s Donald Trump.

The good news is these 20 globally experienced authors have some profound advice for tackling the big job ahead.

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From the author of The Black Swan, a magnificent analysis that undoes many of our long-cherished beliefs about risk and responsibility. It is our top selection, and anyone interested in understanding risk, scandal, and fiascoes brought about by well-intentioned if egotistical leaders, this is it.

“You can be an intellectual yet still be an idiot. “Educated philistines” have been wrong on everything from Stalinism to Iraq to low-carb diets.”

Bob Woodward has written with remarkable insight about eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, and now he takes on the studied chaos surrounding the presidency of Donald Trump and how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. This is required reading to understand the recent shake-up in the West Wing.

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Award-winning Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino shows us why the most successful among us break the rules, and how rebellion brings joy and meaning into our lives. She extolls those who are advocates of “positive deviance,” a talent that makes them more difficult to employ but enhances the creative spirit of a company. Think Steve Jobs.

InThe Culture Code, Daniel Coyle goes inside some of the world’s most successful organizations — including the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six, IDEO, and the San Antonio Spurs — and reveals what makes them tick. The main thing readers will take away from this outstanding book is how to bring diverse groups and teams together and align them around a single focus.

InBad Blood, the Wall Street Journal’s John Carreyrou takes us through the step-by-step history of Theranos, a Silicon Valley startup that fooled some of the most astute board directors and venture capitalists. Until it all came crashing down around charismatic founder Elizabeth Holmes.

Legendary venture capitalist John Doerr reveals how the goal-setting system of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) has helped tech giants from Intel to Google achieve explosive growth — and how it can help any organization thrive.

InThe Art of Gathering, Priya Parker argues that the gatherings in our lives are lackluster and unproductive — which they don’t have to be. We rely too much on routine and the conventions of gatherings when we should focus on distinctiveness and the people involved.

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James Crabtree’s The Billionaire Raj takes readers on a personal journey to meet the reclusive billionaires, fugitive tycoons, and shadowy political power brokers. The Billionaire Raj is a vivid account of a divided society on the cusp of transformation — and a struggle that will shape not just India’s future, but the world’s.

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Former New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas takes us into the inner sanctums of a new gilded age, where the rich and powerful fight for equality and justice any way they can — except ways that threaten the social order and their position atop it.

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InAI Superpowers, Kai-fu Lee argues powerfully that because of unprecedented developments in AI, dramatic changes will be happening much sooner than many of us expected. Lee urges the US and China to both accept and to embrace the great responsibilities that come with significant technological power.

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Too often, accomplishment does not equal success. Prominent professor László Barabási gives us a trailblazing book that promises to transform the very foundations of how our success-obsessed society approaches their professional careers, life pursuits and long-term goals.

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The definitive, dramatic biography of the most important African American of the nineteenth century: Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who became the greatest orator of his day and one of the leading abolitionists and writers of the era.

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First Amendment expert Greg Lukianoff and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt show how the new problems on campus have their origins in three great untruths: what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; always trust your feelings; and life is a battle between good people and evil people. This is a book for anyone who is confused by what is happening on college campuses today, or has children, or is concerned about the growing inability of Americans to live, work, and cooperate across party lines.

Western thinking on Asia conflates the entire region with China. In reality, the entire region is experiencing a confident new wave of growth led by younger societies from India to the Philippines, nationalist leaders have put aside territorial disputes in favor of integration, and today’s infrastructure investments are the platform for the next generation of digital innovation.

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P. W. Singer and Emerson Brooking tackle the mind‑bending questions that arise when war goes online and the online world goes to war. They explore how ISIS copies the Instagram tactics of Taylor Swift, a former World of Warcraft addict foils war crimes thousands of miles away, internet trolls shape elections, and China uses a smartphone app to police the thoughts of 1.4 billion citizens.

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New York Post columnist Salena Zito and Republican strategist Brad Todd report across five swing states to answer the pressing question: Was Donald Trump’s election a fluke, or did it represent a fundamental shift in the electorate that will have repercussions — for Republicans and Democrats — for years to come? The Great Revolt delves deep into the minds and hearts of the voters the make up this coalition.

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Under President Xi Jinping, China has become a large and confident power both at home and abroad, but the country also faces serious challenges. In this critical take on China’s future, economist George Magnus explores the key traps that China must confront and overcome in order to thrive. Magnus argues that Xi’s authoritarian and repressive philosophy is ultimately not compatible with the country’s economic aspirations.

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Chernow sheds new light on the man whom Walt Whitman described as “nothing heroic… and yet the greatest hero.” Chernow’s probing portrait of Grant’s lifelong struggle with alcoholism transforms our understanding of the man at the deepest level.

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EuroTragedy: A Drama in Nine Acts is a groundbreaking account of the euro’s history and tragic consequences. In this vivid and compelling chronicle, Ashoka Mody describes how the euro improbably emerged through a narrow historical window as a flawed compromise wrapped in a false pro-European rhetoric of peace and unity.

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Alexis Okeowo, a Nigerian American journalist, relates the experiences of four ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances including a young Nigerian girl who escaped after being kidnapped by the jihadists of Boko Haram. Okeowo ever holds back on the brutal details, yet she provides hope to readers interested in some of the challenges of modern Africa.

Written by

Producer of Extraordinary Lives 2019 @TellyAwards for documentaries @ IconicVoices.tv; Author of Be Somebody @ jeffcunningham.com; ex-publisher @Forbes

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