Best books of 2021: Business

Table of Contents Books of the Year 2021Tell us what you think The Conversation: How Talking Honestly About Racism Can Transform Individuals and Organizations by Robert Livingston, Penguin Business £14.99/Currency $28 Starting with the uncomfortable, unavoidable conversations needed to bring about change in society and the workplace, Harvard psychologist Livingston […]

The Conversation: How Talking Honestly About Racism Can Transform Individuals and Organizations
by Robert Livingston, Penguin Business £14.99/Currency $28

Starting with the uncomfortable, unavoidable conversations needed to bring about change in society and the workplace, Harvard psychologist Livingston lays out a clear blueprint for rooting out bias and racism. This unflinching guide is one of the finalists for this year’s FT and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award.

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty
by Patrick Radden Keefe, Picador £20/Doubleday $32.50

Shortlisted for Business Book of the Year, this is an exhaustive, devastating account of how Purdue Pharma, a company owned by Mortimer and Raymond Sackler and certain relatives, marketed the addictive painkiller OxyContin, while the Sackler family poured money into philanthropic endeavours around the world.

The World for Sale: Money, Power and the Traders Who Barter the Earth’s Resources
by Javier Blas and Jack Farchy, Random House Business £20/Oxford University Press $29.95

An entertaining history of the rise of the international trading houses and the charismatic, freewheeling risk-takers who headed them. It tells how they rode the boom in commodities and won wealth and political power on the back of unprecedented geopolitical change as empires collapsed and wars raged. Another finalist for Business Book of the Year.

The Aristocracy of Talent: How Meritocracy Made the Modern World
by Adrian Wooldridge, Allen Lane £25/Skyhorse $24.99

In this elegant historical and philosophical defence of the notion that people should advance according to talent rather than birth, Wooldridge argues that the idea that ruled the world by the late 20th century has become corrupted. This “golden ticket to prosperity” needs restoring in order to revive social mobility. Shortlisted for Business Book of the Year.

This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyber-Weapons Arms Race
by Nicole Perlroth, Bloomsbury £14.99/$30

Perlroth mounts a deep investigation into the growing threat posed by the arms race between cyber criminals, spies and hackers fighting to infiltrate essential computer systems. Shortlisted for Business Book of the Year, this is a pacy exploration of the dark side of the internet where the seeds of potential global catastrophe are being sown.

Books of the Year 2021

Unraveled: The Life and Death of a Garment
by Maxine Bédat, Portfolio £22.99/$27

A sharp angle on the hot topics of globalisation and sustainability, seen through the “biography” of a pair of jeans. Bédat illustrates the environmental, economic and social pressures building up in the global fashion and garment industry and uncovers the unseen consequences of our thoughtless shopping choices.

The Trouble with Passion: How Searching for Fulfillment at Work Fosters Inequality
by Erin Cech, University of California Press £24/$29.95

A thought-provoking look at the perils of the pursuit of passion at work. Sociologist Cech finds that “following your dream” is a luxury that many less advantaged people simply cannot afford. The assumption that careers must provide opportunities for self-expression and fulfilment can lead to exploitation and, even more seriously, to widening inequality.

Framers: Human Advantage in an Age of Technology and Turmoil
by Kenneth Cukier, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Francis de Véricourt, WH Allen £20/Dutton $28

A prescription for smart thinking, based on our unique ability to frame or reframe problems and reach better solutions. There is an alternative to algorithms or gut instinct when it comes to taking decisions, the authors argue, by restoring pluralism and progressive human values, rather than leaving the choice in the hands of the machine or the mob.

Tell us what you think

What are your favourites from this list — and what books have we missed? Tell us in the comments below

A Shot to Save the World: The Remarkable Race and Groundbreaking Science Behind the Covid-19 Vaccines
by Gregory Zuckerman, Penguin Business £20/Portfolio $30

An appropriately breathless account of the business and scientific rivalries between researchers and companies behind the successful coronavirus vaccines. Zuckerman shows how a global catastrophe transformed the fortunes of tiny, visionary ventures, and huge pharmaceutical enterprises, as they raced to stem the pandemic’s spread.

The Cult of We: WeWork and the Great Startup Delusion
by Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell, Mudlark £20/Crown $28

An investigation of the extraordinary rise and precipitous fall of Adam Neumann, co-founder of the co-working company WeWork. The two journalists unearth new, eyebrow-raising details in this saga of ambition and excess, which should be required cautionary reading for any entrepreneur aspiring to hit the big time.

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