- Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing Its Innovation Edge, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do to Get It Back
"Finally, in a book that reviewer Bruce Nussbaum called “scary, insightful, and ultimately very useful,” consultant John Kao asserts that America’s competitive advantage is going, going, nearly gone. Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing Its Innovation Edge, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do to Get It Back (Free Press) notes that today, talent is more widely dispersed across the globe than ever before. Venture-capital pools are launching a generation of new startups across Asia and Europe. How should the U.S. respond? For one thing, Kao would spend $20 billion to create 20 innovation hubs revolving around such things as clean energy, digital media, and health care. Kao certainly has big ideas—but he is far from the only author providing smart thinking for the New Year."
- The Billionaire Who Wasn't: How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave Away a Fortune
"A more inspiring tale may be found in The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave Away a Fortune (Public Affairs) by Irish journalist Conor O’Clery. In what reviewer Michelle Conlin called “a superbly written page-turner,” O’Clery chronicles the fascinating life of a most unusual Samaritan. Through the 1970s and ’80s, Chuck Feeney and partner Robert Miller built Duty Free Shoppers into an international behemoth. Meanwhile, Feeney decided to give his wealth steadily away, transferring his share of Duty Free to an offshore foundation whose grants are cloaked in secrecy. His “giving while living” approach has had broad impact, influencing the likes of Bill Gates."
- The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty
"A fascinating immigrant-family saga and unusual business narrative may be found in The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty (Gotham Books) by Julia Flynn Siler of The Wall Street Journal and formerly of BusinessWeek. Paterfamilias Cesare Mondavi began the family enterprise with an early-20th century fruit-wholesaling business. In the 1940s, the family moved into winemaking with the purchase of the Charles Krug Winery. But the Mondavis would prove to be one of the most dysfunctional families in the history of U.S. industry, and after repeated feuds, by 2004 the company was on the block. It was a sad conclusion to a fascinating history filled with charismatic yet flawed characters."
- The Oil and the Glory: The Pursuit of Empire and Fortune on the Caspian Sea
"And The Oil and the Glory: The Pursuit of Empire and Fortune on the Caspian Sea (Random House) by former Wall Street Journal correspondent Steve LeVine is a canny and entertaining look at the dubious practices, intrigue, and political arm-twisting that can be a part of deals in developing nations, where more and more of the oil business takes place. The disintegration of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s unleashed a modern-day Klondike in the bleak Caspian region, with oil giants butting heads and distributing money to gain access to the huge oil fields. A host of outrageous, sometimes intimidating characters help make LeVine’s book engrossing."
- Boeing versus Airbus: The Inside Story of the Greatest International Competition in Business
"Two industry studies demand a look. Former New Yorker writer John Newhouse’s Boeing Versus Airbus: The Inside Story of the Greatest International Competition in Business (Knopf) offers an instructive view of the two companies during the latter half of the 1990s and into this century. Newhouse depicts the U.S. planemaker as struggling with a variety of issues in the late 1990s, particularly that of absorbing new acquisitions and managing a much enlarged organization. He also captures the recent decline of Airbus and the story behind the troubles plaguing its A380. Fly-on-the-wall accounts—detailing, for example, the 1997 merger talks between Boeing and McDonnell Douglas—are a key strength of this volume."
- The Strategy Paradox: Why Committing to Success Leads to Failure (And What to Do About It)
"Unforeseeable changes in the landscape are also a topic of Michael E. Raynor’s The Strategy Paradox: Why Committing to Success Leads to Failure (And What to Do About It) (Currency/Doubleday), which reviewer Dean Foust called “penetrating.” In this complex work, Raynor contends that successful and failing companies often share many similarities, because “the strategies that have the best chance of succeeding brilliantly are also the ones most exposed to the most debilitating kind of strategic uncertainty.” The Deloitte Research consultant deduces that what is needed is a change in governance structure and a serious commitment to strategic planning, with senior executives mapping out every scenario they can imagine."
- The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
"However, if Nassim Nicholas Taleb is right, any attempts at prediction are a fool’s game. Taleb’s advice is to assume that really crazy things can and will happen. You should set yourself up so that you can benefit from good crazy things rather than being hurt by bad crazy things. His best-selling The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (Random House) elaborates on the unpredictability of life, a thesis first expounded in a previous book, Fooled by Randomness. Taleb ridicules the mathematical constructs underlying modern finance in what reviewer Peter Coy called “a richly enjoyable read with an important message.”"
- The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World
"The most publicized business book of the year was also among the most provocative. Former Fed chief Alan Greenspan’s The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World (Penguin Press) made headlines with its scorn for the current Administration’s economics, GOP congressmen, and Richard Nixon. The volume is also a memoir of Greenspan’s life, from his boyhood in New York to leadership of the world’s most powerful central bank. But the book’s true value lies in its second half, where the author offers his take on everything from Russia to financial regulation and the inevitable slowdown of globalization. Such well-informed musings offer much more food for thought than the usual Washington memoir."
- Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia
"Another volume tackling Eastern economic developments is Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia (Atlantic Monthly Press) by Joe Studwell, founder of the China Economic Quarterly. Li Ka-shing, Robert Kuok, Stanley Ho, and other moguls are among the richest men on the planet. Yet in a region full of such tycoons, why is one so hard-pressed to identify globally competitive Southeast Asian multinationals? Studwell argues that with these few men controlling vast enterprises, regional economies haven’t mastered the “technological capabilities, branded corporations, and productivity gains that drive sustainable economic development.” Although in need of better organization, this illuminating book is “myth-shattering,” said reviewer Brian Bremner."
- In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India
""Edward Luce, a onetime New Delhi correspondent for The Financial Times, highlights this distinction in his In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India (Doubleday), one of the best of the current books on the subcontinent. The author graphically describes the conflicting forces at work, as he visits Infosys’ plush offices in Bangalore, bustling call centers in Mumbai, and impoverished farmers in the state of Uttar Pradesh. He reveals that less than 10% of India’s 470 million workers are employed in the formal economy, while more than 300 million live in squalor in the country’s 680,000 villages. Luce’s vivid anecdotes and trenchant analysis make this volume a pleasure to read."