Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

WSJ: Best Business Books 2018

Monday, February 4th, 2019

Every year, the Wall Street Journal asks writers, academics, business owners, athletes, politicians and assorted interesting people for their recommendations for the best books of the year. Here’s what the contributors said for 2018:

George P. Shultz, cabinet member for four US presidents and Hoover Institute distinguished fellow, recommends Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Leadership: In Turbulent Times. “Ms. Goodwin provides insights into the lives of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson as she describes their early lives, career paths and presidencies. In the process, we learn how these leaders coped with daunting challenges. The role of adversity in shaping character is a recurring theme.” Common traits in these presidents reveal what it takes to become a leader.

Co-founder of Home Depot and author of I Love Capitalism! Ken Langone recommends the expose Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by WSJ reporter John Carreyrou. Bad Blood is “about the biotech company Theranos and its ambitious but flawed founder, Elizabeth Holmes, who almost pulled off the greatest scam in Silicon Valley history. Most fascinating is Mr. Carreyrou’s description of his own quest to expose the truth to the public, aided by brave whistleblowers who couldn’t abide the company’s deceptions.”


Patricia O’Toole, author of The Moralist: Woodrow Wilson and the World He Made, recommends two books about the radical right’s use of campaign funding to ultimately change public policy and concentrate power in the hands of a few wealthy families. “The acute inflammation of the American body politic prompted close readings of Jane Mayer’s Dark Money and Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains.”


Ohio congressman Tim Ryan regards the recent loss of 14,000 jobs in Ohio and Michigan as “the epitome of a broken economic and political system. Monica Sharma’s Radical Transformational Leadership offers a new perspective on how our country’s leaders can change the dynamic. Leaders, she instructs, need to lead with compassion, fairness, and a sense of dignity for all those involved. She explores how to become a catalyst for change in a world that is constantly fighting against itself.”


Wesley Yang, author of The Souls of Yellow Folk, appreciates Michael Lewis’s work, especially his latest book, The Fifth Risk. “Mr. Lewis sidesteps the cycle of hysteria and outrage that feeds the Trump reality show by focusing on the work of the enormous public entity – the U.S. federal government – that Donald Trump was elected to run. Mr. Lewis conveys how important the work of the government agencies is to the national stability we all take for granted. He shows what is at stake – the likelihood of a range of catastrophic risks coming to pass – and turns the least charismatic of all subjects into a gripping, funny and frightening human drama.”

Quotes from the Wall Street Journal column “Books of the Year,” Dec. 8-9, 2018.

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: Atomic Habits

Monday, January 21st, 2019

Clear, James. Atomic habits : tiny changes, remarkable results : an easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones. Penguin Random House, 2018.

book cover image

Atomic Habits by James Clear starts predictably with the author sharing his qualifications – how he overcame adversity to become a success, how he built his business, how he’s spoken to Fortune 500 companies and major league teams about habit formation. Further, he follows what appears to be the new formula for personal productivity titles, extending his personal brand with liberal references to his website, creating that ubiquitous infomercial vibe.

However, within this off-putting framework, Clear writes an engaging book with content worth the time and effort. His four laws of good habit building, along with their inverses to break bad habits, do provide the “operating manual” that the author promises. While some of his techniques are what might be expected, such as tracking progress, others, such as focusing on the environment around a habit, answering the questions of where, when, and how in addition to what, and paring a habit down to a two-minute task are thought-provoking and valuable.

Further, Clear goes beyond behavior to address the relationship between habits and identity and the need for readers to think about what kind of person they want to be and how habits can shape that aspirational identity. He also explains the long-term/short-term payoff of habits, both good and bad, and how many people carry on with bad habits because the short-term payoff is pleasant, while ignoring the accumulating long-term bad consequences of those actions.

The book provides the added bonus of solid writing, making it an easy and enjoyable read, which may do a disservice to the sheer amount of helpful information and the number of useful techniques. To get the most out of the book, readers need to review and strategize which techniques will work best for the particular habits they want to build. While Clear provides links to worksheets, tables, and specialized chapters for businesses and parents, they are reserved for readers who can show proof of purchase.

Atomic Habits is overflowing with actionable ideas on both habit building and habit breaking, thoughtfully organized, and engagingly written – a good read to start a new year off right. Highly recommend.

Also available on OverDrive as an ebook and audiobook.

© Julianna Harris & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: Faculty Recommendations, pt 3

Monday, December 10th, 2018

Fall term 2 is closing and the last post of the year is wisdom from Strategy professor Victor Bennett. His “reading” recommendations are multimedia: podcasts, television series and, yes, a traditional book title.
professor photo
Here’s what Prof. Bennett recommends:

  • It used to be said that reading The Washington Post every day cover-to-cover would prepare you for the foreign service exam. If you’re interested in the economic environment instead of international politics, the best way to get a handle on it is to listen to Planet Money and its daily spin-off, The Indicator. They’re bite-sized (20 min and 10 min), well-researched, and engaging.
  • This is a throwback, but if you are interested in one of the best studies of organizational dysfunction, I recommend The Wire. If you’ve already seen it, thinking about it from an organizational perspective will give you a whole new show. Disclaimer: heavy subject matter, violence, and language.
  • If you are interested in consulting, The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business by Duff McDonald (OverDrive audiobook | Amazon) is an interesting read. I don’t want to oversell it because I actually didn’t love the writing, but it gives you some insight into the origin of the consulting profession and it has some interesting facts, such as McKinsey was basically started by an accountant who didn’t like accounting.

Thank you, Professor Bennett. And good luck wishes to all Fuqua students with final exams. Have a happy holiday wherever your travels take you and we will see you again in 2019.

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: Faculty Recommendations, pt 2

Monday, November 26th, 2018

book cover imageQi Chen (Business Administration)
Recommends: Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker
Library catalog | Amazon

Qi Chen comments that he read a book recommended by 2nd year student Matias Barbero and it is fantastic. Enlightenment Now, written by Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker, presents the argument that there has never been a better time to be a human being. Analyzing historic trends, Pinker uses charts and data to make his argument that the world is healthier, freer, richer, safer and more peaceful than ever.
Prof Chen also recommends two other books: Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity (fascinating) and Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright (timely).

book cover imageInes Black (Strategy)
Recommends: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
Library catalog | Amazon

Israeli history professor Yuval Noah Harari covers 100,000 years of human history, “from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural, and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology, and economics, Harari explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities.” Quote from Library catalog.
Professor Black is also reading The Triumph of the City by Edward Glaeser and Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber.

book cover imageDavid Robinson (Finance)
Recommends: My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard
Library catalog | Amazon

This six-volume autobiographical novel is a literary sensation, often called a masterpiece, and its Scandinavian author is compared to Proust. Beginning with his childhood in Book 1 (2013), Knausgaard writes candidly about the intimate details of his own life, including the tedious and squalid bits. Readers describe his uninhibited text as simultaneously riveting and frustrating, audacious and boring, a new way of writing for the “selfie” generation. Winner of numerous literary awards and a New York Times bestseller.

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: Faculty Recommendations, pt 1

Monday, November 12th, 2018

book cover imageBarak Richman (Strategy)
Recommends: Evicted by Matthew Desmond
Library catalog | Amazon

Barak Richman writes, “Last year I read Matthew Desmond’s Evicted and decided to incorporate it into my Property course. In fact, the book could inform each of my classes – contracts, antitrust, health law and policy – because it vividly describes the daily challenges that confront a vulnerable population. If we want to design government policies, or construct markets, that enable the nation’s poor to benefit from the nation’s wealth, we need this kind of deep dive into understanding structural challenges of poverty.”

book cover imagePaula Ecklund (Decision Sciences)
Recommends: The Lies that Bind by Kwame Anthony Appiah
Library catalog | Amazon

NYU philosophy professor and the Sunday Times “Ethicist” columnist explores the nature of the identities that define and divide us – Gender. Religion. Race. Nationality. Class. Culture. These identities shape our sense of who we are and they bring meaning to our lives by connecting us to larger causes. But collectively, these same identities also form our understanding of our world. And our generalized notions about race, culture, religion, et al. are full of contradictions and falsehoods.

book cover imageJeremy Petranka (Assistant Dean of MMS and MQM Programs)
Recommends: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
Library catalog | Amazon

Singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer finds it difficult to ask for things as a musician and as a partner. Many people are reluctant to ask for help and it depletes their lives and relationships. In The Art of Asking, Palmer examines the barriers to asking and reveals the emotional and practical aspects of asking for help. Fuqua’s Jeremy Petranka comments, “a mentee I greatly respect told me it changed her view of the world. I’m kind of seeing her point, which is a good sign.”

 

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: Sophia of Silicon Valley

Monday, October 29th, 2018

Yen, Anna. Sophia of Silicon Valley : a novel. HarperCollins Publishers, 2018.

book cover imageSophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen is a fictionalized account of the author’s experience working in investor relations for Steve Jobs during his Pixar years. This narrative is bookended by her character’s paralegal work for a law firm specializing in tech IPOs, and by a second stint in investor relations for Elon Musk at Tesla.

Sophia Young, the main character, is an unlikable, coddled 20-something either whining about her over-protective Taiwanese parents, lack of a husband, and less than Ivy League education; or bragging about designer clothes and luxury hotel suites as golden career opportunities fall effortlessly into her lap. While her diabetes could be a vehicle for a reader to develop an early sympathy for her, Yen glosses over the illness, and it is not until the final third of the book when Sophia experiences a crisis and encounters an adversary that she comes into her own as a character worth caring about.

Yen’s fictional depictions of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk are as superheroes. Even when Sophia sees and experiences their self-absorption, she finds excuses for them, assuming that they have loftier and nobler goals that these actions serve. These portrayals prove frustrating because they provide little insight into the characters who are Sophia’s raison d’etre.

In an interview with Business Insider, Yen mentions that she also wrote the book to impart lessons to her readers. This goal is generally at odds with good storytelling, and Sophia of Silicon Valley is no exception. It struggles with both character development and plot.

If a reader is interested in the history of Pixar or Steve Jobs, other books such as Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull or Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs might be better choices. Thankfully, Yen had the good sense not to cast Sophia’s experience as somehow prescriptive for women wanting to succeed in high-power careers.

With a strong final third and an interesting perspective on working for quirky, powerful men in Silicon Valley, the book ultimately redeems itself from its lackluster storytelling.

Also available on OverDrive as an audiobook and an eBook.

 

© Julianna Harris & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: Meet the Frugalwoods

Monday, October 8th, 2018

Thames, Elizabeth Willard. Meet the Frugalwoods : achieving financial independence through simple living. HarperBusiness, 2018.

book cover imageThere are any number of personal finance blogs, and several devoted to living a life of frugality. One of the best known is Frugalwoods.com written by Elizabeth Willard Thames, mother of two who is living her dream life on 66 acres of woodlands in Vermont. This year, she recycled her blog postings into a popular new book, Meet the Frugalwoods. In her blog and in her book, Thames explains how she restructured the way she lived — how she spent her money and her time to craft a meaningful and contented life.

The book begins in 2006 as Thames graduates from college and takes a fundraising job for a nonprofit in New York City that pays an AmeriCorps stipend of $10,000. She considers every dollar before spending it and ends the year with $2000 in the bank. In the ensuing years, she moves to Boston; to Washington DC; then back to Boston, continuing her career as a fundraiser. Finding her work increasingly meaningless, she spends money on small luxuries to compensate. When she and her husband begin hiking in the woods every weekend, exposure to nature changes her life. They embark on a program of extreme frugality to save enough money to make them financially independent by age 32 in order to move to rural Vermont and live a life that they are passionate about.

Thames is at her best when she is evaluating the work/spend cycles of American consumer culture. People work hard at frustrating jobs and then mitigate their discontent by buying expensive homes, furniture, cars, clothes, electronics. Thames explains that people accept roles that society, family and they themselves expect, instead of living life on their own terms. To craft the independent life that she wants, Thames examines her spending to determine when it made an improvement in her life and when it was superfluous. She eliminates makeup and haircuts, buys cheaper food, does her own home repairs. She estimates her family’s savings rate of 71%.

Offering abundant tips on how to live frugally, Thames is mum about one large expense for a family – healthcare. She also fails to disclose the source of the $400,000 needed to buy the spread in Vermont – after they kept their $460,000 house in Cambridge. Their secret: her husband still has his job as a software engineer. It is easier to be independent, frugal or not, if you have a high income. Nonetheless, Meet the Frugalwoods is recommended for its thoughtful message, detailed advice and approachable style.

Also available on OverDrive as an audiobook and eBook.

 

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: Geek Girl Rising

Monday, September 24th, 2018

Cabot, Heather. Geek girl rising : inside the sisterhood shaking up tech. St. Martin’s Press, 2017.

book cover imageThe book Geek Girl Rising by journalists Heather Cabot and Samantha Walravens should be required reading for anyone interested in entering a white, male dominated STEM field. This book covers the history of women in technology or engineering fields, and in business in general, making pivotal points about the lack of diversity in the technology sector; the importance of women helping other women succeed; and the importance of metrics in effecting change.

After a discussion about the need for diversity in STEM companies, the authors discuss ways to advocate for change. The first step to change is learning the actual ratios of women and individuals of color vs white males across industries, facts that tech companies seemed determined to hide. In a lawsuit in 2008, five of the largest Silicon Valley companies, including Google, won a lawsuit that had their company employee makeup declared a “trade secret.” This was reversed around 2013-2014 when the lack of diversity in these companies gained mainstream public attention through popular campaigns like #ChangetheRatio, as well as harassment claims and other lawsuits. People became interested in making a difference, both in reporting the numbers in their workplaces and in using consumer power to incentivize companies to change.

One factor contributing to the lack of diversity in engineering and technology fields is a lack of positive role models and success stories, despite the number of women with power and influence in these industries. Media outlets fail to promote and encourage women, who often face difficult or painful work situations, leading them to leave the industry or to avoid the spotlight as it attracts negative attention. Women pioneers in tech are not cited in articles or books as if their contributions are un-noteworthy. Ultimately, this lack of visibility corresponds to a lack of access and opportunities for growth as well as an inability to inspire others. To counter, Geek Girl Rising exhibits inspirational stories from a multitude of women from a wide range of companies and industries with pithy bios, interviews, anecdotes, and upbeat newsy briefs.

To combat this lack of diversity in key industries, Cabot and Walravens recommend several solutions. First, bring the problems of working in a male dominated work place to light using metrics; for example, the recent media stories about issues at Google and Facebook. A second solution is to “ignite the next generation.” President Obama’s 2014 STEM incentives encourage children, especially girls and children of color, to enter fields involved in innovation. The authors also begin and end their book referencing one female entrepreneur, Debbie Sterling, who in 2014 came out with GoldieBlox, a building/engineering/puzzle game focused around storytelling and problem-solving for children, which was sold by Toys R Us and exhibited at the toy expo in New York’s Jacob Javits Center.

This book is also available as an audiobook on OverDrive.

© Amy Brennan & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: More New Kindle eBooks

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

Posting a list of worthwhile new books during the first week of the term in graduate school may seem ironic, especially when one of titles explains the art of perfect timing. But eventually you may want to reach beyond assigned coursework, enhance personal skills or read a business best seller. And when you do, consider one of the Ford Library’s eBook collections on Kindles. Here are 5 new books that were loaded on the Notable Kindle collection in the Ford Library.

book cover imageStephens-Davidowitz, Seth. Everybody lies: big data, new data and what the internet can tell us about who we really are. HarperCollins, 2017.
Aggregates information from Big Data sources, such as Google searches and Facebook profiles, then analyzes it to offer insights into human psychology – people’s behavior, their desires, their nature. Winner of multiple book awards, including New York Times, the Economist and PBS.

Also available in print, as an audiobook, and on OverDrive as both an eBook and audiobook.

book cover imagePinker, Steven. Enlightenment now: the case for reason, science, humanism and progress. Viking, 2018.

Presents 21st century data that proves that the world is healthier, freer, richer, safer and more peaceful than ever, while restating the truths of 18th century Enlightenment – that knowledge and sympathy can foster a better world for all.

Also available in print and on OverDrive as both an eBook and audiobook.

book cover imagePink, Daniel H. When: the scientific secrets of perfect timing. Riverhead Books, 2018.

Shows how to use the science of timing to produce better outcomes — revealing that the best decision are made in the morning; that lunch breaks and afternoon naps are underrated; and that endings color the way an entire experience is remembered.

Also available in print and on OverDrive as an audiobook.

book cover imagePeterson, Jordan B. 12 rules for life: an antidote to chaos. Random House Canada, 2018.
Presents a dozen practical principles for taking responsibility for your own life. The first 3: Stand up straight with your shoulders back and a feedback loop will bring good things; Treat yourself the same way you would treat someone you loved and valued; Make friends with people who want the best for you.

Also available in print and on OverDrive as an eBook.

book cover imageCoyle, Daniel. The culture code : the secrets of highly successful groups. Bantam Books, 2018.

Dozens of examples from well-known companies, sports teams and the military identifies the key ingredients in top-performing groups. Highlights the practical skills necessary for building trust and belonging, and for strengthening collaboration.

Also available in print and on OverDrive as an eBook and audiobook.

 

 

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: New Kindle eBooks

Monday, August 20th, 2018

Fresh off the bestseller lists, 10 new business books have been downloaded on Kindles in the Ford Library. Here is a sample of what is available. Take home a Kindle tonight and see what thought leaders are saying.

book coverCarreyrou, John. Bad blood: secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. Knopf, 2018.

Acclaimed bestseller about corporate fraud in Silicon Valley’s medical device startup Theranos. CEO Elizabeth Holmes (the female Steve Jobs) raised $700 million from venture capitalists and private investors while hiding the fact that the blood test technology did not work.

Check it out on a Notable Kindle.

book coverEyal, Nir. Hooked: how to build habit forming products. Portfolio/Penguin, 2014.

Using the iPhone, Twitter, Pinterest, and others as examples, this brief practical book for entrepreneurs, product managers and designers shows how to use consumer psychology to create habit-forming products.

Check it out on a Notable Kindle or as an OverDrive eBook.

 
book coverRubin, Gretchen. The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too). Harmony Books, 2017.

Self-help book based on a personality test that measures individual responses to internal and external expectations. Rubin’s framework sorts responders into four basic types (Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, Rebel) and offers strategies for meeting deadlines, making better decisions and engaging others.

Check it out on a Notable Kindle or as an OverDrive eBook & audiobook.

book coverTegmark, Max. Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. Knopf, 2017.

Non-technical look at the possibilities and dangers of the coming age of superintelligence with superminds that can replicate themselves, learn about the environment, gather information, and avoid mistakes.

Check it out on a Notable Kindle or as an OverDrive eBook & audiobook.

 
book coverTaleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life. Random House, 2018.

Unstructured rant about a privileged class of professions such as academics, policy makers, and journalists, who profoundly impact a complex world yet remain insulated from personal repercussions. Having something at stake is necessary for fairness and justice.

Check it out on a Notable Kindle or as an OverDrive eBook & audiobook.

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.