Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

WSJ: Best Business Books 2016

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

Every year, the Wall Street Journal asks writers, academics, business owners, athletes and assorted interesting people for their recommendations for the best books of the year. Here’s what the contributors said for 2016.
 
Retired basketball player and sportscaster Bill Walton is “the proud and fortunate son of a librarian.” He proposed Shoe Dog to entrepreneurs as a guide to success. “Phil Knight started Nike in 1963 with a $50 loan from his father. I don’t need to tell you how that story ended up.”
 
 
Fellow athlete Abby Wambach recommends Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. “As I have transitioned into retirement, Grit is a powerful reminder of the qualities that made me a successful soccer player would serve me just as well in the world beyond the field.”
 
 
Alan Greenspan’s biography, The Man Who Knew was selected by several readers, including Elliott Management Corp founder and CEO Paul Singer, who noted, “As important as it is to know which qualities to look for in the next Fed chair, it is also important to know which qualities to avoid.”
 
 
No surprise that several people chose Hillbilly Elegy, including Roger Altman, founder/chairman of Evercore as well as U.S. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who called J.D. Vance’s memoir, “the story of overcoming a tumultuous family life in southern Ohio and Kentucky. This isn’t just Mr. Vance’s story. It’s the story of many other people across rural America who have lost hope.”
 
 
Fuqua faculty member’s Dan Ariely’s newest best-seller, Payoff is recommended by James Altucher, author of 17 business books. “Dan Ariely makes the strong case that the best way to motivate people, including ourselves, is not through persuasive tactics, however subtle, but by providing the groundwork for meaning in people’s lives. James Altucher also endorses Tools of Titans, “interviews from hundreds of peak performers – from athletes and artists to generals and entrepreneurs and shares the ‘tactics, routines, and habits’ that made them titans.”

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

Book Review: The 100-Year Life

Monday, March 20th, 2017

book cover imageGratton, Lynda and Andrew Scott. The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity. Bloomsbury Information, 2016.

Fuqua students in their 20’s have a 50% chance of celebrating their 100th birthday. Their grandparents in their 60’s have a 50-50 chance of living another quarter century. Millions of people are looking forward to a long life and those who exercise regularly, do not smoke and control their weight are expected to remain healthy and fit deep into old age.

A long and healthy life has long been regarded as one of the greatest gifts, yet foresight and planning are needed to guarantee that the decades late in life will be happy. Structuring and using those extra years effectively is the subject new book, The 100-Year Life, by two professors at the London Business School, Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott.

The book begins with the obvious question: How will this gift of time be financed? Obvious answer: The increase in life expectancy will be funded by working longer or saving more. “Making the most of the gift of a long life requires everyone to face up to the truth of working into your 70s or even 80s. Simple as that.” To some that may sound depressing, but the nature of work will change profoundly to include more innovation, decision making and social engagement.

Gratton and Scott explain that currently, there are three stages in adult life: Education – Career – Retirement. When working life extends to 6 or 7 decades, transitioning between careers will become normal. In some decades, workers will choose maximize finances while in others, they will focus on creating a work-life balance. Workers will routinely take breaks to become re-educated for new careers.

In every age, there are winners and losers. As the 100 year life becomes commonplace globally, there are ways to ensure a successful life. Remain flexible. Continue to learn. Take action. Defer gratification. Authors Gratton and Scott present the financial and social strategies that lead to a long life that is creative and fun. This book is recommended.

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

Recommended Spring Break Reading

Monday, February 27th, 2017

Editors, writers and guests at the Financial Times give their opinions about what to read now: It’s a long list. These 5 are my top picks to read over spring break.
 
book cover imageThe 100 Year Life by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott
A Duke student has a 50% chance of living to 100 years old. In the future, the familiar education/career/retirement stages of adult life will be transformed into a flexible, multi-stage life with implications for careers, personal finance and relationships.
 
 
 
book cover imageOnly Humans Need Apply by Thomas Davenport and Julia Kirby
In the U.S. employment of highly skilled workers, such as managers, engineers, analysts, doctors and lawyers peaked in 2000 and has been falling due to advances in artificial intelligence. But opportunities abound for those who learn how to work collaboratively with intelligent machines.
 
 
 
Makers and Takers by Rana Foroohar
Finance dominates the U.S. economy, representing 25% of corporate profits, but only 4% of all jobs. Wall Street’s financial thinking has invaded other sectors, depressing innovation and job creation in companies, controlling natural resources, and increasing social inequality.

Also available as an eBook on OverDrive and as an audiobook on OverDrive.
 
 
Dear Chairman by Jeff Gramm
Backstories of corporate conflicts between management teams and shareholders, including power struggles involving American Express and Warren Buffett in 1964; General Motors and Ross Perot in 1985; BKF Capital and Carlo Cannell in 2005; and many other stories of shareholder activism.

Also available as an eBook on OverDrive, as an audiobook on OverDrive, and as an audiobook on CD.

The Originals by Adam Grant
“The hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists.” In entertainment, business and politics, innovators make breakthroughs by recognizing original ideas, managing risks and removing barriers that hinder implementation.

Also available as an eBook on OverDrive, as an audiobook on OverDrive, as an audiobook on CD, and on Business Best Seller Kindles at Ford Library.

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

Book Review: Hillbilly Elegy

Monday, January 30th, 2017

book cover imageVance, J.D. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. Harper, 2016.

When I came to interview at Duke 35 years ago, a finance faculty member told me she pinched herself every morning while driving to work on 15-501. But it was not by luck that she landed a tenure track position at an elite university. She was a product of upper class culture. She inherited attitudes and habits about work, education and relationships that put her on the road to success.

As J.D. Vance explains in his childhood memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, the upper class and working class are different and the customs and values of each group determine their children’s chances for a prosperous future or a grim one. Vance was born to a dysfunctional family originally from the hills of Eastern Kentucky who moved to the Rust Belt, taking their chaotic and violent culture with them.

Vance begins his story by describing the lives of his forebears. In the 1940’s after his maternal grandparents move to Ohio, their lives improve financially, yet their marriage is a war zone. A generation later, Vance’s mother is a teenager with two children, already divorced. Vance is raised in a turbulent environment with a new stepfather and new stepsiblings every year. They move from home to home. His mother becomes a drug addict. In high school Vance moves to his grandmother’s peaceful house, and his life begins to turn around. After a stint in the Marines and a degree from Ohio State, he attends Law School at Yale and discovers how the other half lives.

Vance calls himself a cultural emigrant and he is acutely aware of the differences between social classes. On one hand is a self-reliant, hardworking and optimistic culture that invests in education and the future. The other is a consumer-oriented and cynical culture that blames social problems on the government. Vance’s grandmother and later the Marines teach him to expect more from himself. His years at Yale expose him to opportunities and to mentors. To Vance, these advantages separate the successful from the unsuccessful. This best seller is recommended.

Also available on Business Best Seller Kindles at the Ford Library and as an audiobook on OverDrive.

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

Book Review: Designing Your Life

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

book cover imageBurnett, Bill. Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life. Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.

During my last year of college, I woke up one afternoon and realized that I would be graduating soon. I had no job and no idea how to get a good one. I had no life plan. This is not unusual. Millions of recent graduates do not know how to find a meaningful job or how to design a purposeful life. For those already mid-career, 66% are unhappy with their jobs. And many successful professionals at the end of their careers want to downshift into a position with social impact, but lack the skills to make the transition.

In Designing Your Life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans of the Stanford University Design Program advise using the principles of design thinking to create a life that is creative, productive and constantly evolving. They explain that design is a process of experimentation. As they explore, designers create prototypes, building on them when successful and discarding them when not. As designers try new things, they build their way forward.

To create your own ideal life, Burnett and Evans recommend “starting where you are,” improving the life that you are already living, without making disruptive structural changes like resigning your job or moving to another city. Assessment tools included in the book help clarify current work/life situations, then show how to customize existing jobs or careers to make them more engaging. For those who feel stuck, options can be developed by reframing problems and finding fresh solutions. There is more than one answer to creating a good life.

Burnett and Evans include an avalanche of examples from students who have taken their class at Stanford. Their writing style is informal; some illustrations are scribbles. I recommend this book despite these style elements. A second key book about personal wayfinding is Clayton Christensen’s excellent How Will You Measure Your Life?

Designing Your Life is also available as an eBook on OverDrive, an audiobook on OverDrive, and on Business Bestsellers Kindles at the Ford Library.

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

Bill Gates’ Must-Reads

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

Bill Gates imageBillionaire Bill Gates reads every day, finishing off at least one book a week. “Even when my schedule is out of control, I carve out a lot of time for reading.” Here are Gates’ must-reads for 2016.

The Grid by Gretchen Bakke.
Says Gates: “The electrical grid is one of the greatest engineering wonders of the modern world.” Yet it stands in the way of an alternate energy future of solar or wind.

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.
Nike founder Phil Knight tells the story of building his company into a global athletic success but his path is “messy, precarious and riddled with mistakes,” Gates says.

The Myth of the Strong Leader by Archie Brown.
Successful leaders “tend to be the ones who collaborate, delegate and negotiate – and recognize that no one person can or should have all the answers.”

The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee.
“The new genome technologies are at the cusp of affecting us all in profound ways,” Gates says, influencing our lives, personalities, identities, fates and choices.

String Theory by David Foster Wallace.
In this collection of essays about tennis, the author “found mind-blowing ways of bending language like a metal spoon.”

Thanks to Fuqua’s Gwen Barclay-Toy for bringing the Fortune article to our attention.

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

Audiobooks: Holiday Classics

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

book cover image

Last week I overhead a faculty member describing his trip to South America for the holidays. He welcomed time with his family, but anticipated long waits at the airport.

Hope that he knows that he can download a best-selling book to his iPhone or tablet from OverDrive.

Audiobooks are especially popular. Here are the top 10 business audiobooks this fall.

1
How to have a good day: harnessing the power of behavioral science to transform your working life
Former McKinsey partner Caroline Webb reviews findings from behavioral economics, psychology, and neuroscience to explain how our brains work and why we make the choices we do. Then she applies this research to the workplace, offering guidance on setting priorities, making effective use of time, strengthening personal interactions, becoming resilient to setbacks, and boosting energy.

2
Thinking fast and slow
Nobel Prize winning Economist Daniel Kahneman explores two types of decision making, intuitive and deliberate (fast and slow) that underlie our business and personal choices, counseling when to trust intuition and when not to. Kahneman’s groundbreaking research into irrational choices and contradictory thinking produced this international best-seller that won best-book awards from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Economist, National Academy of Sciences and others.

3
Good to great: why some companies make the leap… and others don’t
Possibly the most influential business book of all time, Good to Great reports on Jim Collins’ own research about how to turn a good company into one that produces great results over a sustained period of time. One key finding: the personal character of company leadership matters. Great companies have leaders who are humble but act with iron will. Also, combining a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship achieves sustained performance over the long term.

4
Lean in: women, work and the will to lead
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg encourages women to dream big and to achieve their full potential despite societal and workplace barriers. Women advance to leadership by reaching for more opportunities, by remaining engaged and by acting self-confidently. Sandberg advises women to negotiate salaries and to keep acquiring new skills, accepting positions up, across and perhaps down the organization.

5
Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking
Co-founder of the Quiet Revolution (www.quietrev.com) Susan Cain explains that American culture values extroversion, while introverts are overlooked. In the U.S., dynamic speakers are much admired, but people have difficulty distinguishing between good presentation skills and true insight. Asian cultures are more reserved, appreciating thoughtful contributions. Personal stories and facts from scientific research are also included in this best-selling book. Recipient of many best-book awards.

6
David and Goliath: underdogs, misfits and the art of battling giants
Master storyteller Malcolm Gladwell recounts the tales of ordinary people who face overwhelming challenges and are forced to respond. He explains that powerful people may not be as omnipotent as they first appear; and that sometimes disabilities or disadvantages can lead to profound strength and wisdom. Difficulties are not always negative, particularly for people who develop attributes to overcome them, such as courage, resourcefulness and tenacity.

7
Irrationally yours: on missing socks, pickup lines and other existential puzzles
Fuqua faculty member Dan Ariely writes a column “Ask Ariely” for the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, helping readers understand their own puzzling behavior and the actions of co-workers, family and friends. In Irrationally Yours, Ariely expands his answers to questions published in the Journal, presenting issues such as why people complain; how to select the best stall in a public restroom; and whether it is worth the money to buy an expensive car.

8
Mindset: the new psychology of success
Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck shows that everyone has the capacity for lifelong learning and brain development, but not everyone has the same mindset. People who believe that abilities can be developed throughout life (growth mindset) are more likely to flourish than those who believe that abilities are determined at birth (fixed mindset). Hard work, good strategies and mentorship profoundly influence success in life.

9
Never split the difference: negotiating as if your life depended on it
Former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss maintains that his approach to high-stakes negotiations could benefit entrepreneurs selling a company or consumers buying a car. Key concepts in “confronting without confrontation” include understanding the opponent’s emotions, learning to say No, manipulating the opponent’s reality and developing a calm and authoritative vocal style.

10
Daring greatly: how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead
Sociologist Brené Brown’s research about meaningful life experiences reveals a pervasive sense of anxiety and self-doubt in society. People never feel good enough, thin enough, smart enough, successful enough. Brown challenges readers to cultivate an authentic life, defined by compassion, connection and courage, to accept themselves just as they are – flawed, but worthy of love and belonging.

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

Silicon Valley II: Chaos Monkeys

Monday, November 28th, 2016

book cover imageGarcia Martinez, Antonio. Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley. Harper, 2016.

Wall Street quant turned ads technology guru, Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Facebook middle manager, Antonio Garcia Martinez presents a 500-page diary of a volatile 6 years of his life, from 2007-13. While too long by 100+ pages, his memoir is an entertaining and useful guidebook for working and succeeding in the new economy.
 
Garcia Martinez begins his story in 2007 when he leaves Stanford’s PhD program in Physics to price credit derivatives for Goldman Sachs. A year later he moves back to California, reinventing himself as an expert in advertising technology at Adchemy, a start-up that creates internet ads software and generates lists of potential customers for businesses. By 2010, Adchemy is sputtering and Garcia Martinez partners with two talented co-workers to apply to the start-up bootcamp Y Combinator. Their internet ads start-up, AdGrok, is funded by Y Combinator, but eventually sold to Twitter. Garcia Martinez abandons his partners to work at Facebook, generating revenue from user information for the Facebook Ads system. In 2012, Facebook’s IPO earns Garcia Martinez $4,000,000, but before he can collect it all, he loses a power struggle and is fired. In 2013, he rejoins his partners at Twitter.
 
Chaos Monkeys describes the brave new world of technology, where employees are replaced by computers and companies pay heavily for consumers attention. Garcia Martinez is at his best when he is illustrating the ways that technology is changing industries like finance and advertising, or when he is explaining complex concepts like derivatives, ads technology, venture funding or corporate buyouts.  His detailed descriptions about company identity, engineering culture, and decision making at Facebook are fascinating. Chapters about the Y Combinator network and process are vital for start-ups.  His portrayals of coworkers like Sheryl Sandberg and venture capitalists like Paul Graham are frank and detailed.
 
A self-described ruthless little shit, Garcia Martinez is weak when relating the personal aspects of his story. His drunken encounter with police is petty. He calls his partners at AdGrok, “the boys.” He complains that his $4 million IPO gain is a pittance for San Francisco natives. He is “snookered into fatherhood” when he sires two children with a derivatives trader, but pays his way out rather than compromise his freedom. Yet despite it all, Garcia Martinez’s bold and honest insights are recommended for anyone wanting to work in an industry disrupted by technology.

Also available as a ebook on OverDrive and as an audiobook on OverDrive.

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

Silicon Valley I: Disrupted

Monday, November 14th, 2016

book cover imageLyons, Daniel. Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-up Bubble. Hachette Books, 2016.

Dan Lyons, once the anonymous author of the acerbic Fake Steve Jobs blog (2006-11) and now a writer on HBO’s Silicon Valley satire, hit a rough patch in 2013.  At 51 years old, he was suddenly downsized from his prestigious job as technology editor at Newsweek and decided to reinvent himself as a marketing professional at a startup.  His road to success is full of potholes and is the subject of his new book, Disrupted.

After sifting through a handful of opportunities, Lyons takes a job at a Boston startup, HubSpot, a cloud computing company, selling marketing automation software for businesses.  He accepts a lower salary but bets that his stock options will be worth money in a few years.  As Lyons settles into HubSpot, he finds the company and work culture mystifying.  Most of HubSpot’s 500 employees are in their 20s and relentlessly positive.  The culture is energetic, enthusiastic and loyal, but managers are poorly trained and oversight is haphazard.  Lyons’ cynicism about free candy, foosball tables and Fearless Fridays is a misfit.

Lyons describes HubSpot’s product as substandard and the leadership as a band of sales and marketing charlatans.  The two owners and a handful of investors are focused on growing sales and revenue and telling a heartfelt story about changing the world, while they stay in business long enough to get rich in an IPO, and then move on.  HubSpot is no anomaly – Lyons concludes that the new tech industry is run by young amoral hustlers.  In the epilogue, he explains that as he delivered the first draft of his book to the publisher, HubSpot executives hacked into his computer and broke into his house to steal his manuscript.

In the end, Lyons argues that in the tech industry, the social agreement that once existed between a company and its workers is gone.  Employees are disposable parts that play a role for a few years and then are replaced by someone cheaper just out of college.  Silicon Valley is leading the way, but as other industries are reshaped by technology, such as banking and media, they are also changing the way they treat workers.  This book is recommended for anyone interested in working or investing in the technology industry.

Also available as an audiobook on CD.

 

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

Book Reviews: Weekend for Women

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Welcome participants in the Duke MBA Weekend for Women. Congratulations on your determination to develop your own potential by earning an MBA. You are already on the road to achieving power and purpose in your life.

Three new books in the Ford Library provide insights about women in business.

book cover imageTraister, Rebecca. All the Single Ladies. Simon & Schuster, 2016.

Today only 20% of Americans marry by age 29. For the first time in history, it is normal in America to be a young adult and unmarried. Journalist Rebecca Traister tells the life stories of dozens of single women to highlight how society has changed and how women have benefited. Women are choosing to complete their educations and to dedicate themselves to thriving careers, earning an independence never before experienced. Singleness is not necessarily more desirable than being married, but women have more options than ever before and are free to make their own choices about marriage, sex, careers, parenting and friendship.

book cover imageVerveer, Melanne and Kim K. Azzarelli. Fast Forward. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.

Hillary Clinton wrote the introduction to this new book by two of the founders of Seneca Women, a global leadership community centered on the principle that advancing women and girls creates an equitable and prosperous world. In Fast Forward, authors Verveer and Azzarelli make the case that women are the drivers of economic growth and social progress. Companies with more women in their top ranks outperform their peers; Women entrepreneurs reinvest their earnings in their communities; Women promoted to the highest ranks in business and government leverage their influence to help other women and families. Fast Forward outlines a simple approach to achieve one’s potential: Know your power. Find your purpose. Connect with others.

book cover imageHuston, Therese. How Women Decide. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.

Seattle University cognitive neuroscientist Therese Huston explains that in professional organizations, when a tough call must be made, both men and women are more willing to accept a man’s decision than a woman’s. People sense that those who project confidence make better choices and they assume that those who collaborate are indecisive, both of which are false. Yet these hidden biases exist in every workplace. In her new book, Huston uses research findings and true stories of 34 women to explore how women make decisions and how they navigate judgments at work. In the end, she concludes that under pressure, having both men and women involved in decision making creates the best outcomes.

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

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