Here are some of the best books that kept our staffers informed and entertained this year. If you’re looking for a new way to think about business — or an escape from thinking about business! — here are some great recommendations.
‘Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life’ by Rory Sutherland
Rory Sutherland, the legendary Vice Chairman of Ogilvy, uses his decades of experience to dissect human spending behavior in an insanely entertaining way. Alchemy combines scientific research with hilarious stories and case studies of campaigns for AmEx, Microsoft and the like. This is a must-read for entrepreneurs who are hoping to connect with an audience.
— Andrea Hardalo, Social Media Editor
‘Very Modern Mantras: Daily Affirmations for Daily Aggravations’ by Dan Zevin
If other people’s fabulous Instagram accounts kind of make you hope the amazing dessert they just posted gives them food poisoning, this might be the book for you. Humor writer Dan Zevin’s Very Modern Mantras: Daily Affirmations for Daily Aggravationsis a hilarious guide for navigating all of the things in life that make us batty — from cracked phones to co-workers who come to work no matter how sick they are to food deliveries of ice-cold pizza. This made me laugh and relieved to know I’m not the only person barely hanging onto my sanity.
— Dan Bova, Digital Editorial Director
’Bored, Lonely, Angry, Stupid’ by Luke Fernandez and Susan J. Matt
We take some things for granted today—that selfies make us narcissistic, that social media can make us lonely, and so on. This book adds much-needed historical perspective to these knee-jerk fears, by examining how our emotions have been expressed over time, and how they’ve been impacted by new technologies along the way. For example: Long before Twitter, people gathered in rooms for “indignation meetings” to vent their anger! Long before selfies, mirrors and handwritten letters changed the way we talked about vanity! (I interviewed the authors about that for this podcast.) The truth is, we aren’t witnessing massive change today: We’re just seeing the next stage of a constant evolution. Bored, Lonely, Angry, Stupid is a must-read for entrepreneurs—because entrepreneurs are agents of change, and cannot succumb to fear of the new.
—Jason Feifer, Editor in Chief
‘Thick’ by Tressie McMillan Cottom
If you aren’t following Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom on social media, you should be. As a noted professor of sociology, she speaks truth to power on issues of race, gender, capitalism and how they all intersect, overlap and inform how we move through the world. Thick magically combines personal narrative, humor, candor and research to create the perfect storm of essays. This book demands your attention to the lived experience of black women while inviting you to explore your own place in the systems we contribute to and often benefit from. As entrepreneurs who help craft the consumer landscape, that’s an important discussion we should listen to, take part in and not shy away from — and Thick should be required reading.
—Jennifer Dorsey, Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Press
‘The Making of a Manager’ by Julie Zheng
This was a wonderful book that really was more of a conversation and less of a how-to. Zhuo shares her own experiences (both pitfalls and successes) at a major company with readers who may be struggling with their management role. The biggest takeaway for me was the “do this, not that” or reframing of communication with team members. I recommend this book to anyone who’s just been promoted to managing people. Because, real talk, it is hard and there is no such thing as a natural-born manager. (Prove me wrong, I’ll wait.)
— Vanessa Campos, Sales and Marketing Director of Entrepreneur Press
‘Catch and Kill’ by Ronan Farrow
I’ve been reading Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill, a riveting look about the reporting that exposed Harvey Weinstein and the system that tried to stop it. It’s gripping, and it’s an important read for anyone in this day and age. Plus, it’s an example of great writing that takes you on a journey.
— Hayden Field, Associate Editor
‘Age of Legend’ by Michael J. Sullivan and ‘The Burning White’ by Brent Weeks
These are fantasy books, not business books, and I can’t say the plot or characters will teach you much about how to grow your startup or improve your social media following. However, I’m fascinated with the work it takes to complete a massive project like writing a novel, and the contrasting stories behind how these books were made can offer lessons on creating a workflow.
Sullivan’s book is part of a larger and, importantly, pre-written series. He had drafts of all six books in the series before he published the first one, and the next two already have announced publication dates. Weeks, meanwhile, clearly didn’t have it all figured out to start — what was originally meant to be a trilogy eventually became a five-book series, unfolding over the entirety of the 2010s.
Regardless, both authors eventually reached their goals. The Burning White was the finale in Weeks’s epic series, and Sullivan’s will conclude in 2020. So, whether you’re a planner or more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type, you can finish that big project of yours, too.
— Matt McCreary, Associate Editor