What are some good business books?
October 1, 2005 1:06 PM   Subscribe

I'd like some good business (commodities, economics, markets, etc.) book to read. I'm tired of all the, excuse my French, BS books I've come across. I don't want a get-rich quick or anything motivational. I've read the summer reading standard Freakonomics and The World is Flat as of late, feeling the same way level of beach book dissapointment I did when I broke down and read The DaVinci Code. The former was entertaining, though somewhat useless and the latter just was boring and repetitive after say -- chapter 2. I've been paticularly interested in game theory lately and how it can be applied...

There must be good business books out there with some interesting theories or actual applications. I'm an International Business major so I have my fill of case studies and dry textbook material. I have not formally studied game theory but what I've read on the Internet seems really interesting. I've been searching across Amazon and most game theory texts were actual college textbooks which I wouldn't mind reading except for the absurdly high college textbook prices.

Really anything business-oriented has interested me lately -- broad economics (I should say as a business major I've had all the primers, so I'm not really looking for an intro) and perhaps even economic history really interest me. I'm not really kean on reading a bunch of mathematical proofs unless they're shown in context or in someway relevant so I can grasp them.

I guess I might have a hard time explaining what I like because I've never come across it. I always feel fufilled or at least even more curious after philosophy texts or other intellectual reading, but business books seem somewhat aimed for the "Who Cut the Cheese?" crowd (which I haven't read but the length, title and comments from people who've read it lead me to believe it's middle-management motivational stuff). I hate walking away from these business books and going "Well duh" or having no other information I could have gleaned if the book had been cut down to a few lines without the anecdotes of all the rich, powerful people the author met. Sorry to be so picky, but you guys are great at picking out good books.
posted by geoff. to Work & Money (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you're ready for a little Fooled By Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Enjoy.
posted by Kibbutz at 1:31 PM on October 1, 2005

I thought Against the Gods was very interesting. It's a review of the history of probability and risk analysis.
posted by mullacc at 1:45 PM on October 1, 2005

Barbarians at the Gate or When Genius Failed.
posted by Kwantsar at 2:00 PM on October 1, 2005

You say you've read most of the staples, but if you haven't read Mike Porter, you should.

Also, if anyone recommends Jim Collins, ignore him or her.
posted by Kwantsar at 2:05 PM on October 1, 2005

I second Fooled by Randomness- I just finished it last weekend and plan to read it again soon. It was enjoyable and thought-provoking, and it left me with a list of other books/authors/thinkers to look into.

Probably the two most readable business-oriented authors I've read were Andy Kessler (Wall Street Meat, Running Money) and Michael Lewis (Liar's Poker). To hear them tell it, both ended up in the financial industry by mistake, so they have interesting perspectives on the types of personalities that drive the industry, for better or worse, and on what the real forces are that drive the economy. Their books also have a tendency to make me laugh out loud in public places.
posted by MonkeyMeat at 2:25 PM on October 1, 2005

I second When Genius Failed. All of Lowenstein is fabulous, actually. Read his The Great Bubble and Its Undoing and especially Buffett.

Another excellent author is Ron Chernow. I recommend his House of Morgan, a huge history of JP Morgan (the company).

Read Wheelan's Naked Economics for a eminently practical overview of economics topics with no math.

My Amazon wishlist has a bunch of other similarly themed books that may interest you also.
posted by qslack at 2:29 PM on October 1, 2005

Benjamin Graham's Intelligent Investor. There's a good new edition with commentary from Jason Schwarz, and many pointers to further reading.

I enjoyed When Genius Failed and Fooled by Randomness too.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:31 PM on October 1, 2005

Joseph Nocera takes shots at Fooled by Randomness in todays NYTimes, by the way. And there is the fact that he failed to make his ideas work in the marketplace....

Nocera himself has a few books worth reading.

Anything at all by James Grant is well worth reading (not that he makes piles either, but his prose is wonderful). Start with Money of the Mind and keep going.

The Great Wave by David Hackett Fischer for bit of history.

And, for taxes through the ages, For Good and Evil by Charles Adams.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:10 PM on October 1, 2005

A popular and accessible game theory book was by Dixit and Nalebuff called "Thinking Strategically." Its subtitle is reminiscent of almost every business book ever written ("The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics and Everyday Life"), but it actually is a really easy introduction to the topic. It was mass published years ago, so you should be able to find it pretty cheap.

Pankaj Ghemawat's "Games Businesses Play" has a much more challenging set of cases in game theory (it has some math), but it's fairly pricey. "Game Theory for Applied Economists" by Gibbons is a fairly readable, not absurdly priced undergraduate textbook.

My favorite business/finance book I've read in the past year or two is "Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation" by Edward Chancellor. It's an incredible book - I can't recommend it highly enough.
posted by milkrate at 4:32 PM on October 1, 2005

Especially if you're into international economics, you might look at The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Edradicating Poverty Through Profits, by C.K. Prahalad. It's an interesting read on how markets, multinationals, and capitalism can be a model for changing the developing world (in contrast with the "charity" mechanism). Whether you agree with his theories and case studies or not, it's an interesting read on a possible new direction for business.
posted by whatzit at 10:07 AM on October 2, 2005

The Prize by Daniel Yergin is a history of oil (as of 1992 or so) and how it affected world history in the 20th century. Much more fun than it sounds.
posted by yerfatma at 10:09 AM on October 2, 2005

The Prize was the first thing that I thought of, too. It's absolutely fascinating (a word which I like to pronounce as 'faskinating'.)
posted by neuron at 12:54 PM on October 2, 2005

Just adding another vote for Fooled by Randomness
posted by striker at 6:38 AM on October 3, 2005

And of course, Northcote Parkinson, starting with his law.

Peter Drucker is always worth while
posted by IndigoJones at 9:14 AM on October 3, 2005

Response by poster: I can't wait, I was looking to get the Morgan biography/story a couple months ago I'll have to pick that up and pretty much everything on this list. This is a lot better than the "Rich Kid, Poor Dad" every bookstore seems to put at the front in the "Business" section.
posted by geoff. at 12:15 PM on October 3, 2005

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