The Five Best Business Books I Read in 2014

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Business books are a big part of my life. I help my clients write their books and I evaluate business book manuscripts for publishers. I also read them because I love the learning and insight. Here is a list of the five best books that I read for the first time in 2014.

The Five Best Business Books I Read for the First Time in 2014

Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less by Robert I. Sutton and Huggy Rao. This is as good a business book as you will ever read. It’s about an important topic. It’s superbly researched. And it’s well written, rich in stories and examples.

Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long
by David Rock. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to be more effective. I learned two kinds of things from this book. I learned new things about how to do things so I can be more productive. But I also discovered the science to explain why some things worked for me.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. My friend Stephen Lynch introduced me to the idea of the crew of a racing shell as a model for teamwork, so when I heard about this book, it was on my Kindle within the hour. You’ll learn a lot about teamwork and heroism. The bonus for me was that I also learned about competitive rowing in the 1920s and 1930s and about the 1936 Olympics.

The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee I love “big sweep” books, the ones that take a view across decades or centuries and offer an explanation of why things happened the way they did and what might happen next. This is one of those books, well written and supported with excellent research.

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson. I have a special view of this book, because I knew many of the characters and experienced many of the things Isaacson writes about. Based on that, I can say that Isaacson gets the important things right and portrays the characters fairly. He’s also a wonderful storyteller.

A Re-Discovered Treasure

I do a lot of re-reading, going back to books I found valuable before. Almost every year I also re-discover a book I haven’t read for decades. This year I re-discovered Leaders: Profiles and Reminiscences of Men Who Have Shaped the Modern World by Richard Nixon.

Nixon modeled his book on Churchill’s Great Contemporaries. It is an insightful analysis of selected world leaders in the period following World War II. If you study leadership, this should be on your must-read list.

Best Business Books of 2014

A year-end several people compile their selections for the best business books of the year. Click here for pointers to four excellent lists of the best business books of 2014.

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What People Are Saying

Michael McKinney   |   02 Jan 2015   |   Reply

Good list Wally.
The Boys in the Boat is a great book that every leader should read. So much real life leadership demonstrated in that story. I also like Nixon’s Leaders book. He had some good insights into each of the lives he writes about.

Wally Bock   |   02 Jan 2015   |   Reply

Thanks for the kind words, Michael. I first heard about the book from a businessperson I interviewed on a book project. He told me it was he best book he had ever read on teamwork.