As you know by now, we are celebrating all things bookish by recognizing the 12 days of Bookmas, that most wonderful time of the year. This year I’m going to profile a small selection of favourite things on a theme, based on what I’ve read and enjoyed in 2015. To me, Bookmas goes beyond Christmas Day until the end of the holidays themselves. If you have suggestions or recommendations for topics, please leave them in the comments.
Today’s theme is Business Reads for the Future (or current) Tycoon
Business books continue to blow up the best-seller pages, and for good reason: they are no longer the boring tomes of the past, with more statistical analysis than you could possibly need. Today’s books focus on specific targets and individuals who facilitate change in today’s business world.
Probably the name most recognized this year is that of Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future. As CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, his name-recognition factor is massive, but there are still surprises in his biography by Ashlee Vance. The book chronicles Musk’s life from his early and troubled South African childhood where he was severely bullied, to his involvement in Internet start-ups like PayPal, Tesla and the solar power installation company Solar City.
I’ll confess to not knowing much about Musk’s background – including that we were at Queen’s University at the same time! – and that he is half-Canadian via his mother. Vance does a great job of showing the person behind the persona, but also makes us realize that Musk is an incredibly driven, and therefore sometimes a difficult, person to work for. Musk’s intensity can be overwhelming, even just from the page, so working for him must be equal parts exhilarating and exhausting.
Elon Musk is published by HarperCollins Canada. ISBN: 9780062301239, 400 pages.
The runaway best seller of the season has to be Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder and One Man’s Quest for Justice – a real-life political thriller that could rival Jason Bourne for excitement and intrigue. Author Browder was a financier who ended up managing the largest investment fund in Russia after the country’s collapse. He made enemies in the government by exposing corrupt procedures and was expelled, helpless to watch as, two years later, law enforcement officers raided his offices and stole over $20 million dollars in funds. When Browder’s lawyer complained, he was taken into custody, and eventually tortured and beaten to death.
Red Notice is Browder’s story of what went down, and his mission to achieve justice for the death of his friend. While we think we know all about the levels of corruption present in Russia, the layers go far deeper than we could possibly imagine, and the information is truly horrifying at times. What saves this book is the human element; Browder does an excellent job of keeping the reader grounded by giving his viewpoint on events, complete with opinions and insight.
Red Notice is published by Simon & Schuster Canada. ISBN: 9781476755717, 416 pages.
Losing the Signal is the riveting, never-before-told story of one of the most spectacular technological upsets of the 21st century. Unlike Enron, which was undone by its executives’ illegal activities, or Lehman Brothers, which collapsed as part of a larger global banking crisis, BlackBerry’s rise and fall is a modern-day tale of the unrelenting speed of success and failure. It is a thrilling account of how two mismatched CEOs outsmarted more-powerful competitors with a combination of innovation and sharp-elbowed tactics; and how, once on top of the world, they lost their way. The company responded too slowly to competitors’ innovations, and when it finally made its move, it stumbled with delayed, poorly designed and unpopular smartphones. A little more than a decade after Research In Motion introduced the BlackBerry, it is now struggling to survive.
As a Canadian, how could I not want to read this book? While I may be an Apple girl, the story of the rise and fall of Research in Motion (RIM), and the people affected by the company’s struggles is close to home for many. The two main players are as familiar to most Canadians as our hockey players, and there has been much speculation about the fall of Research in Motion from the heights it once held.
As with any business situation, hindsight is twenty-twenty, and it’s easier now to pinpoint where exactly things went wrong with the company and the relationship between the founders. Add to that the fragility of working in technology, an industry that has faster shifting sands than most, and it now seems as if RIM and Blackberry were destined to fall.
Losing the Signal is published by HarperCollins Canada. ISBN: 9781250060174, 320 pages.
Much as historical narratives have begun to captivate readers, so too have business narratives. Stories such as Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation by Dean Jobb have become very popular because of the incredulous nature of the truth.
As long as there has been finance, there have been con men who want to steal all the money. In the 1920’s, a lawyer named Leo Koretz managed to charm and swindle hundreds of people out of over $30 million dollars. He persuaded them that they were investing in oil wells in Panama and timber country before managing to escape. A tenacious clerk in the Cook County State’s Attorney office started a manhunt that finally tracked Koretz to a quiet new life in rural Nova Scotia, where he was a rare book dealer and literary critic.
Empire of Deception reads like a Hollywood blockbuster, and if it’s not already short-listed for a movie I’d be very surprised. It has all the elements of a great story – greed, power, charm, sex, money, adventure and a couple of great mysteries thrown in for good measure.
Empire of Deception is published by Algonquin Books, and is distributed by HarperCollins Canada. ISBN: 9781443441087, 352 pages.
I’ll finish today’s list with a recommendation from family. My older brother swears by the “Strengthfinders” books when team-building, and has even used them with his family. There have been a few other books by Tom Rath since, but his latest, Are You Fully Charged? The Three Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life is getting great reviews from fans and critics alike.
This book focuses on ways to make sure you are making your days the best theycan be, not only for yourself but for those around you. Rath has faced physical challenges every year since being diagnosed with Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome, a genetic disorder that spurs growth of cancerous tumours. Each year, he must undergo a battery of test to track cancerous growths, and possibly receive chemo or other treatments. As he puts it, each year when he is released, he has another twelve months of life to live and to make a difference.
I’ve dived into Rath’s books before, but never actually sat down to read them, so this one is on my Christmas reading lists. As much as everyone talks about a work-life balance, I find that it’s a pretty elusive concept, and one that I need more direction about before I can make that happen.
Are You Fully Charged? The Three Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life is available from Missionday Books, distributed by Raincoast Books. ISBN: 9781939714039, 240 pages.