Must-Read Books

Frank Zappa was fond of saying, “So many books, so little time.” If you are a young professional aspiring to lead and impact organizations, you may resonate with this statement. I’d like to introduce you to top books that are tested and provide a plethora of takeaways that will catapult you into a more effective young professional. If you don’t know what books to read, this is an awesome list to start with.

Literally thousands of business books are published each year, each with the potential to promote change and enlighten the way people think about business. 800-CEO-Read began recognizing these efforts in 2007 with the 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards, highlighting the best works in a number of categories. Each book is judged on the originality and applicability of its ideas and the quality of its content. Here’s the top books awarded in 2o13!

General Business

Winner: Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power by Steve Coll

Steve Coll’s case study detailing the extraordinary operation of ExxonMobil is an impartial peek into a world that, for most, is and always will be as opaque as the dense black matter they deal in. Readers are privy to a wealth of insider stories, and along the way Coll’s narrative manages to impart some of the worldly wisdom that helps the corporation stay so successful. There’s nothing small about Private Empire: big money, big oil, big drama, 700 pages. Coll’s austere narrative is the most modest element present. But the publication of Private Empire could not be timelier; one can’t resist wondering how the most consistently profitable corporation in the U.S. will transform and be transformed by the changing energy market.

Runners up

Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business by Harley Manning
The Pirate Organization: Lessons from the Fringes of Capitalism by Rodolphe Durand
Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt
Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else by Chrystia Freeland

Winner: The Commitment Engine: Making Work Worth It by John Jantsch

Small business guru John Jantsch knows the importance of personal commitment, but from owning his own business and studying others, he knows that it’s just as important to generate commitment to your business, to your ideas and values, your story, your products and services, in others— particularly in your employees and customers, but also in the businesses you partner with. If you can set a clear purpose and build a business that generates commitment to it in others, then you can let go of the controls and watch as your business seemingly runs itself.

Runners up:

The Pause Principle: Step Back to Lead Forward by Kevin Cashman
Talk, Inc.: How Trusted Leaders Use Conversation to Power their Organizations by Boris Groysberg & Michael Slind
Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet
Vital Voices: The Power of Women Leading Change Around the World by Alyse Nelson


Winner: The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni

Dropping his usual parable style of writing, Lencioni unleashes a direct, non-fictfiction book that cuts through the important yet rarely addressed issue of interpersonal barriers within organizations. By deconstructing these barriers (and Lencioni shows us how), we can reach organizational health, which, according to the book, trumps everything else in business. We agree.

Runners up:

All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results by Adrian Gostick & Chester Elton
Judgment on the Front Line: How Smart Companies Win By Trusting Their People by Christopher DeRose & Noel Tichy
The Reinventors: How Extraordinary Companies Pursue Radical Continuous Change by Jason Jennings
Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business  by Frences Frei & Anne Morriss

Marketing & Sales

Winner: To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel Pink

With the emergence of sites such as Amazon, YELP, Expedia, and Groupon, people think that we no longer need to sell or be sold to—that these electronic resources can help us find everything
that we are looking for on our own. In To Sell is Human, Dan Pink not only demonstrates just how wrong this view is, but shows us that there is a new approach to moving people that involves three very human qualities and three surprising skills. Pink’s in-depth study offers a fresh, perceptive, and—most importantly—practical look at the art and science of selling, and his insightful observations on sales will transform how you think about what you do at work, at school, and at home.

Runners up:

The Art of the Sale: Learning from the Masters About the Business of Life by Philip Delves Broughton
The Face-to-Face Book: Why Real Relationships Rule in a Digital Marketplace by Ed Keller & Brad Fay
Likeonomics: The Unexpected Truth Behind Earning Trust, Influencing Behavior, and Inspiring Action by Rohit Bhargava
Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future by Jonah Sachs

Entrepreneurship & Small Business

Winner: The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau

This book is not about getting rich, and it’s not about being on the “leading edge.” It’s just a very well written guide to independence via entrepreneurship. Guillebeau offers insights on how to break away from the conventional workforce, but he augments his guidance with very relatable anecdotes and case studies that entertain, excite, and educate. The $100 Startup does offer cases in which people have made quite a bit of money, but the goal of the book is always to teach readers how to be self-supporting. This is the everyman’s guide to entrepreneurship.

Runners up:

The 20% Doctrine: How Tinkering, Goofing Off, and Breaking the Rules at Work Drive Success in Business by Ryan Tate
The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities by Will Allen with Charles Wilson
Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future by Leonard A. Schlesinger & Charles F. Keifer
The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s Most Exclusive School for Startups by Randall Stross

 Personal Development

Winner: So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport

Career advice of the “Do what you love” variety is usually followed up with a “bust out of your cubicle, sacrifice all, and follow your passion” anecdote of success. It’s the kind of advice that gets people who aren’t excited about their work to get excited about, well, doing anything but what they are doing. Cal Newport takes a different angle to finding fulfilling work, advising instead that passion is an unreliable advisor, and people actually long for and are fulfilled by becoming really, really good at something. Newport’s advocacy of “using the craftsman mindset to generate fantastic livelihoods” offers a refreshing alternative route to finding work you love.

Runners up:

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours by Robert C. Pozen
The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone–Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely
The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal

Innovation and Creativity

Winner: The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? by Seth Godin

The term “creative” often gets applied to a specific type of person. Godin shows us why that is wrong, how each of us can better understand what we are capable of, and what a huge resource of innovation that understanding can offer. Before addressing any challenge, we first must address ourselves. Godin shows us the way.

Runners up:

Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age by Steven Johnson
Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back by Andrew Zolli & Ann Marie Healy
The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don’t by Nate Silver
Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World by Sam Sommers

 Finance & Economics

Winner: Finance and the Good Society by Robert J. Shiller

Financial Capitalism has a rather well deserved black eye coming out of a global economic crisis largely of its creation. Robert J. Shiller makes no apologies for the industry or those in it, but takes a longer view showing how financial innovation has advanced human goals and agency throughout history and can still be a force of good in society. He very adeptly and academically lays out the roles and responsibilities of the individuals within finance, and the role of finance within the larger society. Shiller shows how, instead of demonizing finance, we could be doing our best to democratize it. Rather than a more profound anger, he provides a deeper understanding and defines solutions to the current problems in the system.

Runners up:

All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending by Laura Vanderkam
Bull by the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself by Sheila Bair
The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk Taking, Gut Feelings and the Biology of Boom and Bust by John Coates
Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson