Presented by Financial Times and funded by the the management consultancy firm McKinsey & Compan, the Business Book of the Year Award, first presented in 2005, goes to the book that provides “the most compelling and enjoyable” insight into modern business issues as determined by Lionel Barber, editor of Financial Times, and a panel of academics, writers and business people.
This week, Financial Times announced that Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez, Christopher Leonard’s Kochland, Gregory Zuckerman’s The Man Who Solved the Market, The Third Pillar by Raghuram Rajan, and David Epstein’s Range have been nominated for the Award. The winner will be announced on December 3rd.
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff
In this masterwork of original thinking and research, Shoshana Zuboff provides startling insights into the phenomenon that she has named surveillance capitalism. The stakes could not be higher: a global architecture of behavior modification threatens human nature in the twenty-first century just as industrial capitalism disfigured the natural world in the twentieth.
Zuboff vividly brings to life the consequences as surveillance capitalism advances from Silicon Valley into every economic sector. Vast wealth and power are accumulated in ominous new “behavioral futures markets,” where predictions about our behavior are bought and sold, and the production of goods and services is subordinated to a new “means of behavioral modification.”
The threat has shifted from a totalitarian Big Brother state to a ubiquitous digital architecture: a “Big Other” operating in the interests of surveillance capital. Here is the crucible of an unprecedented form of power marked by extreme concentrations of knowledge and free from democratic oversight. Zuboff’s comprehensive and moving analysis lays bare the threats to twenty-first century society: a controlled “hive” of total connection that seduces with promises of total certainty for maximum profit—at the expense of democracy, freedom, and our human future.
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Kochland by Christopher Leonard
The annual revenue of Koch Industries is bigger than that of Goldman Sachs, Facebook, and U.S. Steel combined. Koch is everywhere: from the fertilizers that make our food to the chemicals that make our pipes to the synthetics that make our carpets and diapers to the Wall Street trading in all these commodities. But few people know much about Koch Industries and that’s because the billionaire Koch brothers want it that way.
For five decades, CEO Charles Koch has kept Koch Industries quietly operating in deepest secrecy, with a view toward very, very long-term profits. He’s a genius businessman: patient with earnings, able to learn from his mistakes, determined that his employees develop a reverence for free-market ruthlessness, and a master disrupter. These strategies have made him and his brother David together richer than Bill Gates.
But there’s another side to this story. If you want to understand how we killed the unions in this country, how we widened the income divide, stalled progress on climate change, and how our corporations bought the influence industry, all you have to do is read this book.
Seven years in the making, Kochland reads like a true-life thriller, with larger-than-life characters driving the battles on every page. The book tells the ambitious tale of how one private company consolidated power over half a century—and how in doing so, it helped transform capitalism into something that feels deeply alienating to many Americans today.
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Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
Data is fundamental to the modern world. From economic development, to healthcare, to education and public policy, we rely on numbers to allocate resources and make crucial decisions. But because so much data fails to take into account gender, because it treats men as the default and women as atypical, bias and discrimination are baked into our systems. And women pay tremendous costs for this bias, in time, money, and often with their lives.
Celebrated feminist advocate Caroline Criado Perez investigates shocking root cause of gender inequality and research in Invisible Women†‹, diving into women’s lives at home, the workplace, the public square, the doctor’s office, and more. Built on hundreds of studies in the US, the UK, and around the world, and written with energy, wit, and sparkling intelligence, this is a groundbreaking, unforgettable exposé that will change the way you look at the world.
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The Man Who Solved the Market by Gregory Zuckerman
Jim Simons is the greatest money maker in modern financial history. No other investor—Warren Buffett, Peter Lynch, Ray Dalio, Steve Cohen, or George Soros—can touch his record. Since 1988, Renaissance’s signature Medallion fund has generated average annual returns of 66 percent. The firm has earned profits of more than $100 billion; Simons is worth twenty-three billion dollars.
Drawing on unprecedented access to Simons and dozens of current and former employees, Zuckerman, a veteran Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, tells the gripping story of how a world-class mathematician and former code breaker mastered the market. Simons pioneered a data-driven, algorithmic approach that’s sweeping the world.
As Renaissance became a market force, its executives began influencing the world beyond finance. Simons became a major figure in scientific research, education, and liberal politics. Senior executive Robert Mercer is more responsible than anyone else for the Trump presidency, placing Steve Bannon in the campaign and funding Trump’s victorious 2016 effort. Mercer also impacted the campaign behind Brexit.
The Man Who Solved the Market is a portrait of a modern-day Midas who remade markets in his own image, but failed to anticipate how his success would impact his firm and his country. It’s also a story of what Simons’s revolution means for the rest of us.
The Third Pillar by Raghuram Rajan
Raghuram Rajan, distinguished University of Chicago professor, former IMF chief economist, head of India’s central bank has an unparalleled vantage point onto the social and economic consequences of globalization and their ultimate effect on our politics. In The Third Pillar he offers up a magnificent big-picture framework for understanding how these three forces—the state, markets, and our communities—interact, why things begin to break down, and how we can find our way back to a more secure and stable plane.
The “third pillar” of the title is the community we live in. Economists all too often understand their field as the relationship between markets and the state, and they leave squishy social issues for other people. That’s not just myopic, Rajan argues; it’s dangerous. All economics is actually socioeconomics – all markets are embedded in a web of human relations, values and norms. As he shows, throughout history, technological phase shifts have ripped the market out of those old webs and led to violent backlashes, and to what we now call populism. Eventually, a new equilibrium is reached, but it can be ugly and messy, especially if done wrong.
Right now, we’re doing it wrong. As markets scale up, the state scales up with it, concentrating economic and political power in flourishing central hubs and leaving the periphery to decompose, figuratively and even literally. Instead, Rajan offers a way to rethink the relationship between the market and civil society and argues for a return to strengthening and empowering local communities as an antidote to growing despair and unrest. Rajan is not a doctrinaire conservative, so his ultimate argument that decision-making has to be devolved to the grass roots or our democracy will continue to wither, is sure to be provocative. But even setting aside its solutions, The Third Pillar is a masterpiece of explication, a book that will be a classic of its kind for its offering of a wise, authoritative and humane explanation of the forces that have wrought such a sea change in our lives.
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein
Plenty of experts argue that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. If you dabble or delay, you’ll never catch up to the people who got a head start. But a closer look at research on the world’s top performers, from professional athletes to Nobel laureates, shows that early specialization is the exception, not the rule.
David Epstein examined the world’s most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters and scientists. He discovered that in most fields—especially those that are complex and unpredictable—generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t see.
Provocative, rigorous, and engrossing, Range makes a compelling case for actively cultivating inefficiency. Failing a test is the best way to learn. Frequent quitters end up with the most fulfilling careers. The most impactful inventors cross domains rather than deepening their knowledge in a single area. As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will increasingly thrive.