Tuesday night, the Financial Times and McKinsey named their business book of the year: Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century. It's a decision that comes as a surprise to...well, no one. The economist's much-discussed tome on inequality has gotten the kind of attention that's usually reserved for the latest edition of Harry Potter.
Last week, the magazine Strategy+Business (published by the consultants at PwC Strategy& Inc.) also named their best business books of 2014, which included seven books from different categories. Of course, Capital was on their list too, as were books by John Kotter, Eric Schmidt and the novelist Dave Eggers.
But one book that was missing from these two sets of awards was Ben Horowitz's The Hard Thing About Hard Things, which I relished reading earlier this year. The venture capitalist and Silicon Valley consigliere penned a management guide that is smart, blunt, funny and accessible, devoid of the usual cliches and jargon that make so many business books dreadful.
Horowitz's book achieved something rare. (And I'm not talking about his editor's willingness to quote the hip-hop star Nas in a business book.) It managed to be both practical and credible, without resorting to the overly simplistic formulas and bullet-point management tips that have become standard in the genre. He addresses day-to-day realities that most business guides don't, such as how to demote or fire a friend and how to minimize office politics. The guidance may particularly resonate with hoodie-wearing Silicon Valley types, given Horowitz's own career, but its refreshing and plain-spoken candor makes it valuable for readers across industries.
One list that did recognize Horowitz's book was Amazon's just-released Top 100 Books of 2014, which also included Walter Isaacson's The Innovators, Peter Thiel's Zero to One and, naturally, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Other authors On Leadership interviewed in 2014 who made Amazon's list include Sophia Amoruso (author of #GIRLBOSS), Christian Rudder (Dataclysm), Daniel Levitin (The Organized Mind), Bob Sutton (Scaling Up Excellence) and Ed Catmull (Creativity, Inc., which was also recognized by the FT and McKinsey).
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