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February 15, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Great Reads
Is there such a thing as a business book for beach reading? If we define a beach read as a fast-moving narrative that allows us to lose ourselves in the story—and, for some of us, the kind of book we wouldn’t read during the rest of the year—then the answer is yes. These 10 titles from the last 10 years were chosen for their excellent narrative flow and widespread appeal.
The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook; A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal, by Ben Mezrich
The source material for the hit movie The Social Network, this book succeeds largely because of Mezrich’s ability to distill a massive commercial and cultural phenomenon into a story of friendship and falling-out. That Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, and the Winklevoss twins are now a part of our pop pantheon speaks to Mezrich’s ability to write about real people as though they were fictional characters. This is a business book that reads like a thriller.
The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes, by Bryan Burrough
By the 1950s, four oil-rich Texas families had emerged as some of the richest in America, yet almost no one outside the state even knew they existed. Burrough chronicles three generations of these colorful oilmen, whose legacy includes the birth of the ultraconservative political movement and the archetype of the flamboyant Texas oilman, TV character J. R. Ewing. A tale of bitter competition, family feuds, booms, and busts that more than lives up to the legends.
The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World, by David Kirkpatrick
The author’s unprecedented access to CEO Mark Zuckerberg is but one of the strengths of this compelling narrative. Facebook continues to make news almost daily, yet this warts-and-all account offers an invaluable time capsule of the social-media phenomenon’s ups and downs—and, let’s face it, they’ve been mostly ups. Both a gripping story and an intriguing, almost participatory, read.
The Fall of the House of Forbes: The Inside Story of the Collapse of a Media Empire, by Stewart Pinkerton
Pinkerton, former managing editor of Forbes, had a front-row seat at the breathtaking decline of an iconic American journalism brand. Beginning with a portrait of the eccentric Malcolm Forbes, he details the fierce internecine family and business squabbles that accompanied every misstep in the move from print to the web as the media giant fell. Pinkerton sees the decline of Forbes as a “business parable with undercurrents of Greek tragedy,” and we’re compelled to agree.
Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker, by Kevin Mitnick and William L. Simon
Mitnick was at one time the most-wanted computer hacker in the country, perhaps the world. Here he reveals, in minute detail, how he obtained some of the most closely guarded secrets of the computer industry, how he eluded the FBI for years by living under false identities, and how one corporate IT security manager ultimately beat him at his own game. This reads like Frank Abagnale Jr.’s Catch Me if You Can (1980) and Steve McVicker’s I Love You Phillip Morris (2003)—with a high-tech twist.
Groupon’s Biggest Deal Ever: The Inside Story of How One Insane Gamble, Tons of Unbelievable Hype, and Millions of Wild Deals Made Billions for One Ballsy Joker, by Frank Sennett
Is Groupon founder Andrew Mason a plucky entrepreneur, a politically incorrect prankster, a sharp-as-a-tack computer programmer, or a gambler with nerves of steel, no matter how much money is on the table? As this lively and entertaining account explains, Mason is all of those things and more. Sennett shares scoop after inside scoop in a jaunty prose style, leading our reviewer to wonder whether, like Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires, this fascinating story is destined for the silver screen.
Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture, by David Kushner
In video-game years, Doom may be ancient history, but its status in the pantheon of first-person shooter games qualifies it as a bona fide legend. Kushner cracks open the dark world of John Carmack and John Romero, creators of Doom and other blockbuster computer games, and reading this fascinating underground tale is as addictive as the games themselves. This is a true antihero story for our time, with computer geeks turned rock stars birthing a new cyberculture.
Ponzi: The Man and His Legendary Scheme, by Mitchell Zuckoff
“Ponzi scheme” has long been part of our lexicon, and Ponzi schemers continue to operate to this day. (One of the most recent, Bernie Madoff, was also one of the most successful.) But what of its namesake? In 1920, at the height of his operations, Charles Ponzi had a large staff, salespeople, and numerous branches throughout the Northeast—and his “customers” included many in Boston’s police force. Zuckoff spins the yarn so well that readers can’t help rooting for the deluded Ponzi, all the way to the heartbreaking conclusion.
The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It, by Scott Patterson
Proving Mark Twain’s point that “truth is stranger than fiction,” Patterson tells the tale of the global financial meltdown in 2007 via a new breed of investor, the Quants, elite math geniuses who exchanged the hunches of risk-taking traders for advanced mathematical tools. Their ascendancy to the heights and then extraordinary fall to near extinction is a remarkable story, as is the possibility that they all will rise from the ashes. Must-read material on a still-resonant phenomenon.
When Hollywood Had a King: The Reign of Lew Wasserman, Who Leveraged Talent into Power and Influence, by Connie Bruck
Lew Wasserman’s career as head of Universal Studios demonstrated a kind of epic symmetry: by freeing the stars of the 1940s from the servitude of studio contracts, he had effectively ended the era of the movie moguls, only to become the greatest mogul of them all. With the gusto of Howard Cosell at ringside, Bruck reports on business coup after business coup, showing not only how Wasserman roped his dopes but also how he acquired the leverage to do so. A riveting account of a legendary Tinseltown power broker.
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