Business Books on Ambition, Culture, Power and Decision-Making

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It's August—hard to believe!—and I hope you will still get some vacation time in at the lake, beach or mountains perhaps, or even your front porch. To accompany you, here are some business book suggestions. One note: An esteemed colleague here, unaware of my list, told me yesterday how much Powerful (see book 3) is changing her thinking.

The first two are from a Washington Post article:

The Ambition Decisions: What Women Know About Work, Family, and the Path to Building a Life
by Hana Schank and Elizabeth Wallace
"Books about women's careers are often written by executives with billions to spare, academics with little experience in the corporate trenches or celebrities whose lives seem to barely resemble those of most professional working womens. Journalists Wallace and Schank took a different route, interviewing the careers of sorority sisters from Northwestern University in the early 1990s about the decisions they've made and strategies they've taken about their work, their lives and their families."

The King of Content: Sumner Redstone's Battle for Viacom, CBS, and Everlasting Control of His Media Empire
by Keach Hagey
"The power struggles that have surrounded Viacom and CBS are like the background noise of the business news pages -- seemingly always there, yet somehow not rising to attention unless you're closely listening for it. Yet it is an epic story that takes a book to examine, one filled with legal conflicts, boardroom battles, angry ex-girlfriends, family drama and a 95-year-old media mogul whose health, Hagey wrote in April in the Wall Street Journal, where she is a reporter, 'has declined so significantly he cannot speak much beyond grunts.'" 

Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility
by Patty McCord
"The former chief talent officer at Netflix, McCord led human resources at the streaming video company when a popular slide deck about its culture went viral years ago. With the title 'Freedom & Responsibility,' the slides described how Netflix thinks about retention ('adequate performance gets a generous severance package'), hiring (no 'brilliant jerks') and its efforts to curtail 'rule creep' (the company was one of the first to say it had no vacation policy). Now a consultant, McCord promotes the idea of 'radical honesty in the workplace.'"

From The New Yorker:
The Prodigal Tongue
by Lynne Murphy
"The story of how the British and American forms of English came to be seen as foes, despite their underlying friendship, is told here with wry humo(u)r and scholarly acumen. History plays a role: after 1776, 'rejecting the King's English was another way to reject the King.' But despite the efforts of reactionaries—some British philologists advocated a return to Old English—and of spelling modernizers like Noah Webster, the lexicon remains our common property. The author, a scholar of linguistics, revels in the minutiae of spelling, grammar, and usage, and her love of our living, changing language is infectious. When we communicate, she writes, 'we're not robots. We're poets.'"

Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have all the Facts
by Annie Duke
"This book's sub-hed describes exactly what leaders so often have to do: Make decisions before they know everything. And for those interested in getting ideas from diverse fields, Duke's background certainly offers one: A former World Series of Poker champion, she was earlier awarded a National Science Foundation fellowship to study cognitive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Duke is now a business consultant who speaks and coaches on decision strategy with corporate clients, the lessons of which are distilled in this book."

And a popular one from last year:

Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction
by Derek Thompson
"'Going viral' may have become the pop culture holy grail, but Thompson says it is no accident which songs, products, movies and ideas soar to the top of the charts and which fizzle out," writes The Washington Post. (And no, it has nothing to do with quality.) "There is a way for people to engineer hits," writes Thompson, a senior editor at the Atlantic, "and, equally important, a way for other people to know when popularity is being engineered." He delves into the history of Instagram and explains how a 5th grader helped catapult "Rock Around the Clock" into one of Rock 'n' Roll's biggest hits.

And here are two more I've written about earlier:

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink

A Member Is Worth a Thousand Visitors by Rob Ristagno

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…