Books to Help You Understand the Business World

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The number of so-called business gurus has become untenable. These days, anyone with a YouTube account could be your next financial advisor, your next professor, or your new lifestyle coach. It’s become something of a problem—so much so that professional researchers and scientists have begun posting memes about the difference between their job and that of a self-professed social media expert. 

Self-publishing, too, has grown in popularity; the idea that your book has worth because you say it does and no publisher has a right to decide is included in poptimism’s spirit. Though there are still some books you’ll find discussed on both a professor’s syllabus and a YouTube playlist, here are the best books to help you understand the business world. 

Barbarians at the Gate 

It’s certainly important for one entering a job in business and finance to understand just how dangerous excess and greed can be. For that, you need a case study. The epic story of the $25 billion leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco in 1988 by Kohlberg Kravis Robert, as told by journalists Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, is precisely that. 

Burrough and Helyar offer a fly-on-the-wall perspective of the investment banking industry gone berserk when F. Ross Johnson, CEO of RJR Nabisco who had no interest in anything but retaining his personal wealth, attempted a leveraged buyout. His greed is nothing compared to that of the corporate raiders who ultimately seize the company. 

The book plays out like a tragedy, while the movie takes a more lighthearted approach, casting James Garner as Johnson. Both are excellent examples of the “Gordon Gekko” approach to business that characterized the decade. 

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Eighty years later and Dale Carnegie’s book is still incredibly relevant to any aspiring entrepreneur. Not only does it contain information on improving your abilities to socialize, but it’s also loaded with interesting and valuable historical examples to back it up.

The book has a surprising amount of helpful information, but it also includes a guide on what you need to start your own business, such as building clientele and pitching a concept. 

It’s easy for one to think that an 80-year-old book would be a little dated, and it is. Fortunately, there have been numerous editions throughout the years, the most recent of which includes a section on digital etiquette. 

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Ben Horowitz’s book is a relatively new addition to any business reading list, but it’s probably the most important. Horowitz is brave enough to take ideas from places you might not even be comfortable with at first, opening with a quote from Karl Marx (Horowitz’s parents were both communists). However, the hard truths that he spells out are some of the most difficult to appreciate. Most business books prescribe solutions to problems. The fact of the matter is that, sometimes, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. That’s when you need to be pragmatic. 

Kenny Hedges | Contributing Writer 

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