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Best Business Books 2017

In the 17th edition of our Best Business Books section, our crack team of reviewers has ferreted out the most inspiring, illuminating, and entertaining volumes of the past year. See also Best Business Books 2017 — in Pictures.

Read it and reap.

In this increasingly digital age, there’s still nothing like feeling the weight of a book in your hand. And even when a book comes to our phones, tablets, and other screens in weightless digital form, it’s still possible to feel the intellectual heft. At strategy+business, we value the longest of the long forms of content because of books’ ability to take us deep — deep inside narratives and stories, deep inside carefully constructed paradigms and schemas, deep inside brilliantly constructed arguments backed by meticulously compiled evidence.

Quick, hot takes may be all the rage in media today. But there is much to be said for cooler consideration. Which is why putting together s+b’s Best Business Books package — our 17th — is such a pleasure. Because we respect and value the labor of authors, each year we task gifted writers to pick out the three best books in a range of genres.

Platforms have become so pervasive in Silicon Valley that the term is becoming hackneyed. But in looking into the best volumes on innovation, James Surowiecki, the longtime business columnist at the New Yorker, zeroes in on the way data savants are using platforms to build new businesses — and a new future. The best of these savants argues, in a finding that is either amazing or dystopian, depending on your mind-set, that algorithms will increasingly make decisions for us. Although Ken Favaro, one of the most prolific and insightful contributors to s+b, finds strategy inspiration in books that deal with softer skills such as collaboration and mindfulness, he concludes that this year’s most compelling volume traffics in the nuts and bolts of building sustainable, profitable growth. There are few better practitioners of business narratives than Bethany McLean, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a coauthor of The Smartest Guys in the Room. Two of this year’s best business narratives, she concludes, deal in the perennially (and unfortunately) familiar subject of white-collar crime; the bizarre tale of a mysterious album and a notorious provocateur takes the honors as the best in class. In our roundup of leadership tracts, s+b contributing editor Sally Helgesen finds inspiration in the better angels of our nature. And although comparisons between sports and business are often imperfect, she concludes that we have much to learn from the ways brilliant captains marshal the skills and emotions of their teams. Economics is often known as the dismal science. Ryan Avent, a columnist at the Economist, reminds us why. This year’s best economics books help explain the muted expectations most people have about their economic prospects — and why inequality is a historical inevitability. This year’s best marketing books, veteran journalist Catharine P. Taylor argues, describe the sometimes Orwellian ways in which the vast retail and sales complex is harnessing data to construct compelling offerings. Finally, Duff McDonald, author of a recent sweeping history of Harvard Business School, has been known to cast a jaundiced eye on the professional practice of management. This year, he finds fresh cause for optimism in a more mindful and holistic management style from outsiders, including neuroscientists and military leaders.

Contents

s+b’s Top Shelf
Our picks for the best business books of 2017 in seven categories.

Innovation
The Platform Competition
by James Surowiecki

Strategy
Animal Spirits
by Ken Favaro

Narratives
Crimes, Not Misdemeanors
by Bethany McLean

Leadership
Captains Courageous and Agile
by Sally Helgesen

Economics
Not-So-Great Expectations
by Ryan Avent

Marketing
Steady Progress
by Catharine P. Taylor

Management
Mind Over Matter
by  Duff McDonald

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Best Business Books 2017