My Favourite Business Biographies of 2013

I read a lot of great biographies in 2013, below I pick my top 5 best business biographies of 201 and why you should consider reading them too.

Lean In

Publisher Description: Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg examines why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential.
Why Read this Book: There was a great deal of controversy about this book and its associated TED talk (Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders). It's a well written book that brings up a wealth of good ideas and practices we should all work towards. In particular, it drives home the point that increasing the number of women at the top of their fields will benefit everyone. A point I can attest to as some of my most effective bosses have been women. Additionally, she asks men to be real partners and share in the family work, something which is becoming common for the millenials but still needs to be pointed out to older generations who may still hold the traditional views. On the negative side, sometimes the messenger herself makes it hard to believe that everyone can have it all, given her wealth and status which affords her the opportunity to hire an veritable army of family help. Definitely worth reading this book!

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

Publisher Description: started off delivering books through the mail. But its visionary founder, Jeff Bezos, wasn't content with being a bookseller. He wanted Amazon to become the everything store, offering limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptively low prices. To do so, he developed a corporate culture of relentless ambition and secrecy that's never been cracked. Until now. Brad Stone enjoyed unprecedented access to current and former Amazon employees and Bezos family members, giving readers the first in-depth, fly-on-the-wall account of life at Amazon. Compared to tech's other elite innovators--Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg--Bezos is a private man. But he stands out for his restless pursuit of new markets, leading Amazon into risky new ventures like the Kindle and cloud computing, and transforming retail in the same way Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing.
Why Read this Book: Amazon is a bit of an enigma for me, for the consumer it has created an incredible amount of goodwill. Cheaper prices, greater access to products, an incredible user interface that recommends products before you even know you want them and all shipped to your doorstep the next day. For the speculator it has been an incredible purchase but for the investor I'm always skeptical as they spend so much on infrastructure that Amazon rarely makes a profit. This book takes you deep inside the company and gives an intimate portrait of Amazon and Jeff Bezos. After reading it, I still would like to see some profits from this well run company but you get a much better appreciation for how great the company is in general. Another interesting tidbit is that someone claiming to be Jeff Bezos wife wrote a horrible review on Amazon , curious as to if it's real.

The Duck Commander Family: How Faith, Family, and Ducks Built a Dynasty

Publisher Description: This Louisiana bayou family operates Duck Commander, a booming family business that has made them millions. You’ll hear all about the Robertson clan from Willie and what it was like growing up in the Robertson household. You’ll sample some of Willie’s favorite family recipes from Phil, Kay, and even some of his own concoctions; and you’ll get to know the beautiful Robertson women. You’ll hear from Korie about the joys and hardships of raising a family, running a business, and wrangling the Robertson men while staying fashionable and beautiful inside and out. Discover more about the family dynamics between brothers Willie, Jase, Jep, and parents Phil and Kay.
Why Read this Book: My guilty pleasure, along with a good chunk of the rest of North America is watching Duck Dynasty. An ecentric family with a lot of humour and love for each other, what could be more entertaining. This book takes you inside the family to learn more about them and how they created a huge family business. Its always nice hearing about people who make money outside of tech and wall street, which seems to get all the business media attention.

The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters

Publisher Description: Far from the limelight, Aubrey McClendon, Harold Hamm, Mark Papa, and other wildcatters were determined to tap massive deposits of oil and gas that Exxon, Chevron, and other giants had dismissed as a waste of time. By experimenting with hydraulic fracturing through extremely dense shale—a process now known as fracking—the wildcatters started a revolution. In just a few years, they solved America’s dependence on imported energy, triggered a global environmental controversy—and made and lost astonishing fortunes.
Why Read this Book: A really well written book about an industry that is changing the North American energy landscape. The characters that started many of the main companies in this industry are also incredibly ecentric to the level of Uncle Si on Duck Dynasty.

Jim Henson: The Biography

Publisher Description: An uncommonly intimate portrait, Jim Henson captures all the facets of this American original: the master craftsman who revolutionized the presentation of puppets on television, the savvy businessman whose dealmaking prowess won him a reputation as “the new Walt Disney,” and the creative team leader whose collaborative ethos earned him the undying loyalty of everyone who worked for him. Here also is insight into Henson’s intensely private personal life: his Christian Science upbringing, his love of fast cars and expensive art, and his weakness for women. Though an optimist by nature, Henson was haunted by the notion that he would not have time to do all the things he wanted to do in life—a fear that his heartbreaking final hours would prove all too well founded.
Why Read this Book: There is a reason why in the original Apple Think Differently commerical, Jim Henson was one of the individuals highlighted. A creative genius who took an existing art form and created something that most of us couldn't imagine our childhood's without. But like the rest of us he had his flaws and this book takes a closer look at his flawed private life as well as the groundbreaking public life.

By Jon Eickmeier | November 26, 2013 | books curated reviews business biographies best of 2013

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