Business Book of the Year Award 2024: winners pick their favourites

Business Book of the Year Award 2024: winners pick their favourites

The search is on for 2024’s most compelling and enjoyable business book, with the launch of this round of the Financial Times and Schroders Business Book of the Year Award.

This year marks the 20th edition of the award: to celebrate, we asked past winners to name their favourite business book of all time, and to tell us which business books we should have picked for the £30,000 prize since it was launched in 2005.

We also asked what the authors would add to their own winning title if given the chance to update it to reflect events since publication.

Entrepreneur and angel investor Sherry Coutu and past winner Mohamed El-Erian are joining the judging panel this year.

Entries for the 2024 award can be made between April 22 and June 30. View past winners, finalists and longlisted books here.

Thomas Friedman, ‘The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century’ (2005)

Thomas Friedman

Favourite business book: Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

One we missed: How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything, by Dov Seidman. 

Update to winning title: The chapter I would add is why everyone who wrote in 2005 that the world is not flat and getting flatter — in the way I meant it, that more people can connect, compete and collaborate in more ways, for less money and from more places — turned out to be so wrong.

Amy Edmondson, ‘Right Kind of Wrong: Why Learning to Fail Can Teach Us to Thrive’ (2023)

Amy Edmondson

Favourite: American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company, by Bryce Hoffman. Well researched, beautifully written and inspiring, the book also offers actionable management advice. I find it rare and reassuring to see a leadership exemplar celebrated in such granular detail. Mulally’s approach provides a playbook for leaders who want to make a real difference.

One we missed: The Radium Girls by Kate Moore is the story of young women who painted radium on to watch dials in the early 20th century. Nearly all developed horrendous mouth cancers, and their struggle helped lead to the creation of the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It’s beautifully written. 

Update: A new chapter, Wrong Kinds of Right, would explore business cases where success stories turn out to rest on fraudulent practices, perpetuated by cultures of silence and fear. It would underscore the need for transparency, patience and ambition to counterbalance external pressures, for companies to navigate uncertainty and achieve sustainable success.

Amy Goldstein, ‘Janesville: An American Story’ (2017)

Amy Goldstein

Favourite: The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck. A searing portrait of the Dust Bowl and migrant labour camps in the Great Depression, it has shown how fiction can mirror and influence society.

Update: My book looked at what happened after General Motors closed its assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, during the Great Recession. Since then, other businesses have moved in or expanded — but none employs the thousands GM did, few jobs are unionised and GM’s $28 an hour wages are a memory. The plant was bought by a company for redevelopment and demolished but the site remains bare, and the city government is talking about condemning and buying it.

Martin Ford, ‘The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of Mass Unemployment’ (2015)

Martin Ford

Favourite: Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson. A unique insight into the life and thinking of a remarkable genius.

One we missed: How the World Really Works: A Scientist’s Guide to Our Past, Present and Future, by Vaclav Smil. A realistic, engaging explanation of the challenges we face in areas such as energy and climate change. 

Update: When I wrote The Rise of the Robots, deep learning was in its infancy. Since, the technology has been extended to take us closer to true general artificial intelligence than I would have imagined by this point. So I would add a chapter on these recent innovations and what they mean for the future of AI and work performed by humans. 

Steve Coll, ‘Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power’ (2012)

Steve Coll

Favourite: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou.

One we missed: DisneyWar, by James B Stewart.

Update: The boardroom conflicts at ExxonMobil over climate change and the future of fossil fuels have only intensified since Private Empire was published. There is room for at least one dramatic chapter.

Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, ‘Poor Economics: Barefoot Hedge-fund Managers, DIY Doctors and the Surprising Truth about Life on Less than $1 a Day’ (2011)

Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo

Favourite: Buddenbrooks, by Thomas Mann. His masterpiece about the rise and fall of a bourgeois family is as close to a business book as a novel can be and still remain a page-turner.

Two we missed: An Infinite History: The Story of a Family in France Over Three Centuries, by Emma Rothschild. A fascinating exploration of social mobility. Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Baghdad’s Green Zone, by Rajiv Chandrasekaran. A brilliant illustration of what we called the three ‘i’s: ideology, ignorance and inertia and how they conspired to doom the US imperial project.

Update: We have just written a chapter pointing out what we guessed right and where we were wrong on global poverty — and what we missed that now seems inexplicable, such as climate change.

William Cohan, ‘The Last Tycoons: The Secret History of Lazard Frères & Co’ (2007)

William Cohan

Favourite: Point of No Return, by John Marquand. Captures well the dilemma facing ambitious young men who think Wall Street is the answer.

One we missed: Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — And Helped Save an American Town, by Beth Macy.

Update: A section on Lazard under Ken Jacobs, who ran the firm for more than 13 years after Bruce Wasserstein’s death. In that time Lazard’s share price fell by roughly 25 per cent, before Jacobs relented and stepped down in 2023. The question for new chief executive Peter Orszag, is: can Lazard be restored to its former lustre or has its time finally passed?

James Kynge, ‘China Shakes the World: The Rise of a Hungry Nation’ (2006)

James Kynge

Favourite: Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology, by Chris Miller.

One we missed: The Coming Wave: AI, Power and the 21st Century’s Greatest Dilemma, by Mustafa Suleyman with Michael Bhaskar.

Update: I would add a chapter on how China looks set to win the tech rivalry with the US.

Sarah Frier, ‘No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram’ (2020)

Sarah Frier

Favourite: The Lorax, by Dr Seuss. I still think about it often when I listen to executives pushing for unlimited growth. There is always a trade off.

One we missed: Number Go Up: Inside Crypto’s Wild Rise and Staggering Fall, by Zeke Faux. Such a fun, insightful and deeply reported read on the crypto craze.

Update: Instagram is relying more than ever on AI and algorithmic suggestion. What happens to our society when we stop choosing for ourselves what to read, watch and learn? 

Mohamed El-Erian, ‘When Markets Collide: Investment Strategies for the Age of Global Economic Change’ (2008)

Mohamed El-Erian

Favourite: Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk, by Peter Bernstein. An extraordinary exploration of the evolution of risk and risk management, which offers critical insights for decision makers across government, business and markets.

One we missed: The World for Sale: Money, Power and the Traders Who Barter the Earth’s Resources, by Javier Blas and Jack Farchy. 

Update: I would discuss how our generation is leaving our children and grandchildren not just a world full of the challenges I addressed in my book but also powerful new tools. From breakthroughs in artificial general intelligence to life sciences and greener energy, emerging generations possess better tools to tackle the era of “permacrisis” and to structurally enhance productivity in a way that fosters resilience, inclusion and sustainability, thereby paving the way to enduring economic prosperity.

Liaquat Ahamed, ‘Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke The World’ (2009)

Liaquat Ahamed

Favourite: The Warburgs: The Twentieth Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish Family, by Ron Chernow and Once in Golconda: A True Drama of Wall Street 1920-1938, by John Brooks.

One we missed: Too Big to Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin. A book that has truly stood the test of time as one of the most riveting and insightful narratives about Wall Street. 

Caroline Criado Perez, ‘Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men’ (2019)

Caroline Criado Perez

Favourite: Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?: A Story About Women and Economics by Katrine Marçal.

One we missed: Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?

Update: I am, in fact, writing a new chapter about how the gender data gap affected Covid responses around the world, and about developments in AI. The UK went into lockdown a little over a year after Invisible Women was published and so much that happened, from poorly fitting PPE for the female-dominated healthcare workforce, to the impact school closures had on women’s ability to engage in paid work, was like Invisible Women on speed.

Raghuram Rajan, ‘Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy’ (2010)

Raghuram Rajan

Favourite: How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie, which I read way back in school. There is a reason it is still popular.

One we missed: Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman.

Update: The point of my book, Fault Lines, was that it was not so much bad actors but bad systemic incentives that took the financial system over the cliff during the global financial crisis. As the recent bank failures and continuing weakness in regional banks in the US suggest, we have still not fully addressed the problem. I would write about that.

Sebastian Mallaby, ‘The Man Who Knew: The Life & Times of Alan Greenspan’ (2016)

Sebastian Mallaby

Favourite: The Money Game, by “Adam Smith”. 

One we missed: Too Big to Fail: Inside the Battle to Save Wall Street, by Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Update: I would add a postscript about the post-Covid inflation surge, which vindicated the view that central banks should factor rampant asset bubbles into setting interest rates. It’s not just the price of eggs that matters; consider the price of nest eggs.

Chris Miller, ‘Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology’ (2022)

Chris Miller

Favourite: The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power, by Daniel Yergin. A model combination of deep business and geopolitical analysis with extraordinary storytelling. 

One we missed: IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation, by Edwin Black. A bone-chilling examination of how companies can abet horrific crimes. Black explains in grim detail how America’s most advanced computing systems enabled Nazi efforts to count, classify and exterminate Germany’s Jews. Required reading for anyone involved in technology trade with authoritarian regimes today. 

Update: The biggest change since Chip War was the explosion of interest in AI. Now, as the world’s largest companies race to buy vast volumes of Nvidia’s chips, the company is shaping the future of AI — and in the process has become the world’s third most valuable company.

Brad Stone, ‘The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon’ (2013)

Brad Stone

Favourite: Titan: The Life of John D Rockefeller Sr, by Ron Chernow.

One we missed: The Alignment Problem: Machine Learning and Human Values, by Brian Christian. Brilliantly presaged the generative AI boom and the race to position AI tools as “safe”.

Update: I wrote an entire sequel to The Everything Store, called Amazon Unbound; Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire. If I was asked to write a second sequel, I would probably go into hiding…

Nicole Perlroth, ‘This Is How They Tell Me The World Ends: The Cyber-Weapons Arms Race’ (2021)

Nicole Perlroth

Favourite: Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice, by Bill Browder. At first, one might not see it as a business book, but Browder’s harrowing journey from hedge fund manager to accidental activist is a searing warning for those contemplating business prospects in countries with less than stellar records on human rights.

One we missed: Red Notice. Considering the situation in Russia today, Browder’s book is more urgently relevant than ever. It also applies to those considering investment from Saudi Arabia, for instance. I fear many similar stories will come for those who do not take his warnings seriously.

Update: I would add a chapter on our headfirst global dive into generative AI. My book was a warning on the last generation of technology. A call to pause and rethink our full-on embrace of vulnerable technology before a cataclysmic cyber attack forced a reckoning. Instead, the world went the other way, embracing a technology that will allow nation states, cyber criminals and ne’er-do-wells to exploit technology with a speed, and ferocity, we are not prepared for. Hold on tight.

To read more about the FT and Schroders Business Book of the Year Award, please visit ft.com/bookaward