21 great books on business, society, governance and the future

Buy it, read it, read it again

After my recent post on some good new reading, I’ve been asked by a few readers to provide some more book recommendations for readers.

Here’s a list of some of the books that have really made me think about business, society, governance and the environment, in the last 20 or so years, in no particular order:

  1. Catch 22, by Joseph Heller (a must read: the greatest novel ever written, and a wonderful early satire on unfettered capitalism, outsourcing and the contradictions in the human condition, but you must read it multiple times)
  2. The Prize, by Daniel Yergin (the best alternative history of the last 200 years via the lens of energy demand)
  3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck (nothing more needed here!)
  4. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair (the book that put health and safety on the early 20th century agenda)
  5. Anything and everything by George Orwell and Graham Greene (not a book, read them all!)
  6. Corporations and Morality, by Thomas Donaldson (classic business ethics text from the 1980s, seminal)
  7. Leading Quietly, by Joseph Badarocco (stories of quiet leadership, utterly compelling)
  8. Empires of Profit, by Daniel Litvin (a historical tour of bad corporate behaviour, and its results)
  9. Run to Failure, by Abraham Lustgarten (a forensic journalist demolition of BP’s lack of safety culture)
  10. Let my People go Surfing, by Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia founder, sustainable business legend)
  11. The New Few, by Ferdinand Mount (right-ish wing look at how damaging inequality is, superb)
  12. The Honest Truth about Dishonesty, by Dan Ariely (sociological insights into bad behavior, and solutions)
  13. What has Nature ever done for us? By Tony Juniper (attempts to quantify the value of nature, one of the best environmentalist books ever written)
  14. Prosperity without Growth, by Tim Jackson (fascinating alternative look at our options for beyond GDP)
  15. Just Business, by John Ruggie (the inside track on business and human rights issues and solutions)
  16. McMafia, by Misha Glenny (Brilliantly researched storytelling about global crime since 1989)
  17. SuperCapitalism, by Robert Reich (Poor on modern CSR, but the first two thirds is an absorbing look at post-war history)
  18. The End of the Line, by Charles Clover (the book that put the seafood crisis on the map)
  19. Collapse, by Jared Diamond (seminal text warning of the dangers of overstepping our boundaries)
  20. Maverick, by Ricardo Semler (a successful Brazilian entrepreneur with stories of alternative methods)
  21. Green Alternatives to Globalisation: A Manifesto, by Michael Woodin and Caroline Lucas (a well-written look at alternatives oft disregarded by policy makers, perhaps far too early)

    Eagle-eyed readers will note that all these books bar the last co-authored book, are written by men. This worries me. I have only just noticed this. One result of this exercise is that I will be actively seeking out more books in these genres, by female authors.

    Look forward to any reader suggestions of your own book favourites. 

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