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The year's business reading identified new trends, reckoned with old challenges, offered counteropinions on hot topics, reinforced some old lessons, highlighted gains over losses, celebrated innovations that have potential for all, and observed the failures of these innovations to keep their promise. In short, it was a year of balancing equations--of balancing the books. A veritable definition of the state of today's business world, these are the best of the year.
In the titles below, you'll find entrepreneurs who describe both attaining financial success and giving back to the world. You'll find employees searching for pay equity and struggling to offset debt with savings, while those with cash to invest study the newly etched lines between the risky and the safe.
The books show the persistence of retail and brand giants but note the successes of small companies with intensely loyal customers. They find some business careerists opting out of the corporate race to shape personally fulfilling kaleidoscope careers instead.
The year saw some newly crafted equations, particularly in the economics of major business, reshaped by technology, the assured trendsetter. Most notably, Chris Anderson identified the power of online sellers to profit from the "long tail" of virtually infinite product categories and distribution over bricks-and-mortar businesses that depend on a few blockbusters for profit.
In the meantime, authors note that even as U.S. manufacturing shifts to developing countries, there are intangible costs when global ventures are not simply cyber but literal. These can be steep, even though a global balance is being sought through regulatory reforms, reductions in corruption, and increased transparency.
The power of the Internet and social networking is amply recognized as a means of marketing and increasing return on investment, yet the year also brought economic case studies undertaken in developing countries that requite such praise with assessments indicating that cyber access provides few benefits to struggling inhabitants compared with the advantages they acquire through mobile and radio technology. For them, the world does not seem to be so very "flat" after all.
The books listed here (with further titles at www.libraryjournal.com) balance lessons from the past with distinctly rendered maps of our future, where Wall Street shares status with developing nations, with cyberspace, and with the cafe around the corner.
A team of librarians and a business practitioner from around the country have chosen these titles as the best of 2006.
Cannadine, David. Mellon: An American Life. Knopf. 800p. ISBN 0-679-45032-7. $35.
Cannadine (Univ. of London) gives us the first full biography of the financier, secretary of the treasury (under Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover), and philanthropist, not neglecting his personal story. The resulting saga rescues Mellon from the mixture of obscurity and scorn that beset him. (LJ 10/1/06)
D'Antonio, Michael. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. S. & S. 305p. ISBN 0-7432-6409-6. $25.
His chocolate bar made Hershey a household name, and this is a sweet recounting of the man's remarkable life and legacy. He persevered beyond initial failures in the candy business, becoming a …