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The Dow's losses over this year's first 12 days of trading erased nearly all of last year's gains; the pace of new homebuilding was, in January, reportedly at its lowest in 16 years; and recession rumblings, too, are making themselves heard.
But in 2007, though the economy was hardly soaring, readers wouldn't have felt much was amiss. The year saw many big business biographies and was a particularly rich period for business histories, with authors closely examining venerable family concerns and global industries alike. The continuing impact of new technologies was easily seen in a number of titles about the growing complexities of national and world markets.
The human element
There was a noticeable shift in approach toward more personal aspects of business management--some of the year's most practical titles explored manager-employee relationships. Similarly, books for women on leaving and rejoining the workforce at different stages of their lives showed how publishers are better addressing the challenges today's working women face.
With regard to leadership, several books questioned age-old tenets. There were fewer puff pieces by big names, and the leadership books that were published fell by the wayside as more authors suggested success might have less to do with CEO charisma than previously thought. Among the additions to the popular fable genre, only Matthew Kelly's The Dream Manager stood out as both inspirational and practical.
If there was any hint of unease in 2007 about the trends ahead, it was most discernible in the books on the U.S. economy and globalization. Increasingly more titles told of the middle- and lower-middle classes getting clobbered by static wages and rising costs. The year's globalization books are particularly informative: while a few years back they tended to be Thomas Friedman--esque glorifications of the global marketplace, in 2007 authors sought to make clearer just what "globalization" means by exposing how it truly functions.
All told, there's a sense that business as usual may no longer be business as usual; one of the year's best-selling nonfiction books, Nassim Nicholas Taleb's The Black Swan, though it belabored its point and was too philosophy-heavy to make our list, did suggest it may be time to start expecting the unexpected. Provided readers of last year's books heed that advice, they'll be that much better prepared for the changes already afoot in 2008--e.g., the NYSE--AMEX buyout, the Fed's slashing of interest rates--changes sure to affect the business climate and the flow of business books to come.
Ebenstein, Lanny. Milton Friedman: A Biography. Palgrave Macmillan. 272p. ISBN 978-1-4039-7627-7. $27.95.
Ebenstein's (economics & political theory, Univ. of California) accessible and thoroughly researched text admirably reflects the interests and tone of late economist Milton Friedman's life. It includes interviews with Friedman (d. 2006) and his wife and covers his personal life, education, academic career, and later writings. (LJ 2/1/07)
Gasparino, Charles. King of the Club: Richard Grasso and the Survival of the New York Stock Exchange. Collins: HarperCollins. 400p. ISBN 978-0-06-089833-5. $27.95.
CNBC correspondent Gasparino masterfully …