Thursday, September 29 2022

Rising interest rates, runaway inflation, supply chain disruption, scorching post-pandemic labor markets and a backdrop of geopolitical and environmental crisis: stocks vying for this year’s Financial Times Business Book of the Year throw new light on some of today’s most pressing business issues.

The 15 books, filtered by FT reporters from nearly 600 entries, include stories, polemics, investigations and analysis of the challenges facing the global economy and some of the world’s best-known companies, from General Electric and Boeing to Tencent and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing. Company.

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Several heavyweight stories are vying for the £30,000 prize. They include J Bradford DeLong’s upcoming Advance towards utopia: An Economic History of the Twentieth Centurywhich analyzes the years 1870 to 2010. “By the standards of all the rest of human history, [this period was] far more wonderful than terrible,” DeLong writes. But despite extraordinary increases in material wealth, the “long century” failed to live up to utopian expectations.

From a different point of view, Gary Gerstle The rise and fall of the neoliberal order: America and the World in the Age of the Free Market traces how the Western world embraced “neoliberalism” and the credo of free trade and free markets in the closing decades of the 20th century. A wide range of politicians – from Ronald Reagan to leaders of the New Left – unleashed the power of capitalism, unleashing some of the unintended consequences the world is currently experiencing.

Helen Thompson arrives at the right time Disorder: The difficult times of the 21st century addresses the tensions that flared up earlier this year with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She weaves together the domestic, economic and geopolitical threads of recent history, in the volatile context of energy politics, to show how energy is still driving some of the most powerful and disruptive political trends.

Another historical angle is taken by Edward Chancellor in The price of time: The real story of interest, a polemical attack on the credo of low interest rates that has prevailed in recent years. Whether you agree with his point of view or not, his message coincides with the efforts of the major central banks to use the monetary tool to curb rising inflation.

Three books in the long list delve into some of the tensions behind this inflationary surge.

Direct: The rise of the intermediate economy and the power to go to the source, by Kathryn Judge, examines the sometimes dangerous growth of “powerful intermediaries and long supply chains”, from banks to retailers to real estate agents. Judge points out that benefits also bring outsized power and argues for a return to more direct exchanges, which improves both accountability and resilience.

by Chris Miller Flea war: The fight for the most critical technology in the world, released in October, directly addresses one of those long supply chains, the complex and increasingly fragile network that builds and assembles semiconductors, the “new oil” on which many digital products and services are based. and electric, from kettles to electric cars to nuclear power plants. , now depend. The tension around Taiwan has revealed a global dependence on a few manufacturers.

The fierce war for personnel is one of the economic stressors. From interviews to incentives, Talent: How to identify energisers, creatives and winners worldwideby Tyler Cowen (longlisted in 2019 for Big deal) and Daniel Gross, is a very practical guide to identifying and recruiting such people, while ensuring that recruiters extend their network enough to ensure that they assemble a diverse and innovative team.

Among this year’s corporate blockbusters is former winner William D Cohan, who won the award in 2007 with The last tycoons, about Lazard Frères. In his next Electrical failure: The rise and fall of General Electric, he tackles the conglomerate’s extraordinary reputational and financial downfall, once a seemingly impregnable indicator for America’s industrial and corporate sector. Cohan himself calls it “a cautionary tale about hubris, blind ambition, and the limitations of believing in – and continually trying to live by – a flawed corporate mythology.”

Peter Robison takes on another American business icon – Boeing – in fly blind: The tragedy of the 737 Max and the fall of Boeing. It is the story of the tension between profit motives and engineering excellence that, according to Robison’s account, led to the fatal crashes of two 737 Max 8 aircraft in 2018 and 2019 – a result attributed in part to Boeing’s adherence to the efficiency-driven strategies of former GE CEO Jack Welch.

On the other side of the world, the rise of Tencent, developer of WeChat, the Chinese “everything” application, is the subject of the article by Lulu Yilun Chen Influencing the Empire: The history of Tencent and China’s technological ambition. It traces the career of its founder, the shy media programmer Pony Ma. Chen also explains how he and his creation fit into China’s technological and entrepreneurial revolution, in addition to playing their part in China’s politics and politics. modern.

Another former winner, Sebastian Mallaby (whose biography of Alan Greenspan, The man who knewtriumphed in 2016) makes another appearance on the long list with The power law: Venture capital and the art of disruption. It’s a deep dive into the roots of the venture capital industry that has underpinned the rise of Silicon Valley. Mallaby attempts to answer the question “Did VCs create success, or did they just show up for it?”

British venture capitalist Kate Bingham is co-author of another longlist book, The long shot: The inside story of the race to vaccinate Britain, with Tim Hames, to be released in October. They take readers to the heart of the fight against coronavirus, building on Bingham’s experience after the government rushed her to head Britain’s vaccine task force. Under his orders, she made a bold and successful bet on the development of the first vaccines, in the face of criticism and under immense pressure.

A less savory view of entrepreneurship in the UK is presented by Oliver Bullough in world butler: How Britain Became the Handmaid of Tycoons, Tax Evaders, Kleptocrats and Criminals, his polemical take on how the country deployed its post-imperial institutions to serve the corrupt super-rich. Bullough’s richly colored claim is that London not only launders dirty money from the wrong people, but also allows them to dodge the rules and get more out of it.

The central story of Dead in the water: Murder and Fraud in the World’s Most Secret Industryby Matthew Campbell and Kit Chellel, also unfolds in London, as a fascinating court battle unfolds over what happened to the Brillante Virtuoso, an oil tanker attacked by gunmen and set on fire just off Aden in Yemen in 2011 More than just a whodunit, Campbell and Chellel are using emerging courtroom revelations about fraud and the unsolved murder to shed light on the UK’s role in funding shipping.

Finally, Gaia Vince will be released soon nomadic century: How to survive climate change paints a bleak picture of impending doom due to inevitable climate change, but also outlines radical solutions involving migration to the northern and southernmost regions of the globe. Vince explains how governments, businesses, and individuals can — and must — prepare for this “species emergency,” if they are to lay the groundwork for the planet’s eventual recovery.

Additional research by Lily Willis

The winner of the £30,000 prize will be the book that offers ‘the most compelling and enjoyable insight’ into business issues. Shortlisted titles will each receive £10,000. The shortlist of six titles will be announced live, via Twitter, on September 22. The winner of the award and the winner of the £15,000 Bracken Bower Prize (for business book submissions by an author under 35) will be announced in December. 5. Find out more about the price at www.ft.com/bookaward. View a full interactive list of all shortlisted books since the award began in 2005 at https://ig.ft.com/sites/business-book-award/.

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