Book recommendations

Gifts for Thinkers: The top 10 business books of 2021

By Larry Gennari
Boston Business Journal

This year has been an eventful one, and as we close it out, you may be looking for that perfect gift for a colleague, friend or family member. Now more than ever, we all can benefit by taking the time to read, learn and listen more deeply. I’ve read some great books this year, and I’m happy to recommend 10 titles that should appeal to the most entrepreneurial minds on your list. Check them out:

Machiavelli For Women: Defend Your Worth, Grow Your Ambition, and Win The Workplace – Stacey Vanek Smith’s premise is simple and true: despite decades of progress, most women are still not thriving and rising to the highest levels of power. Using an unlikely 500-year-old political manifesto as a platform, Vanek Smith advises women to observe what’s happening, assess and strategize, and know and then grow their own power.

You Have More Influence Than You Think – Cornell Professor Vanessa Bohns wants you to appreciate the significant impact we all have on others in our daily lives. I loved this book and the important learnings on the simple power of compliments, the basic human fear of rejection, and the potential we all have for making a difference when it matters.

The New Builders – Venture capitalist Seth Levine and journalist Elizabeth McBride tell the important story of how the New Builders: brown, black, older and increasingly female entrepreneurs, are remaking and redefining our communities and our economy. You’ll root for them and want to learn more about how we can reduce barriers and increase access to capital to ensure their success.

American Made: What Happens To People When Work Disappears – Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Farah Stockman chronicles the lives of three hard-working people (one of whom has a criminal record) laid off from a manufacturing plant that had anchored an Indiana town for decades. Want to understand today’s puzzling job numbers? Read this book.

The Power of Trust – Harvard Business School authors Sandra Sucher and Shalene Gupta explain how trust’s four components: competence, motives, means, and impact shape how we feel about companies, large and small, as customers, employees, suppliers and communities.

Think Again – Wharton Professor Adam Grant advises us to listen like we are wrong. Many CEOs will find his easy-to-follow tips on becoming a more “persuasive listener” incredibly valuable.

High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out – Journalist Amanda Ripley’s smart and engaging book is a page turner. You will learn a LOT about how basic framing and listening can diffuse even the most fraught situations.

Better, Simpler Strategy – This is a powerful book and HBS Professor Felix Oberholzer-Gee lays out a compelling “value stick” approach for pleasing customers, retaining employees, and placing value creation at the center of your business strategies.

The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right – HBS grad Gorick Ng has the book we all needed as our younger selves. Ng’s smart, practical and direct advice (“Yes, you should ask questions at every Zoom and in-person meeting.”) will have every manager — and parent — reading along and vigorously nodding up and down. This is easily the most valuable career-oriented book I’ve read in years.

Living a Life That Matters Rabbi Harold Kushner reminds us that we should never stop asking why and how we can matter to the world. Every library has essential books that are worth returning to again and again. This short and profound book is among them in mine.

Read in the Boston Business Journal

 Authors & Innovators is an occasional column by Larry Gennari, a transactional lawyer, law professor, and chief curator of Authors & Innovators, an annual business book and ideas festival.  Gennari also teaches Project Entrepreneur, a business fundamentals bootcamp for returning citizens, at BC Law School.


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