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Business Books to Read During Breaks

By Mairead Tuttle

January 16, 2018

Winter Break presents the opportunity to relax, celebrate the holidays, and curl up by the fire with a good book. Below are four suggestions of books that will entertain you and teach you something about the business world or economic landscape.

Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco
Considered one of the best business books of all time, Barbarians at the Gate tells the story of the hostile takeover of RJR Nabisco in 1988. At the time, it was the most expensive takeover in history. The book, written by investigative reporters Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, details hour-by-hour negotiations of a leveraged buyout. The incredible detail in this book is a snapshot of one of the most important moments in American business history.

Barbarians at the Gate not only gives insight into the business practices of private equity firms and large corporations, but also highlights the importance of individual personalities in business decisions. Any person interested in working in the financial industry or private sector in general can learn from the choices made by people like RJR Nabisco CEO Ross Johnson or investor Henry Kravis. The book deftly illustrates the consequences that the actions of one person can have on the future of a business and the interests of its shareholders.

The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career
This career guide was written by Hilary Kerr and Katherine Power, founders of the fashion and style website Who What Wear. The book gives helpful and practical tips for starting your career. It is particularly helpful for those interested in working in the fashion and beauty industries, though its advice can be applied to almost any career path. The authors’ tips can also apply to any stage of a career, even one that has not yet started.

This book is particularly inspiring because its authors are female entrepreneurs who left jobs that were no longer fulfilling for them and forged their own career paths. They started small with their first website and now run a portfolio of sites that cover fashion, beauty, and home design, in addition to a clothing line meant to provide an alternative to professional women who are not drawn to the typical black pencil skirt and blazer. Their websites reach millions of women across the world every year, and the career advice the founders give is greatly valuable. 

The Wisdom of Finance
Harvard Business School professor Mihir A. Desai weaves together complex financial concepts and classic stories from literature in this book. The author also pulls from Broadway musicals and Biblical parables to explain the ways in which terms and ideas that might seem reserved for Wall Street are, in reality, inextricably linked to our everyday lives. A person who finds herself struggling with a concept like options trading will likely find their connection to Jane Austen illuminating.

This book also helps to dispel some of the many myths that surround Wall Street and the financial sector. As its title suggests, the book demonstrates that investment banks and hedge funds are about much more than just numbers. No matter a person’s opinion about Wall Street, he or she will surely find a chapter in this book that changes a previously held opinion. The diversity of the author’s points of focus proves that finance really is an essential part of our lives, whether we realize it or not.

Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics
This book’s author, Richard Thaler, was recently awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work in developing the field of behavioral economics and finance. Misbehaving gives varied examples, from the National Football League to the department store JCPenney, to illustrate situations of what conventional economists would term “irrational” behavior. Behavioral economics is a relatively young field of study, and reading about it from one of its founders is the most effective way to learn about it.

Thaler is also the co-author of the book Nudge, which focuses on “nudges” that firms can use to push people toward certain behaviors. The book has been incredibly popular in the United Kingdom in recent years, and was used by government officials to justify policies that were deemed by some to be paternalistic. Evidently, Thaler’s work has had an impact on economics and politics, and any person interested in these fields will find his book engaging.

Mairead Tuttle is from Pennsylvania and is currently a French and Economics major at Mount Holyoke College. Through her economics classes, she found a passion for business, and hopes to someday work on the management side of the fashion and beauty industries.

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