Business Books You Won’t Be Able to Put Down

Alright, here it is: the book list to end all book lists. I’ve organized your suggestions into sections you can tackle while avoiding your annoying relatives this holiday season.

Thank you to everyone who emailed, tweeted, and even mailed me a real physical book (how did you find me?!). Just in case you’re curious, I’m currently reading, “Titan” by Ron Chernow, “Principles” by Ray Dalio, and a dramatic, tell-all book about “The Bachelor.”

Now, onto your suggestions:


Shoe Dog by Phil Knight:

A Bill Gates (and Term Sheet reader) favorite, Shoe Dog offers an inside look at how Phil Knight built his startup Nike into the global brand it is today.

The Smartest Guys in the Room by Peter Elkind & Bethany McLean

If you’re looking for drama and really good reporting, this is for you. The book-turned-Netflix special details the rise and fall of Enron and was written by two Fortune alums.

Titan by Ron Chernow

John D. Rockefeller has been referred to as “the Jekyll-and-Hyde of American capitalism.” He was a ruthless business magnate while also being a major philanthropist. This one is a business staple.

Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin

This is a real-life thriller with a blow-by-blow account of the economic crisis that brought the entire financial world to its knees. It has everything — ego, greed, and fear.

Wild Ride by Adam Lashinsky

Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky wrote about Travis Kalanick, one of the most polarizing figures in Silicon Valley. Lashinsky takes readers on quite a ride as he meticulously details Uber’s meteoric rise — and its jaw-dropping plunge into controversy.


Principles by Ray Dalio

Most people hate conflict, but Ray Dalio thrives on it. He’s built Bridgewater Associates into the world’s biggest hedge fund by encouraging radical transparency and organizational dissent. This book will give you the tools to make decisions, approach challenges, and build strong teams.

Venture Deals by Brad Feld & Jason Mendelson

This one delves into the details of what Term Sheet readers deal with on a daily basis — the term sheet, the players, the negotiations, the legalities, and more. Think of it as a very comprehensive guidebook to understanding venture capital funding.

E Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

E Myth should be required reading for anyone who wants to start their own company. In this bestseller, Gerber dispels the myths about starting a small business and helps readers take their plans from the ideal to the specific.


Barbarians at the Gate by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar

This book has been called, “one of the finest, most compelling accounts of what happened to corporate America and Wall Street in the 1980s.” The captivating account of the fall of RJR Nabisco still serves as a great cautionary tale about greed and double-dealings.

Den of Thieves by James B. Stewart

This bestseller details the greatest insider-trading ring in financial history and profiles the players who almost walked away with billions. The book combines business, crime, and the ugly side of human nature — what more could you want?

Business Adventures by John Brooks

This is Bill Gates’ favorite book (and he has Warren Buffett’s copy). So if this is good enough for Gates & Buffett, it’s good enough for this list. John Brooks compiled his longform New Yorker articles into this book, which include profiles of Xerox, Ford, and General Electric.


Elon Musk by Ashley Vance

I personally like this book because it delves into the psyche of one of the most innovative (albeit unusual) entrepreneurs of our time. Vance gives readers an exclusive look into SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity, while also giving us a better understanding of Elon Musk’s mind.

Jeff Bezos and The Age of Amazon by Brad Stone

It is mind-boggling to think Amazon started out as an online bookstore. That wasn’t nearly enough for its wildly ambitious founder, Jeff Bezos. This is an in-depth account of how Bezos’ large bets forever transformed the retail industry.

King of Capital by David Carey & John E. Morris

This is a good book to read right after you finish Barbarians at the Gate. It demonstrates how Blackstone and other private equity firms transformed into disciplined, risk-conscious investors — all this while banks were recklessly pushing the economy to the brink of disaster. This book documents the remarkable rise, fall, and rise (again) of Steve Schwarzman and Blackstone.

Fantasy Books Set at Magical Boarding School

Beneath the Sugar Sky, the third novella in Seanan McGuire’s excellent Wayward Children series, is out this week, giving me the perfect opportunity to write about one of my favorite fantasy subgenres: the magical boarding school story.

Here are nine fantasy books that use the magical boarding school setting to help tell their story…

Wayward Children by Seanan McGuire

The novellas of Wayward Children, the series from Seanan McGuire, are examples of smart, affecting fantasy stories that both tells its own story and uses that story to comment on the genre in clever, subversive ways.

Den of Geek TV

In the first book, Every Heart a Doorway, we meet the children and adults at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, a place children returning from a fantasy adventure to help acclimate back to life in our reality. (Narnia’s Pevensies or Wonderland’s Alice would be great candidates, for example.) When children start to turn up murdered, the children have a mystery to solve.

The second installment, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, tells the story of Jack and Jill—how they ended up in their fantasy world, and what led to them getting kicked out. The third installment, Beneath the Sugar Sky, returns to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children for a new story. All of the novellas work as standalones, but can also be read together.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On, the standalone follow-up to Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, is another example of recent fantasy that has some things to say about the stalwarts of fantasy literature. In Carry On‘s case, the work it comments on and critiques is Harry Potter, and it’s the perfect read for anyone who grew up reading the fantasy classics, but who wants to lovingly critique the story as an adult.

Carry On is the story of Simon Snow, a young wizard at his final year at Watford School of Magicks. Simon is The Chosen One, but he’s not very good at it—unable to control his powers and desperate to do so to curb the magic-stealing villain with his face who keeps causing trouble. It doesn’t help that his girlfriend recently broke up with him or that his roommate/nemesis/possible vampire Baz is nowhere to be found. His absence is very distracting.

BARREN: Book 1 – War in the Ruins (A Post-Apocalyptic Thriller)By J. Thorn
The Brightest Fell (October Daye)By Seanan McGuire (Mass Market…

This book is a delightful subversion of the Chosen One narrative, giving the story not just to Simon, but to Baz and witches Agatha and Penelope to tell. It’s a queer love story. It’s meta-commentary on Harry Potter and fan culture. And it follows the best of fanfiction tropes (meant here and always as a total compliment) to tell its story.

You’ll start Carry On by trying to figure out which characters equate to which Harry Potter characters. By the end of this book, you’ll realize that this is a story worth loving all on its own.

Among Others by Jo Walton

Real talk? I haven’t read this one yet, but Jo Walton is brilliant, so I feel confident recommending it to fans of magical boarding school literature (even if both its magical and its boarding school elements are more subtle and complicated than other entries on this list).

Among Others tells the story of Mori, a young woman raised by her magical mother in Wales. When her mother begins to use dark magic, Mori is forced to confront her in magical battle, which ends with Mori’s twin sister dead and Mori with a disability.

Mori goes to live with her father, whom she barely knows, and is sent to a nearby girls’ boarding school. Struggling to live in a world largely without magic, Mori dives into science fiction and fantasy literature, reading many of the genres’ classics. A book about trauma and stories, Walton writes: “There are some awful things in the world, it’s true, but there are also some great books.”

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Better than the underrated Vampire Academy movie adapted from it, the Vampire Academy book series is the gloriously not-Twilight of the young adult vampire fiction world.

The six-part Vampire Academy series follows vampire best friends Moroi princess Lissa Dragomir and her bodyguard-in-training Rose Hathaway. After two years on the run, the girls are returned to St. Vladimir’s Academy, where they are forced to be separated into their respective training tracks. However, unbeknownst to the instructors and students at the academy, Lissa and Rose share a psychic bond that keeps them connected even when they are apart.

The first book follows Rose and Lissa’s reacclimation into the interpersonal drama of school, as well as the growing danger vampire royalty Lissa faces from the Strigoi, an evil race of vampires. These books are more supernatural school than magical boarding school, but this series is so addicting, I doubt you’ll care about the fine print.

Most Popular Motivational Books

However, I have recently soured on them because they’re mostly recycling the same messages and ideas.

Motivational books based on interviews with successful people tell virtually the same stories with the same life lessons.

Motivational books based on “science” are usually built around a single study that is not peer-reviewed and often custom-designed to match a foregone conclusion.

Motivational books based on personal anecdotes are usually puffy memoirs intended to promote a consultancy or a public-speaking career.

Motivational books that contain a fictional story are usually so trite or twee that they’re almost impossible to read.

Finally, many motivational books become best-sellers–even New York Times best-sellers, because their authors paid proxies to pre-purchase thousands of copies.

That being said, newly-published motivational books must be of some value or they wouldn’t get read and reviewed.

So, with that in mind, here are seven motivational books that were (apparently) widely purchased and read in 2017 and positively reviewed on Amazon.

Note: #7 is an outlier because it’s quite original and also rather brave, considering that its subject matter is controversial… which almost never the case with this genre.

Option B

Subtitle: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

Authors: Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

30 Second Summary: “Combines Sheryl’s personal insights with Adam’s eye-opening research on finding strength in the face of adversity. Beginning with the gut-wrenching moment when she finds her husband, Dave Goldberg, collapsed on a gym floor, Sheryl opens up her heart–and her journal–to describe the acute grief and isolation she felt in the wake of his death. Option B then goes beyond Sheryl’s loss to explore how a broad range of people have overcome hardships including illness, job loss, sexual assault, natural disasters, and the violence of war. Their stories reveal the capacity of the human spirit to persevere and to rediscover joy.”

The 5 Second Rule

Subtitle: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage

Author: Mel Robbins

30 Second Summary: “Using the science of habits, riveting stories and surprising facts from some of the most famous moments in history, art and business, Mel Robbins will explain the power of a ‘push moment.’  Then, she’ll give you one simple tool you can use to become your greatest self. It takes just five seconds to use this tool, and every time you do you’ll be in great company. More than 8 million people have watched Mel’s TEDx Talk, and executives inside of the world’s largest brands are using the tool to increase productivity, collaboration, and engagement.”


Subtitle: Your Financial Freedom Playbook

Author: Tony Robbins

30 Second Summary: “After interviewing fifty of the world’s greatest financial minds and penning the #1 New YorkTimesbestseller Money: Master the Game, Tony Robbins returns with a step-by-step playbook, taking you on a journey to transform your financial life and accelerate your path to financial freedom. No matter your salary, your stage of life, or when you started, this book will provide the tools to help you achieve your financial goals more rapidly than you ever thought possible.”

You Are a Badass at Making Money

Subtitle: Master the Mindset of Wealth

Author: Jen Sincero

30 Second Summary: “You Are a Badass at Making Money will launch you past the fears and stumbling blocks that have kept financial success beyond your reach. Drawing on her own transformation–over just a few years–from a woman living in a converted garage with tumbleweeds blowing through her bank account to a woman who travels the world in style, Jen Sincero channels the inimitable sass and practicality that made You Are a Badass an indomitable bestseller. She combines hilarious personal essays with bite-size, aha concepts that unlock earning potential and get real results.”


Subtitle: The Science of Succeeding with People

Author: Vanessa Van Edwards

30 Second Summary: “As a human behavior hacker, Vanessa Van Edwards created a research lab to study the hidden forces that drive us. And she’s cracked the code. In Captivate, she shares shortcuts, systems, and secrets for taking charge of your interactions at work, at home, and in any social situation. These aren’t the people skills you learned in school. This is the first comprehensive, science backed, real life manual on how to captivate anyone–and a completely new approach to building connections.”

The Power of Positive Leadership

Subtitle: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change the World

Author: Jon Gordon

30 Second Summary: “Jon Gordon has worked and consulted with leaders who have transformed their companies, organizations and schools, won national championships and are currently changing the world. He has also interviewed some of the greatest leaders of our time and researched many positive leaders throughout history and discovered their paths to success. In this pioneering book Jon Gordon shares what he has learned and provides a comprehensive framework on positive leadership filled with proven principles, compelling stories, practical ideas and practices that will help anyone become a positive leader.”

Win Bigly

Subtitle: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter

Author: Scott Adams

30 Second Summary: “Scott Adams was one of the earliest public figures to predict Trump’s win, doing so a week after Nate Silver put Trump’s odds at 2 percent in his blog. The mainstream media regarded Trump as a novelty and a sideshow. But Adams recognized in Trump a level of persuasion you only see once in a generation. The point isn’t whether Trump was right or wrong, good or bad. Win Bigly goes beyond politics to look at persuasion tools that can work in any setting–the same ones Adams saw in Steve Jobs when he invested in Apple decades ago.”