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The 2010 Business Book Awards

This book created excitement around the office months before it was released, and the galley that we received before publication was passed around and beat up from use by the time the finished copies arrived. Our conclusion: if you are an aspiring business book author or publisher and want to know what a truly exceptional business book looks like, Rework is the example.

The authors, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, created and run a company called 37signals, supplier of the Highrise, Basecamp, and Backpack software (which we at 800-CEO-READ happen to use every day). 37Signals is not large; in fact, it is intentionally small.

Small, comfortable, and profitable. In contemporary, accessible and exciting prose, Fried and Hansson share business insights that our founder and president Jack Covert said took him forty years to learn. Wonderfully illustrated throughout by Mike Rohde, that wisdom comes in an appealing visual package.

But beyond being the best-conceived and designed book of the year, what we really appreciate about Rework is its pragmatic nature—its emphasis on the problem at hand. As the economy continues its recovery, it encourages people in business to rethink some basic assumptions, offering logical ideas and solutions that are instantly applicable to the solo entrepreneur, the team leader, or the company owner.

Category Winner

General Business

Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc.—How the Working Poor Became Big Business by Gary Rivlin | HarperBusiness

"There no doubt were ghetto grocers and poverty pimps long before the coinage of either of those terms and it was the writer James Baldwin who famously noted that it was very expensive being poor." So writes Gary Rivlin in Broke, USA. Making money off the poor is certainly not a new idea, but the size, reach and influence of the businesses doing it today is. From payday loans and check-cashing operations to rent-to-own schemes and subprime mortgages, Rivlin charts how the poverty industry became such big business and how it contributed to the systemic financial crisis the country ended up in.

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Category Winner

Leadership

Bury My Heart at Conference Room B: The Unbeatable Impact of Truly Committed Managers by Stan Slap | Portfolio

Stan Slap has penned one of the smartest and most compelling books on leadership ever produced. Slap uses his research with over 10,000 managers from seventy countries to focus on the major challenge a modern business manager faces—an emotional commitment to the job. Slap's methodology is to help managers become committed first to themselves, to live those personal values at work without compromise, and to lead others with an integrity that stems from living those values. If you feel a divide between who you are at work and who you really are, Stan Slap's Bury My Heart at Conference Room B offers a remedy and a way to become a truly committed manager and a better leader.

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Category Winner

Management

Getting Naked: A Business Fable about Shedding the Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty by Patrick Lencioni | Jossey-Bass

Patrick Lencioni books are always a pleasure to read, and this one might be his best. Getting Naked is a business fable about a management consultant who learns some serious lessons about creating loyalty and trust. As with all Lencioni's books, you don't just read them, you experience them. He has a great talent for making you feel like you're a part of the story's central character, struggling with their challenges, and discovering their successes. And, once the book is put down, the insights gained feel real and personal, and that's the most you can ask for in a business book.

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Category Winner

Marketing & Sales

The Man Who Sold America: The Amazing (But True!) Story of Albert D. Lasker and the Creation of the Advertising Century by Jeffrey L. Cruikshank & Arthur W. Schultz | Harvard Business Press

In a day and age when Mad Men is bringing the story of the big New York City ad agencies of the '60s into living rooms across America, Jeff Cruikshank and Arthur Schultz have vividly illustrated the incredible story of the man who set that world in motion. In The Man Who Sold America, they tell the story of Albert Lasker, a man of great importance in the advertising world—as a master seller, a dealmaker, a team leader, and a visionary who created and applied industry methods to every part of society. This history of Albert Lasker's emergence into the ad world of 1898 and the way he transformed it holds valuable professional lessons and insights that are still practiced and revered a full century later. And his story of personal turmoil provides valuable life lessons along the way.

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Category Winner

Entrepreneurship & Small Business

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson | Crown Business

Whether you're managing a company, running a small business, or want to start one, this book will change all preconceptions of how to do those things. It's not contrarian for its own sake, but intuitively insightful and refreshing in a time where job security is not what it once was. It provides hope for what can be and will go down in history as a business book that made a big difference.

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Category Winner

Personal Development

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath | Broadway Business

In a category absolutely stockpiled with perspective-changing books, Chip and Dan Heath's Switch is a true triple-threat. Some of the books on this short list are strong on utility; some are rich in storytelling; some are intent on shocking you out of your career complacency: Switch does all of these things in one tidy, entertaining volume. Featuring the casual tone, unusual anecdotes, plentiful research, and constructive advice we've come to expect from the teachers-at-heart Heath brothers, Switch introduces readers to an imminently applicable strategy for making change stick. Change is hard, the Heaths understand, but by learning how to direct the rational mind, motivate the emotional mind, and set a path forward by setting goals, acknowledging success, establishing habits, and creating contagious behavior, transformation is possible, even probable.

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Category Winner

Innovation & Creativity

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson | Riverhead

We all know a good idea when we hear it, but do we always know how that idea came to life? Steven Johnson details the process via neurobiology, urban studies, and Internet culture to reveal situations that helped foster big ideas. Not only is the book an interesting look at ideas that have shaped our lives, but Johnson also explains how we can learn from these situations to help develop our own good ideas. This book is an essential read in an era where innovation and creative thinking are critical.

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Category Winner

Finance & Economics

Diary of a Very Bad Year: Confession of an Anonymous Hedge Fund Manager with n+1 | Harper Perennial

Michael Lewis is always the favorite in whatever category he chooses to write a book in, and The Big Short could have easily topped this list. But literary magazine n+1 has done something truly unique in its Diary of a Very Bad Year. The book sprouted out of an interview with an anonymous hedge fund manager (HFM) by the magazine's founder, Keith Gessen, to figure out how deflating home prices were going to affect a friend that had borrowed heavily against his home. That was in September of 2007, and the timing was serendipitous. The interaction led to a series of interviews with HFM as the housing market collapsed and the global economy came tumbling down around it. As you catch up with HFM in each interview, you'll learn a great deal about modern finance and how it was brought to its knees, get an intimate view into what it was like working amidst the ensuing panic, and be reminded of just how close we all came to the edge.

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