Looking for 800-CEO-READ? That's us! Learn More

The 2013 Business Book Awards

Richard Shell literally teaches the course on success at Wharton, so who better than he to write the book? Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success is an even-handed, well-reasoned, well-researched, and well-written book that should find a home on the shelves, and in the hearts and minds, of anyone who wants to be more successful (and who doesn’t?).

It is purposeful and personably written, almost as if you’re hearing from an old friend. And, like the man who wrote it, it is also incredibly modest—which is probably why you won’t see it appearing on many other “best of” lists this year. It is not a very “sexy” book, but it makes up for it in erudition, practicality, applicability, and if you’re open to it, profundity.

The profundity does not come cheap, however. This is not a book of encouraging yet empty slogans. It is not a quick fix or instant success formula. It does not tell you how to achieve fame or fortune. In fact, it warns that the unexamined pursuit of such things will turn you into a success addict—a hungry ghost—unable to feed an ever-expanding appetite for status symbols. 

 

It does not succumb to the cult of ambition or the supposed power of positive thinking. In fact, writing about “The Positive Value of Negative Emotions,” Shell tells us, “… research shows that mildly depressed or pessimistic people tend to see reality more clearly than optimists,” and “The price of enlightenment seems to be suffering, not smiling.”

Yet it is, in the end, an extremely uplifting book, not because it is filled with motivation and inspiration, but because it gives you the tools to motivate and inspire yourself.

It will require some work from you—the reader; Shell will have you searching inside yourself and answering some often-difficult questions about what you truly want and why. After all, as Shell write, “If you allow others to define your goals for you, then there is a pretty good chance you will end up holding a prize you did not choose and do not want.”

However, if you can figure out and define exactly what you’re looking for, and we believe reading Springboard can help you find that moment of clarity, then you can start to work toward finding and achieving it—the ultimate measure of success.

Category Winner

General Business

The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business by Rita Gunther McGrath | Harvard Business Review Press

The world Rita Gunther McGrath paints is one in which the ubiquity of cost leadership and differentiation among industry leaders is waning and the future for leaders of industries is one in which organizational identity and agility triumph. The End of Competitive Advantage shows us case after case of leading companies and their failures to adapt to changing markets. Floods of new technologies and market trends bring a challenge to companies: grab hold and start building something quickly or else watch your brand wash away into obsolescence. Sustained success is no longer about what you sell and at what price, but rather how far you can forecast and how quickly you can adapt to the coming trends.

Buy it

Category Winner

Leadership

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A.G. Lafley & Roger L. Martin | Harvard Business Review Press

This book relays the strategic approach P&G used over the 10-year period Lafley (with Martin as advisor) led the company to increase its market value to $100 billion. But this isn’t an industry book as much as it is a “story about choices, including the choice to create a discipline of strategic thinking and strategic practice within an organization.” And that’s truly what makes this book so good. It is, indeed, a story, and its two authors are invested in communicating the impressive work done at P&G and teaching this approach to others.

Category Winner

Management

Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love by Richard Sheridan | Portfolio

We all want a healthy and happy atmosphere at work. This book shows how the company Menlo Innovations built that for their employees, and how the rest of us can do the same. Beyond simple management tactics, the book gets into the core intricacies of emotion, personality, and skills, revealing qualities of a shared belief system that everyone could work from—to the point that some even joked they no longer needed to be paid.

Buy it

Category Winner

Marketing & Sales

Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out by Marc Ecko | Touchstone Books

It is very rare to read an entire business book from cover to cover, or find a story that is so interesting and captivating that it immediately puts perspective on how you channel your own creativity. Unlabel is that book. It is a success story, but it's one that shares the bruises, scars, and painful mistakes that every entrepreneur and business owner must overcome to succeed. Unlabel is a great mix of personal anecdotes from Marc Ecko’s own life, and helpful action tips that other small business owners and entrepreneurs can use to further their business and their lives outside of business. In a time where the majority of the world is forced to hustle, and fight in a competitive world, Unlabel is the perfect story of a man who clawed his way out of a garage, creating a multi-million dollar company in the process. 

Buy it

Category Winner

Entrepreneurship & Small Business

Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed by Alexis Ohanian | Business Plus

Alexis Ohanian’s deliberations on the infancy of the Internet provide ample fuel for the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Ohanian explains how the Internet supplants the old boundaries and obstacles of entrepreneurship in a purely physical world with digital tools, platforms, and ideas. The story of Reddit and Ohanian’s subsequent adventures bolster his argument for the power of the Internet and the importance of it remaining free and accessible to all. Without Their Permission is an entrepreneur’s guide for the young. It is a reminder that the Internet hasn’t always been as it is now, and it is up to those young entrepreneurs to determine what it will be in the future.

Buy it

Category Winner

Personal Development

Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success by G. Richard Shell | Portfolio

Success is an oft-tackled subject in business literature, so it’s easy to be cynical about there being any new angle to take on the matter. But G. Richard Shell, author of the classic Bargaining for Advantage and the terrific The Art of Woo, achieves it in Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success by presenting us with a book that doesn’t define success as much as it provides readers with the tools to define it accurately and authentically for themselves. Why is this so important? In Shell’s words: “It is your life story you are writing, after all.” Shell opens his book with a retelling of his own circuitous path to success, written with great humility and insight, and the entire book is shared in a voice that is both instructive and generous. “What is Success?” and “How Will I Achieve It?” are questions you will be able to answer for yourself once you close the covers of this book.

Buy it

Category Winner

Innovation & Creativity

Unthink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius by Erik Wahl | Crown Business

When we were young, we didn’t think much about creativity, we just used it all the time. As adults, we often wonder how to get that sense of wonder back. We fear the ridiculous and are burdened by how we’re “supposed” to think, yet we hold a bounty of adventure, ideas, and inspiration within each of us. Looking to harness creativity and innovation? Unthink is our guide

Buy it

Category Winner

Finance & Economics

The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire by Neil Irwin | The Penguin Press

The Alchemists not only provides those on the macroeconomic scene today with a better understanding of the history and role of central banks and bankers, it gives the general public insight into a world that is extremely powerful and very (and possibly necessarily) opaque, and leaves for future scholars a first draft history of the unprecedented, ad hoc institutional reaction to one of the biggest financial meltdowns the world has ever seen. And, in spite of its white-collar content and buttoned-up policy wonkishness, it is also an interesting history lesson and a uniquely human drama that unfolds. Overall, it’s simply an important and entertaining read from Neil Irwin and The Penguin Press.

Buy it

We have updated our privacy policy. Click here to read our full policy.