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The 2014 Business Book Awards

If you look up and down our longlist of this year’s best books, you’ll see it’s littered with books at the intersection of business and new technology, computers, the Internet, and whatever is coming next. It is just such an all-encompassing part of our lives now that we miss the forest of it for the trees of each aspect. Michael S. Malone’s The Intel Trinity does a lot to explain how it became this way and how Intel became “the most important company in the world” in the process.

But Malone's book is more than just a book about a company because while most books end up in the General Business category because they don't fit into any other, Malone's tale ended up there because it fit in all our other categories. It is a tale of innovation and creativity, to be sure, and a tale of some of the most successful entrepreneurship of the 20th Century, showing that it can be (and usually is) a collaborative effort and not the result of a lone wolf. And it gets into the nuts-and-bolts of the business: the sales strategies and successes that built and sustained the company, and the marketing strategies they employed when others' technologies started to catch up and even surpass their own.

It is a story of the personal development not only of the three men in the subtitle of the book, but of so many characters whose talents Intel nurtured. It does not have the typical  finance and economic angle, but it has something that may be more important; it tells the story of how Intel secured the financing to begin it's enterprise and how it managed the relationship with those who financed the company over time. Finally, the book has some of the best leadership and management stories and lessons we've come across in a long time. The three men at the center of the book had an interesting and tumultuous relationship in an industry and era that has changed life as we know it on this planet, and they were at the center of those changes.

For a book that could have, and almost does at times, get bogged down in microprocessor models and the like to tell its story, the readability of The Intel Trinity is an impressive feat, and for that reason and so many others (Have we mentioned just how good a journalist and writer Mike Malone is?) it deserves to be called the best book of 2015.

Category Winner

General Business

The Intel Trinity: How Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Andy Grove Built the World's Most Important Company by Michael S. Malone | HarperBusiness

The Intel Trinity, starting with its description of Intel as “the World’s Most Important Company” in the subtitle, is a book that seems constantly teetering on hyperbole. But, just when you think it’s veering over the edge, Michael Malone makes a perfectly succinct point that brings the picture into focus and the story together in a way that makes you quickly realize he is a completely spot-on and that your own version of events lacks a certain profundity. And that is not surprising, as this is a book that perfectly encapsulates the passing of an era when Silicon Valley’s first generation, a set of individuals that have changed life on this planet forever, is passing from the helm of companies into the history books.

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Category Winner

Leadership & Management

The Road to Reinvention: How to Drive Disruption and Accelerate Transformation by Josh Linkner | Jossey-Bass

Josh Linkner’s Road to Reinvention inspires an immediate reconsideration of your own commitment to innovation. Linkner instills a sense of urgency to his message, but not without providing us with thought exercises and strategies that illuminate just where our own businesses might be stagnating. It’s a cruel world out there, he seems to be saying, but, even as he uses the life, death, and (impending) rebirth of Detroit as his exemplar, he is an optimist, making clear that a smart, daring, and clear-eyed assessment of where you are and where you dream of going can help ward off any disrupters who come to play in your pool. Whether your business is in decline or is searching for a growth strategy—especially those who have little maneuverability in terms of cash or internal bandwidth—Linkner’s championing of creative thinking, flexibility, and personal responsibility in the name of “proactive reinvention” will not only change how you do the business you do, but also keep it changing.

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Category Winner

Marketing

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal | Portfolio

As we see a large amount of innovation entering into the tech world, Hooked is an essential read for entrepreneurs trying to create sticky products and ideas that people can’t live without. Written in a highly personal manner, the takeaways that Nir Eyal lays out at the end of every chapter are enough to keep you hooked, while providing valuable insight into users’ behavior and motivation which adds real value to Nir’s work.

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Category Winner

Sales

UnSelling: The New Customer Experience by Scott Stratten & Alison Kramer | Wiley

The rules of selling have fundamentally changed. Buyers and sellers have drastically shifted their focus to the online marketplace but Stratten and Kramer have written a great book to help businesses focus on where they should be aiming. Written in a fun and conversational manner, the book presents a clear picture of why certain efforts work, why others fail, and how to create value to a business before they even realize they need you.

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Category Winner

Entrepreneurship

The Responsible Entrepreneur: Four Game-Changing Archetypes for Founders, Leaders, and Impact Investors by Carol Sanford | Jossey-Bass

The current global business climate is in need of a new entrepreneurial code—one that serves our ever-more-enlightened humanitarian goals. Our world can no longer afford big entrepreneurship that doesn’t serve to make positive global change. This is the task Carol Sanford takes up in The Responsible Entrepreneur, and the result provides a promise of a better future for new businesses and the world alike. The Responsible Entrepreneur provides a wealth of opportunity for those who want more than simply to earn a living. You can start a business, sure, but why not change the world while for the better while you’re at it? Carol Sanford will show you how.

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Category Winner

Personal Development

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown | Crown Business

In a year when a number of our category winners are about or are written by heads of Silicon Valley companies, Essentialism opens with a story about one Valley company leader who decidedly bucked the tech industry’s overdo-it culture by learning how to accomplish more by focusing on less and then teaches us how. At a time in history when the entire idea of work—what it looks like and how it’s done—is being questioned, the path to essentialism should be an important part, if not the very foundation, of the work conversation.

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Category Winner

Innovation & Creativity

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson | Simon & Schuster

Walter Isaacson extends his legacy as an expert biographer with The Innovators. It is on the surface a history that culminates in what we now call the Digital Age, but delivers much more than a simple history of inventions. Covering a period of more than 150 years, The Innovators is a study of some of the last century-and-half’s greatest minds—from Ada Lovelace to Sergey Brin—and a reminder that the digital tools we know today are born from human relationships and driven by a hope to improve the work and communication that we engage in daily.

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Category Winner

Finance & Economics

How the Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class by John Hope Bryant | Berrett-Koehler

John Hope Bryant shows us how the economic engine of capitalism—an engine that has been building a burgeoning middle class all over the world as markets have opened up to it in recent decades—can be used to address the economic inequality right here at home and help grow the American economy at the same time. Or, to rearrange and paraphrase the title of the book a bit, it is a book about rebuilding a navigable path to the middle class for poor folks and using that path to spur the growth that American capitalism needs to survive and thrive.

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