As the eclipse envelops us today, here are some business books that can envelop us in the remaining weeks of summer. The first three are from J.P. Morgan's 18th annual lineup of nonfiction books:
Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction by Derek Thompson.
"'Going viral' may have become the pop culture holy grail, but Thompson says it is no accident which songs, products, movies and ideas soar to the top of the charts and which fizzle out," writes The Washington Post. (And no, it has nothing to do with quality.) "There is a way for people to engineer hits," writes Thompson, a senior editor at the Atlantic, "and, equally important, a way for other people to know when popularity is being engineered." He delves into the history of Instagram and explains how a 5th grader helped catapult "Rock Around the Clock" into one of Rock 'n' Roll's biggest hits.
One Buck at a Time: An Insider's Account of How Dollar Tree Remade American Retail by Macon Brock and Earl Swift.
"Brock, the co-founder of Dollar Tree, will be the first to tell you he's been surprised by the company's meteoric rise, from a five-and-dime store in Norfolk, Va., to a major corporation that last year had $20.7 billion in sales." "If anybody tells you they saw this coming, they're telling you a tale," he writes. "Here's the most amazing thing. We double our money on every [Royal Norfolk stoneware plate] we sell. Fifty cents' profit on each plate, multiplied by the millions we sell, adds up to a tidy sum."
Rethink: The Surprising History of New Ideas by Steven Poole.
"Everything old is new again, Poole argues. Innovations are often just riffs on earlier ideas that have been mocked or shunned for decades, sometimes centuries, he says. One example: Tesla's revival of the electric car, a product that was first created by a chemist in 1837. By 1900, Poole writes that more than 30,000 electric cars had made their way to the United States, where 'they were much more popular than gasoline-powered cars.' '...We are living in an age of innovation. But it is also an age of rediscovery."
Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity by Charles Duhigg.
"This book is unique in the productivity space because it offers up a new definition of what it means to be productive. You'll learn how to shift your focus to managing how you think, rather than spending time managing what you think. It's core principle is that you can transform your life by making certain choices. He lays out a compelling case for how the model for traditional goal-setting focuses primarily on big ambitions, but ignores smaller decisions. Duhigg says it's important to remember the smaller goals if you want to create big change in your life or business. He argues that the people and companies who innovate quickest, and get the most done, have mastered the art of shifting importance to achieving small goals—that eventually latter up to bigger ones."
Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing the Digital Revolution by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.
Following up their 2014 hit The Second Machine Age, Brynjolfsson and McAfee examine artificial intelligence, big data and the sharing economy, advising leaders to entrust more decisions to machines. John Thornhill, reviewing for the Financial Times, praised the 'clear and crisply written' account for recognizing the limitations of futurology and avoiding over-simplification."
Captivate: The Science of Succeeding With People by Vanessa Van Edwards.
"Van Edwards calls herself a 'recovering awkward person.' In Captivate, she shares the secrets that have helped her become more charismatic, likable, and comfortable in social situations. Those secrets are based on the research she's conducted at her human behavior research lab, called the Science of People. (Van Edwards also runs a website by the same name.) In the book, she shares tricks to spicing up small talk, making a solid first impression, being more popular, and tapping into people's personalities based on their language. It's the kind of advice you can use the instant you finish reading the book."