Six of the year’s best reads
Hundreds of business books are published every year. Here we look at six that were actually worth buying and reading in 2005.
Hundreds of business books are published every year. Many of them are badly written and poorly thought out. But every year throws up some gems. Below, we look at a few of the books we think were actually worth buying and reading in 2005.
Just One Thing: Twelve Of The World's Best Investors Reveal The One Strategy You Can't Overlook, edited by John Mauldin, offers an incomparable shortcut to prosperity by providing the single most useful piece of advice the contributors have learnt from their years of investing. The collection of strategies from financial gurus is not remarkably readable, but it is very useful indeed: each guru highlights the "one thing" that they would pass on to their children. Most are worth passing on to your own.
Empire Of Debt: The Rise Of An Epic Financial Crisis by Bill Bonner and Addison Wiggin uses "sardonic humour" to describe how America has become an "overfed, imperial has-been and economic basket-case", says SmartMoney: deficit spending, gluttonous consumption and military adventurism will bring the US to its knees, say Bonner and Wiggin. Are they right? The Economist thinks they may be: the magazine picked the book as one of the top ten reads that tell you "what's really going on".
Twilight in the Desert by Matthew Simmons, the Texas energy specialist, suggests that the world "derives false comfort" from believing Saudi Arabia will always produce more oil, says the FT. It won't: Saudi production may have already peaked. This is a ground-breaking book by an analyst of unimpeachable authority, says the New Statesman. "Essential reading for industry, government, investors and academia," says the Times Higher Education Supplement.
Freakonomics by Steve Levitt and Stephen Dubner looks at the world entirely from an economist's viewpoint, analysing and answering the seemingly impossible questions of life. Their "conclusions regularly turn the conventional wisdom on its head", says the FT. Indeed, owing to the often freaky quality of the questions, the new term freakonomics' was coined to describe the science. This unusual and intriguing book could even "redefine the way we view the modern world".
The unusually named The Travels Of A T-Shirt In The Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli follows her travels from a Texas cotton field to a Chinese clothing factory to a second-hand clothing market in Nigeria, investigating the lifespan of a T-shirt, and how it is affected by politics, economics, ethics, modern business and globalisation. Rivoli's "entertaining business book offers a surprising, enlightening and balanced look at one of the major topics of our time", says the FT.
The Living Dead Switched Off, Zoned Out: The Shocking Truth About Office Life by David Bolchover is a sad reflection on corporate structure. Rather than everyone being overworked, there are millions of us who spend years sitting in offices doing next to nothing, lost in the cracks of inefficient and abysmally managed large organisations, our talents wasted and forgotten. Bolchover's book is a "startling expos of corporate drudgery with a life-affirming message", says Global Investor.
Books that could make a good investment
Pity the UK's antiquarian book dealers, writes Euan Stuart of First State Books (www.firststatebooks.com). Like the purveyors of so many exotic investments', they were anticipating a mini-boom in demand come next April. However, now that books, like wine, cars and art, have been declared non-eligible for Sipps, that isn't going to happen. Still, that doesn't mean that books aren't worth looking at as investments: tax breaks or no tax breaks, this is a market where a lot of people have been making good money over the last few years.
Currently, one of the most interesting parts of the market is in the area of modern first editions. First editions have always been the thing to own, but over the last few years the emphasis has shifted from older, more inaccessible books to more recent ones. One of the biggest signs of this move is the immense popularity of the Harry Potter books. Signed copies of the first in the series, Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, now sell for around £20,000. These may well still be worth buying thanks to their global popularity and appeal across generations, but they're also probably beyond the pocket of most collectors.
So what else might make a nice investment? In the children's book sector, I would single out anything by Roald Dahl as particularly undervalued. Signed first editions of his works make a great investment at the moment. Away from children's books, I would say that authors such as William Golding, Iris Murdoch and the recently deceased John Fowles are all currently looking too cheap as well.