Top 15 Business Books for 2014


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December 26, 2014
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Below are some of the top business related books for 2014. While these books contain some solid content and ideas on business today, there are some areas of business that are changing so rapidly that traditional print books are out of date before being published. This is the case particularly in the area of Digital and Online Marketing. For the latest relevant ideas in this space, I recommend a few authors and experts and the content they deliver online, which is most readily available by following them on Twitter. Here’s the list of experts in this area that I follow:

• Brian Solis, principal at Altimeter Group, a research and advisory firm. @briansolis
• Jeremiah Owyang, formerly with Altimeter Group, founded CrowdCompanies, leading expert on the Collaborative Economy (consumers sharing products and services) @jowyang
• Robin Sharma, author and speaker on Leadership @_robin_sharma
• Dave Evans, author and VP of Social Strategy at Lithium @evansdave
• Lee Odden author and speaker, CEO of TopRank Online Marketing @leeodden
• Paul Ten Haken, Dordt College grad, author and speaker, President of Click Rain @paultenhaken

Now on to the book list…

1. The Organized Mind – Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel Levitin
The information age is drowning us with an unprecedented deluge of data. At the same time, we’re expected to make more—and faster—decisions about our lives than ever before. No wonder, then, that the average American reports frequently losing car keys or reading glasses, missing appointments, and feeling worn out by the effort required just to keep up.

But somehow some people become quite accomplished at managing information flow. In The Organized Mind, Daniel J. Levitin, PhD, uses the latest brain science to demonstrate how those people excel—and how readers can use their methods to regain a sense of mastery over the way they organize their homes, workplaces, and time.

With lively, entertaining chapters on everything from the kitchen junk drawer to health care to executive office workflow, Levitin reveals how new research into the cognitive neuroscience of attention and memory can be applied to the challenges of our daily lives. This Is Your Brain on Music showed how to better play and appreciate music through an understanding of how the brain works. The Organized Mind shows how to navigate the churning flood of information in the twenty-first century with the same neuroscientific perspective.1

2. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
In The Power of Habit, Pulitzer Prize–winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

3. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?

His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

Brilliant and entertaining, Outliers is a landmark work that will simultaneously delight and illuminate.

4. The Servant by James C Hunter
In this absorbing tale, you watch the timeless principles of servant leadership unfold through the story of John Daily, a businessman whose outwardly successful life is spiraling out of control. He is failing miserably in each of his leadership roles as boss, husband, father, and coach. To get his life back on track, he reluctantly attends a weeklong leadership retreat at a remote Benedictine monastery.

To John’s surprise, the monk leading the seminar is a former business executive and Wall Street legend. Taking John under his wing, the monk guides him to a realization that is simple yet profound: The true foundation of leadership is not power, but authority, which is built upon relationships, love, service, and sacrifice.

Along with John, you will learn that the principles in this book are neither new nor complex. They don’t demand special talents; they are simply based on strengthening the bonds of respect, responsibility, and caring with the people around you. Perhaps this is why The Servant has touched readers from all walks of life—because its message can be applied by anyone, anywhere—at home or at work.

If you are tired of books that lecture instead of teach; if you are searching for ways to improve your leadership skills; if you want to understand the timeless virtues that lead to lasting and meaningful success, then this book is one you cannot afford to miss.

5. The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle: How to Become a Servant Leader by James C Hunter
Author and consultant James Hunter believes that–in the midst of numerous national corporate scandals–leaders must take a fresh look at leadership through the lens of some very ancient principles. Leadership that is authentic and effective is servant leadership–following the principles revealed in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ:
“Recently it struck me that if love changes people, which I know it does, it would seem to follow that God is the source of change and growth because He is love. Put another way, when people begin loving others through their efforts and behavior, God has the opportunity to work in the lives of both the giver and the receiver.”

In his new book, The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle, Hunter demonstrates that leadership and character development are one. But the work, and even the pain, of changing one’s self–breaking old, worn-out habits–is not easy. Hunter provides an uncomplicated, straightforward, three-step change process he has seen successfully employed by literally thousands of leaders to effect change in their lives and organizations and fulfill beneficial goals.

This groundbreaking book will open the eyes of frustrated, disheartened leaders at every level and foster change for good at the personal, organizational, and societal level.

6. The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson
Following his blockbuster biography of Steve Jobs, The Innovators is Walter Isaacson’s revealing story of the people who created the computer and the Internet. It is destined to be the standard history of the digital revolution and an indispensable guide to how innovation really happens.

What were the talents that allowed certain inventors and entrepreneurs to turn their visionary ideas into disruptive realities? What led to their creative leaps? Why did some succeed and others fail?

In his masterly saga, Isaacson begins with Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s. He explores the fascinating personalities that created our current digital revolution, such as Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J.C.R. Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Tim Berners-Lee, and Larry Page.

This is the story of how their minds worked and what made them so inventive. It’s also a narrative of how their ability to collaborate and master the art of teamwork made them even more creative.

For an era that seeks to foster innovation, creativity, and teamwork, The Innovators shows how they happen.

7. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel
If you want to build a better future, you must believe in secrets.

The great secret of our time is that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. In Zero to One, legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create those new things.

Thiel begins with the contrarian premise that we live in an age of technological stagnation, even if we’re too distracted by shiny mobile devices to notice. Information technology has improved rapidly, but there is no reason why progress should be limited to computers or Silicon Valley. Progress can be achieved in any industry or area of business. It comes from the most important skill that every leader must master: learning to think for yourself.

Doing what someone else already knows how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But when you do something new, you go from 0 to 1. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. Tomorrow’s champions will not win by competing ruthlessly in today’s marketplace. They will escape competition altogether, because their businesses will be unique.

Zero to One presents at once an optimistic view of the future of progress in America and a new way of thinking about innovation: it starts by learning to ask the questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places.

8. Good Leaders Ask Great Questions: Your Foundation for Successful Leadership by John Maxwell
In Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, John C. Maxwell delves into the process of becoming a successful leader by examining how questions can be used to advantage. What are the questions leaders should ask themselves? What questions should they ask members of their team? He then responds to the toughest problems leaders have presented to him. Using social media, Maxwell offered the floor to followers with unanswered questions about what it takes to achieve their professional best, and selected seventy questions on the most popular topics, including:

  • How can I discover my unique purpose as a leader?
  • What is the most effective daily habit that any leader should develop?
  • How do you motivate an unmotivated person?
  • How would you work with a difficult leader who has no vision?

This book is a thorough, insightful response to those readers and anyone who feels they have plateaued on their journey to develop their ultimate potential. Every leader has room to grow, and the advice in these pages will help readers assess their current position, and structure an effective plan to achieve their goals.

9. EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches by Dave Ramsey
From New York Times bestselling author and nationally syndicated talk radio host Dave Ramsey comes the secret to how he grew a multimillion dollar company from a card table in his living room.

Your company is only as strong as your leaders. These are the men and women doing battle daily beneath the banner that is your brand. Are they courageous or indecisive? Are they serving a motivated team or managing employees? Are they valued?

Your team will never grow beyond you, so here’s another question to consider. Are you growing? Whether you’re sitting at the CEO’s desk, the middle manager’s cubicle, or a card table in your living-room-based startup, EntreLeadership provides the practical, step-by-step guidance to grow your business where you want it to go. Dave opens up his championship playbook for business to show you how to:

  • Inspire your team to take ownership and love what they do
  • Unify your team and get rid of all gossip
  • Handle money to set your business up for success
  • Reach every goal you set
  • And much, much more!

10. The Legacy Journey: A Radical View of Biblical Wealth and Generosity by Dave Ramsey
Dave Ramsey shares Biblical wisdom on the legacy we build with our wealth.

What does the Bible really say about money? About wealth? How much does God expect you to give to others? How does wealth affect your friendships, marriage, and children? How much is “enough”?

There’s a lot of bad information in our culture today about wealth—and the wealthy. Worse, there’s a growing backlash in America against our most successful neighbors, but why? To many, wealth is seen as the natural result of hard work and wise money management. To others, wealth is viewed as the ultimate, inexcusable sin. This has left a lot of godly men and women honestly confused about what to do with the resources God’s put in their hands. God’s ways of handling money caused them to build wealth, but then they’re left feeling guilty about it. Is this what God had in mind?

In The Legacy Journey, New York Times bestselling author Dave Ramsey takes you deep into God’s Word, revealing His perspective on wealth, your personal and family legacy, and how He wants to use you to further His kingdom work around the world. You can truly live—and leave—a legacy. The journey starts today.

11. What’s the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences by Brian Solis
Rethink your business model to incorporate the power of “user” experiences

What’s the Future of Business? will galvanize a new movement that aligns the tenets of user experience with the vision of innovative leadership to improve business performance, engagement, and relationships for a new generation of consumerism. It provides an overview of real-world experiences versus “user” experiences in relation to products, services, mobile, social media, and commerce, among others. This book explains why experience is everything and how the future of business will come down to shared experiences.

• Aligns the tenets of user experience with the concepts of innovative leadership to improve business performance and engagement and to motivate readers to rethink business models and customer and employee relationships
• Motivates readers to rethink business models, products and services, marketing, and customer and employee relationships with desired experiences in mind
• Brian Solis is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media, and is the author of Engage! and The End of Business as Usual!
Discover how user experience design affects your business, and how you can harness its power for meaningful revenue growth

12. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni
There is a competitive advantage out there, arguably more powerful than any other. Is it superior strategy? Faster innovation? Smarter employees? No, New York Times best-selling author, Patrick Lencioni, argues that the seminal difference between successful companies and mediocre ones has little to do with what they know and how smart they are and more to do with how healthy they are. In this book, Lencioni brings together his vast experience and many of the themes cultivated in his other best-selling books and delivers a first: a cohesive and comprehensive exploration of the unique advantage organizational health provides.

Simply put, an organization is healthy when it is whole, consistent and complete, when its management, operations and culture are unified. Healthy organizations outperform their counterparts, are free of politics and confusion and provide an environment where star performers never want to leave. Lencioni’s first non-fiction book provides leaders with a groundbreaking, approachable model for achieving organizational health—complete with stories, tips and anecdotes from his experiences consulting to some of the nation’s leading organizations. In this age of informational ubiquity and nano-second change, it is no longer enough to build a competitive advantage based on intelligence alone. The Advantage provides a foundational construct for conducting business in a new way—one that maximizes human potential and aligns the organization around a common set of principles.

13. The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller
In this new edition of their classic business fable, Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller get at the heart of what makes a leader successful. Newly promoted but struggling young executive Debbie Brewster asks her mentor the one question she desperately needs answered: “What is the secret of great leaders?” His reply—“great leaders serve”—flummoxes her, but over time he reveals the five fundamental ways that leaders succeed through service. Along the way she learns:
• Why great leaders seem preoccupied with the future
• How people on the team ultimately determine your success or failure
• What three arenas require continuous improvement
• Why true success in leadership has two essential components
• How to knowingly strengthen—or unwittingly destroy—leadership credibility

The tenth anniversary edition includes a leadership self-assessment so readers can measure to what extent they lead by serving and where they can improve. The authors also have added answers to the most frequently asked questions about how to apply the SERVE model in the real world.

As practical as it is uplifting, The Secret shares Blanchard’s and Miller’s wisdom about leadership in a form that anyone can easily understand and implement.

14. The Leader Who Had No Title: A Modern Fable on Real Success in Business and in Life by Robin Sharma
For more than fifteen years, Robin Sharma has been quietly sharing with Fortune 500 companies and many of the super-rich a success formula that has made him one of the most sought-after leadership advisers in the world. Now, for the first time, Sharma makes his proprietary process available to you, so that you can get to your absolute best while helping your organization break through to a dramatically new level of winning in these wildly uncertain times.

In The Leader Who Had No Title, you will learn:
• How to work with and influence people like a superstar, regardless of your position
• A method to recognize and then seize opportunities in times of deep change
• The real secrets of intense innovation
• An instant strategy to build a great team and become a “merchant of wow” with your customers
• Hard-hitting tactics to become mentally strong and physically tough enough to lead your field
• Real-world ways to defeat stress, build an unbeatable mind-set, unleash energy, and balance your personal life

Regardless of what you do within your organization and the current circumstances of your life, the single most important fact is that you have the power to show leadership. Wherever you are in your career or life, you should always play to your peak abilities. This book shows you how to claim that staggering power, as well as transform your life—and the world around you—in the process.

15. The Carpenter: A Story About the Greatest Success Strategies of All by Jon Gordon
Bestselling author Jon Gordon returns with his most inspiring book yet—filled with powerful lessons and the greatest success strategies of all.

Michael wakes up in the hospital with a bandage on his head and fear in his heart. The stress of building a growing business, with his wife Sarah, caused him to collapse while on a morning jog. When Michael finds out the man who saved his life is a Carpenter he visits him and quickly learns that he is more than just a Carpenter; he is also a builder of lives, careers, people, and teams.

As the Carpenter shares his wisdom, Michael attempts to save his business in the face of adversity, rejection, fear, and failure. Along the way he learns that there’s no such thing as an overnight success but there are timeless principles to help you stand out, excel, and make an impact on people and the world.

Drawing upon his work with countless leaders, sales people, professional and college sports teams, non-profit organizations and schools, Jon Gordon shares an entertaining and enlightening story that will inspire you to build a better life, career, and team with the greatest success strategies of all.

If you are ready to create your masterpiece, read The Carpenter and begin the building process today.

Dig Deeper

Check out the other iAt top book lists featured this month:
Books Your Kids Should Read
Top 25 Most Influential Books Read in 2014
Ten Great Books on Church History
A Librarians Guide to a Good Book
Happy reading!

About the Author
  • Dale Zevenbergen teaches business courses in the areas of Marketing and Operations Management at Dordt University. Dale joined Dordt fulltime in July, 2008, and has 18 years experience in accounting, cost management, manufacturing, sales, and distribution management.


  1. credit for books summaries: www.amazon.com 

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