Johns top ten books

The Top 10 must-have reads for 2019 from Agile Business Consortium’s CEO

Blog post
By Abi Walker | 18 December 2018

Our CEO, John Williams, put together a list of his Top Ten reads!

Sapiens: a brief history of Humankind – Yuval Noah Harari (2011)

Author of several books on military history, Harari is also one of the most astute observers of humanity’s development. Sapiens charts the human journey from pretty much nowhere to.. well… here. Witty, clever, erudite and enjoyable – still the best of Harari’s books

Economics in One Lesson – Henry Hazlitt (1946)

Jeff Diest once said “'Ignorance of basic economics is so widespread we ought to have a word for it, as we do for illiteracy or innumeracy'. If there is one book that pulls back the curtain on the economic ignorance of politicians and the public, this is it. Clear, concise explanations of basic economic principles, exposing (still-)current economic fallacies for the unwise illusions they really represent

Innovation & Entrepreneurship – Peter Drucker (1985)

Professor Drucker is justly legendary, and this – the first of his books that I found – is amongst the best of his writings. Systematically (and I use that word on purpose) debunking the myth of The Entrepreneur Hero, and clarifying once and for all that “entrepreneurship is a behaviour pattern, not a character trait” – something, alas, still not acknowledged by Business Schools and business ‘gurus’

Everybody Lies – Seth Stephens-Davidowitz (2017)

Yeah, yeah, we know what you say. We also know what you think. Stephens-Davidowitz is a big data expert and avid reader of the runes that abound in Google searches. Our internet explorations – carried out under the blithe illusion that no-one is watching – tell everything about us that we may not want anyone to know. And the internet knows. The dataset that emerges is immense, insightful, and massively useful – for anyone that bothers to read it. This book, a book about us, is funny and shocking and scary in equal measure

The Great Crash – John Kenneth Galbraith (1954)

The finest of all books on the market Crash of 1927 – and packed full of lessons for today. Written in the easy, laconic style that made Galbraith the most accessible of all economists, this one is worth reading several times, just for the joy of his elegant prose

The Black Swan – Nassim Nicholas Taleb (2007)

Sharp, uncompromising, and pulling no punches, this book punctured the bubble of obscurantist wisdom that underlay the (still in the future) Crash of 2008. Pulling the rug from under the algorithms and quants that gave us CDOs, sub-prime mortgages and a market crash heard all around the world, Taleb uses the simple analogy of the supposedly non-existent black swan to uncover the basic bias at the heart of the ‘expert’. A book over which to smile wryly, and read again and again

Defending the Undefendable – Walter Block (1976)

Hang onto your principles – this one is going to hurt. If you’re a thoughtful, reflective, caring human being, this book will raise your blood pressure and have you reaching for paper, a pen, and someone to write to. Block takes the worst examples of economic behaviour, and clearly illustrates how a free market really works – and the sort of things that work darkly yet efficiently within it. Not for the faint-hearted…

Freakonomics – Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (2005)

Probably the most well-known of the pop-economics best-sellers (not least because of the title), Freakonomics garnered lots of hyperbole and superlatives, and deservedly. Throwing out surprising evidence for ‘Why drug dealers still live with their moms’, and the dark impact of the way we name our children, the book lives up to the promise of its hipster name and amply rewards the time invested in reading it

The Fifth Discipline – Peter Senge (1990)

When I first read this book in 2006, my first thought was ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me about this before now…?!?’. The bible of Systems Thinking, and a precursor to much of the management mentality of today, Senge’s book leans on the principle that ‘Learning disabilities are tragic in children, but they are fatal in organisations’. The shift from linear thinking to systems thinking is the foundation of the learning organisation, and Senge’s five-dimensional model aptly illustrates the meaning of the word quintessential: ‘Of the fifth and highest essence…’

Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell (2000)

Ever wondered why some products meander along in the market until they fade and die, and other stuff takes off like its hair was on fire...? Tipping point will tell you why. Social dynamics is not a science, it is an art, and Gladwell expounds the laws that even artful promotion needs to follow – the impact of migrating populations; the influence of the maven or trusted expert; the importance of maintaining momentum to reinforce the message – all these things can create a tipping point. A book full of sticky ideas, and a worthy addition to any bookshelf

That’s your 10 – and here’s a Free Bonus Book…!

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey (1989)

No list of ‘good books for business folks’ would be complete without this classic. Covey may not have invented the principle behind ‘This is how clever people do things’ – he certainly popularised it. Most readers won’t remember all 7 habits – and actually, no-one is asking us to – yet everyone remembers one or two or three that they mentally dust off whenever the situation prompts them. For me, it is always either ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood’, or ‘Start with the end in mind’. Start this book at the beginning, in the middle – anywhere you like – it is worth every second you spend in it


Are there any books that you would recommend? We’d love to hear!


The material published in the Blog area of this website, is provided independently by our bloggers and any opinions expressed are those of the individuals and not necessarily of the Agile Business Consortium. The Agile Business Consortium does not accept any legal responsibility for any content or opinion published in the Blog area of this website.