A selection of the best business books of the year, a few tips from readers and the titles DealBook looks forward to reading in 2023.
CHIP WAR: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology, by Chris Miller
The tiny semiconductor has played a huge role in the development of modern technology since its invention in the 1950s by an engineer at Texas Instruments. Chips power everything from personal computers to cellphones and fighter jets, and sit at the frontline in a growing battle between the U.S. and China.
Mr. Miller, an associate professor of international history at Tufts University, writes that governments are in a race to control the next wave of development. American officials, industry leaders and academics worry that the U.S. lags China and is vulnerable to Beijing’s growing threats toward Taiwan, home to the world’s biggest chip-maker, TSMC. The Biden administration has introduced sweeping bans on Chinese access to high-end technologies that it doesn’t produce itself and sought to boost domestic manufacturing with $52 billion in subsidies and tax credits for global manufacturers that set up operations in the U.S.
Mr. Miller’s timely book effectively explains the growing battle over a crucial industry, including accounts of the scientists who created the semiconductor, the process of offshoring manufacturing to Asia from the U.S., the rise of China, and more recent American-led efforts to wrest back control.
Read The Times’s review of “Chip War” here.
THE POWER LAW: Venture Capital and the Making of the New Future, by Sebastian Mallaby
Mr. Mallaby chronicled the history of hedge funds in his acclaimed 2010 book “More Money Than God” and wrote a well-received biography of the former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan six years later, “The Man Who Knew.”
Now, he’s set his sights on the venture capital industry in this meticulously researched account of a sector that has revolutionized investment and helped power the Silicon Valley-led tech revolution. The book is named for the distribution of returns in an industry focused on grand slams. Rather than returns that fit into an even bell curve, a few bets wildly outperform the rest, in some cases with one of a firm’s investments outperforming the remainder of its portfolio.
Mr. Mallaby argues that the creation of the venture capital industry has led to a Cambrian explosion of innovation, and that these investors circulate ideas like bees pollinating flowers in a garden. The book offers a satisfying look at how the sausage is made at some of the most powerful investment firms on the planet.
Read The Times’s review of “The Power Law” here.
POWER FAILURE: The Rise and Fall of an American Icon, by William D. Cohan
General Electric was once America’s most valuable and important company. It made and sold everything from light bulbs and jet engines to TV shows and insurance, making it a fixture of American life. Fast forward to 2021, when its C.E.O., Larry Culp, announced the company would be broken up into three separate units after years of underperformance and you get a sense of its changing fortunes.
Mr. Cohan, a writer and founding partner at Puck and a former investment banker, charts the history of G.E. in this well-researched and compelling book. Through extensive interviews with executives including Jack Welch, the totemic C.E.O. from 1981-2001 who drove its expansion, and archival research, Mr. Cohan suggests the fall wasn’t inevitable. But personal ambition and feuds hastened G.E.’s undoing, providing a useful case study for any corporate leader.
INFLUENCE EMPIRE: The Story of Tencent & China’s Tech Ambition, by Lulu Chen
When Elon Musk teased that he might turn Twitter into the “everything app,” what did he have in mind? WeChat, the dominant platform in China that is used for tasks as varied as messaging and shopping, gaming and livestreaming, is a plausible model (as Mr. Musk noted in a podcast soon after agreeing to buy Twitter). “If you’re in China, it’s basically, you kind of live on WeChat — it does everything. It’s sort of like Twitter, plus PayPal, plus a whole bunch of other things. And all rolled into one with actually a great interface.”
Tencent, the company behind the ubiquitous app, rarely opens itself up to journalists or scrutiny, which makes Ms. Chen’s exploration of its extraordinary rise to become China’s biggest tech group and most important private company all the more vital. The Shenzhen-based business founded by Pony Ma has deftly navigated an increasingly difficult political environment, even as higher-profile rivals like Alibaba’s Jack Ma have been forced to largely disappear from public view after criticizing the Chinese authorities.
More than a corporate hagiography, Ms. Chen’s book offers insight into the company via executive interviews and exclusive details.
THE BOND KING: How One Man Made a Market, Built an Empire, and Lost It All, by Mary Childs
Ms. Childs, a co-host of NPR’s Planet Money, recounts the extraordinary career of Bill Gross, a founder of the investment firm PIMCO who helped revolutionize the world of bond investing. Mr. Gross helped build the company into a $2 trillion behemoth, a process that earned him the nickname “the bond king” and a fortune.
But Mr. Gross’s leadership was contentious. He clashed with colleagues, including Mohamed El-Erian, the economist he helped employ as C.E.O. who eventually quit in 2014. Mr. Gross himself was pushed out shortly afterward and was soon hired at Janus Henderson, a smaller rival, where he wasn’t able to replicate his earlier success and retired in 2019.
Ms. Childs spent hours speaking with Mr. Gross and has produced a vivid account of his extraordinary career.
Read DealBook’s conversation with Childs about Mr. Gross and “The Bond King” here.
FREEZING ORDER: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath, by Bill Browder
Bill Browder, a British American financier, was once one of the biggest foreign investors in Russia. He made a fortune after the collapse of communism through his Moscow-based hedge fund Hermitage Capital Management, investing in undervalued companies, driving up the share price and selling. But after pushing back against corruption, Mr. Browder liquidated his fund and left the country — and became one of President Vladimir Putin’s biggest enemies.
Mr. Browder has been a vocal critic of Putin ever since, and in 2009, Sergei Magnitsky, his tax lawyer, exposed a multimillion-dollar fraud by government officials. Mr. Magnitsky was arrested and died in prison nearly a year later, but Mr. Browder has used his name to maintain pressure on the regime. In 2012, Congress passed the Magnitsky Act, allowing officials to punish those suspected of abusing human rights, including by limiting travel and freezing their assets.
“Freezing Order,” Mr. Browder’s second book, tells the story of how he was targeted after leaving Russia, alleging that he has been the subject of honey traps, chased through cities, had allies based in Russia murdered, and attacked by leading politicians and top lawyers in the west.
Read DealBook’s conversation with Mr. Browder about Russia here.
Reader favorites from 2022
BUILD: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making, by Tony Fadell
“Build,” a book by Mr. Fadell, a former Apple and Google executive, was an incredibly useful, practical and inspiring “Bible” for builders like me. What I loved about it, surprisingly, was that there was nothing in it that I didn’t already “know” but there was plenty in there that I don’t regularly do.
The best part about it is that it’s delivered in such an open, honest, straightforward manner, without any conceit or preachiness.
I recommend it to everyone I work with (and work for).
SLOUCHING TOWARDS UTOPIA: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century, by J. Bradford DeLong
A masterful analysis of the extended 20th century (1870-2020) U.S. economy, by the former Treasury official now at the University of California, Berkeley.
The New York Times’ opinion columnist Ezra Klein spoke to Mr. DeLong in a recent podcast. Listen here.
HOW TO STAND UP TO A DICTATOR: The Fight for Our Future, by Maria Ressa
Ms. Ressa, a Filipino American journalist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, set her sites on how to get things done and stuck to it through thick and thin, inspiring others along the way.
What we’re looking forward to reading in 2023
THE CREATIVE ACT: A Way of Being, by Rick Rubin
Mr. Rubin, the famed music producer, has worked with some of the world’s biggest artists, including the Beastie Boys, Johnny Cash, Run-DMC, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Adele. His first book offers lessons on how to get the most out of musicians and creative types.
THE CRISIS OF DEMOCRATIC CAPITALISM, by Martin Wolf
The fraying relationship between liberal democracy and capitalism is the subject of the latest book by Mr. Wolf, the chief economics commentator at The Financial Times, who rejects the view that each would be better off untethered from the other. Instead, he offers a robust defense of democratic capitalism as the most productive political and economic system, and vitally important for all of us.
QUANTUM SUPREMACY: How Quantum Computers Will Unlock the Mysteries of Science — and Usher In a New Quantum Era, by Michio Kaku
Mr. Kaku, the theoretical physicist and author of the best seller “The God Equation,” delves into the world of quantum computing for his latest book, seeking to explain a new technology with the potential to reveal the deepest secrets of science and help solve some of humanity’s thorniest problems.
FLYING GREEN: On the Frontiers of New Aviation, by Christopher de Bellaigue
Boeing’s decision to shelve the 747 jumbo jet this year is emblematic of a broader shift, as the industry looks to develop more sustainable ways of air travel. Mr. de Bellaigue meets the innovators, businesses and entrepreneurs at the cutting edge of reinventing the way we fly.
We’d like your feedback! Please email thoughts and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.