Business books with buzz

A lot of big names have been generating media buzz — and it’s not only due to their business prowess. Whether it’s “rag to riches” or “how the mighty fall” — we can’t help but want the inside scoop on some of the most powerful people in business. If we’re paying attention, we can even pick up some tidbits to use in our own professional and personal lives.

Here are some top titles to add to your reading list:

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

We know him for his black turtle necks and industry-changing technology, but much of Steve Jobs’ personal and professional life was shrouded with secrecy… until now. Unbeknownst to the public, Jobs approached biographer Walter Isaacson to write his official biography long before his death. In the years that followed, Isaacson conducted over forty interviews with the man himself and got the inside scoop from over 100 of his family members, friends, colleagues and competitors.

Don’t let the words “authorized biography” fool you: Jobs encouraged people to speak honestly about him, and he didn’t hold back either. In fact, his frank opinions and tidbits about his life may surprise you — like his hate-on for Google Android and how death was a driving force in his life. We’re used to seeing his big announcements, and now this book offers one last chance to hear his own words — something other biographies won’t be able to provide.

A Matter of Principle by Conrad Black

What makes a media tycoon even more intriguing? How about a controversial trial, some jail time and a very public appeal? If you’re looking for his life story, Black published his memoir, A Life in Progress, back in 1992. However, a lot has happened since then — including the dismissal from his position as head of one of the world’s largest newspaper groups due to allegations of fraud.

His latest work isn’t just an account of the years that followed — from indictment to conviction to appeal. It’s a frank and often scathing look at politics and justice, including the complex relationships among Canada, the U.S. and Great Britain. He isn’t shy about naming names either: among the pages you’ll find stories about the people who supported him or betrayed him, including politicians, prosecutors and the social and media elite.

Still maintaining his innocence, his latest work is bound to continue the controversy surrounding what he describes as “the fight of and for my life.”

Persuasion: A New Approach to Changing Minds by Arlene Dickenson

Fans of TV’s Dragons’ Den know this top entrepreneur always has an eye on marketing appeal. Now, she’s out to help audiences master “the art of persuasion” both in professional and personal life. Her book covers topics ranging from seizing opportunities and getting people to buy into your ideas to attracting followers and dealing with naysayers.

While the book offers a healthy dose of social science, much of the wisdom comes from her own experiences in business along with tricks of the trade. She has “walked the walk” — in a little over a decade, she went from being a single mother of four children with no money, experience or skills to owner and CEO of Venture Communications, a company she grew from a local firm to one of Canada’s largest independent agencies. Persuasion offers a glimpse into both at her rags-to-riches story and her business savvy.

The Cold Hard Truth by Kevin O’Leary

If you’ve ever seen the Lang and O’Leary Exchange or Dragons’ Den, you know a few things about Kevin O’Leary: 1) he’s rich, 2) he’s not afraid to give advice, and 3) he doesn’t mince words when it comes to money. As you might expect from the title, O’Leary’s no-nonsense tone and willingness to impart his business wisdom come through the pages of his work — like his story on “Why A$$holes Get Rich”.

The book offers advice for business owners and anyone who cares about earning more money — but don’t expect O’Leary to sugar coat it. However, if you’ve ever wanted to see O’Leary knocked down a peg or two, you’ll appreciate some of his personal stories — including how he “paid his dues” in the early days of his career. (Cat food, anyone?)

Can’t get enough of the Dragons? Robert Herjavec’s book Driven: How to Succeed in Business and in Life is now out in paperback.

Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family by Laurie Sandell

Here’s one businessman you won’t want to emulate: Bernie Madoff. Perpetrator of the world’s largest Ponzi scheme, Madoff bilked thousands of victims out of billions of dollars – and some unwary investors were even friends and family. A lot of questions still remained unanswered since his 2008 arrest. How did he manage to trick so many people — and what role did his family play? How did his adoring wife deal with the news — not to mention his sons and their families who built their lives around Madoff’s empire? How do they go on?

In attempts to answer these unthinkable questions, journalist Laurie Sandell delves into the details behind the media buzz. Her work shares the stories of Madoff’s wife, Ruth, along with her son Andrew and his fiancée Catherine. The tragic story may have readers looking at the family with a less critical eye.

What about the other daughter-in-law? Stephanie Madoff Mack, widow of Madoff’s son Mark, who published her own memoir last month? Entitled The End of Normal, she hopes her work will help her children understand the father they lost to suicide in the wake of the scandal.

Pick them up, or take a pass — would you read these famous bios? Tell us in the comments.

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