For your reading list: The 2021 Business Book of the Year shortlist

It’s the eighth year of the FT and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award and it’s been a blockbuster: FT journalists filtered through a record-breaking entry of some 600 books to produce a longlist of 15 for the panel of judges to read.

“The longlist was full of books whose topics and insights were very much likely to stand the test of time, a key determinant for success with this annual award,” said Raju Narisetti, publisher, global publishing at McKinsey, and one of nine members of this year’s jury. “It has meant a wonderful summer of reading, followed by a very spirited discussion with fellow judges in what is always a fun yet difficult task of winnowing that list down.”

Virginia Simmons
McKinsey’s Virginia Simmons, managing partner–UK, Ireland, and Israel, announced the FT shortlist on September 23.
Virginia Simmons

The shortlist of six was announced at a virtual event co-hosted by Roula Khalaf, editor of the FT, and Virginia Simmons, the managing partner for our UK, Ireland, and Israel offices.

“While the continuing impact of the pandemic is reflected in the books that made the list, the breadth and richness of topics here underscores the forward-looking value of this annual book award,” Virginia said at the event. “These authors provide compelling and engaging insights into modern business, climate change conversations and our sustainable and inclusive future, setting up a compelling shortlist for the jury to then select a winner, by year-end.”

In addition to Roula Khalaf, who chairs the group, this year’s panel of judges includes: Mimi Alemayehou, senior vice-president for public-private partnerships at Mastercard’s humanitarian and development group; Mitchell Baker, chief executive, Mozilla Corporation; Mohamed El-Erian, president, Queens’ College, Cambridge, and adviser to Allianz and Gramercy; Herminia Ibarra, professor of organizational behavior, London Business School; James Kondo, chair, International House of Japan; Randall Kroszner, professor of economics and deputy dean for executive programs at University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business; Raju Narisetti; and Shriti Vadera, chair, Prudential.

The winner of the award will be announced and presented with a £30,000 prize in London on December 1; runners up will receive £10,000.

Here are quick looks at some of the year’s best business reading:

The Aristocracy of Talent: How Meritocracy Made the Modern World
Adrian Wooldridge

Meritocracy—the idea of people advancing based on their talents rather than social standing—should get another look. In this book, Woolridge traces the history of meritocracy and how it has transformed social mobility for women. The book proposes that meritocracy is a catalyst that could help rebalance the social, economic and racial inequality of today's world.

The Conversation: How Talking Honestly About Racism Can Transform Individuals and Organizations
Robert Livingston

Livingston has helped corporations, police departments, hospitals, universities, and government agencies address racism within their organizations. In his first book—a powerful combination of storytelling, social research, and a pragmatic five-step process—he helps readers develop fact-based perspectives that can lead to insight and increased empathy.

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty
Patrick Radden Keefe

This book, according to the FT, “explores the links between the Sackler family and the global epidemic of opioid addiction through the rise and fall of Purdue Pharma, a company owned by two of the Sackler brothers and their families.”1

We still know what you’re reading this summer

We still know what you’re reading this summer

McKinsey’s annual reading list is back for 2021.

The New Climate War
Michael E. Mann

Climate change denialists are turning into “inactivists,” saying it’s up to individuals to reduce carbon emissions with the right diets, cars, and habits. While personal responsibility can help, Mann, a climate scientist, spotlights the real issue: the urgent need for unequivocal macro-strategies to de-carbonize our economies.

This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race
Nicole Perlroth

Stolen elections. Poisoned water. Nuclear meltdowns. Cybersecurity reporter Nicole Perlroth lays out the untold story of the global cyberweapons market—and where the US stands today, including its strengths, weaknesses, and potential risks and outcomes, offering a sober look at a new kind of warfare.

The World for Sale: Money, Power and the Traders Who Barter the Earth’s Resources
Javier Blas, Jack Farchy

Two leading journalists offer an inside look at the world of commodity traders who buy and sell the Earth’s natural resources: oil, cotton, sugar, and more. In a series of eye-opening anecdotes, the authors detail how a few traders in private firms wielded incredible power in less scrutinized corners of the globe, often with questionable political and social results.

1. This website provides information about McKinsey & Company’s past work for opioid manufacturers and its response to related issues.

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