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Place matters: Janesville: An American Story wins 2017 Business Book of the Year Award

The importance of place as a determining factor for prosperity in today’s economy has never been clearer. The winning entrants for this year’s Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award and the Bracken Bower Prize are the perfect complements: one about the perils of a General Motors factory shuttering in a small American town, the other about the economic boon that new start-up ecosystems bring as they pop up in locations around the world.

2017’s Business Book of the Year Award went to Amy Goldstein’s Janesville: An American Story, while the Bracken Bower Prize was awarded to Mehran Gul’s The New Geography of Innovation.

Dominic Barton, managing director of McKinsey, and Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times and chair of the judging panel, presented the awards last night at the Lotte New York Palace in New York City. Barry Diller, chairman and senior executive at IAC and Expedia, gave the ceremony’s keynote address.

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Keynote speaker Barry Diller, Chairman and Senior Executive of IAC/InterActiveCorp and Expedia, Inc.

Janesville is a deeply reported story that raises critical questions about the impact of economic disruption on communities without offering simplistic answers, says Dominic Barton. It is an American story, as the subtitle suggests, but also a truly global one.

Janesville is about the new industrial age and how you deal with it. I think it addresses deeply important policy issues, such as skills and retraining. But it’s also a humane portrait of people and their community, says Lionel Barber.

Amy, a reporter at the Washington Post, spent years getting to know the Janesville community. After the GM plant closed, many of the typical policy solutions like retraining did not deliver the help that its workers needed. Job retraining, it turned out, was not a path to more work or better pay in and around Janesville, she writes.

The judging panel spent Monday deliberating the merits of the six finalists for the £30,000 prize. Judges for the award included Lionel Barber, Financial Times editor and chair of the judging panel; Mitchell Baker, executive chairwoman at Mozilla; Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz; Herminia Ibarra, professor of organizational behavior at London Business School; Randall Kroszner, professor of economics at University of Chicago Booth School of Business; Dambisa Moyo, global economist and author; Shriti Vadera, chairman of Santander UK; and Rik Kirkland, our head of global publishing at McKinsey.

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From left, Lionel Barber, Mehran Gul, winner of the Bracken Bower Award, and Dominic Barton.

For the fourth time, we presented the Bracken Bower Prize to the best proposal for a business book by an author under 35. This year’s winner was Mehran Gul’s The New Geography of Innovation, which examines the rise of new start-up ecosystems around the world. It beat a record number of entries from 26 countries on topics ranging from technology to gender to the ethics of business.

Past winners of the Bracken Bower Prize have gone on to publish books based on their proposals, including 2014 winner Saadia Zahidi, 2015 winners Chris Clearfield and András Tilcsik, and 2015 finalist, Irene Sun.

The Business Book of the Year Award is given to the book that provides the most compelling and enjoyable insight into modern business issues, including management, finance, and economics. Since 2005, the prize has shortlisted 77 books that comprise a thorough overview of business in a tumultuous era.

Each of this year’s other shortlisted authors will receive £10,000. They include the following:

  • The One Device, Brian Merchant’s history of the iPhone
  • Reset, Ellen Pao’s memoir about her experience as a woman working in male-dominated Silicon Valley
  • The Spider Network, David Enrich’s inside account of the Libor collusion, the biggest scandal in the financial world since the global crisis
  • Adaptive Markets, Andrew Lo’s critique of the efficient-markets hypothesis
  • The Great Leveler, Walter Scheidel’s exploration of the regularity with which violent events like wars and plagues remake society