Favorite 50 Business Books, From ‘Adam Smith’ to ‘The Zeroes’

The cover jacket of "Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life." The book is the latest by Nicholas Phillipson. Source: Penguin Group via Bloomberg

With so many business books spilling from the shelves, we’re often asked for a comprehensive list of recommendations. Here’s an updated list of 50 top titles published since Jan. 1, 2009.

“Adam Smith” by Nicholas Phillipson (Yale). This “intellectual biography” documents how Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” grew out of the Scottish Enlightenment.

“Aftershock” by Robert B. Reich (Knopf). The former U.S. Labor Secretary explores how 30 years of growing income inequality helped bring on the Great Recession.

“The Big Questions” by Steven E. Landsburg (Free Press). The Armchair Economist dips into physics, mathematics and economics to answer the eternal questions of philosophy.

“The Big Rich” by Bryan Burrough (Penguin Press). A galloping history of the wildcatters whose drive, ranches and gaudy mansions inspired the Beverly Hillbillies and J.R. Ewing.

“The Big Short” by Michael Lewis (Norton/Allen Lane). The author of “Liar’s Poker” tells the story of a loner with a glass eye and other outliers who shorted the subprime market.

“Broke, USA” by Gary Rivlin (HarperBusiness). Rivlin, a tireless reporter, takes a queasy journey through what he calls “Poverty Inc.,” where the rich get richer by lending to the working poor.

“Chasing Goldman Sachs” by Suzanne McGee (Crown Business). A disturbing account of how Goldman Sachs Group Inc. became a seductively successful Pied Piper, luring rival banks down a path to destruction.

“A Colossal Failure of Common Sense” by Lawrence G. McDonald with Patrick Robinson (Crown Business). McDonald, a former trader at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., offers a scathing inside look at how the firm became a house divided.

“Crisis Economics” by Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm (Penguin Press/Allen Lane). The prescient New York University professor explains why booms and busts occur.

“The Devil’s Casino” by Vicky Ward (Wiley). A look at the destructive rivalry among Richard S. Fuld Jr. and four other men who rose to power at Lehman in the 1980s.

“The Education of an American Dreamer” by Peter G. Peterson (Twelve). The co-founder of Blackstone Group LP has led an improbably diverse life, as this disarming memoir shows.

“The End of Wall Street” by Roger Lowenstein (Penguin Press). A decade after capturing the hubris of Long-Term Capital Management LP in “When Genius Failed,” Lowenstein reports on what he calls “the mother of all bubbles.”

“Exiles in Eden” by Paul Reyes (Holt). The disturbing memoir of a man who cleaned out foreclosed properties in Florida and witnessed the squalor of the housing bust.

“The Facebook Effect” by David Kirkpatrick (Simon & Schuster). An engrossing and scrupulously fair history of how Mark Zuckerberg built the social-networking website.

“Fault Lines” by Raghuram G. Rajan (Princeton). The University of Chicago professor shows why our flawed financial order risks driving us “from bubble to bubble.”

“In Fed We Trust” by David Wessel (Crown Business). The Wall Street Journal columnist shows how Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other policy makers dug into an emergency tool kit to keep the financial system afloat.

“The First Tycoon” by T.J. Stiles (Knopf). Fistfights, shipwrecks and market manipulation enliven this monumental biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt.

“Fool’s Gold” by Gillian Tett (Free Press/Little, Brown). Tett introduces a band of JPMorgan Chase & Co. bankers who pioneered some of the credit instruments that plunged the world into chaos.

“Freefall” by Joseph E. Stiglitz (Norton/Allen Lane). The Nobel Prize-winning economist describes the flawed theories and misguided policies that wrought the meltdown.

“A Gift to My Children” by Jim Rogers (Random House/ Wiley). The “adventure capitalist” distills the lessons of his investing life into an open letter to his daughters.

“Googled” by Ken Auletta (Penguin Press). Is Google Inc. a force for good -- or for ill? Auletta explores this vital topic in exhaustive detail.

“The Greatest Trade Ever” by Gregory Zuckerman (Broadway/ Viking). A reconstruction of John Paulson’s trade against the housing bubble.

“High Financier” by Niall Ferguson (Penguin Press/Allen Lane). The Harvard historian presents a fresh assessment of how and why Siegmund Warburg rose to fame in postwar London.

“House of Cards” by William D. Cohan (Doubleday/Allen Lane). The former Lazard Freres & Co. banker recounts the cocky rise and meteoric fall of Bear Stearns Cos.

“How Markets Fail” by John Cassidy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Allen Lane). Cassidy traces the dangerous emergence of what he calls “utopian economics.”

“How the Mighty Fall” by Jim Collins (HarperCollins/ Random House). The author of “Good to Great” and “Built to Last” turns to what he calls the dark side.

“Identity Economics” by George A. Akerlof and Rachel E. Kranton (Princeton). Decisions that shape our lives often hinge on our perceived place in society, not solely on a calculation of financial costs and benefits.

“The Invisible Hands” by Steven Drobny (Wiley). The co-founder of Drobny Global Advisors frets that taxpayers may end up bailing out pension plans. He blames Harvard’s class of ‘69.

“I.O.U.” by John Lanchester (Simon & Schuster; published as “Whoops!” by Allen Lane). Warren Buffett mingles with a Mafia don and zombies in this mischievous primer on the crisis.

“The King of Oil” by Daniel Ammann (St. Martin’s). The story of billionaire commodity trader Marc Rich.

“Last Man Standing” by Duff McDonald (Simon & Schuster). A biography of Jamie Dimon, one of the few Wall Street executives to emerge from the crisis with his reputation intact.

“Lords of Finance” by Liaquat Ahamed (Penguin Press/ Heinemann). A vivid history of how four central bankers brought on the Great Depression.

“The Match King” by Frank Partnoy (PublicAffairs/Profile Business). All about Ivar Kreuger, the enigmatic financier who cornered the match market in the 1920s.

“More Money Than God” by Sebastian Mallaby (Penguin Press/Bloomsbury). A storied history of hedge-fund luminaries, from Alfred Winslow Jones to Ken Griffin.

“The Myth of the Rational Market” by Justin Fox (HarperBusiness/Harriman). A crowd of brainy theorists come to life in this history of the efficient-markets theory.

“No One Would Listen” by Harry Markopolos (Wiley). A first-person account of the struggle to convince the Securities and Exchange Commission that Bernard Madoff’s returns were mathematically impossible.

“On the Brink” by Henry M. Paulson Jr. (Business Plus). The former U.S. Treasury secretary describes his fight to prop up the financial system.

“Past Due” by Peter S. Goodman (Times Books). A richly reported look at how Americans became profligate borrowers partly because the U.S. economy isn’t creating enough good jobs.

“Priceless” by William Poundstone (Hill and Wang). Companies, restaurants and even artists exploit psychology to extract more cash from the rest of us, as Poundstone shows.

“The Quants” by Scott Patterson (Crown Business). A behind-the-scenes look at the turbulent lives of four quants, including Ken Griffin.

“The Rise and Fall of Bear Stearns” by Alan C. Greenberg (Simon & Schuster). The former chairman, a self-described “bald guy wearing a bowtie,” tells his side of the story.

“The Sugar King of Havana” by John Paul Rathbone (Penguin Press). An evocative mixture of history and memoir that traces the rise and fall of Cuban sugar magnate Julio Lobo.

“SuperFreakonomics” by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (Morrow/Allen Lane). Why suicide bombers should buy life insurance and hookers work overtime around the Fourth of July.

“13 Bankers” by Simon Johnson and James Kwak (Pantheon). Unless too-big-to-fail banks are broken up, they will trigger another meltdown, the authors say.

“This Time Is Different” by Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff (Princeton). Wherever you open this landmark study, you’ll find proof that debt-fueled expansions have ended in financial ruin for 800 years.

“Too Big to Fail” by Andrew Ross Sorkin (Viking/Allen Lane). A cinematic reconstruction of how the top dogs of Wall Street and Washington struggled to save the system (and their own skins).

“War at the Wall Street Journal” by Sarah Ellison (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). An inside look at Rupert Murdoch’s takeover.

“What the Dog Saw” by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown/ Allen Lane). The author of “The Tipping Point” is back with a new collection on topics including Nassim Taleb and Enron Corp.

“You Are Not a Gadget” by Jaron Lanier (Knopf/Allen Lane). The virtual-reality pioneer dismantles the tropes of the “Web 2.0” online culture and calls for a more humanistic digital future.

“The Zeroes” by Randall Lane (Portfolio). A farcical memoir of the financial bubble as seen by the creator of Trader Monthly and Dealmaker.

(James Pressley writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE