Pulp non-fiction: the worst business books of 2022
Some 10,000 business books are published each year in the United States, the world’s largest market. Almost all of them are unbeatable, of course, but inevitably only a few big chunks pass through the rigorous filters of the editors. Here are some (entirely imaginary) examples of securities to avoid in 2022.
Make yourself comfortable with your colleague! An academic and a coach with no hands-on management experience offer just under 300 pages of wishful thinking on how a combination of purpose, empathy, diversity, inclusion and hugs! – will put a smile on the face of your exhausted subordinates and allow you to delay their long-awaited pay rise for a few months.
The ME as a team. The recently retired CEO of a company you’ve never heard of spent a tiny fraction of his multi-million dollar salary to hire a ghostwriter. The result is this muted account of his heroic military service and smooth rise to the top, ignoring embarrassment, lawsuits, profit warnings and repeated rounds of layoffs. History written by the winner.
Square pegs: shape your strategy. Seven partners from a well-known management consulting firm are turning their PowerPoint slides and the confidential information you provided as a client into what ostensibly looks like a whole new way of doing strategy. The good news: Now you know where your costs went. The bad news: You’re about to receive a box of free copies for you and your management team, the heaviest and least welcome business card in the world.
Who stole my fable? A whimsical tale of creatures of the woods, who find a way to end their long-standing feud and embark on a co-creation miracle that increases the forest’s return on investment while battling climate change. Told in words of one or two syllables, interspersed with blank pages and bad cartoons. Aesop, no. $ 30 in hardcover at an airport bookstore near you. Will sell millions.
Kill Them: Leadership Lessons From Tyrants. There is a lot to be said for autocrats and dictators, but in the past this has mostly come in the form of unconvincing praise from hunched-over minions. Now, finally, a slim textbook that enumerates the real business benefits of an iron-fisted, putting the bullets in the head style of management, from Attila the Hun to Stalin.
Rich, richer, richer. Who knew that reaching the hyper-rich was so easy? Incredibly Good-Looking Co-Authors with a Highly Followed Instagram Account Explain Secrets of Crypto and Memes Trading, and Urge You to Stake Your Hard-Earned Retirement Savings on Their Twitter-Led Investment Strategy and Become the Next Warren Buffett or Elon Musk. Hurry, before they go up the ladder and the whole Ponzi scheme collapses.
The bumper book of branding. The text is so 2021. Enjoy this massive picture book, complete with hand-drawn graphics and bespoke glossy photographs, all in an insanely large format that can only be displayed on the coffee tables in the atrium of the marketing agency that funded it. Combined with an online course in reputation management and a global motivational tour (tickets on sale now, if Omicron allows).
The Deepest Dive: The Scandal That Briefly Shook Global Capitalism. Three American newspaper reporters who never really got along at the start were persuaded to turn their award-winning, unreadable series of investigative reports into a very, very long book. Each chapter begins with a limousine that stops in front of a luxury hotel. After that, the writers will quit journalism for public relations and never speak to each other again. Close family members only.
Nudge me when I fall asleep. Well-known social science experiments have been recounted for the thousandth time in the kind of optimistic tone that suggests they contain the secret of life itself. You will learn to be constantly excited about trivial advances! You will understand for the first time how a trainer relaunched an obscure American sports franchise! You will wonder why the authors make more money than the associate professors who did the research in the first place! You’ll never buy another behavioral science book again.
Hi Ho, Hi Ho: The unthinkable future of work. Did you know we spend more time working than sleeping? You did it? Never mind: this book will allow you to spend the time you don’t spend working reading about work and, maybe, if you are lucky, dreaming about it. Concert workers: hide from the idea of a utopia where you have a real job again. Full-time workers: Tremble at the idea of a dystopia where gig workers take your job. Bosses: Remember that reading business books during working hours is a licensed offense.
Andrew Hill helped filter the books for the FT Business Book of the Year Award since 2005, and thankfully has never been short of potential winners.