Book Review

Year's top titles raised some eyebrows

Email|Print| Text size + By Lisa Von Ahn
Reuters / December 9, 2007

The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World
by Alan Greenspan
Penguin Press HC, $35

The Last Tycoons: The Secret History of Lazard
Frères & Co.
by William D. Cohan
Doubleday, $29.95

Mergers & Acquisitions
by Dana Vachon
Riverhead, $23.95

The Halo Effect ... and the Eight Other Business Delusions that Deceive Managers
by Phil Rosenzweig
Free Press, $25

Books about business generated their share of discussion in 2007.

In "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World," former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan caused some political aftershocks by writing that the war in Iraq was all about oil and that President Bush had abandoned fiscal discipline.

Of course, controversy makes money as well as headlines, and the book has been a best-seller since its release in September.

But $60,000 in prize money slipped away when "Turbulence" missed out on the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award.

Instead, the judges chose "The Last Tycoons: The Secret History of Lazard Frères & Co." after a tough debate, the Financial Times said. They finally concluded that author William Cohan had provided "the most compelling and enjoyable insight into modern business issues."

While Lazard had cultivated an image of "great men" providing sage advice to movers and shakers around the globe, Cohan - a former banker there - revealed infighting, back-stabbing, and greed no different from the rest of Wall Street.

Needless to say, the book had the Street buzzing when it came out in April. It also incurred the wrath of Lazard, which called the account "substantially inaccurate" and Cohan a "junior banker" who hadn't worked there in more than 10 years.

Meanwhile, another former junior banker, Dana Vachon, became what The Huffington Post blog called publishing's golden boy of the moment last spring after he fictionalized and satirized his short career at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in "Mergers and Acquisitions."

The highly hyped book brought Vachon a $650,000 advance and a movie deal, but didn't make the best-seller lists.

Ironically, the recipient of another prize debunked a key part of the very category in which it won. "The Halo Effect ... and the Eight Other Business Delusions that Deceive Managers" was named business book of the year by the getAbstract awards committee at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Phil Rosenzweig, a professor at the IMD business school in Lausanne, Switzerland, found more than a couple of delusions in management bibles like Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman's "In Search of Excellence."

His conclusion was there's no magic secret to success. But this year's crop of business books at least showed there is more than one way to get noticed.

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