It’s been a tough year for everybody across the globe. Many businesses were forced to shut down because of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic while others are struggling to survive. The one thing that helped millions of people cope was the world of books. Here’s a list of some of the bestsellers from 2020 that the world of business and leadership was reading as it coped with the year's upheavals. Check them out over the holiday season.

Even by Silicon Valley start-up standards, Instagram is an extraordinary success story. Barely 10 years since its creation and it’s the defining app of the millennial generation across the world. Want to know more about its story? Head to Bloomberg journalist Sarah Frier’s No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram, the winner of the Financial Times and McKinsey 2020 Business Book of the Year Award. It is the definitive inside story of the photo-sharing app that one billion people use every month. Kevin Sneader, McKinsey’s global managing partner, described it as “a compelling saga about how this start-up phenomenon deeply embedded itself into the global cultural Zeitgeist”. It’s a behind-the-scenes story of how Instagram changed the way an entire generation shops, eats and communicates. It looks at Instagram’s early days as a start-up, its acquisition by Facebook for $1 billion in 2012 and its recent rise into a near cultural icon. The book was released soon after the COVID-19 pandemic pushed everybody headlong into the digital world. So if you get time from your Instagram stories, check out this compelling story! 

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we express concern for our loved ones—by staying away from them. While we have socially distanced ourselves, albeit grudgingly, it has led to an increased feeling of loneliness among all. Former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy takes on this challenging topic in his latest book, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World to highlight the importance of human connection. Loneliness, Murthy says, is the underlying cause behind the global crisis in mental wellness. The book explores the correlation between loneliness and other health problems such as heart disease, dementia, anxiety, and even premature death. Finally, it addresses the long-term effects of isolation. Give it a shot if you want a better perspective on how to overcome the ill effects of isolation.

Have you ever struggled to persuade someone to change their mind? It could be a client, a boss or a family member. Many of us tend to ram our views or ideas down people’s throats. The trick, according to Wharton School marketing professor Jonah Berger, is not to push but remove any barriers to change. It’s about being a catalyst. In his book, The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone's Mind, Berger identifies the key barriers to change and tells you how to mitigate them. He also tells you how catalysts change minds in the toughest of situations, whether it’s hostage negotiators or marketers trying to sell a new product. So if you’re looking to change an organization or business, this book is for you. 

We often find ourselves stuck in the cycle of solving one problem after another, without an end in sight. But how many of us think of getting to the problem that caused the problem in the first place? Not many, right? Bestselling author Dan Heath has a name for this phenomenon; he calls it staying “downstream”. In his book, Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen, Heath investigates the psychological forces that push us to stay downstream. Then, he introduces readers to a new way of problem-solving, which he calls ‘going upstream’. Released in March 2020 in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, Heath’s book is a refreshing take on problem-solving. He engages readers by asking obvious, but often ignored, questions about why we refuse to take ownership of the problems we face. So, if you are tired of staying downstream and want to go upstream, this book is for you. For a more detailed review of this book, check out this Harappa Diaries blog

The year 2020 has been one of the toughest in recent memory. The deadly COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we work and live in the blink of an eye. For millions of people who moved to the digital world, their laptop became their friend. And Netflix. The video streaming platform has added more than 15 million subscribers so far this year. If you spend more than half your waking day on Netflix—or even if you don’t—check out New York Times bestseller, No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention, the story of how a small DVD rental company became one of the world’s most popular streaming platforms. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and INSEAD professor Erin Meyer tell the story of the company’s leadership philosophy and transformational culture that made it such a successful brand. Hastings decided to buck convention and build a culture based on freedom and responsibility, and one that valued innovation more than efficiency.  So if you’re looking to build a company like Netflix, No Rules Rules might be a good place to start.

Driverless cars, delivery drones and even writing—Artificial Intelligence (AI) can do tasks that many thought impossible for machines to do independently. While this is exciting, it also begs the question: will AI take over all our jobs in the future? Daniel Susskind’s book A World Without Work: Technology, Automation, and How We Should Respond addresses these fears. Susskind is an Oxford economist who has worked with the British government on policy. He starts his book with a history of the fear of automation and shows that people have worried about machines taking over their jobs for a long time. This hasn't exactly happened. As Susskind explains, while new technology can substitute for employees, it has also complemented existing jobs and tasks in a way that ended up expanding work possibilities for many. However, he believes AI is a game-changer that may help automate many kinds of jobs than previously thought. In the second half of his book Susskind talks about what can be done if this happens. This book was shortlisted for the Financial Times and McKinsey 2020 Business Book of the Year Award. One doesn't have to agree with Susskind's vision, but it is a thought-provoking one for anyone who has wondered if machines and automation will take over their job one day.

Have you ever read about an entrepreneur's dazzling success and wondered, "How did they do it?" Or dreamed about launching your own business, but felt too intimidated to even start? Then you must read Guy Raz's How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World’s Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs. Guy is an award-winning journalist and NPR host who has interviewed more than 200 highly successful entrepreneurs to uncover their stories for the popular NPR podcast How I Built This with Guy Raz. He looks at quintessential entrepreneurial stories as classic hero's journey tales. As a Neiman journalism fellow at Harvard, Guy realized that one could learn about business through stories, and "found classic hero journeys embedded in case studies". Here’s how he describes it: "there were calls to adventure, trials and errors, all-is-lost moments, the ultimate boon–all told through the prism of business". This Wall Street Journal #1 Bestselling Business Book tells the story of how entrepreneurs made decisions and took action that proved to be life-changing.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit at the beginning of the year, the world suddenly found itself completely unprepared to deal with the crisis. Governments, public policy experts and health authorities struggled to cope with the uncertainty and catastrophic effects of the disease that killed thousands. Entrepreneur and TED speaker, Margaret Heffernan’s Uncharted: How to Navigate the Future came to us at this very precise time. The book touches upon the reluctance of businesses and individuals to accept and plan for change, and instead rely on technology to save us from the fallout of uncertainty. Further, it then encourages everyone to get comfortable with ambiguity. Essentially, her advice is: stop trying to eliminate uncertainty; embrace it so that we can experiment with it. Interesting, right? Get your hands on this book to know more.

No two leaders are the same. They are shaped by their values and choices. You may have looked at highly successful people like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Oprah Winfrey and wondered how they got to where they are. Entrepreneur and co-founder of The Carlyle Group David M. Rubenstein’s How to Lead: Wisdom from the World's Greatest CEOs, Founders, and Game Changers has some answers. This New York Times bestseller and #1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller has interviews of 31 luminaries from the worlds of finance, technology, entertainment, sports, and government. Rubenstein’s conversations with these leaders offer insights into their remarkable lives and careers and show us how they handle decision-making, failure, innovation, change and crisis. The interviews are full of nuggets of leadership wisdom, some of which are casually thrown out in an off-the-cuff remark or a witty riposte to a question. This is an essential leadership playbook with lessons from the best.

The COVID-19 outbreak has upended our lives in unimaginable ways. As the world of work and business grapples with unprecedented change, the question many are asking is: what next? New York Times bestselling author Scott Galloway has some answers in Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity, a new book on how the disease may change the business landscape. The New York University marketing professor looks at the broader crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the opportunities that lie ahead. Some businesses like Big Tech will survive and thrive, while others like hospitality and airlines struggle to stay afloat. It’s a timely book that offers a ray of hope about life in the post-pandemic world.

Image courtesy: Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Random House, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Pan Macmillan

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