Here are synopses of BNET's Best Books of 2008, listed in order of votes received, with links to their Web sites, reviews, and author interviews where available.
One Hen, by Katie Milway Smith
Theme: Microfinance explained, in vivid color.
Who should read: Aimed at kids aged 4 to 8. But accessible to anyone.Smith puts a human face on microfinance, showing via the incredible success of a boy who received a microloan just how powerful the idea can be. It's also an excellent primer for teaching children about the value of working hard and saving money, and a nice change of pace from the typically tendentious business tome.
Next: Predictably Irrational
Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely
Theme: Sometimes we're all crazy.
Who should read: Those interested in how we make decisions.
It was a bad year for adherents of predictable markets and reasonable human beings. Of the host of 2008 books gutting those notions, Ariely's was the best-received. His book builds on his experiments showing how people really do behave.
Creating A World Without Poverty, Muhammad Yunus
Theme: Social business is the next big wave of capitalism.
Who should read: Every business person should become familiar with the argument.
- The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Winner and pioneering microfinancier argues that market capitalism is incomplete. What is needed is a social version of business, with its own market mechanisms and financial structure.
Back of the Napkin, Dan Roam
Theme: How to solve problems by drawing.
Who should read: Anyone interested in a new approach to cracking difficult problems.
Roam's book shows the value that illustrating something has in solving business problems. A clever, creative handbook for a new way of thinking.
Hot, Flat, and Crowded, Thomas L. Friedman
Theme: A Green New Deal will save America -- and the planet.
Who should read: Concerned Americans. Friedman fans. Policy makers. Strategic planners.
The formula for saving the planet from global warming - and America from the downsides of globalization. Friedman calls for a Green New Deal, and sees it as a way to rescue America from global warming, the energy crisis and outsourcing.
Washington Post review. Author video. Author interview.
Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell
Theme: Success of an extraordinary -- outlying -- sort happens for reasons beyond anyone's control.
Who should read: Gladwell groupies. Those who are curious about extreme points on graphs.
Gladwell, a master of marshalling research around remarkable phenomena, is back with a look at what it takes to become an extraordinary success (sort of like Gladwell himself). The answer issomewhat predictable, though the data points might surprise you.
When Markets Collide, Mohamed El-Erian 304 pages
Theme: Ongoing globalization has put a premium on risk management, while at the same time making it much harder to gauge risk itself.
Who should read: Anyone who wants to understand what is happening in the world economy. Investors.
An astounding look at what underlies the market meltdown and what might come next. The book was written early in the year, but reads like current events -- his prescience is uncanny. While written for investors, much of the book is readable by people who don't understand financial jargon.
Ahead of the Curve, Philip Delves Broughton
Theme: What's it like inside the world's most famous business school?
Who should read: Aspiring business school students of all stripes, Harvard-bound or not.
A journalist decides to go to Harvard Business School, and writes about the experience. He mixes in an attack on using rankings to rate people.
A Sense of Urgency, John P. Kotter
Who should read: Organizational strategists and team leaders.
Kotter, one of the premier business leadership thinkers in America, especially when it comes to change, revisits a topic of his earlier work. He drills down on why it's hard to create and maintain a sense of urgency in business, and spells out his ideas for how to infuse urgency in an organization.
Who's Your City? Richard Florida
Theme: Where you live is the most important business/life decision you'll ever make.
Who should read: Executives considering where to locate operations and hire specific kinds of talent. House hunters.
The world is flat - so make sure you pick the right part of it to live in. Florida gives richly detailed breakdowns of North American regional demographics, though the book is thin on other parts of the world.
Four books that didn't quite make our top ten vote getters, but were well-liked by BNET readers.
Crowdsourcing, Jeff Howe
Theme: Getting the world to work for you.
Who should read: Executives interested in ideas that aren't invented here.
Grown Up Digital, Don Tapscott
theme: The future belongs to the Net Generation (people ages 12 to 30). Who are they?
Who should read: Anybody who wants to know who's about to run the economy and the country.
The Snowball, Alice Schroeder
Theme: The authorized biography of Warren Buffett.
Who should read: Acolytes of the Oracle of Omaha.
The Game-Changer, A.J. Lafley and Ram Charan
Theme: Lessons in innovation from the CEO of Procter & Gamble.
Who should read: Managers who want to foster innovation.