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FT and Goldman Sachs Announce Nominees for Best Business Book of 2010

Thursday, 16 Sep 2010 | 12:39 PM ET

The shortlist was announced today for the sixth annual Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.

The 2010 shortlist is:

  • The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar
  • The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World by David Kirkpatrick
  • The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis
  • More Money than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite by Sebastian Mallaby
  • Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy by Raghuram Rajan
  • Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System – and Themselves by Andrew Ross Sorkin

Lionel Barber, Editor of the Financial Times said in the news release: “This year's short-list combines compelling narrative with trenchant analysis of the big questions facing the business and financial world, two years on from the collapse of Lehman Brothers....The short-list also includes an account of the stunning rise of Facebook and a more philosophical reflection on the Art of Choosing by Columbia Professor Sheena Iyengar."

Previous winners of the Award include: Liaquat Ahamed for ‘The Lords of Finance’ (2009); Mohamed El-Erian for ‘When Markets Collide’ (2008);and William D. Cohan for ‘The Last Tycoons’ (2007).

This year's winner will be announced on October 27.

To read more about each book and why they were chosen, click on through.

The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar (Twelve/Hachette Group)

"An Apple Store customer asks for the latest iPhone in black but suddenly changes his preference to white when he sees the choices others are making. A resident of a former communist country is offered a fizzy drink from a wide selection but picks at random; soda is soda, he says. Though the child knows she shouldn't press the big red button (absolutely not!), she finds her hand inching forward. A young man and woman decide to marry – knowing that the first time they meet will be on their wedding day.

How did these people make their choices? How do any of us make ours? Choice is a powerful tool to define ourselves and mould our lives – but what do we know about the wants, motivations, biases, and influences that aid or hinder our endeavours?

In The Art of Choosing, Columbia University professor Sheena Iyengar, a leading expert on choice, sets herself the Herculean task of helping us become better choosers. She asks fascinating questions: Is the desire for choice innate or created by culture? Why do we sometimes choose against our best interests? How much control do we really have over what we choose? Ultimately, she offers unexpected and profound answers, drawn from her award-winning, discipline-spanning research.

Here you'll learn about the complex relationship between choice and freedom, and why one doesn't always go with the other. You’ll see that too much choice can overwhelm us, leading to unpleasant experiences, from ‘TiVo guilt’ over unwatched TV programs to confusion over health insurance plans. Perhaps most important, you'll discover how our choices – both mundane and momentous – are shaped by many different forces, visible and invisible. This remarkable book illuminates the joys and challenges of choosing, showing us how we build our lives, one choice at a time."

THE FACEBOOK EFFECT

The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World by David Kirkpatrick (Simon & Schuster)

"There's never been a website like Facebook; more than 350 million people have accounts, and if the growth rate continues, by 2013 every Internet user worldwide will have his or her own page.

And no one's had more access to the inner workings of the phenomenon than Kirkpatrick, a senior tech writer at Fortune magazine.

Written with the full cooperation of founder Mark Zuckerberg, the book follows the company from its genesis in a Harvard dorm room through its successes over Friendster and MySpace, the expansion of the user base, and Zuckerberg's refusal to sell.

The author is at his best discussing the social implications of the site, from the changing notions of privacy to why and how people use Facebook – increasingly it's to come together around a common interest or cause (the eponymous Facebook Effect).

Though significantly more informative, thoughtful, and credible than Ben Mezrich's The Accidental Billionaires, it may be hamstrung by its late entry; the furore over Facebook has more or less subsided, and potential readers are more likely to be using the site than to be reading about its origins."

THE BIG SHORT

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis (WW Norton & Co US)

The Big Short - by Michael Lewis
The Big Short - by Michael Lewis

"The Big Short tells a story of spectacular, epic folly.

It has taken the world's greatest financial meltdown to bring Michael Lewis back to the subject that made him famous. His international bestseller Liar's Poker exposed the greed and carnage of the City and Wall Street in the 1980s; he wrote it as a cautionary tale, but people seem to have read it as a how-to guide. Now, he wants to settle accounts.

In this visceral tour to the heart of the financial system, Michael Lewis takes us around the globe and back decades to trace the origins of the current crisis. He meets the people who saw it coming, the people who were asleep at the wheel and the people who were actively driving us off the cliff. How could we have all been so deluded for quite so long? Where did it all start? Was it systemic? Was it avoidable? And who the hell can we blame? No one is better qualified to get to the heart of this labyrinthine story. And no one can make it such an enjoyable ride along the way."

MORE MONEY THAN GOD

More Money than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite by Sebastian Mallaby (Penguin Press)

"Wealthy, powerful, and potentially dangerous, hedge fund managers have emerged as the stars of twenty-first century capitalism. Based on unprecedented access to the industry, this first authoritative history of hedge funds shares the inside story of their origins in the 1960s and 1970s, their explosive battles with central banks in the 1980s and 1990s, and finally their role in the financial crisis of 2007–9.

Hedge funds reward risk takers, so they tend to attract larger-than-life personalities. Jim Simons began life as a code-breaker and mathematician, co-authoring a paper on theoretical geometry that led to breakthroughs in string theory. Ken Griffin started out trading convertible bonds from his Harvard dorm room. Paul Tudor Jones happily declared that a 1929-style crash would be ‘total rock-and-roll’ for him. Michael Steinhardt was capable of reducing underlings to sobs. “All I want to do is kill myself,” one said. ‘Can I watch?’ Steinhardt responded.

A saga of riches and rich egos, this is also a history of discovery. Drawing on insights from mathematics, economics and psychology to crack the mysteries of the market, hedge funds have transformed the world, spawning new markets in exotic financial instruments and rewriting the rules of capitalism. And while major banks, brokers, home lenders, insurers and money market funds failed or were bailed out during the crisis of 2007–9, the hedge-fund industry survived the test, proving that money can be successfully managed without taxpayer safety nets. Anybody pondering fixes to the financial system could usefully start here – the future of finance lies in the history of hedge funds."

FAULT LINES

Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy by Raghuram Rajan (Princeton University Press)

"Raghuram Rajan was one of the few economists who warned of the global financial crisis before it hit. Now, as the world struggles to recover, it's tempting to blame what happened on just a few greedy bankers who took irrational risks and left the rest of us to foot the bill. In Fault Lines, Rajan argues that serious flaws in the economy are also to blame, and warns that a potentially more devastating crisis awaits us if they aren't fixed.

Rajan shows how the individual choices that collectively brought about the economic meltdown – made by bankers, government officials, and ordinary homeowners – were rational responses to a flawed global financial order in which the incentives to take on risk are incredibly out of step with the dangers those risks pose. He traces the deepening fault lines in a world overly-dependent on the indebted American consumer to power global economic growth and stave off global downturns. He exposes a system where America's growing inequality and thin social safety net create tremendous political pressure to encourage easy credit and keep job creation robust, no matter what the consequences to the economy's long-term health; and where the US financial sector, with its skewed incentives, is the critical but unstable link between an over-stimulated America and an under-consuming world.

In Fault Lines, Rajan demonstrates how unequal access to education and health care in the United States puts the whole of the US in deeper financial peril, even as the economic choices of countries like Germany, Japan, and China place an undue burden on America to get its policies right. He outlines the hard choices we need to make to ensure a more stable world economy and restore lasting prosperity."

TOO BIG TO FAIL

Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System – and Themselves by Andrew Ross Sorkin (Viking/Penguin US)

Too Big Too Fail
Too Big Too Fail
Too Big Too Fail

"From inside the corner office at Lehman Brothers to secret meetings in South Korea, Russia and the corridors of Washington, Too Big to Fail is the definitive story of the most powerful men and women in finance and politics grappling with success and failure, ego, greed, and, ultimately, the fate of the world's economy.

"We've got to get some foam down on the runway!" a sleepless Timothy Geithner, the president of the Federal Reserve of New York would tell Henry M.Paulson, the Treasury Secretary about the catastrophic crash of the world's financial system would experience.

Through unprecedented access to the players involved, Too Big to Fail recreates all the drama and turmoil, revealing never-disclosed details and elucidating how decisions made on Wall Street over the past decade sowed the seeds of the debacle. This true story is not just a look at banks that were ‘too big to fail’, it is a real-life thriller about a cast of bold-faced names who themselves thought they were ‘too big to fail’."

Note: All book descriptions for these nominees came from today's short-list announcement.

Email me at bullishonbooks@cnbc.comAnd follow me on Twitter @BullishonBooks

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