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The Best Business And Leadership Books Of 2017

From rebuilding Microsoft to fighting for change in Silicon Valley, here are some noteworthy reads from 2017.

Between memorable Twitter threads and constant push notifications, 2017 might have kept you tethered to your phone. But there were also many books that came out this year that contain valuable lessons about business, careers, leadership, and productivity. So if you’d like to unplug and reset before diving into 2018, take a look at some of our favorite business books of the year.

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Related: The 10 Best Business Books Of 2016


Barking Up the Wrong Tree–the Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker 

There are a number of commonly held beliefs about success that many of us don’t question. Don’t give up. Believe in yourself. Hard work will pay off. In this book, writer Eric Barker turns all those assumptions on their head and provides compelling evidence as to why so much of what we’ve been told about success is misleading. For example, believing in yourself is good advice to follow . . . sometimes. But other times, understanding your weaknesses and being your harshest critic can actually make you perform better. As Barker writes, “We need optimism and confidence to keep going and convince others to join our cause, but negativity and pessimism help us see problems so we can make them better. Yes, the former feel much better, but both are necessary.”

The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better Too) by Gretchen Rubin 

Ever wondered why some people are so much more disciplined than others, or why some people just would never do anything they’re told? As Gretchen Rubin writes in this book, it’s because we all have different ways to respond to expectations (which she classifies into “tendencies”). Some of us have no problems meeting deadlines set for us by others, yet struggle when we set our own deadlines. Some of us struggle with meeting deadlines, period.

As Rubin stressed in her book, no one tendency is better than the other. But understanding other people’s tendencies will help us to be better communicators. She writes, “The fact is, if we want to communicate, we must speak the right language–not the message that would work effectively with us, but the message that will persuade the listener.

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Hit Refresh–the Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone by Satya Nadella 

When Satya Nadella was appointed as the CEO of Microsoft, he inherited an extremely rigid culture. As a result, spontaneity suffered, hindering innovation. He made transforming Microsoft’s company culture his priority, “so we could get back to what we all joined the company to do–to make a difference in the world.”

This book presents his journey in doing so and also explained his own transformation from a young boy in India with a Karl Marx poster in his bedroom to the CEO of an iconic tech company in Redmond, Washington.

Perennial Seller–the Art of Making and Marketing Work That Lasts by Ryan Holiday 

The business world is filled with products that over-promise yet under-deliver. And when we’re the creator of those products, it’s easy to fall into that trap, even when we don’t intend to. As writer and marketer Ryan Holiday writes, so many people dedicate so much time and resources to promoting their products, and not enough time creating the product. What’s more, many of the creators don’t think about giving their work great long-term value. Drawing on examples from various companies, recording artists, authors, and restaurants, Holiday also gives the reader some practical tips and suggestions on what they need to do to create (and promote) a product or piece of work that will sell for many years to come.

Reset–My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change by Ellen Pao 

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For a long time, discrimination in Silicon Valley was something that many women and minorities were forced to silently put up with. And while there were always those who fought for change, it wasn’t until former Kleiner Perkins partner Ellen Pao brought this fight to court that others outside of Silicon Valley began to notice. Pao’s lawsuit for sexual harassment and gender discrimination didn’t succeed, but actions highlighted the seriousness (and urgency) of this issue, and paved a way forward for many other women in tech to speak up and conduct their own fight for change.

The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google by Scott Galloway 

If there are four companies that have changed every aspect of our lives for the last decade, it’s Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. And when it comes to their approach to business, customer acquisition, and attitudes toward laws and regulations, there are a lot more commonalities than there are differences. Serial entrepreneur and NYU professor Scott Galloway outlines those patterns in this book, challenging the reader to see the four tech companies from a whole new perspective.

Technically Wrong–Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech by Sara Wachter-Boettcher 

While many tech companies might see diversity as a PR issue, web consultant and author Sara Wachter-Boettcher points out the shortcomings that a largely homogenous workforce can bring to the products they create, particularly when they are designed for a demographic that’s largely different from the company’s workforce. Some of the examples she looks at include Snapchat’s controversial and culturally inappropriate filters, to Facebook’s policy for “approving” the name of its users. She writes, “Biased algorithms. Alienating online forms. Harassment-friendly platforms. All kinds of problems plague digital products, from tiny design details to massively flawed features. But they share a common foundation: A tech culture that’s built on white, male values–while insisting it’s brilliant enough to serve all of us.”

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant 

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When it comes to grieving, the unspoken rule in many workplaces is to leave your emotions at home. But Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg challenged that mind-set in this book, which she cowrote with Wharton professor Adam Grant in the wake of her husband’s sudden death. While the book largely chronicles Sandberg’s own road to recovery, it also contains some helpful tips on what employers can do to help employees who are grieving. For example, don’t tell them it’s okay to make mistakes because of all that they’re going through. Instead, focus on what they’ve done well that day so that they don’t lose their self-confidence in the midst of their grief.

The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath & Dan Heath 

Life consists of a series of moments, some of which are more significant than others. Some of these moments are easy to identify: graduating from college, getting married, starting your first job, buying your first home. Others might not seem important at the time, but when you look back, you realize that it led to a chain of events that then led to significant progress in your life. In this book, Chip Heath and Dan Heath discuss how we can intentionally create more of those moments in order to manifest better results and create more meaning in our lives. As they wrote, “Remarkable moments don’t create themselves. What if we didn’t just remember the standout moments of our lives and work but made them? We can be the designers of moments that deliver elevation and insight and pride and connection.”

Weird in a World That’s Not: A Career Guide for Misfits, F*ckups, and Failures by Jennifer Romolini 

For some of us, the conventional working world seems to be an impossible place to operate in. That’s how Jennifer Romolini felt until she realized that her differences can be an asset rather than a liability. In a refreshingly honest account, Romolini recounts how her career stumbles and mishaps have shaped her into the successful professional that she became, and shares some practical lessons for the young professional based on what she learned from those mistakes. She also illustrates that no matter how big your screw-up, there is always a way to bounce back.

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About the author

Anisa is the Assistant Editor for Fast Company's Leadership section. She covers everything from personal development, entrepreneurship and the future of work.

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