The best business books of 2009

Some of the most prestigious institutions in the country are taking efforts to create a new, permanent archive of scholarly work online.

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KAI RYSSDAL: For whole lot of completely obvious reasons, 2009 was the year of the business book. There were guides to the financial crisis -- what happened and who's to blame. There were how-to books and some quirky titles, too. So we asked some of our regular Marketplace commentators for a copule of their favorites from this wild year of finance.

John Carney: Hi, my name's John Carney. I'm the editor of Clusterstock.com, and my favorite book of the financial crisis is Charlie Gasparino's "The Sellout." I think it's a great, great take on exactly how these guys got addicted to risk taking and Charlie manages to thank me in the acknowledgments and lists me in the index a couple times, so I like that too.

Felix Salmon: I'm Felix Salmon of Reuters and my book of the year -- my financial book of the year -- is the predictable and obvious, "Too Big to Fail" by Andrew Ross Sorkin. It's not always the easiest or most exciting read, but it is by far the most detailed and comprehensive look at exactly what happened over the course of the worst days and weeks of the financial crisis.

Sorkin's "Too Big to Fail" is one of economist Paul Kedrosky's top three. Mine, too, actually. But Kedrosky's number one slot belongs to a different economic tome.

Paul Kedrosky: The best book of the year is, in terms of actually saying something useful that other people weren't saying about this strange adventure we've had over the last year, is Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff's book "This Time is Different" -- which does a really nice job of looking at "800 years of financial folly" as they call it [sic "Eight centuries of financial folly]. It's this kind of scorecard of madness and the things we've done to ourselves by blowing up our economies. It does a really, really nice job of putting it all in context and actually giving you a sense of what might come next.

Time Magazine columnist Justin Fox had his own book on financial history out this year, "The Myth of the Rational Market" it's called. But he'd like to draw your attention to a different one.

Justin Fox: "Lords of Finance" by Liaquat Ahamed. And actually I have to admit right here, I'm only on page 322 of 508. But I still think it's the best business book I've read this year. I'm learning so much from it, because it's this history of the central bankers, from the U.S., Germany, the United Kingdom and France in the 1920s and the early '30s. And the subtitle of the book is "The Bankers Who Broke the World," so the basic story is is that these guys at some level screwed up and launched the world into the Great Depression.

Angela Glover Blackwell: I'm Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and CEO of PolicyLink. My favorite book this year was "This Could Be the Start of Something Big: How Social Movements for Regional Equity Are Reshaping Metropolitan America." Pastor's book turns our old economy on its head. It shows that when we invest in all people in the region, the region becomes a magnet for new jobs and investments. In a year filled with pessimism and economic unease, Manuel's book gave me hope that we can have a stronger, more equitable future.

Fortune magazine write Katie Benner also gave a shout out to Andrew Ross Sorkin's "Too Big to Fail," but there is a different, unlikely business book she suggests you pick up.

Katie Benner: There was a book that came out in the spring called "Bad Girls Go Everywhere." It was a biography of Helen Gurley Brown by Jennifer Scanlon. People would not think of this as a business book, however, what is overlooked and what Scanlon brings out is the fact that Helen Gurley Brown was so adamant about personal finance, savings and financial independence for women. So I mean, she might be the precursor to a Carrie Bradshaw, but also, she was an early Suze Orman.

So there you go. Enough to keep your bedside table stacked for a while.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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