UK and USA: Financial Times and McKinsey Announce a Business Book of the Year Shortlist

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Eligible for books originally published in English or in translation between November of last year and this year, the FT-McKinsey award program looks for work to ‘stand the test of time.’

In London, a view from the Garden at 120 in Fenchurch Street. Image – iStockphoto: IR Stone

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Critical Business Issues’
Today’s (September 23) announcement of the Business Book of the Year Award shortlist from the Financial Times and McKinsey & Company marks the 16th year for this program, which honors international publication in the global business community.

Carrying a cash award of £30,000 (US$38,199) for its winner, each of the runners-up receives £10,000 (US$12,733), making the total purse of the program for authors worth £80,000 (US$101,864).

A distinguishing characteristic of what the awards’ jurors look for is described as content the insights and influence of which are “likely to stand the test of time.” And, as Andrew Hill wrote, in the program’s announcement of its longlist, “That is hard enough to predict in a normal year. In 2020, the task will be particularly taxing.”

The jurors charged with determining such prescient value this year are:

  • Roula Kahlef, the Financial Times editor, who serves as chair of the jury, succeeding Lionel Barber
  • Mitchell Baker, CEO of Mozilla Corporation and chair of the Mozilla Foundation
  • Mohamed El-Erian, president-elect of Queen’s College, Cambridge, and winner of the 2008 Business Book of the Year Award for his When Markets Collide: Investment Strategies for the Age of Global Economic Change from McGraw-Hill))
  • Herminia Ibarra, the Charles Handy professor of organizational behavior with London Business School
  • Randall Kroszner, the Norman R. Bobins professor of economics and deputy dean for executive programs at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business
  • Dambisa Moyo, a non-executive director with 3M and Chevron
  • Raju Narisetti, global publishing director with McKinsey & Company
  • Shriti Vadera, chair of Santander UK and chair-elect of Prudential

To be eligible for the 2020 iteration of the Business Book of the Year Award, titles must be published for the first time in the English language, or in English translation, between November 16 of last year and 15 November this year. There is no limit to the number of submissions each publisher and/or imprint can make, provided books fit each criterion.

There are no restrictions of gender, age, or nationality of authors, although writers who are current employees of the Financial Times or of McKinsey & Company–or close relatives of such employees–are disqualified.

This year’s shortlist was chosen from a longlist of 15 titles.

Business Book of the Year Award 2020 Shortlist

Title Author(s) Publisher
Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism Anne Case, Angus Deaton Princeton University Press, UK and USA
No Filter” The Inside Story of How Instagram Transformed Business, Celebrity, and Our Culture Sarah Frier Random House Business, UK; Simon & Shuster USA
No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention Reed Hastings, Erin Meyer Penguin Random House / WH Allen, UK; Penguin Press, USA
Reimagining Capitalism: How Business Can Save the World Rebecca Henderson Penguin Business, UK; Public Affairs, USA
If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future Jill Lepore Hachette / John Murray Press, UK; WW Norton, USA
A World Without Work: Technology, Automation and How We Should Respond Daniel Susskind Penguin Random House / Allen Lane, UK; Macmillan / Metropolitan Books, USA

In prepared comments for the release today of the shortlist, jury chair Khalaf is quoted, saying, “We enjoyed a robust debate at the judging meeting and it was hard to separate six finalists from a particularly strong field.

“But in a year marked by disruption and uncertainty, the judges have selected a shortlist which addresses critical business issues, from the future of work to the importance of technology, in original, enjoyable and provocative ways.”

And another comment comes from Dame Vivian Hunt, who is a senior partner with McKinsey & Company. Dame Vivian says, “In a year when books were often an escapist respite and as many business ideas felt abruptly outdated, the 2020 shortlist reflects a rich diversity of mainstream books that not only look back, but also offer enduring and relevant lessons in resilient leadership; they are potential guides on how to rewire companies, organizations and societies for the post-pandemic next normal.”

Previous winners of the Business Book of the Year:

  • Caroline Criado Perez for Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men (2019)
  • John Carreyrou for Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (2018)
  • Amy Goldstein for Janesville: An American Story (2017)
  • Sebastian Mallaby for The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan (2016)
  • Martin Ford for Rise of the Robots (2015)
  • Thomas Piketty for Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014)
  • Brad Stone for The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and The Age of Amazon (2013)
  • Steve Coll for Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power (2012)
  • Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo for Poor Economics (2011)
  • Raghuram Rajan for Fault Lines (2010)
  • Liaquat Ahamed for The Lords of Finance (2009)
  • Mohamed El-Erian for When Markets Collide (2008)
  • William D. Cohan for The Last Tycoons (2007)
  • James Kynge for China Shakes the World (2006)
  • Thomas Friedman, for The World is Flat (2005)
NPD Group: Personal Finance Books on the Rise

Image: The NPD Group / NPD BookScan

In an interesting aside to today’s news of the Business Book of the Year Award, the NPD Group’s research is indicating that rising sales of personal finance books in the United States have accelerated since the March intensification of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

Rising sales in the genre have been tracked since 2017, but in this pandemic year, NPD this week is citing 4-percent unit sales increases, year-to-date, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9 percent over the last five years.

Personal investing has led, up 43 percent, followed by personal retirement planning, up 21 percent, and personal money management, up 9 percent.

“We first noted the upward finance books sales trend in 2019,” says Kristen McLean, NPD’s books industry analyst, “driven by a growing interest in the financial-independence-retire-early movement among younger generations, even as the economy was doing well.

“But after COVID-19 hit the United States, the need became less about lifestyle considerations and more about necessity, as economic insecurity, stimulus checks, and unemployment benefits drove the personal savings rate upward.

“We expect this category to remain strong into 2021 as economic security continues to be top-of-mind.”

We have more today from McLean at NPD on the US books market here.

The FT and McKinsey have made a video presentation of this year’s shortlist:


More from Publishing Perspectives on awards programs in books and the publishing industry is here. More on the United Kingdom’s market is here, and more on the United States’ market is here.

More on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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