Big Biz Hits the Books

A close-up photo of a book.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

It’s no surprise that many a big name in business has either had a biography written about them or written their own autobiography. Here are some of the classics (and a few newer ones) to check out this holiday season.

Capital Instincts: Life as an Entrepreneur, Financier, and Athlete by Richard L. Brandt

Wiley, February 2003

An avid sportsman and innovative businessman, Thomas Weisel has developed a reputation as a determined, competitive, and hugely successful name in the business world. He ran one of the biggest investment banks on the West Coast for 27 years and was instrumental in bolstering companies like Applied Materials, Siebel Systems, and Yahoo! in their journeys on Wall Street.

Brandt’s biography delves deeply into Weisel’s business acumen, not to mention his lifelong love of athletics (Weisel is the founder of Tailwind Sports, which manages the US Postal Service cycling team. He was also an Olympic-level speed skater and the chairman of the US Ski Foundation).

The title of the book’s first chapter says it best: “Never Underestimate Thom Weisel.”

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight

Scribner, April 2016

Nike founder Phil Knight built his business from a startup with a backing of all of $50 to an international superstar company annually raking in more than $30 billion. The Nike swoosh is one of the few icons instantly recognized all over the world.

In his own words, Knight tells the story of how he started Nike with one goal: to import high-quality, low-cost running shoes from Japan, which he then sold out of the trunk of his Plymouth Valiant. At first, Nike didn’t look like much: In its first year, it only grossed $8,000. But thanks to perseverance and solid partnerships with Knight’s former coach Bill Bowerman, as well as the first ragtag group of Nike employees, Knight built a legendary company that survives and thrives today.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Simon & Schuster, October 2011

If you haven’t heard of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, you’ve probably been living under a rock. By finding the intersection of creativity, technology, and innovation, Jobs changed the way we think about user design and the possibilities inherent in everyday technology like computers, animation, phones, music, and digital publishing.

Author Walter Isaac put together this biography based on forty interviews with Jobs, as well as interviews with his family, friends, competitors, and colleagues. He doesn’t shy away from detailing Jobs’s intensely driven, sometimes brutal personality. But Isaac couches it in the context of the ups and downs of Jobs’s life and the legacy of innovation that he’s left behind.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

Deckle Edge, March 2013

While not precisely an autobiography, Sheryl Sandberg’s book on women and leadership in business, based on her 2010 TEDTalk on the same theme, reveals a lot about her life and her approach to her work. As COO of Facebook, one of Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, and one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, Sandberg knows a thing or two about balancing work and home life—not to mention stepping into leadership roles.

Lean In combines research, hard data, and personal anecdotes to create a book urging women to take pride in their professional achievements and to break down gender-based barriers in the workplace.

Model Woman: Eileen Ford and the Business of Beauty by Robert Lacey

Harper, June 2015

Lacey’s biography of the legendary Eileen Ford, whose Ford Modeling Agency practically created the concept of the superstar supermodel, looks at both the glamor and the tough work ethic behind one of the fashion world’s most famous entrepreneurs. Ford represented some of the biggest names in fashion—Rene Russo, Christie Brinkley, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, and more.

Drawing on four years of interviews with Ford and her associates (including her rivals), Lacey brings to light all of Ford’s determination, business acumen, and passionate personality.

“Ford’s status as a controversial, demanding figure isn’t ignored in Lacey’s portrait of one of the hardest working women in fashion,” wrote the New York Observer. “The juicy details of a tell-all are met with the nuance of a memoir in this portrait of the woman he recalls as the ‘matriarch of modeling.’”


About DevonJ140
I am currently an Accounting Director living in New York City. I love reading and learning more about business, finance, tech, and current events.

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