Business books 2015: Tony O’Reilly, TED, and food secrets

The best of business reading from 2015.

The Maximalist: The Rise and Fall of Tony O’Reilly by Matt Cooper, Gill, & Macmillan €27.99

Tony O’Reilly really did have it all — handsome, charming, charismatic, and one of Irish rugby’s legendary figures.

Operating on a personal philosophy, ‘I am a maximalist, I want more of everything’, he was the embodiment of a new and thrusting Ireland.

From the austerity of the 1980s, O’Reilly was a trans-Atlantic commuter by private jet glorying in his involvement with Kerrygold and Heinz and his media interests.

Then the empire crashed. Cooper — whose previous books include Who Really Runs Ireland? and How Ireland Really Went Bust — draws on O’Reilly’s family, friends, associates and rivals, to uncover the rise and fall of an Irish businessman.

The Courage To Act: A Memoir of the Crisis and its Aftermath by Ben Bernanke, WW Norton €25

In 2006, Ben Bernanke was appointed chair of the Federal Reserve, the culmination of a journey from small-town South Carolina to academic posts at America’s top colleges, that finally led him to heading up the US central bank.

When the financial bubble burst in 2007, the Fed faced a global crisis.

“I think there was a reasonably good chance that we could have gone into a 1930s-style depression,” says Bernanke.

“The panic that hit us was enormous — I think the worst in US history.”

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance, Ecco €21.99

Often compared to Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs, Musk is the creator of PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity.

Investigative technology journalist Vance delves behind one of modern America’s most successful, and visionary, businessmen.

A classic immigrant success story, Elon Musk arrived in the US in 1992 driven to realising the American Dream.

Having experienced personal misfortunes, including losing control of PayPal and the death of an infant son, he now heads up a €5bn conglomerate.

Your Strategy Needs a Strategy by Martin Reeves, Knut Haanaes, and Janmejaya Sinha, HBR Press €25

The three authors work for the Boston Consulting Group and here outline five strategy positions for business: classical, adaptive, visionary, shaping, and renewal.

Modern business presents a myriad of choices, and assembling the right plan for any project will ultimately dictate its success or failure.

When Apple unveiled the iPhone in 2007, it welded a vision with new chip technologies.

It adapted to changing consumer demands and outsourced to cheaper manufacturing locations.

Integrating many of the tools dating back to Michael Porter in the 1980s, the authors underline the need for businesses to have a deep understanding of what is going on around them.

TED Talks Storytelling: 23 Storytelling Techniques from the Best TED Talks by Akash Karia, CreateSpace Independent Publishing €9.99

A professional speaker who has trained thousands of business people, Karia is said to be among the top 10 speakers in the Asia-Pacific region.

Having studied 200 of the best TED talks — where speakers are limited to a presentation of just 18 minutes — Karia examines the fundamentals of imparting one message in a short time, and the techniques of capturing an audience attention in the first 30 seconds.

The chapter headings include: Provide Sensory Details to Breathe Life Into Your Characters and The Spark, The Change, and the Takeaway.

Losing the Signal: The Remarkable Rise and Fall of BlackBerry by Jacqui McNish and Sean Silcoff, Flatiron €21

It was one of the most successful and globally recognised brand names in the world.

President Obama was an avid user. Having created a company with $20 billion (€18.24bn) in revenues, an insular management fell prey to hubris.

The Canadian company was then rocked by the disruptive nature of the mobile market, as the iPhone came on stream in 2007.

Mike Lazaridis, the technical CEO, got caught in the glare of emerging technology, and unwisely stood still as the train hurtled on.

Swallow This: Serving Up the Food Industry’s Darkest Secrets by Joanna Blythman, Fourth Estate, €16.99

A leading UK investigative food journalist, she has won four Glenfiddich awards for her writing, and a Caroline Walker Media Award for Improving the Nation’s Health by Means of Good Food.

Understanding modern society’s need for convenience food, she lifts the lid on the contents of our favourite ready-in-a-minute meals.

It’s a far from savoury read. Getting to the heart of the multi-billion euro industry, she reveals how goat-flavoured cheese powder is made, why apple pieces in fruit salads don’t turn brown after 21 days’ exposure, and how drinks companies concoct that cloudy effect in our favourite fruit juices.

An interesting book, but perhaps best avoided until well after the Christmas festivities.

Dancing At The Fountain: In Conversation With World Leading Hoteliers by Conor Kenny, Oak Tree Press €29.99

Kenny, a hotel and hospitality development expert interviewed a group of general managers from the world’s greatest hotels, including Kiaran MacDonald at The Savoy Hotel in London; Philippe Leboeuf at the Mandarin Oriental in Paris; Michael Davern of the K Club; Bernard Murphy at Gleneagles; and Greg Liddell of the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona.

Their stories are about greeting the great and the good, including presidents and heads of state and pop celebrities.

Hard work features in the hoteliers’ meteoric career rises — as does a focus on service, attention to detail, and a love of people, guests and staff alike.

The book’s title is taken from an impromptu dance Michael Jackson spontaneously created to a sequenced water display in the foyer fountain of Dubai’s Burj Al Arab hotel.

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