VIP Reading Room

Top business leaders and economists on the best books they read in 2012.

By Simon Kennedy

ILLUSTRATION BY CHRISTINA UNG

Kay Krill

president and chief executive officer of Ann

Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948, by Madeleine Albright

A memoir by the former Secretary of State. “I am in awe of Madeleine as an extremely accomplished woman and a loving mother. This book is a remarkable account of the meaningful occurrences in her life that shaped the amazing woman she was to become.”

Sheila Bair

former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin

An epic fantasy series set in a warring kingdom. “My son got me started on these, and now I’m hooked. I’m working my way through the third volume. I must say, Martin has his power politics down. The guy must have worked in Washington at some point in his life.”

Satyajit Das

author of Extreme Money: Masters of the Universe and the Cult of Risk

Tiger Head, Snake Tails: China Today, How It Got There and Where It Is Heading, by Jonathan Fenby

A vigorously reported work that sheds light on China’s economy and political system. “[It] is an antidote to the shallow narratives about China found in airport shops, which frequently form the basis of policy debates, at least on television chat shows and in business circles.”

Jeffrey Sachs

director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University

The Land Grabbers: The New Fight Over Who Owns the Earth, by Fred Pearce

How the world’s wealthiest nations and companies are gorging on real estate in the developing world. “Pearce uncovers the often corrupt and environmentally destructive land grabbing under way in the world’s poorest regions and describes the global ‘system’ of tax evasion and irresponsibility that feeds it.”

Peter Orszag

vice chairman of global banking at Citigroup and Bloomberg View columnist

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson

An ambitious treatise on the patterns of economic growth and development across the globe. “The authors warn that without significant changes, future growth in China may be much harder to achieve than is commonly accepted — a wise warning to those who do simplistic extrapolations from the past couple decades.”

Lawrence Summers

former secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and director of the National Economic Council

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, by Steven Pinker

A book that reminds readers that we’re living in the most peaceful era of human history. “Because of its profound but deeply documented optimism about improvement in the human condition.”

James Gorman

chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley

The Longest Shot, by Neil Sagebiel

A shot-by-shot reconstruction of golf’s 1955 U.S. Open. “How a massive underdog, Jack Fleck, upset Ben Hogan. If you have the talent, anything is possible! Business books: I started many, and for the 25th consecutive year since graduating from business school I was unable to finish any.”

Jan Hatzius

chief economist of Goldman Sachs Group

The Signal and the Noise, by Nate Silver

The New York Times’s political prognosticator applies his data-reading talents to several subjects. “Silver discusses prediction and his own approach to it with wit and verve, using examples from a wide range of areas including politics, economics, terrorism, weather, poker, and baseball.”

Glenn Hubbard

dean of Columbia Business School and former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers

Volcker: The Triumph of Persistence, by William L. Silber

An official biography of the former chairman of the Federal Reserve. “How a great Federal Reserve chairman conquered the inflation dragon with ideas, consensus building, and a willingness to tough it out. This might make good ‘fiscal cliff’ reading for folks more important than I.”

Anshu Jain

co-chief executive officer of Deutsche Bank

A Possible Life: A Novel in Five Parts, by Sebastian Faulks

A drama leaping centuries, from World War II to a futuristic 2069. “Sebastian Faulks has been a favorite for years. I really enjoy his lean prose. A Possible Life is a compendium of five novellas which narrate the story of five lives, with no apparent connection initially, till you start to see the linkages.”

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