Lewis makes the list again with The New New Thing (W.W. Norton 2000), his story of uber-entrepreneur Jim Clark and his second foray into the then-new, now-passé Internet economy with Healtheon. By the time the book was published, the era it portrayed was nearly over, leading one panelist to call it "a postscript to an amazing era."
Biography, or How I Got Rich and Powerful
CEO biographies have become publishing staples. The book that started the trend, Iacocca, (Bantam; 1985) didn't quite make our list. Neither did the equally phenomenal Trump: The Art of The Deal (Random House; 1988) — though it came close, as did Katharine Graham's Pulitzer Prize-winning Personal History (Knopf; 1997).
But the more recent Jack: Straight from the Gut (Warner; 2001), by former General Electric honcho Jack Welch, one of the most celebrated CEOs of the era (even with the divorce), did make the grade. Welch wrote the book with the help of Business Week's John Byrne, who also wrote Chainsaw: The Notorious Career of Al Dunlap in the Era of Profit-At-Any-Price.
In a more historical vein is The House of Morgan by Ron Chernow (Atlantic Monthly Press; 1990). The sweeping narrative traces the trajectory of the J.P. Morgan empire from its obscure beginnings in Victorian London to the crash of 1987. It won the 1990 National Book Award for nonfiction and our panel placed it eighth on our list.
Chernow just missed making our list a second time with his The Warburgs (Random House; 1993), an earlier book about a slightly less impressive banking dynasty. He also wrote Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (Random House; 1998).
In his day, Rockefeller was the richest man alive. The richest man today, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has also taken the time to write a couple of books, The Road Ahead (Viking; 1995) and Business @ the Speed of Thought (Warner; 2000). Neither, alas, makes our list.
The Investing Obsession
Over the last 20 years, investing has been transformed from a serious — if slightly dry — profession into a national obsession and a favorite spectator sport. Publishers, of course, have caught on and are forever offering books with new tales of buying low and selling high.
Most of these books tend to come and go. Investing best sellers in the genre such as books by Robert Kiyosaki, Suze Orman and Peter Lynch barely rated a mention among our panelists. One book that did register was The Buffett Way: Investment Strategies of the World's Greatest Investor by Robert Hagstrom (John Wiley & Sons; 1991). Our panel's reaction to the book (ranked #17) is further proof, if any were needed, that Buffett's stock has never been higher.
Other books gaining votes for a variety of reasons were Dow 36,000 by James K. Glassman and Kevin Hassett (Times Books; 1999) and Stocks for the Long Run by Jeremy J. Siegel (Irwin; 1994).
Lynch's One Up on Wall Street (Simon & Schuster; 1989), once read by everyone, finished well out of the money. Finally The Beardstown Ladies' Common-Sense Investment Guide (Hyperion; 1994) — champion of the everyman investor — was mentioned once or twice. One panelist called it "sad, weird and prophetic that the results were fraudulent."