Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

In Pictures: Six essential books for the business reader

Our panel of B-school profs from across Canada offers a wide range of recommendations, covering topics from Hollywood to Bollywood, capitalism to passion capital

1 of 6

Contagious: Why Things Catch On
Jonah Berger
Simon & Schuster, $29.99

Reviewed by Monica LaBarge

This eminently readable book, written by a rising star in academic marketing thought, combines peer-reviewed research with real world business stories and an engaging writing style to explore what really drives social media and buzz marketing. In contrast to most popular press books on marketing, this book goes beyond simple case studies to the science of social psychology to explain how and why word-of-mouth spreads, both in the online world and in face-to-face interactions, and proposes six principles that Mr. Berger believes drive things to become “contagious.” While Mr. Berger doesn’t quite have the storytelling skill of Malcolm Gladwell or the scholarly heft of Daniel Kahneman (Thinking, Fast and Slow) or Richard Thaler (Nudge), he does a great job of providing a comprehensive road map for those who seek to understand how they, too, can use the principles of social influence to get their own product or idea to catch on.

Dr. LaBarge is an assistant professor of marketing at Queen’s School of Business in Kingston

2 of 6

Reimagining India: Unlocking the Potential of Asia’s Next Superpower
Clay Chandler and Adil Zainulbhai (editors)
Simon & Schuster, $34.99

Reviwed by Dezso J. Horvath

I will admit my bias in recommending this book, having spent considerable time in India over the past decade. The Schulich School of Business opened the first permanent foreign business school in Hyderabad, India, in 2013. The editors of this book have done an admirable job capturing all that India is today through an assemblage of 63 short essays by award-winning authors and journalists, leading industrialists, entrepreneurs, economists, historians, policy experts, academics and cultural pundits. The result is an excellent summary of what ails India today, what is changing and the incredible untapped potential of what will soon be not only the most populated country on the planet but also one of the world’s next great economic superpowers. This is an enjoyable and eye-opening read for business leaders who are curious about a country that may directly affect their businesses in the years ahead.

Dr. Horvath is dean and the Tanna H. Schulich chair in strategic management at York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto

3 of 6

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn: Life’s Great Lessons Are Gained From Our Losses
John C. Maxwell
Center Street Books, $29

Reviewed by Patricia Faison Hewlin

Vintage John C. Maxwell, Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn is a primer written in a style for the executive as well as those in the general population who want to develop their leadership acumen. What I appreciate most about the book is that it does not shy away from the core fact that setbacks and adversity can lead to a deep sense of loss and disappointment. Using stories of leaders within a wide range of industries and paths of life, Sometimes You Win gives timely guidance and very practical tools on how to evaluate challenges and setbacks from the perspectives of learning and gaining.

Dr. Hewlin is an assistant professor of organizational behaviour at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management in Montreal

4 of 6

Passion Capital: The World’s Most Valuable Asset
Paul Alofs
McClelland & Stewart, $29.99

Reviewed by W. Glenn Rowe

In Passion Capital, Mr. Alofs discusses the importance of passion as a competitive advantage and the seven principles that lead to passion capital: creed (the power of belief); culture (growing your beliefs); courage (the strength to take risks); brand (your promise to the world); resources (marshalling and mastering); strategy (planning with passion); and persistence (if at first you don’t succeed …). In his book, Mr. Alofs differentiates passion capital from human, intellectual and financial capital. He finishes with a chapter on the differences between management and leadership. Mr. Alofs is an experienced for-profit chief executive officer. He has been the CEO of the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation since 2003. In that period the foundation has raised more than $550-million for cancer research.

Dr. Rowe is an associate professor of strategic management and the Paul MacPherson chair in strategic leadership at the University of Western Ontario’s Ivey Business School in London, Ont.

Story continues below advertisement

5 of 6

The New Capitalist Manifesto: Building a Disruptively Better Business
Umair Haque
Harvard Business Review Press, $26.95

Reviewed by John Phelan

Umair Haque’s The New Capitalist Manifesto is worth reading; primarily, because ​in it, he undertakes an exploration of a new (and in many people’s minds, a badly needed) form of capitalism. The 20th century model of capital based on consumption and loss is, in Mr. Haque’s compelling argument, not only unsustainable but begs for renewed inquiry into such fundamental questions as: What is business actually for? In his own words: “[W]hat stands in the way of creating a conscientious, accountable and sustainable sort of capitalism, that in long term is actually habitable?” The New Capitalist Manifesto examines the industrial-era model (20th century) of business with a view to exposing its inherent flaws and failures. Mr. Haque asserts that business now must adopt a much broader definition of success; in particular, success has to find its origins beyond the limitations of the notion of the all-powerful shareholder. The New Capitalist Manifesto develops and grapples with questions about contemporary notions of capital, industry, and most importantly, sustainability. It’s a worthwhile read.

Prof. Phelan is an associate professor of organizational behaviour at Queen’s School of Business in Kingston

6 of 6

Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking and the Big Business of Entertainment Anita Elberse
MacMillan, $34.50

Reviewed by Charles Weinberg

How should corporate executives and budding entrepreneurs spend their money and time? Should they make a few large bets and hope to win big, or should they make a range of smaller, presumably safer, investments and limit their risk? Ms. Elberse, in her new and captivating book Blockbusters, tells us that big investments are usually the best ones, at least in the entertainment industry. In well-run entertainment companies, such as film studio Warner Bros. (think Harry Potter) and soccer club Manchester United, large investments consume a disproportionate share of resources, but when managed successfully contribute an even larger amount of revenue and profits. In vivid detail, Ms. Elberse provides terrific insights on how the blockbuster strategy works. What’s missing: Blockbuster strategies can crash and burn. But we learn much less about why that happens. Still, Ms. Elberse’s many examples teach us that blockbuster success comes not only from making big investments, but also from intensive management and supervision of all the implementation elements of the blockbuster strategy (Lady Gaga is no one-hit wonder or overnight sensation). One can only wonder whether Blockbusters itself will be a blockbuster.

Dr. Weinberg is a marketing professor with the Unviversity of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business in Vancouver

Report an error
Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.