What will the best-selling books teach us in 2010?

This is a “let’s think about a question together” blog post.

It’s hard, probably impossible, to figure out just what books will be “big” for the coming 12 months.  Bob Morris, our blogging colleague, reads and reviews very many books for Amazon and other sites.  (I suspect he has passed 2000 books by now).  So he is the one with the best overview of what the themes are…  But to predict the true best-sellers, that is tough.

It appears (from its time on the NY Times best-sellers list and other lists) that the best selling business book of 2009 was Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, a book that popularizes the work of others (especially Ericcson).  But is its sales success a reflection of the need for this book, or simply the fact of the cachet, the popularity, the story-telling ability of Malcolm Gladwell?  (and, as readers of this blog know, I am a Gladwell fan).

A while back, I wrote a post about the book that I felt needed to be written — about the need for companies to focus on providing and maintaining work for the people in our country.  But if somebody wrote the book, would it sell?  I don’t know. The most read blog post from this blog in 2009 was A Jobless Recovery and a Slip Down Maslow’s Hierarchy.  It included this line:

“While just a brief time ago we were a nation looking for self-esteem and self-actualization in our work, we may be back down to physiological needs and safety needs.  We need to pay the bills and survive this jobless recovery, and self-actualization will have to wait a while.”

I talk to a lot of people, as do most of you.  I think there is a great level of uncertaintty – even fear – among many.  I hear that the job-seeking networking groups are overflowing, and people are discouraged, worried, afraid…  There are plenty of books that fall in the self-help category, calling for positive imagery and positive thinking in the midst of difficult times,  but I don’t yet see books that help leaders know how to build companies that can address such fears.  (News item:  “Zero net job creation in the last decade”).

I think there is one obvious theme developing – business leaders are learning from an ever-expanding universe, and anyone who can write about such an expansion will find an audience.  For example, one current theme is that business has much to learn from the arena of design.  (I am presenting a synopsis of one such book at the February First Friday Book Synopsis, The Design of Business by Roger Martin.  Bob Morris is very high on this book).

What will be the best-selling business books of 2010, and what will they teach us – what will we learn from them?  I don’t know.  But we at the First Friday Book Synopsis will be ready to present our synopses, and maybe help you identify the problems, and the solutions, to take you through to 2011.

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