For the second time this week, a new book caught my enthusiasm…
 
Nancy Koehn teaches at Harvard Business School, following in their great tradition of business history scholars (for example Alfred Chandler, Thomas McCraw, and Richard Tedlow). A few years ago she wrote an excellent book about the great marketers (“branders”) of all time.
 
Now she has edited a volume containing some of the most intriguing business stories out of the pages of the New York TimesThe Story of American Business from the Pages of the New York Times (Harvard Business Press, 2009) is a fun and mind-expanding book. 
 
105 articles spanning the period from 1869 to 2005 focus on the rise of big business, the role of Wall Street, key individuals, the development of the consumer economy, technological breakthroughs, economic crises, and the nature of work and leisure. I found it to be a great selection, from the obituary for my hero Alfred P. Sloan (who built General Motors) to the announcement of the iPod, from Andrew Carnegie to Estee Lauder, from NBC entering the TV business to Enron’s downfall. As one would expect, these articles are all well-written and usually insightful.
 
With bite-sized bits from the past and present, this book is a joy just to flip through, to hunt and peck cover-to-cover. I am sure you will discover things you didn’t know, and perhaps gain new ideas for your life and your business. Business history has so much to teach us, and gets way too little of our attention.





 

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