For someone interested in accounting and the world of business, it can be instructive to read books on the subject. And we’re not talking about Economics 101 here. No, today’s topic is human nature, and how it manages to make the business world interesting. Sometimes too interesting. We’ve compiled a list of 50 of the all-time business novels. The authors weave tales of corruption, greed, conspiracy and lust mixed in with kindness, redemption, and sacrifice. Sometimes, there’s no better school than the one we can get from the experienced characters in a good book. If anything, we can learn about how not to live!
Tales From The 18th and 19th Century
If you think conflict over money and business is a recent invention, you’re wrong.
1. A Harlot High and Low Honore de Balzac’s tale about an ambitious, handsome poet who seeks to enter the ranks of his patroness, Madame de Bargeton is filled with strife. He is forced to realize that talent is meaningless compared to money and intrigue.
2. The Rise of Silas Lapham William Dean Howell’s tale about a self-made millionaire in the Gilded Age talks about how one man’s greed almost forces his family to bankruptcy–but not at the cost of moral growth.
3. The Way We Live Now Anthony Trollope’s satirical novel about the financial scandals of the 1870s criticizes the moral corruption of the times. This is one of Trollope’s longest works.
4. The Financier Theodore Dreiser describes the rise and fall of arrogant magnate Cowperwood as he pursues wealth and power by greed. His work is a social critique set at the turn of the 20th century.
Novels With Philosophical Perspective
These business novels discuss philosophy about economic systems and about life in general.
5. The Fountainhead Ayn Rand’s first bestseller, this novel tells the story of an individualist architect as he struggles to promote his personal and artistic vision. This novel is the embodiment of objectivism,
where a man’s happiness should be the sole purpose of his life.
6. The Road to Wigan Pier This novel by George Orwell comes in two parts. The first is about the harsh conditions that the London working class lived in before World War II. The second part describes his middle-class background and how it led him to believe in socialism.
These novels, written by well-known business experts and consultants, aim to illustrate principles of success.
7. The Goal Written in a how-to, piecemeal style wrapped in narrative fiction, Eliyahu Goldratt’s novel is able to delineate his philosophy through the story of a man who tries to build his marriage and business.
8. It’s Not Luck This is the sequel to Eliyahu Goldratt’s The Goal. Alex Rojo, the main character, must figure out the most profitable way to sell his companies while trying to manage his personal life.
9. Getting Naked Patrick Lencioni tells the story of fictitious consultant Jack Bauer. He learns to use the “naked service”model for his business, which changes his life forever.
10. Critical Chain Eliyahu Goldratt continues his series of business novels, building on the Theory of Constraints. This novel again questions the theories of conventional management.
11. Necessary but not Sufficient This is another novel by Eliyahu Goldratt about the Theory of Constraints. It discusses many of the pressures and challenges of high-tech companies.
12. The Deadline Consultant Tom DeMarco uses creativity with deep insight to deliver this story commenting on the principles that affect software development. Mr. Tompkins, the main character, divides his company into eighteen teams and force them to compete with each other and a deadline.
13. Selling the Wheel Business novel bestseller Jeff Cox uses a narrative approach to give advice on how to best sell a company to customers. Told from the point of view of Max, this story tells how four different types of business men help him reach success.
14. The Small Business Billionaire Frank Mills is struggling with his restaurant when a robbery takes place. Fortunately, a young millionaire comes along to give him advice.
15. The Cure The widget company Essential is on the verge of losing clients because of incompatibility between its employees. Will the three main players join forces just in time?
16. Under the Gun Jack Griffin is a young entrepreneur satiated with the sudden success of his company. However, will the same things that brought about his success bring consequences later down the line?
17. The Time Seller This hilarious quick read talks about selling time in a bottle.
18. Miller’s Bolt Jim Manion is a good worker, but he doesn’t seem to be appreciated by his co-workers. Fortunately, Peter is willing to help save his career.
19. Jack’s Notebook Jack Huber’s daydreams about starting his own business as a professional photographer. Unfortunately, he’s not too experienced–until a mentor comes along.
20. The Venture Michael DiGabriel’s video production group has been downsized. They decide to build their own production company while learning a lot on the way.
21. The Squeeze This novel tells about the struggle of a small family-owned Midwest manufacturer. Fortunately, he learns about sustainability.
Stories of Personal Crisis, Disillusionment, and Sometimes Redemption
The jaded businessman who has misplaced priorities Is a common theme in these works.
22. American Pastoral Set in the 1960′s, Philip Roth’s tale about a Jewish American businessman whose life is destroyed by the social and political conflict of the era won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998. This novel is based on a real person.
23. The Embezzler Based on the fraud case that led the American government to take control of Wall Street, this story by Louis Auchincloss is told through different voices and dimensions. Again, this is a narrative about a wealthy man who loses everything due to crime, although his greatest flaw is misjudgment of human character.
24. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit This novel by Sloan Wilson details people’s struggles to find contentment in a business and material oriented society. It is largely autobiographical, based on the author’s own experience as an assistant director for public schools.
25. Extravagance Gary Krist incorporates dual settings to illustrate the similar market excesses of the 1690s and 1990s in the journey of a young man trying to find fortune through the stock market. Will he be able to reform himself from greed before it takes a toll beyond his personal life?
26. Cosmopolis Don Delillo’s thirteenth novel depicts New Economy billionaire Eric Parker as he summons his workers while working from a limo going across Manhattan. Will Parker’s stubbornness in the face of obstacles affect his status as a financial magnate?
27. Seize the Day Nobel Prize recipient Saul Bellow centers his story around a struggling actor named Wilhelm Adler. However, he finally comes to terms with himself on the day of reckoning.
28. Gain Richard Powers again portrays the dehumanization of modern life. Told in two separate stories woven together, this story describes how one company’s success worsens one family’s woes.
29. Revolutionary Road Now a major motion picture, Richard Yates’s 1961 novel tells about a young couple who decide to leave Connecticut in order to pursue their artistic dreams and free themselves from the consumerist world in America. However, is their decision more risk than it’s worth?
30. Holy Water James Othmer’s novel about an unsatisfied man who takes a new job in the country of Galado will draw you in with its wit. Will the fact that his new work environment is just as corrupt as his former one stop him from successfully providing clean water to Galado’s poorest citizens?
31. Something Happened Joseph Heller’s second novel tells the story of a man who is discontent despite having everything anyone could ask for. Then, something happened …
32. Zenobia Moira is struggling as a newcomer at the once renowned Zenobia company. This book gives witty insight into the silliness of corporate culture.
33. True Confections Alice Tatnall’s life seems to have spiraled downhill after accidentally burning down a classmate’s house. Will working at a candy store change her life, both professionally and personally?
34. Llovd: What Happened Lloyd seems to be a nice man: stable income, stable family, but as he gets promoted, will he be corrupted?
35. Small Business: A Novel Nothing seems to go well for Martin Fassler in his professional and personal life.
36. The Successor High-finance guru Christian Gillette turns his attention from his business to politics.
Business Novels With A Touch of Romance
Learn why so many people say it’s a bad idea to date people in your office!
37. Frumkiss Family Business The Frumkiss family seems to be any normal family with no financial worries. However, the grandfather’s death might change everything.
38. The Invisible Heart Laura is a newcomer to Edwards High School as an English teacher. Despite her ideological differences with Sam, the economics teacher, regarding capitalism, she still falls in love with him.
39. Loved Me Once: A Novel Of Love, Romance And Business This is a business novel blanketed in romance. Who will Maggie choose between two very romantically and professionally eligible suitors?
40. The Coach Simon Bruce is struggling in his love and professional life after being caught cheating. Fortunately, a woman named Angela is able to guide him back on track.
Business Novels With Mystery and Suspense
These thrillers will keep you on the edge of your seat.
41. Cryptonomicon Bridging two time periods, Neal Stephenson’s tale links an Allied intelligence group during World War II and 1990s Internet pioneers. This novel will be popular among science fiction fans.
42. A Man in Full Told from different perspectives, Tom Wolfe’s tale about how a rumor can incite race riots in Atlanta leaves much to wonder. Local businesses and politicians get involved, bringing everything to chaos.
43. Final Cut United Artists studio executive Steven Bach fills us in on the challenging production of 1980s film Heaven’s Gate. This film would eventually lead to the bankruptcy of United Artists.
44. A Dirty Business Formerly homeless/jobless Kevin Bailey sudden finds himself hired with a detective agency, thanks to his criminal justice degree. What starts out as a suspicious case of gold-digging becomes something much more.
45. Infoquake This is a must read for science fiction lovers. Gifted young programmer Natch seeks his way to the top as an entrepreneur of brain-upgrading programs, but he has a lot in store.
46. Globo Sapiens: Fiction For a Business Class Lounge We meet the”most globalized man on Earth”named Isaac searching for his identity. On a business trip, he meets other “Globo Sapiens,”who forever change his life.
47. Blind Man’s Alley If you like your business novels mixed in with a little bit of suspense, this is the book for you. This is a great book about the complicated financial world of the Big Apple.
48. Bitter Business Kate Millholland decides to take a risk in choosing to defend a client who runs an unscrupulous chemical company. This is a great legal and business thriller.
49. Unfinished Business Peter Armstrong has a new dream job as an investmet banker. He thinks his problems are only professional until his ex-girlfriend/CIA agent shows up.
50. Falling Sideways Frederick Breathwaite struggles to cut his losses as his high profile Danish firm is downsizing. The multiple story lines reveal Kennedy’s astute insights on middle age and modern life.