Last week New York Times business columnist Joe Nocera blogged about his efforts to find a great novel about business written in the past 25 years. That didn’t work out very well for him—hey, who’s the joker who recommended William Gaddis‘ JR?—but he did prompt a lively discussion about great nonfiction books about business.
On that front, I raised my hand to suggest Steven Bach‘s Final Cut, still the most fun I’ve had reading a book largely involving dollar signs. But I remain stuck on the fiction thing. About five years back I worked on project for Business 2.0 about the most important books about business; Biz 2 is dead now, and the full article is gone to wherever Time Inc. mothballs such things, but a list is here. Yeah, we were probably reaching by putting Moby-Dick in the “leadership” category, but there’s some good stuff in there: Gary Krist‘s Extravagance, Don DeLillo‘s Cosmopolis, Saul Bellow‘s Seize the Day. I’m not sure why Richard Powers‘ Gain didn’t make the cut, because I’m certain I suggested it—it’s one of my favorite novels of the past 25 years, period. (Granted, it’s about the rise of a pharmaceutical giant that’s responsible for the lead character’s cancer, which isn’t the sort of thing a national business mag would want to promote. My editors weren’t big on my suggestion of The Road to Wigan Pier.) Any others? I’m thinking of novels that explore the big churning wheels of American business; Mark Sarvas has already collected a nice list of novels that explore office life.