Appropriately for a US election year, the longlist for the 2012 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award inc­l­udes an array of titles charting the strengths and weaknesses of the American corporate, economic and financial system.

William Silber’s forthcoming biography of form­er Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker sits alongside Walter Isaacson’s life of the late Apple chief executive Steve Jobs. The stories of ExxonMobil under Lee Raymond and Rex Tillerson, and Ford under Alan Mulally, are tackled by, respectively, Steve Coll (Private Empire) and Bryce Hoffman (American Icon).

But tales of towering US personalities and companies were outnumbered among the 262 entries by books warning of threats to the world’s biggest economy. In this vein, the longlist includes Luigi Zingales’s warnings about US cronyism (A Capitalism for the People), and Michael Sandel’s dissection of a world where everything is for sale (What Money Can’t Buy). Philip Coggan’s Paper Promises and Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, each take different long views of the flaws in global fin­ance and the roots of power and prosperity. Guy Lawson’s Octopus focuses on the Bayou hedge fund fraud, a signature scandal of the past decade, while Charles Duhigg (The Pow­er of Habit) and John Coates (The Hour Between Dog and Wolf) explore the scientific secrets of success and failure in financial markets and beyond.

In search of hope, some of the authors turn to fast-growing markets. Tom Doctoroff’s What Chinese Want ad­dresses the question of how to woo the country’s consumers, while Christopher Meyer and Julie Kirby (Standing on the Sun) find innovative examples of the new capitalism from India to Brazil. Ruchir Sharma (Breakout Nations) suggests the world should look beyond the big Bric countries for growth. And in Abundance, Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler forecast greater gains from scientific and technological breakthroughs in the coming two decades than in the past two centuries.

Do not count on the next phase of global development being forged by in­dividuals, however. According to Barbara Kellerman’s The End of Leadership, the idea of the all-important leader is “passé”. That is the sort of humbling maxim that should be pinned up behind the desks of presidents, and presidential candidates, wherever they are.

Title Author Publisher
Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think
Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler Free Press
American Icon
American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company
Bryce G. Hoffman Crown Business
Breakout Nations
Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles
Ruchir Sharma US: W. W. Norton & Company, UK: Allen Lane
A Capitalism for the People
A Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the Lost Genius of American Prosperity
Luigi Zingales Basic Books
The End of Leadership
The End of Leadership
Barbara Kellerman Harper Business
The Hour Between Dog and Wolf
The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk-taking, Gut Feelings and the Biology of Boom and Bust
John Coates US: The Penguin Press, UK: Fourth Estate
MakersTthe New Industrial Revolution
Makers: The New Industrial Revolution*
Chris Anderson Crown Business
Octopus: Sam Israel, the Secret Market and Wall Street’s Wildest Con [published in the UK as Octopus: The Secret Market and the World’s Wildest Con]
Guy Lawson US: Crown Business, UK: Oneworld
Paper Promises
Paper Promises: Money, Debt and the New World Order
Philip Coggan US: PublicAffairs, UK: Allen Lane
The Power of Habit
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business [published in the UK as The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, And How To Change]
Charles Duhigg US: Cornerstone, UK: William Heinemann
Private Empire Exxon Mobile on American Power
Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power
Steve Coll US: The Penguin Press, UK: Allen Lane
Standing on the Sun
Standing on the Sun: How the Explosion of Capitalism Abroad Will Change Business Everywhere
Christopher Meyer and Julia Kirby Harvard Business Review Press
Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography
Walter Isaacson US: Simon & Schuster; UK: Little, Brown
Volcker: The Triumph of Persistence
William L. Silber Bloomsbury Press
What Chinese Want
What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism and China’s Modern Consumer
Tom Doctoroff Palgrave Macmillan
What Money Can't Buy
UK cover
What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits Of Markets
Michael J. Sandel US: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, UK: Allen Lane
Why Nations Fail
UK cover
Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty
Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson US: Crown Business, UK: Profile Books
* Makers was added to the longlist after the original August 8 selection
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