11 biographies that will teach you more than any business book

Sometimes a 360-degree portrait of a real-life person beats general business acumen principles.

Let's say you're looking for expert guidance on how to advance your career or build a better business. Where to go? There are, of course, millions of books offering abstract advice and principles on all aspects of business. But even after reading them, you may be left thinking: “That all sounds great, but what does it really look like in practice?”

The place to go, according to one businessman, is biographies. On Twitter, founder and CTO Colin Landforce recently confessed that he's traded in general advice for deeper dives into the lives of past innovators. «I stopped reading business books a long time ago. Instead, I'm reading history and biographies,” he tweeted.

Looking for titles to add to her reading list, Landforce asked her more than 20,000 followers to suggest great biographies and memoirs. More than 100 ideas came to him. Landforce ranked suggestions for eliminating repetition and self-promotion, coming up with a final list of 43 recommendations. The full list is here or, to get you started, here are a handful of the most promising business publications.

A group biography of four Gilded Age men who created the modern American economy (for better and worse): Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and JP Morgan.

The Innovators is celebrated biographer Walter Isaacson delves into the history of the digital revolution, tracing the origins of the Internet from its beginnings with Ada Lovelace to the contributions of contemporary visionaries such as Tim Berners-Lee and Larry Page.

This book has nothing to do with fish or whales, but is “the fascinating untold story of Samuel Zemurray, the self-made banana magnate who rose from a penniless banana peddler to a kingmaker and capitalist revolutionary”, according to Amazon. Booklist insists that “It is almost impossible to put the book down.”

This Pulitzer Prize-winning biography traces the life of physicist Robert Oppenheimer from the beginning of his career, through his work on the Manhattan Project developing the atomic bomb, to his later misgivings about the impact of his life's work on the world. .

Another winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this biography of the New York politician and “master builder” Robert Moses garnered rave reviews. The Sunday Times described it as “simply one of the best non-fiction books in English of the last 40 years”. Focused not only on the man but also on the city he remade, the book is “probably the best book ever written about a city”according to legendary journalist David Halberstam.

Best-selling author Brené Brown had this to say about the former Disney CEO's memoir: “I expected a book written by the person who has led Disney for decades to be characterized by gripping storytelling and deep leadership wisdom. Bob Iger gets it, and much more! “The Ride of a Lifetime is leadership gold.”

A biography of a technology rather than a person, this book by economist Marc Levinson reveals how the rise of the container shipping business quietly reshaped our economy and fueled the rise of globalization.

In Grinding It Out, the McDonald's founder explains how he revolutionized the restaurant business at the not-so-tender age of 52, while opening up about his personal life and philosophy.

This collection of writings from a journalist and longtime friend of Warren Buffett traces the rise of Berkshire Hathaway and attempts to explain what it was about Buffett's character and approach that led him to become one of the world's most successful investors.

Actually a historical novel about the battle between Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla to electrify America, The Last Days of Night was Mark Zuckerberg's choice for his best book of the summer. Read it as much for its entertainment value as for its historical and business insight.

This biography, which reads like a novel, tells “the incredible story of a secretive mathematician who pioneered the era of the algorithm and earned $23 billion”according to Amazon.