Ambra Recommends: 5 Business Books for Ambitious Professionals

Summer is here, and that means long evenings, holidays and – if you’re lucky – time to get stuck into a gripping read in the garden or by the pool. If you want to be intellectually stimulated, apply new expertise and insights to your career, and generally mold yourself into a better-rounded business professional, now is the perfect time to dip into some of the best business books around.

At Ambra, we’re a fan, and we’ve got a few recommendations of some classic business reads to share with you for this summer.

Ogilvy on Advertising; David Ogilvy (1983)

David Ogilvy, the ‘father of advertising’ and arguably the inspiration behind Don Draper’s character in Mad Men, remains influential to this day with his simple, brilliant and timeless ideas. In ‘On Advertising’, which draws on examples from his own iconic campaigns, he berates ‘creative’ ads that ignore the wants and needs of the consumer, and urges marketers to and use concise, informative language to get your message across. Although it does come across as egotistical at times and displays the chauvinism of its time, On Advertising is still a great manual for how to master the fundamentals of advertising: influencing consumers to buy your product. Also see ‘Ogilvy on Advertising in the Digital Age,’ by Miles Young, published in 2017, which applies Ogilvy’s ideas into advertising today.

Freakonomics (Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, 2005)

Ever wondered how the Ku Klux Klan is like a group of real estate agents? Or what baby names are the best predictor of success in life? These curious questions and more are addressed by widely acclaimed economist Steven Levitt, who with the help of journalist Stephen Dubner, brings economics and statistics to life in this fast-paced, witty and readable book.  Covering key economic concepts like information asymmetry, correlation vs. causation, and incentives using colourful examples drawn from his research, Levitt proves that economics is everywhere – and that it can be fun, too.

Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing; Benjamin Graham, (originally published in 1949)

Famous for being the mentor to Warren Buffet, Benjamin Graham (1894-1976) excelled at making money for himself and his clients on the stock market, and the wisdom in his seminal 1949 book on investment strategies remains as relevant today as ever. Graham’s key approach to buying stock is based on a rational assessment of the business, rather than on price fluctuations. He advises to buy stocks where the market price is lower than their intrinsic value – building in a ‘margin of safety’. Although advocating a rational approach, Graham talks a lot about the psychology of investing and the importance of temperament. Despite being challenging at times if you’re not familiar with investing fundamentals and terminology, this book offers sound wisdom for aspiring intelligent investors, and is a must-read for anyone interested in the topic.

Good to Great; Jim Collins (2001)

Why do some companies in the same industry skyrocket to success, while others stagnate and fail? In this management classic, Jim Collins outlines the findings from his 5-year research project that meticulously analysed the strategy of high performing companies, trying to find an evidence-based theory for corporate success to replace the unsubstantiated myths followed by many CEOs. Collins outlines 7 key attributes for success, with a core idea being the idea that companies with a narrow focus on being the best in one area will triumph. A thought-provoking read for any budding entrepreneurs, or anyone interested in business strategy.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead; Sheryl Sandberg (2015)

Diversity, women in the workplace, and women in technology is a hot topic in 2018, and Sherly Sandberg (COO of Facebook)’s part autobiography, part feminist handbook for career success manages to speak frankly about inequality in the workplace while still retaining the positive message that women can and do succeed as leaders. Having risen to the top in the male-dominated environment of Silicon Valley, Sandberg certainly has a unique insight into women and leadership. Although Sandberg’s feminism has been critiqued for being too focused on teaching white, privileged women how to work a biased system to their advantage rather than using her position to afford true equality, it’s still a great read for ambitious professional women who want to feel inspired.