The end of the year brings many pleasures - festive gatherings, holiday cheer, fireside snuggles - but one of the best benefits of the season has nothing to do with winter coziness or seasonal celebration. December also means a feast best of lists.

From journalism, to gadgets, to gifts, the best of every niche are rounded up by the media as the end of the year approaches, offering a smorgasbord of choices for enthusiasts. Amid this plenty, it can be hard to choose what to read, watch, and listen to. But when it comes to business books, at least, McKinsey and the Financial Times make it easy for you.

Every year the two organizations team up to appoint a powerhouse panel of judges to select the single best business book of the year. The semi-finalists were announced a few weeks back, and now the number pick for the year has just been named.  

The whole of American reflected in one town

The crown this year goes to Janesville: An American Story by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Amy Goldstein.

A departure from the usual advice and analysis that fills most business book, Janesville takes a different approach to digging into what ails the American economy. Goldstein follows the fate of a single American town over five years, investigating in depth what happened to the place and its citizens when General Motors shuttered a factory that had been operating there for 85 years.

The news from Janesville, Wisconsin, as  you might expect, isn't entirely rosy (despite the town's current official unemployment rate of less than four percent). Like the many other books out recently chronicling the the struggles of middle America, this one also features depressed wages, crumbling marriages, and increased partisan rancor. What sets it apart is that it doesn't also include finger pointing and oversimple explanations (or, unfortunately, easy solutions).

"Janesville joins a growing family of books about the evisceration of the working class in the United States. What sets it apart is the sophistication of its storytelling and analysis," wrote Jennifer Senior in her New York Times review. "The characters are especially memorable. This may be the first time since I began this job that I've wanted to send notes of admiration to three people in a work of nonfiction."

Deeply reported and by all accounts compelling to read, it might not offer the best news about the state of America, but it will keep you riveted and make you think hard about root causes and real solutions. Given the country's current challenges, you could find a lot worse ways to fill some of your holiday downtime this year.

Published on: Nov 7, 2017
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