9 Business biographies for high school business teachers

by Jeff Rutherford

High school business teachers can teach their students the principles of business - accounting, entrepreneurship, management - as well as the specifics of different industries - sports/entertainment, restaurant, hotel, retail, manufacturing, fashion, etc. If a student in a high school business class catches the spark of business and entrepreneurship and wants to learn more, what can high school business teachers do to nourish and feed that passion and interest for business?

Teachers can encourage students to read business newspapers and magazines that track current business successes and struggles - The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg’s Businessweek, Forbes, Fortune, Inc., Entrepreneur, etc.

And, teachers can also recommend business biographies and autobiographies for students to read about successful business people and how they achieved success. We’ve compiled a list of business biographies and autobiographies that teachers can recommend. (Note - business in most cases is an adult enterprise. Some of these books may contain adult language or situations).

A Truck Full of Money: One Man’s Quest to Recover from Great Success by Tracy Kidder

Just published in September 2016, A Truck Full of Money tells the story of Paul English, a kinetic and unconventional inventor and entrepreneur, who as a boy rebelled against authority. Growing up in working-class Boston, English discovers a medium for his talents the first time he sees a computer. As a young man, despite suffering from what would eventually be diagnosed as bipolar disorder, he begins his pilgrim’s journey through the ups and downs in the brave new world of computers. English’s journey leads him to start, and eventually sale, the travel website Kayak for almost two billion dollars.

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

In Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, veteran technology journalist Ashlee Vance provides the first inside look into the extraordinary life and times of Silicon Valley’s most audacious entrepreneur. Written with exclusive access to Musk, his family and friends, the book traces the entrepreneur’s journey from a rough upbringing in South Africa to the pinnacle of the global business world. Vance spent more than 30 hours in conversation with Musk and interviewed close to 300 people to tell the tumultuous stories of Musk’s world-changing companies: PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX and SolarCity, and to characterize a man who has renewed American industry and sparked new levels of innovation while making plenty of enemies along the way.

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone

Amazon.com’s visionary founder, Jeff Bezos, wasn’t content with being a bookseller. He wanted Amazon to become the everything store, offering limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptively low prices. To do so, he developed a corporate culture of relentless ambition and secrecy that’s never been cracked. U

Brad Stone enjoyed unprecedented access to current and former Amazon employees and Bezos family members, and his book is the first in-depth, fly-on-the-wall account of life at Amazon. The Everything Store is the book that the business world can’t stop talking about, the revealing, definitive biography of the company that placed one of the first and largest bets on the Internet and forever changed the way we shop and read.

The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan by Sebastian Mallaby

The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan

Sebastian Mallaby’s magisterial biography of Alan Greenspan, the product of over five years of research based on untrammeled access to his subject and his closest professional and personal intimates, brings into vivid focus the mysterious point where the government and the economy meet.

Greenspan’s life is a quintessential American success story: raised by a single mother in the Jewish émigré community of Washington Heights, he was a math prodigy who found a niche as a stats-crunching consultant. A master at explaining the economic weather to captains of industry, he translated that skill into advising Richard Nixon in his 1968 campaign. This led to a perch on the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and then to a dazzling array of business and government roles, from which the path to the Fed was relatively clear. A fire-breathing libertarian and disciple of Ayn Rand in his youth who once called the Fed’s creation a historic mistake, Mallaby shows how Greenspan reinvented himself as a pragmatist once in power.

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal by Ben Mezrich

Best friends Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg had spent many lonely nights looking for a way to stand out among Harvard University’s elite, competitive, and accomplished student body. Then, in 2003, Zuckerberg hacked into Harvard’s computers, crashed the campus network, almost got himself expelled, and was inspired to create Facebook, the social networking site that has since revolutionized communication around the world.

With Saverin’s funding, their tiny start-up went from dorm room to Silicon Valley. But conflicting ideas about Facebook’s future transformed the friends into enemies. Soon, the undergraduate exuberance that marked their collaboration turned into out-and-out warfare as it fell prey to the adult world of venture capitalists, big money, and lawyers.

Sam Walton: Made In America by John Huey

Sam Walton: Made In America Sam Walton parlayed a single dime store in a hardscrabble cotton town into Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world. Working in the shadows of mega-retailers and department stores such as Sears and JC Penney, Wal-Mart defied the odds and became a worldwide retailing giant.

In a story rich with anecdotes and the “rules of the road” of both Main Street and Wall Street, Sam Walton chronicles the inspiration, heart, and optimism that propelled him to lasso the American Dream.

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

Here is the book recounting the life and times of one of the most respected men in the world, Warren Buffett. The legendary Omaha investor has never written a memoir, but he allowed one writer, Alice Schroeder, unprecedented access to explore directly with him and with those closest to him his work, opinions, struggles, triumphs, follies, and wisdom. The result is the personally revealing and complete biography of the man known everywhere as “The Oracle of Omaha.”

Although the media track him constantly, Buffett himself has never told his full life story. His reality is private, especially by celebrity standards. Indeed, while the homespun persona that the public sees is true as far as it goes, it goes only so far. Warren Buffett is an array of paradoxes. He set out to prove that nice guys can finish first. Over the years he treated his investors as partners, acted as their steward, and championed honesty as an investor, CEO, board member, essayist, and speaker. At the same time he became the world’s richest man, all from the modest Omaha headquarters of his company Berkshire Hathaway.

Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal by Nick Bilton

Despite all the coverage of Twitter’s rise, Nick Bilton of The New York Times is the first journalist to tell the full story—a gripping drama of betrayed friendships and highstakes power struggles. The four founders—Evan Williams, Biz Stone, Jack Dorsey, and Noah Glass—made a dizzyingly fast transition from ordinary engineers to wealthy celebrities. They fought each other bitterly for money, influence, publicity, and control as Twitter grew larger and more powerful. Ultimately they all lost their grip on it.

Bilton’s unprecedented access and exhaustive reporting have enabled him to write an intimate portrait of four friends who accidentally changed the world, and what they all learned along the way.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs

Walter Isaacson’s “enthralling” (The New Yorker) worldwide bestselling biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Based on more than forty interviews with Steve Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than 100 family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson wrote a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing. Isaacson’s portrait touched millions of readers.

At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.