Book club: read ahead in 2013

These new books will help you think about your future, says Hannah Langworth

Antifragile: How To Live In a World We Don't Understand

by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Allen Lane, 2012

In 2007, philosopher and former trader Taleb made a splash with his book Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, which discussed the inevitability and impact of difficult-to-anticipate events (the so-called "black swans"). Beautifully timed, by foresight or luck, to emerge just as the largely unpredicted global financial crisis was beginning to unfold, it became hugely influential in the banking world, and beyond.

He's now written another book admirably suited for its time. Antifragile: How To Live In a World We Don't Understand is a guide for surviving in an age of uncertainty. He suggests that instability is not dangerous, but productive. Rather than thinking in terms of resilience or fragility, we should recognise that many things can grow stronger through being exposed to shocks, attaining the "antifragile" quality of the title - and that includes nations, businesses, systems and individuals.

New Year's resolution: Strengthen yourself and your career prospects by exposing yourself to risk and accepting that you'll fail sometimes.

Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffet on Practically Everything

edited by Carol Loomis

Portfolio, 2012

Warren Buffet is perhaps the world's most successful investor. Not only is he regularly included in lists of the world's richest people, but his pronouncements on the business world are fallen upon with almost religious zeal by his followers, particularly his annual letter to the shareholders of his company Berkshire Hathaway.

Here journalist Carol Loomis collects pieces about him by her, other journalists and even Buffet himself. It's a historical document to a degree, but provides plenty of food for thought for those starting their careers now.

Buffet is renowned for focusing on some key basics when deciding which businesses to invest in, looking for good management and solid evidence of potential, and it's an approach he's applied to his career in general. The book's title comes from an address Buffet made to university students in 2008, where he said: "I tap dance to work every day. I work with people I love, doing what I love. I spend my time thinking about the future, not the past."

New Year's resolution: Work out what's important to you, focus on it and ignore distractions, and keep looking forward.

Tomorrow's Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future

by Richard Susskind

OUP, 2013

No industry is immune to being changed by rapid technological innovation and economic pressures, not even the somewhat conservative and crusty world of law. Here Susskind sets out how he believes the business of selling legal advice is going evolve in the coming years. Some of the phenomena he describes are here already: virtual law firms, the offshoring of routine work, and online-only document production. However some, like e-dispute resolution, are yet to appear on a large scale.

Susskind also considers what these changes will mean for those just starting out in a career in law. How will legal markets be liberalised in the future? Who is your employer likely to be? How will your role be different to the role of a lawyer today? Will lawyers even be the main providers of legal services? And what questions should you be asking potential employers now to make sure you'll be working for someone who's thinking about these issues too?

New Year's resolution: Whatever sector you're interested in working in, technology and economic forces are changing it. Make sure you're up to speed.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

by Sheryl Sandberg

Knopf Publishing Group, 2013

Sheryl Sandberg is the chief operating office of Facebook, and the first woman to be appointed to its board. Before joining the social network giant she worked at the World Bank, McKinsey and Google. She's also on the boards of Walt Disney and war survivors' charity Women For Women International, and the mother of two small children. No-one knows exactly what insights she'll bring from this formidable résumé to her book as it's yet to be published, but it's thought that its contents have been developed from a TED talk she gave in 2010.

The talk for the non-profit education organisation asked how more women could reach senior professional positions. Sandberg's hard-hitting answers are of relevance to both genders: recognise women often assess themselves and are assessed differently to men; recognise that staying at home with children is a important job too (that might make more men want to do it); and recognise that solving the problem will benefit everybody.

New Year's resolution: Think carefully now about your career aspirations and the approach you'll take as you progress.

How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

by Mohsin Hamid

Riverhead Books, 2013

This new work by the author of the much-acclaimed The Reluctant Fundamentalist is scheduled to come out in March. It's actually a novel rather than the business-focused self-improvement manual the title might suggest, but still promises a mixture of personal and economic themes as it follows the progress of its hero from lowly beginnings to corporate tycoon.

The book's text follows its title in borrowing from the style of self-help books; for example, the reader is addressed as "you" throughout. Another unusual feature of the novel is the aabsence of names for characters, locations, or even the country where the action takes place, although it does resemble Pakistan, where Hamid lives. It seems then that this innovative-sounding novel will be a comment on aspiration and global economic trajectories in general as much as the telling of a particular individual's story.

New Year's resolution: The rise of Asia and a potential new world order may require new ways of thinking, so be prepared to experiment to reach your career goals.

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