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The most influential business books

By Mark Tutton, CNN
  • The Financial Times & Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year is announced
  • "Lords of Finance" tells the story of the bankers behind the Great Depression
  • We ask business professionals which books have been most influential for them

London, England (CNN) -- A book about the 1929 Great Depression was Thursday named the business book of the year.

"Lords of Finance," by investment manager Liaquat Ahamed, won the top prize at the Financial Times & Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year.

The award was presented on Thursday night at a gala at London's Victoria & Albert Museum by Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, and Lloyd C. Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs.

Subtitled "1929, the Great Depression and the Bankers Who Broke the World," the book examines how the decisions of four central bankers brought about the biggest economic crisis of the 20th century.

Those four all-powerful bankers were the heads of the Bank of England, the Banque de France, the Reichsbank, and the New York Federal Reserve Bank.

Without a historical precedent to learn from, they chose economic policies that turned a banking crisis into a full-blown depression that devastated economies and created mass unemployment across the West.

Ahamed told CNN his inspiration for the book was a 1999 Time Magazine cover story headlined "The Committee to Save the World," about Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers.

"I started reading about history and discovered there was another 'committee to save the world' -- a group of central bankers who thought they were saving the world but instead presided over the worst economic collapse," Ahamed said.

More than just an analysis of a historical crisis, Ahamed says there are parallels between the Great Depression and today's economic woes.

"The American depression was associated with a stock market bubble and a banking crisis, which we've essentially repeated," Ahamed told CNN. "The difference is that last time they responded by doing all the wrong things.

"They raised taxes in the middle of a depression thinking that budget deficits were always a bad thing, they raised interest rates because they were all scrambling for gold, and they let the banks go under -- a sure way of taking what was a sick patient and killing it.

"What we've done this time is precisely the opposite."

But Ahamed cautions that while we have learned how to act to prevent the economy from collapsing, we cannot predict the consequences of those actions.

"We've figured out that you have to give this patient that's having a heart attack a real shot of adrenaline -- but we don't really know the side effects of that adrenaline," he said.

Drawing lessons from the past, Ahamed's book may come to shape economists' understanding of how not to deal with a banking crisis. But if "Lords of Finance" has the power to influence tomorrow's economists, which are the books that have most influenced today's business community?

Executive Education asked a selection of executives and business academics to name the business books that have most influenced them.

The titles they came up with ranged from centuries-old economic treatises, to the works of modern-day management gurus. See the gallery above for the full list.