Best Business Books for Entrepreneurs Interested in Business throughout the APAC Region

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The Definitive Book List About Business in and Concerning Asia

The Definitive Asian Business Books List, Nihon Hustle, KRAKED

Updated: February 25, 2021 (JST)

It's a funny thing about business books. Most of the best books you'll read that are relatable to business, aren't even about business. The same holds true for this list of the best Asian business books… many of the books I've read that have helped me adopt well to my new home country of Japan weren't even about Japan. Many were not even about Asia. Or, business. They were about life, about people, about interacting with others. About growth. About pulling back on one's ego, about recognizing the benefit of boundaries, the weakness of boundaries, and when it's proper to dismantle them.

Such is the case with this list.

I've structured as a Top 100 list because it's a nice round number from which you can draw from, and because I'm certain I'll want to make it longer. I'll add a few books a week in the first quarter of 2021 until its complete. A note. Many of these books I'll list are ones I've read, or am reading now. I'll note that below so you can get a feel for my own personal business book recommendations. Business books about Asia that aren't just about Asia… or business… comin' right up. Enjoy. —Doc

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Top 100 Asian Business Books (New for for 2021)

1. The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture

(Ruth Benedict)

Chrysanthemum and the Sword Cover, Best Asian Business Books, Nihon Hustle

“One of the best books ever about Japanese society . . . [A] thoughtful, nuanced study of the Japanese character.”—U.S. News & World Report
“A classic book because of its intellectual and stylistic lucidity . . . Benedict was a writer of great humanity and generosity of spirit.”—from the foreword by Ian Buruma
Essential reading for anyone interested in Japanese culture, this unsurpassed masterwork opens an intriguing window on Japan. The World War II–era study by the cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict paints an illuminating contrast between the people of Japan and those of the United States. The Chrysanthemum and the Sword is a revealing look at how and why our societies differ, making it the perfect introduction to Japanese history and customs.
“A classic of Japanese cultural studies . . . With considerable sensitivity, she managed both to stress the differences in Japanese society of which American policy makers needed to be aware and to debunk the stereotype of the Japanese as hopelessly rigid and incapable of change.”—The New York Times
“An absorbing account of Japanese culture . . . almost novel-like readability.”—The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology

—from the publisher.

2. Assignment Vietnam: Coming Full Circle As A Soldier, Diplomat And Businessman

(Christopher Runckel)

Assignment Vietnam Cover, by Christopher Runckel, Best Asian Business Books, Nihon Hustle

Vietnam – for a generation of Americans it is a country and a name that holds a certain fascination and a host of baggage – much of it negative and full of remorse.  It is the name of a war that the U.S. experienced from 1955-75 that energized a generation of Americans and led to nearly 60,000 American deaths plus the wounding and damage to hundreds of thousands more.  For the rest of the region, the damage was even worse.  Some 200-300,000  Cambodians,  possibly 200,000 Laotians and from nearly 800,000 to over 3 million Vietnamese died and even greater numbers were wounded, declared missing or affected by the violence.  Chris Runckel experienced the war and the aftermath and then nearly 20 years later was chosen to open U.S. diplomatic relations with Vietnam.  The story of his involvement with Vietnam is a true modern American history of the U.S. relationship with Vietnam both for good and for bad.  The difference in his story was that he always looked forward and always looked to make his experience with Vietnam positive and something both he and his country could be proud of.  Assignment Vietnam:  Coming Full Circle as a Soldier, Diplomat and Businessman tells this unique story.  A story that starts in the U.S. West and takes Runckel to Vietnam, the White House, the U.S. Department of State, to multiple U.S. Embassies and ultimately back to Vietnam time and again as Runckel helps the U.S. to build a new relationship with its former adversary.  In Vietnam, Runckel builds bridges and works with U.S. and Vietnamese diplomats, businessmen and others to build a new path for both countries.  This is a great read and a great story, one all Americans, Vietnamese and many others need to read and to appreciate. 

—from the publisher.

3. The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A. Baker III

(Peter Baker & Susan Glassman)

The Man Who Ran Washington- The Life and Times of James A. Baker III Book Cover

Named a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by The New York TimesThe Washington Post, Fortune and Bloomberg

From two of America's most revered political journalists comes the definitive biography of legendary White House chief of staff and secretary of state James A. Baker III: the man who ran Washington when Washington ran the world.

For a quarter-century, from the end of Watergate to the aftermath of the Cold War, no Republican won the presidency without his help or ran the White House without his advice. James Addison Baker III was the indispensable man for four presidents because he understood better than anyone how to make Washington work at a time when America was shaping events around the world. The Man Who Ran Washington is a page-turning portrait of a power broker who influenced America's destiny for generations.

A scion of Texas aristocracy who became George H. W. Bush's best friend on the tennis courts of the Houston Country Club, Baker had never even worked in Washington until a devastating family tragedy struck when he was thirty-nine. Within a few years, he was leading Gerald Ford's campaign and would go on to manage a total of five presidential races and win a sixth for George W. Bush in a Florida recount. He ran Ronald Reagan's White House and became the most consequential secretary of state since Henry Kissinger. He negotiated with Democrats at home and Soviets abroad, rewrote the tax code, assembled the coalition that won the Gulf War, brokered the reunification of Germany and helped bring a decades-long nuclear superpower standoff to an end. Ruthlessly partisan during campaign season, Baker governed as the avatar of pragmatism over purity and deal-making over division, a lost art in today's fractured nation.

His story is a case study in the acquisition, exercise, and preservation of power in late twentieth-century America and the story of Washington and the world in the modern era–how it once worked and how it has transformed into an era of gridlock and polarization. This masterly biography by two brilliant observers of the American political scene is destined to become a classic.

—from the publisher.

4. The Business Reinvention of Japan: How to Make Sense of the New Japan and Why It Matters

(Ulrike Schaede)

The Business Reinvention of Japan Cover

“A gem! Schaede links corporate culture to incentives and outcomes, and shows how Japanese firms have kept the tight corporate culture that makes things right, but add elements of the loose culture that makes the right things. She gives concrete examples of Japanese firms that got it right and how they did it.” — Robert Alan Feldman, Tokyo University of Science

After two decades of reinvention, Japanese companies are re-emerging as major players in the new digital economy. They have responded to the rise of China and new global competition by moving upstream into critical deep-tech inputs and advanced materials and components. This new “aggregate niche strategy” has made Japan the technology anchor for many global supply chains. Although the end products do not carry a “Japan Inside” label, Japan plays a pivotal role in our everyday lives across many critical industries.

This book is an in-depth exploration of current Japanese business strategies that make Japan the world's third-largest economy and an economic leader in Asia. To accomplish their reinvention, Japan's largest companies are building new processes of breakthrough innovation. Central to this book is how they are addressing the necessary changes in organizational design, internal management processes, employment, and corporate governance. Because Japan values social stability and economic equality, this reinvention is happening slowly and methodically, and has gone largely unnoticed by Western observers. Yet, Japan's more balanced model of “caring capitalism” is both competitive and transformative, and more socially responsible than the unbridled growth approach of the United States.

—from the publisher.

5. No Longer Human

(Osamu Dazai / Translator: Donald Keene)

100 Best Asian Business Books, No Longer Human Cover, Nihon Hustle

The poignant and fascinating story of a young man who is caught between the breakup of the traditions of a northern Japanese aristocratic family and the impact of Western ideas.

Portraying himself as a failure, the protagonist of Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human narrates a seemingly normal life even while he feels himself incapable of understanding human beings. Oba Yozo's attempts to reconcile himself to the world around him begin in early childhood, continue through high school, where he becomes a “clown” to mask his alienation, and eventually lead to a failed suicide attempt as an adult. Without sentimentality, he records the casual cruelties of life and its fleeting moments of human connection and tenderness.

—from the publisher.

6. Factory Girls: Voices from the Heart of Modern China

(Leslie T. Chang)

100 Best Asian Business Books, Factory Girls Cover, Nihon Hustle

China has more than 114 million migrant workers, which represents the largest migration in human history.

In Factory Girls, Leslie Chang tells the story of two such workers: two young women who she befriends over the course of three years. Interspersing their account of life and migration with the story of her own family's migrations, Chang paints a vivid portrait of world where you can lose your boyfriend and your friends with the loss of a cellphone; where lying about your age, your education, and your work experience is often a requisite for getting ahead; where a few computer or English lessons can catapult you into a completely different social class. Factory Girls offers a previously untold story about the immense population of unknown women who work countless hours, often in hazardous conditions, to provide us with the material goods we take for granted.

A book of global significance, it demonstrates how the movement from rural villages to cities is remaking individual lives and the fates of families, transforming our world much as immigration to America's shores remade that society a century ago.

—from the publisher.

7. Tech Titans of China: How China's Tech Sector is challenging the world by innovating faster, working harder, and going global

(Rebecca Fannin)

Best Asian Business Books, Tech Titans of China, Nihon Hustle

Sliver award winner in International Business/Globalization 2020 Axiom Business Book Awards

The rise of China's tech companies and intense competition from the sector is just beginning. This will present an ongoing management and strategy challenge for companies for many years to come. Tech Titans of China is the go-to-guide for companies (and those interested in competition from China) seeking to understand China's grand tech ambitions, who the players are and what their strategy is. Fannin, an expert on China, is an internationally-recognized journalist, author and speaker. She hosts 12 live events annually for business leaders, venture capitalists, start-up founders, and others impacted by or interested in cashing in on the Chinese tech industry. In this illuminating book, she provides readers with the ammunition they need to prepare and compete.

Featuring detailed profiles of the Chinese tech companies making waves, the tech sectors that matter most in China's grab for super power status, and predictions for China's tech dominance in just 10 years.

—from the publisher.

8. Building Startup Ecosystems: Introducing The Vibrancy Rating

(David Michael Shelters)

Best Asian Books, Building Startup Ecosystems, Nihon Hustle

As we progress further into the information age technology, online businesses, e-commerce and innovation play an increasingly larger impact on economic growth, social development and the personal lives of human beings throughout the world. Tech entrepreneurship provides the propulsion for such progress.

As individual nations and international organizations increasingly recognize and embrace the vital importance entrepreneurship and innovation has become the need for greater understanding and focused study on the development of start-up ecosystems supportive of tech entrepreneurs has urgently assumed greater proportions.

This is the first book to treat the topic of start-up ecosystem development from both an academic and practical perspective. The book will commence with an introduction to the Vibrancy Rating, a qualitative methodology to evaluate and track the progress of the development of local start-up ecosystems. The existing methodologies that rate start-up ecosystems are primarily quantitative, thus, only record current status and results. They do not offer a proper conceptual framework nor actionable information to assist the various participants in a start-up community to make informed decisions throughout the stages of development a local start-up ecosystem progresses through.

To illustrate the methodology, a narrative of the untold story of the development of the Thai start-up ecosystem will be presented. In 2008 when the author decided to make Thailand his home there was no start-up community. Now it has rapidly developed into one of the most vibrant start-up communities in the world. Thailand is rated #1 globally in social media usage and the top global destination for digital nomads. It is a global leader in women and social entrepreneurship. Thailand is renowned for its vast network of well-designed and vibrant co-working spaces and is positioned in the heart of ASEAN, the fastest growing region in the world. It has become the preferred launching pad for the biggest global e-commerce players targeting the Southeast Asian market and is leading the way in ASEAN in developing crowd funding regulations.

The book reveals how this happened since the very beginning from the perspective of an observer and participant. The book finishes with a review of the proper roles of each start-up participant during each development stage. Start-up participants include entrepreneurs, early-stage investors, media, start-up organizations, universities, corporations and government.

The review is intended to answer the following question: How can each start-up community member optimally contribute to and benefit from the start-up community in which it is based? The final chapter of the book will present the Innovative Venture policy proposal for governments to consider in support of the development of their local start-up ecosystem. The Innovative Venture is a designation granted to a start-up venture for successfully demonstrating that they would be introducing an innovation to the local economy whether it be an innovative technology, business model or process. It is structured as both a regulatory and branding vehicle that serves as a drop box for specific regulatory relief and incentives to be enjoyed by both founders and investors of local start-ups. The government may also market their Innovative Venture program both domestically and abroad to attract new participants to the local start-up ecosystem.

For the first time start-up ecosystems can now be properly evaluated and compared by all the major start-up community players so they may optimally contribute and benefit.

—from the publisher.

9. Taiichi Ohno's Workplace Management: Special 100th Birthday Edition

(Taiichi Ohno)

Best Books about Asian Business, Taiichi Ohno, Nihon Hustle


Businesses worldwide are successfully implementing the Toyota Production System to speed up processes, reduce waste, improve quality, and cut costs. While there is widespread adoption of TPS, there is still much to be learned about its fundamental principles.

This unique volume delivers a clear, concise overview of the Toyota Production System and kaizen in the very words of the architect of both of these movements, Taiicho Ohno, published to mark what would have been his 100th birthday. Filled with insightful new commentary from global quality visionaries, Taiichi Ohno’s Workplace Management is a classic that shows how Toyota managers were taught to think.

Based on a series of interviews with Ohno himself, this timeless work is a tribute to his genius and to the core values that have made, and continue to make, Toyota one of the most successful manufacturers in the world.

“Whatever name you may give our system, there are parts of it that are so far removed from generally accepted ideas (common sense) that if you do it only half way, it can actually make things worse.”

“If you are going to do TPS you must do it all the way. You also need to change the way you think. You need to change how you look at things.” — Taiichi Ohno

“This book brings to us Taiichi Ohno's philosophy of workplace management–the thinking behind the Toyota Production System. I personally get a thrill down my spine to read these thoughts in Ohno’s own words.” — Dr. Jeffrey Liker, Director, Japan Technology Management Program, University of Michigan, and Author, The Toyota Way

Based on a series of interviews with Taiicho Ohno, this unique volume delivers a clear, concise overview of the Toyota Production System and kaizen in the very words of the architect of both of these movements, published to mark what would have been his 100th birthday.


Fujio Cho, Chairman of Toyota Corporation

Masaaki Imai, Founder of the Kaizen Institute

Dr. Jeffrey Liker, Director, Japan Technology Management Program, University of Michigan, and author

John Shook, Chairman and CEO of the Lean Enterprise Institute

Bob Emiliani, Professor, School of Engineering and Technology, Connecticut State University

Jon Miller, CEO of the Kaizen Institute

—from the publisher.

10. The Power to Compete: An Economist and an Entrepreneur on Revitalizing Japan in the Global Economy

(Ryoichi Mikitani and Hiroshi Mikitani)

Best Business Books About Japa, The Power to Compete, Nihon Hustle

“If you're as interested in Japan as I am, I think you'll find that The Power to Compete is a smart and thought-provoking look at the future of a fascinating country.” – Bill Gates, “5 Books to Read This Summer”

Father and son – entrepreneur and economist – search for Japan's economic cure

The Power to Compete tackles the issues central to the prosperity of Japan – and the world – in search of a cure for the “Japan Disease.” As founder and CEO of Rakuten, one of the world's largest Internet companies, author Hiroshi Mikitani brings an entrepreneur's perspective to bear on the country's economic stagnation. Through a freewheeling and candid conversation with his economist father, Ryoichi Mikitani, the two examine the issues facing Japan, and explore possible roadmaps to revitalization. How can Japan overhaul its economy, education system, immigration, public infrastructure, and hold its own with China? Their ideas include applying business techniques like Key Performance Indicators to fix the economy, using information technology to cut government bureaucracy, and increasing the number of foreign firms with a head office in Japan. Readers gain rare insight into Japan's future, from both academic and practical perspectives on the inside.

Mikitani argues that Japan's tendency to shun international frameworks and hide from global realities is the root of the problem, while Mikitani Sr.'s background as an international economist puts the issue in perspective for a well-rounded look at today's Japan.

  • Examine the causes of Japan's endless economic stagnation
  • Discover the current efforts underway to enhance Japan's competitiveness
  • Learn how free market “Abenomics” affected Japan's economy long-term
  • See Japan's issues from the perspective of an entrepreneur and an economist

Japan's malaise is seated in a number of economic, business, political, and cultural issues, and this book doesn't shy away from hot topics. More than a discussion of economics, this book is a conversation between father and son as they work through opposing perspectives to help their country find The Power to Compete.

—from the publisher.

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