Noel Whittaker picks for best business books for Christmas

Christmas is fast approaching and with it, the usual challenge of finding a gift that will be of lasting value to the recipient. As usual, I've done the rounds and found some titles that would be welcome in any Christmas stocking, as well as adding value to the recipient.

With the interest in the housing market still in overdrive throughout Australia, particularly the prospect of an apartment boom, real estate has become a legal and contractual minefield for both purchasers and vendors. This is why I recommend the book Real Estate Escapes by Brisbane solicitor Tim O'Dwyer (RRP $19.95).

Tim is nationally recognised as a real estate watchdog, consumer advocate, and legal commentator. He has gained a reputation as a "contract killer" through his many and varied "rescues" of real estate consumers, and also as "the prince of real estate darkness" following several wins for clients facing unconscionable commission claims by their agents.

As well as essential references for anyone buying or selling property, Real Estate Escapes is full of interesting and informative contractual and legal anecdotes. Most of the real estate escapes recounted in the book describe situations where one of the parties to an unsettled property agreement has had a change of mind. Some escape attempts are successful. Others fail miserably - and often expensively. Each cautionary tale in the book is true, although names have been changed.

All the money in the world is no good to you if you don't know how to spend it to give yourself happiness. This is why Happy Money: The New Science of Smarter Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton (RRP $19.95) is such a fantastic read. In it two professors combine cutting-edge research in behavioural science to explain how money can buy you happiness if you follow the five core principles of smart spending. They point out that experiences such as a long-anticipated holiday can give you much more pleasure than buying a new car, and why one of the best "investments" you can make is hiring people to do those jobs around the house that you dread. I particularly liked that one.

There is a surge in the number of people starting their own businesses as they try to escape from the tyranny of bosses, insecure employment, and any number of other situations that chafe. But unfortunately, most start-ups fail in the first two years. This is why 10 Foundations of Business Success by ex-banker Guy Hamilton ($20) is such a joy. We now live in a time when words like innovation, disruption, strategic transformation and digital economy have become common in the business world, but the reality is that the basics have remained unchanged. And this is a book that focuses on the basics any successful business needs to understand and employ. It is written in a simple and easy to understand style and could repay its purchase price many times over. This title is available direct from the author - just email

Last, but certainly not least, is Juvenescence: Investing in the Age of Longevity by Jim Mellon and Al Chalabi (RRP $34.99). It is incredibly cheap when you consider what you are getting. It's a big book - 425 pages in full colour - and covers the whole gamut of surviving and thriving in a world that is rapidly changing due to rising life expectancies. This is the kind of book you keep on the bedside table for browsing - the table of contents alone runs to six pages. Expect to learn about such diverse topics as keeping healthy, the life insurance business, balancing a long life with work and leisure, and recommended portfolios for do-it-yourself investors. It's a great resource. Canny shoppers can increase their return on investment by finding it online for about $25.

So give your friends, family - and of course yourself - gifts of Christmas reading that will bring you joy all year.

Noel Whittaker is the author of Making Money Made Simple and numerous other books on personal finance. His advice is general in nature and readers should seek their own professional advice before making any financial decisions. Email:

This story Noel Whittaker picks for best business books for Christmas first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.