A VERY GOOD YEAR
Veteran journalist Andrew Leckey and guest editor Jack Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Group, waded through hundreds of articles from dozens of magazines to compile The Best Business Stories of the Year — 2004 Edition (Vintage Books). As with past editions in the series, this one’s chock-full of must-reads.

Here’s the corporate world dissected — warts, smarts, and all: James B. Stewart’s inimitable take on super-greedhead Dennis Kozlowski (“Spend! Spend! Spend! Where Did Tyco’s Money Go?”); Johnnie Roberts’ dig into the AOL Time Warner dysfunction (“How It All Fell Apart”); and Andy Serwer’s jaw-dropping look at the risky world of hedge funds (“Where the Money’s Really Made”). Be sure to check out Meg James’ “Big Battle for a Silly Old Bear,” wherein the 81-year-old heir of Winnie the Pooh’s creator, A.A. Milne, takes on Eisner and Co. for a bigger share of the Pooh pie.

The giant egos and headline names aren’t the whole story, however. Several articles look at everyday people whose dreams were swept away in a financial tsunami. Karen Olsson chronicles one woman’s attempt to start a union at Wal-Mart, while Joanne Kimberlin shadows a professional shoplifter.

If you want to save the best for last, end with the provocative debate on the go-go ’90s between Paul Krugman (“For Richer”) and Michael Lewis (“In Defense of the Boom”). Both essays deliver journalism, the first draft of history, at its best.