It’s not just this list. I started looking to see what other lists were out there. And almost every list related to MBAs or business or leadership that I found was dominated by male authors. And predominantly white male authors.
It’s clear that we need much better MBA Reading Lists. If these are the books that we’re telling our students to read, these are the books that are going to inform their perspectives—these are the books that are going to give them templates and mental models and prototypes about what types of business leaders they should be.
So I decided to compile a different list that I’ll circulate to my students and colleagues at other business schools—a list of books on topics that I think MBA students really should know something about, in broad strokes… in marketing, finance, entrepreneurship, leadership, operations, and so on.
In compiling this list, I’ve gotten input from a diverse set of CEOs, organizational scholars, and workplace leaders—and importantly, in putting together this list, I include voices and perspectives that go beyond just white males. So that our students may someday lead with these perspectives in mind too.
I know there’s no way to make everyone happy—there’s a lot of great books that I’m certainly leaving off this list. But I wanted to keep this list concise, comprehensive, and well-researched. And I hope this is a list that will jumpstart lots more thinking and lots more reading on these topics. In the comments section, please feel free to suggest books that have changed your thinking in these areas. I plan to revisit this list often and provide updates.
So without further ado, here’s my “let’s fill our students’ minds up with a wide range of perspectives” MBA reading list. Also known as the “Well-Balanced Meal” MBA reading list. I’m hoping that this is a much better “well-balanced” list of readings that provides a well-rounded set of perspectives.
For each topic (Finance, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, etc.), I’m giving a breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert selection.
Breakfast: These are your basics, the fundamentals, which can help fuel the rest of your learning
Lunch: A break from the grind, and a book to get your mind thinking (and hopefully avoiding the afternoon slump)
Dinner: Let’s dig into something heartier…
Dessert: … You won’t want to stop indulging
There are some books that could have fit into multiple topics, but I think that speaks to how transcendent they are, and how these books intersect topics and encourage you to think with a well-rounded, holistic view of business.
One final note: I acknowledge that an MBA isn’t for everyone. You don’t need an MBA to be successful. But an MBA can also push you to think in a more aligned, deeper, and integrated manner. Can you also get this from on-the-job work? Of course. Both can help you gain perspective, and give you the mental models, schemas, and prototypes to build upon—both can help you gain a better intuition for all the things that you might be faced with over the course of your careers. I hope that these books also help do that. Happy reading; I hope you enjoy your meals.
Support your local bookstores. Ordering information for books included on the list available at bookshop.org.
Special thanks to Marc Ventresca, Afua Osei, Bridget Kustin, Paul Graham, Isaiah Lim, Catherine Weilaender, Ryan Buell, Brian Yang, Evan Drake, Susan Cohen, Ben Spigel, Mahka Moeen, Allen Spiegel, Rem Koning, Andy Wu, Vijay Gurbaxani, Jose Lopez, Carol Morgan Cox, Wendy Murphy, Yael Cockayne, Rahim Noormohamed, Sara Wheeler-Smith, Merry Sun, Marc Thompson, Arunma Oteh, Paulo Savaget, Maureen Scully, Cecilia Varendh-Mansson, Anna Waring, Gorgi Krlev, Dave Unger, and Dennis West for suggestions, support, and ideas.