The “Well-Balanced Meal” MBA Reading List
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Reading

A few days ago, I stumbled upon a reading list entitled ‘The MBA Reading List According to the Top Business Schools in the World. As a business school professor who is always getting asked for book recommendations from my students, I eagerly looked at this list to see if there were any new ones that might be interesting for me to check out. And what I discovered was that every single book on the list was written by a man.  And so, I quickly shot off this tweet:

You know what’s amazing? Every single one of these authors is a white male. Check me on this if I’m wrong. 100% of them are male. This is what we’re filling the minds of business school students with. And that’s what I’m up against with the book I wrote.

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.

Book list - rev Nov 2020

 

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Adam M. Kleinbaum
Adam M. Kleinbaum
4 months ago

Great list, Laura. But it won’t be complete without your book!

Mauricio Ahumada
Mauricio Ahumada
4 months ago

Thank you so much, very helpful!

Christopher Agius
Christopher Agius
4 months ago

Hi Laura,

Thanks for this list. Perhaps I missed it, but is there a version which is not an image file? Folks who use screen readers/assistive technology will be not be able to have the contents of this image read out to them.

Al Dea
Al Dea
4 months ago

Hi Laura,
This is a great list, read many of these and would agree. I’d also absolutely put yours on the list, especially as students think about how to use their talents and strengths to identify opportunities and land experiences and careers that align to their unique talents.

As an MBA grad, I wish I would have also read Kim Scott’s Radical Candor and Julie Zhuo’s Making of a Manager for Management/Leadership. And since Tech is impacting everything we do I love Brad Stone’s Everything Store and Scott Galloway’s the Four as a baseline to understanding how it may impact a specific industry/function. Finally, and I am biased here, but for any prospective MBA student I would also throw in my book, MBA Insider on that list.

Nicely done!

Chris Clearfield
Chris Clearfield
4 months ago

Honored to show up here, Laura.

Pavan Durgadsimi
Pavan Durgadsimi
4 months ago

Thanks laura,
Great list but I think you might have missed a few important ones. Negotiation books – never split the difference, getting to yes, crucial conversations. Design books- the design of everyday things. Startups- the Toyota way, zero to one, lean startup,the e-myth .
And please recommend more on small businesses

Mohammad Ehteshamul Haque
Mohammad Ehteshamul Haque
4 months ago

This is a great list, I will “Culture Map” by Erin Meyer… its on cross cultural understanding.. probably classified as Breakfast on the subject..

David Little
David Little
4 months ago

Hi Laura, thank you for sharing this. I just shared this with our company. We have been talking a lot about books we recommend to each other and why. This list breaks down what we were trying to put together.
Thank you

Dorie Clark
Dorie Clark
4 months ago

I’m honored to be included on such a fantastic list – thank you so much, Laura!

Rachel O'Neil
Rachel O'Neil
4 months ago

Nathalie Molina Niño has a great book http://leapfroghacks.com/