MBA Reading List: Business and Career Books

Wondering what you should read before starting business school? Looking for books on career changes or careers advice?

You've come to the right place!

And our readability rating tells you how approachable and accessible is: 1 = dense academic prose, 5 = light and easy choice.

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Pitch Perfect should be one of the mandatory summer pre-reading books for all MBA programmes. It provides precious advice on client better presentation skills; more effective networking; how to politely pivot a conversation; how to disagree; and how to boil down your message until it is rich, yet concise. 

 

Readability rating: 5/5

A quick, easy, and very useful read.

Link to find it on Amazon  

Communication

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A classic pre-business school recommendation, this hefty book explores why we make the decisions that we do - including bad, irrational ones at times - and provides recommendations for 'slow' decision making. Rich with detail, this is a heavy read at times but packed with useful insights.

Readability rating: 2/5

Link to find it on Amazon

Decision Making

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The Chimp Paradox, Steve Peters

This book covers some of the ideas outlined in Kahneman albeit in less depth, from a more user-friendly perspective. Discover how your 'chimp' can be both your best friend and your worst enemy. Filled with plenty of practical exercises and tips

Readability rating: 5/5

Find it on Amazon

Mindfulness

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Understanding what motivates us and why is a topic which comes up again and again in MBA classes. The author, Pink, argues that three areas - autonomy, mastery, and purpose - are key to motivating ourselves and others, driving high performance, and finding satisfaction. Thought-provoking read with plenty of real-world examples.

(Recommended by Modern MBA podcast guest Cebo Mayekiso)

Readability rating: 4/5

Find it on Amazon

Motivation

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The Lean Start Up by Eric Ries is must-read for anyone interested in learning how the practices of start-ups drive innovation. The Lean Start Up introduces some of the methods that start ups use to innovate, alongside Ries' Minimum Viable Product experiments.

Readability rating: 3.5/5

Find it on Amazon

Entrepreneurship

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The Start Up Way by Eric Ries builds on the themes from The Lean Start Up and uses them to explore how large, established companies can employ some of the methods that start ups use to drive innovation to successful effect.

Readability rating: 3.5/5

Find it on Amazon

Entrepreneurship

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Wondering how you can squeeze more into your day? Or why your colleagues or classmates just seem to get more done? Deep Work by Cal Newport presents the view that the world we live in is no longer optimised for focused productivity, and that those who can overcome the myriad of distractions we all face can secure themselves a powerful professional advantage. The first half of this book is dedicated to setting out the author's arguments whilst the second focuses on practical tips for differentiating between 'deep' and 'shallow' work and making sure that more of the former gets done.

Readability rating: 4.5/5

Find it on Amazon

Productivity

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Published in 1989, author Paul Kennedy tells the story of powerful nations throughout history and the events which have previously led to their collapse. Thorough and detailed, with a strong focus on the interaction between economic and military events, this book is particularly relevant in today's ongoing global turbulence. 

Readability: 3/5

Find it on Amazon

History

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This book explores how humans have evolved and progressed where other species have not, with particular emphasis on the role played by cooperation and communication and how we came to believe in many of the ideas that shape our societies. Approachable and engaging.

Readability 3/5

Find it on Amazon

History

The Culture Map

The author, Erin Meyer walks the reader through anecdotes and frameworks ​that break down the differences people face doing business across cultures.

 

A great read for anyone working in or managing a global team or cross-borders. 

Readability rating: 5/5

Find it on Amazon

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The Ride of Lifetime
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The Ride of Lifetime

A great read on leadership. Bob Iger is a wonderful storyteller, lively, with a real sense of humanism. The only criticism would be that he seems to have had a really charmed life. His story tends to omit the trials and turbulence often faced as one blazes their career path. On the other hand, maybe he just has been that lucky!

Recommended by Jolie Duhon

Readability: 5/5

Find it on Amazon

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Communication

Leadership

Sketches with light notes make this book a very light and pleasant read with more breadth than depth. It is a worthwhile read for two groups in particular: 

1. Recent MBA graduates who want a guidebook as a refresher/reference to the frameworks and theories they learned during their programmme.

2. Prospective MBAs curious about what will be covered during their course.

Readability: 5/5

 

Find it on Amazon

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MBA Overview

The Culture Map

A great book on VC deals.

This book has it all, negotiation points for both the entrepreneur and investor; lots of examples; and key contract points.  The information is relevant for both seed and later-stage investment. Although it is an easy read as an investment book, the later chapters are heavy on legal terminology.

 

-Recommended by Sayora M.

Readability rating: 4/5

Find it on Amazon

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The Ride of Lifetime
The Ride of Lifetime

Although this is an autobiography and not a business book, the strategic, structural, and design principles used to build Singapore as a successful city-state can be transferred to building a company.  

If you like history, then this book is also a great read as Lee Kuan Yew discusses many of the post-WW2 incidents that have shaped our current world. 

Readability: 4/5

Easy to read but at 700 pages it is a commitment. 

Find it on Amazon

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Entrepreneurship/Investment

History/Leadership

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Really helpful read that puts things into perspective and helps one keep their confidence for whether in a sales negotiation or an interview. 

 

Recommended by Taufik Sani

Readability rating: 4/5

Find it on Amazon

Sales/Marketing

The Ride of Lifetime

Hit Refresh is a really interesting read that showcases how Sadya Nadella changed the culture and rejuvenated Microsoft whilst Amazon and Google were breathing down their necks.

Recommended by Taufik Sani

Readability: 4/5

Find it on Amazon

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OB/Leadership