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6 Books Every MBA Student Should Read

What’s on your bookshelf? As a student enrolled in an MBA program, your personal reading material could prove just as transformative as lessons learned in the classroom. Not sure where to start? At minimum, you should add these essential reads to your collection:

The Halo Effect … and the Eight Other Business Decisions That Deceive Managers

In “The Halo Effect,” Phil Rosenzweig destroys several of the pretty lies that hold managers back. The book is inspired by the work of psychologist Edward Thorndike, who famously theorized that people tend to make assumptions based on limited data. Rosenzweig argues that this is just one of several delusions associated with mediocrity:

  • Correlation versus causation, especially in regard to employee satisfaction and company success
  • Assuming company performance can be predicted accurately
  • Concluding a company that happens to be successful now will enjoy lasting success

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

Silicon Valley whiz Ben Horowitz offers intriguing insights into the crazy world of entrepreneurism. He also closely outlines every misstep he made on the way to success. His manifesto offers the reality check that other management books gloss over. The book is especially unique in that it incorporates lyrics from Horowitz’s favorite rap hits. Like his beloved hip hop artists, Horowitz is all about telling it like it is.

Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love

While books on management should take up a significant portion of any MBA student’s shelf, product development is an equally critical topic. No matter your professional aspirations, it behooves you to check out this fascinating read by Silicon Valley Product Group founder Marty Cagan. While reading, you’ll discover the principles that underlie Cagan’s effective management of product and engineering teams. You’ll also discover the pitfalls that prevent seemingly brilliant products from succeeding.

The 48 Laws of Power

If you don’t have the patience to get through Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” (also a valuable read for an MBA student), consider delving into “The 48 Laws of Power” instead. This intriguing read breaks down thousands of years of power and influence into 48 easy-to-understand laws. You’ll get a better feel for the philosophies of Carl von Clausewitz, Machiavelli, and more. You’ll learn how historical figures gained and wielded power, but also how some succumbed to it. These lessons are critical for anybody who aspires to build a business or break into upper management.

The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed

As a columnist for the New York Times, Adam Bryant attracted a loyal following with his “Corner Office” pieces. He interviewed a variety of CEOs and other top management professionals to discover what makes them tick. In the book version of his column, Bryant compiles insights from dozens of today’s most accomplished leaders. From Alan Mulally to Steve Ballmer, these individuals offer valuable advice for aspiring leaders.

Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less

The result of years of exhaustive research from Stanford darlings Robert I. Sutton and Huggy Rao, “Scaling Up Excellence” delves into one of the greatest conundrums today’s aspiring leaders face: whether to focus on local needs or replicate practices on a larger scale when expanding a business. You’ll learn how to drive excellence at all levels, and how to expand your footprint without watering down the ideas and philosophies that led to success in the first place. Interested in launching your own business after graduation? Don’t skip this book.

The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done

Universally beloved among management professionals, “The Effective Executive” details the practices executives must embrace to make the most of their natural talent. These include time management, prioritization, mobilizing strength, and effective decision-making. The book’s 50th anniversary edition is particularly worth reading, as it includes a uniquely inspiring foreword and afterword.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Just as relevant today as when it was published over eight decades ago, Dale Carnegie’s masterpiece is an absolute must-read for an MBA student and aspiring entrepreneurs. Really, it should be added to everybody’s reading bucket list, regardless of profession. The book provides the building blocks for success in the business sphere, touching on the role communication plays at work and in life. The book’s plethora of strategies can help you make better first impressions when meeting clients, provide constructive criticism, and resolve conflicts quickly and effectively. Warren Buffett credits “How to Win Friends” with his success, as do several other titans of business.

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