If you want to succeed in business, we have some advice: Open a book.
Books provide easy access to the world’s experts in areas such as marketing, communications, strategy, ethics, finance, technology, or, really, any subject covered in the nation’s top MBA programs. And, the best books are also a joy to read, full of life-changing lessons and wisdom.
But with thousands of business books published every year, how do you decide which books are worth your time? How do you curate an MBA reading list that will help polish your professional skills and advance your career? Start here with our update of a list originally published in August 2020.
10 Must-Read Books for Your MBA Reading List:
We’ve combed through the MBA reading lists of top business school programs to discover that many of the classic titles and newer releases on the best-seller lists are also consistently recommended by CEOs.
1. “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz
Ben Horowitz is a rap fan and co-founder of one of Silicon Valley’s most successful venture capital firms, Andreeson Horowitz. He’s had different seats around the table—founder, buyer, investor—for some of the tech world’s most famous success stories. Asserting that there is no formula for dealing with crises and setbacks, Horowitz offers lessons from his career about navigating hard situations when things don’t go as planned.
2. “Scaling Up Excellence” by Robert I. Sutton and Huggy Rao
In “Scaling Up Excellence,” two Stanford Organizational Behavior professors investigate a question that repeatedly arose while they were researching other topics. What they learned about building corporate culture that nourishes excellence rather than stifling it is widely applicable and well-supported with research and case studies.
3.“The Innovators Dilemma” by Clayton M. Christensen
The late Clayton M. Christensen was a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and a consultant who developed the theory of disruptive innovation. He first published this book, widely regarded as a business classic, in 1997. Now in its third edition and occupying the third position on our MBA reading list, “The Innovator’s Dilemma” explores the questions of why success is difficult to sustain and whether successful innovation can be systematized.
4. “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman
Psychologist Daniel Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his synthesis of research and theories about economics and decision making. He went on to become a bestselling author with the publication of “Thinking Fast and Slow” in 2011. This landmark book belongs on any MBA reading list for the highly readable and elegant distillation of research relevant to any aspect of business.
5. “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
This research-based book, reissued with expanded information in 2015, has become a bestselling business classic available in 44 languages. Management experts Kim and Mauborgne provide industry-agnostic tools and frameworks for managers seeking to break free of the competition in crowded markets.
6. “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie
First published in 1936, this business classic has sprung legions of fans (including billionaire investor Warren Buffett) of Carnegie’s timeless lessons for understanding human motivation. Carnegie could have had every MBA-seeking student in mind when he wrote: “…the person who has technical knowledge plus the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people—that person is headed for higher earning power.”
7. “The Lean Start-Up” by Eric Ries
Entrepreneurs—in start-ups or established companies of all sizes—can adopt the author’s scientific approach to adapt, adjust, and innovate. Ries, an entrepreneur, uses his own experiences to explain this approach in a book praised by CEOs and business faculty at Harvard, U.C. Berkeley, and Stanford universities.
8. “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” by Phil Knight
Nike founder Phil Knight shares the inside story of his early days building a business around shoes and details its Nike's evolution into one of the world’s most powerful brands.
9. “Rework” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
The cofounders of Basecamp, an intentionally small and consistently profitable software company, share their contrarian thoughts about building and running a healthy business. Their business history spans two recessions and myriad other disruptions, and they’ve rejected much of standard business wisdom along the way.
10. “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis
“Moneyball” is a pleasantly surprising entry on MBA reading lists. It’s the story of how statistical insights helped the underfunded underdog Oakland As become one of the most successful franchises in Major League Baseball. Lewis specializes in financial journalism, and “Moneyball” is just one of his books combining business insights and entertainment.
Titles From Our Previous List
Although these titles have been replaced by others on our current MBA reading list, they can still offer valuable information for your leadership journey.
- “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D.
- “The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham
- “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth
- “The Infinite Game” by Simon Sinek
- “The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success” by William N. Thorndike, Jr.
- “See Sooner, Act Faster: How Vigilant Leaders Thrive in the Era of Digital Turbulence” by George S. Day and Paul J.H. Schoemaker
- “First Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
Grow Your Business Knowledge with Seattle U
Reading to increase your business knowledge is an indispensable part of the learning process, but it doesn’t have to end there. Earning a graduate business degree from the Albers School of Business and Economics at Seattle University will help you apply what you learn in books to the real world.
Hands-on learning is integrated into the Albers School of Business and Economics Online MBA and Online Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) programs. Guided by expert faculty, students engage in real-time interaction and collaboration as they develop ethical and people-centered business skills and a problem-solving mindset.