I was recently asked what books I thought any MBA must read. I figured I would share my list 5 books with everyone.
OK 12 books. It’s hard to pair it down.
From Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan, The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office is a great exposition of how organisations really operate. It is peppered with great stories and is research-based. If you ever sat in a meeting and wondered what it was all about, this book makes sense of it for you. That said, if you want a more 30,000 foot perspective you could also read this alongside The Limits of Organization. [Click to buy]
From Carl Shapiro and Hal Varian, Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy is still the best book on the economics of the Internet (believe me — both myself and Erik tried but didn’t manage to do better). One of the reasons is that it was written before Google, before Facebook, before Twitter. But even in 1996 it didn’t jump on the hype bandwagon but instead explained how the economics of the old economy translates into the economics of the new economy. You can’t go wrong getting to know this book. [Click to buy]
From Avinash Dixit and Barry Nalebuff, Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics and Everyday Life is still the most accessible guide to game theory there is. For an MBA student, understanding game theory is a must and this book illustrates all of the main concepts with the help of very memorable stories and examples. If you want a little more math consider Micromotives and Macrobehavior. [Click to buy]
From Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff, Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry is the classic rise and fall story that is a must read for anyone creating and managing a business. It is both inspirational and a cautionary tale. It should be welded into every MBA student’s mind. (It certainly had a big impact on my while writing The Disruption Dilemma) [Click to buy]
From Geoffrey Moore, Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers centers around the biggest challenge in launching new products — going from early adopters to mainstream customers. In so doing it highlights a major trap from early success and emphasises how active management can get you to sustainable success. You will hear about this in every boardroom. (After this, you can safely go on to The Lean Startup and Zero to One). [Click to buy]
From Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow is the book that explains psychology and behavioural economics to everyone. There is no better book that both captures what research tells us about choice along with an accessible style for everyone to read. You will come away from this one with a different mind. [Click to buy]
From Uri Gneezy and John List, The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life looks at experiments and how to use them in business. Yes, you can read Freakonomics to understand how to use statistics to understand why things happen and have a little more fun or Supercrunchers for future speculations but The Why Axis really gets you into the details where it matters. [Click to buy]
From John McMillan, Reinventing the Bazaar: A Natural History of Markets will introduce you to how markets operate and how to design and use them for your advantage. Along the way you’ll learn about how to design auctions and how they operate in the modern economy. [Click to buy]
From Peter Bernstein, Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk will get you a head start on your finance classes. Risk is a difficult subject but Bernstein manages to place it in historical context in a way that builds up understanding in a methodical manner. [Click to buy]
From Brad Stone, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon is the story of Amazon. As one of the most impactful businesses every, this is a story MBA students should know and reflect upon. This book takes you to that place. (Of course, if you don’t want to read and enjoy a graphic approach you might look at the story of Honest Tea instead). [Click to buy]
From Adam Brandenburger and Barry Nalebuff, Coopetition is still the best book on business strategy and how to do it ever written. It uses game theory to demonstrate how to understand your industry and then goes beyond it to understand how your business choices can modify the game everyone is playing. You won’t see competition the same way again. (It won’t surprise you to learn I based my managerial economics text on their approach). [Click to buy]
From Tim Harford, The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World is a wonderful introduction to microeconomics and will get you more and more interested in the subject. Actually, anything by Tim Harford will do here but I particularly enjoyed this book. [Click to buy]
Finally, if you want to skip your reading, you can jump straight into Survive and Thrive: Winning Against Strategic Threats to Your Business that myself and the Rotman strategy faculty recently put out.