Best Business Schools Blog

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Inspiring Summer Reading for Business School Students

Posted June 13, 2017 by Hannah DeBevoise - Coordinator, Social Media - AACSB International

Whether you’re just getting ready to start business school or are in between semesters, the idea of tackling a summer reading list may seem tedious. Even so, summer can be the perfect opportunity to prime your mind for the semesters ahead. While your required educational readings may focus on obvious lessons like finance and management, preparing yourself for an MBA or business degree goes beyond facts and figures. Taking the summer to reflect on and enhance your personal and professional development goals, networking and leadership skills, and other competencies that may not appear in your 700-page financial literacy text book can build a solid foundation for your successful journey through business school.

Here are some books that can not only prepare you for what you will learn in the semesters ahead but also will help groom you to become a more self-aware and talented future business leader. Added bonus: they’re highly engaging to read!

1. How Will You Measure Your Life, by Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth, and Karen Dillon

Clayton Christensen, a world renowned thought-leader on innovation, writes an eccentric message on how to create a fulfilling life. Using theories he has developed himself as a business leader, and with added perspectives from his coauthors, Christensen asks readers to take a step back and question what you really consider to be important in your own life. From career desires to personal relationships, How Will You Measure Your Life puts readers on a track to “achieving a fulfilling life.”

2. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, by Adam Grant

A New York Times No. 1 bestseller, Originals challenges readers to break the mold of traditional business ideas. Grant teaches you how to change the world for the better by championing fresh and original ideas that battle outdated behaviors. From recognizing a good idea to managing fear and doubt, Grant helps readers gain confidence in innovating for good through energizing examples that span entertainment to politics. 

3. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth

Psychologist Angela Duckworth argues that success is not a result of an individual’s talent but rather is achieved through a fusion of passion and persistence. Through interviews with achievers ranging from society’s most renowned successes to local teachers in difficult schools, Duckworth shows that it takes more than just being good at something to be successful. Grit teaches readers that success is a constant battle, and you must continue to fight for your accomplishments. 

4. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates, by Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink brushes aside the ideology that rewards drive motivation in this book that uncovers the gap between “what science knows and what business does.” He tells us the secret to achieving career satisfaction and quality performance in the workplace by looking at the three keys to real motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. 

5. Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes, by Margaret Heffernan

Combating the idea that large, extensive changes can wipe slates clean and erase challenges by beginning anew, Heffernan’s book shows that sometimes the slightest of changes have the biggest influence. From ideas like encouraging lower-rank employees to speak up more and using conflict as a creative facilitator for change, Beyond Measure takes a look at large organizations around the world and how seemingly small shifts caused the companies to change in a big way—for the better.

 6. The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, by Stephen R. Covey

A classic for leaders in any industry, Covey’s book takes an intensive look at how we have historically perceived the concept of success. He acknowledges that many individuals who outwardly seem successful still struggle with an internal desire for success on a deeper level—in personal relationships and in self-fulfillment. Though Covey highlights seven habits individually, together they work in concert to continually improve each other. Building on these habits increases confidence in the workplace as well as confidence in yourself. 

7. A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, by Warren Berger

Often we find ourselves reluctant to question what is happening around us, whether in business or in our personal lives. Berger demonstrates that questioning is one of the most under-appreciated tools we have for igniting change on any level. Through a narrative approach, Berger reveals how asking the questions that no one else is asking can lead to powerful answers and invoke monumental ideas for the better of your organization, your life, and the world. 

8. Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcom Gladwell

What makes high-achievers different? In Outliers, Gladwell argues that successful people have a gift for recognizing opportunities when they are presented and the strength and mindfulness to act on them. He weaves in stories of high-achievers from inside the business world, like software billionaires, to pop-culture icons like the Beatles. Gladwell asks us to pay less attention to what successful people are like and to focus more on the actions they have chosen to take. 

9. Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, by Peter Sims

Sims peels away the layers of our beliefs about how big inventions, successful entrepreneurs, and mega-companies rise to the top. Little Bets asks readers to approach ideas with little risks, or a trial-and-error mindset. Rather than taking a conventional big-picture approach, with little bets we are more likely to discover new opportunities along the way because we have adapted to be flexible and welcome to change. 

10. Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble, by Dan Lyons

If the cover alone doesn’t pique your interest, the entertaining and often humorous look at startup culture and its effects on employees and the workplace are sure to hook you. Lyons, a former magazine writer covering Silicon Valley and technology, unexpectedly loses his job. What comes next is a dramatic rise and fall at Hub-Spot, as Lyons discloses what life is really like in the “cool-kid” environment of startups. Not just a fun read, Disrupted can be helpful in setting expectations and creating perspective for entrepreneurial-minded individuals.