Top Business School Deans Share Their Summer Reading List 2019

Top Business School Deans Share Their Summer Reading List 2019 main image

Summer reading isn’t necessarily a top priority for aspiring MBAs. Either they want to kick back and relax before the hustle and bustle of school begins, or they’re working overtime to make a good impression at a summer internship.

However, a few good books can set you up for success when the school year resumes. We asked deans at top business schools to share their summer reading lists for students and you’ll find some of their top choices below (part two of their recommendations can be found here.

Learning from the past and present for the future

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
by Robin DiAngelo with a foreword by Michael Eric Dyson

DiAngelo is an anti-racist educator, who presents a discussion about the defenses white people put up when challenged racially and how that intentionally or unintentionally maintains the status quo and prevents serious dialogue about racial issues.

“This is a good book—particularly for the majority—to think about diversity and inclusion issues, which are increasingly central to business and business school,” says Douglas A. Shackelford, dean and Meade H. Willis distinguished professor of taxation at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe
by Roger McNamee

There is no question that Mark Zuckerberg is one of the most powerful business figures in the world. One of the biggest scandals of his tenure is the meddling in political processes that has happened on his social media platform Facebook.

That’s why McNamee, who is still a large shareholder in Facebook, decided he needs to stop the company from annihilating democracy. “McNamee provides an insider’s perspective on technology and privacy,” says Shackelford.

Leadership: In Turbulent Times
by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Leadership is the crux of any top business school’s MBA program. In this book, readers can better understand the toolbox of great leaders through the lens of the presidency.

“Goodwin draws leadership lessons from the lives of Presidents Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and LBJ that are directly applicable to MBA students,” says Shackelford.

Rising up

Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to a Successful Startup
by Bill Aulet 

Readers of this book will learn how to make an innovative product and create a successful business. It’s proof of the argument that business schools have been making for years: people can learn to be great entrepreneurs.

“[I chose this book] because entrepreneurship is neither an art, nor a science,” says David Schmittlein, the John C Head III dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management. “It’s a craft for which discipline born of experience is valuable.”

Adaptive Markets: Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought
by Andrew Lo

Adaptive Markets addresses the age-old question about whether markets and investors act rationally or irrationally. The answers could influence the perspective of MBA students studying these very markets.

“[This is a good read] because markets are incredibly, but not perfectly, efficient,” says Schmittlein. “Insights from psychology, neuroscience, biology, and artificial intelligence illuminate how markets adapt in the real world.”

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
by Daniel James Brown

Anyone who wants inspiration can pick up this book about the underdogs rising to the occasion. Unlikely winners, these nine Americans beat the odds and defeated the team rowing for Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

Schmittlein chose this book “because the best books about leadership and management are not about leadership and management,” he says.

Seeking greatness

Exit West
by Mohsin Hamid

Speaking of books which aren’t directly about business, Exit West tells the story of Nadia and Saeed, who fall in love in a city on the brink of civil war. The two lovers must quickly become intimate and deal with the struggle of trying to hang onto themselves amid the chaos of pending doom. More poignantly, however, it puts readers in the shoes of those who need to seek a better life elsewhere.

Exit West is a fairy tale that describes the powerful forces pushing migrants and refugees to leave war-torn and poor regions to seek the West,” says Ann E. Harrison, dean of UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. “It vividly captures the ongoing struggles of the rich and poor throughout the globe.”

Steve Jobs
by Walter Isaacson

Leonardo Da Vinci
by Walter Isaacson

Harrison also suggests reading two biographies by Walter Isaacson. One is about Steve Jobs, and is based on interviews with the subject that took place over the course of two years plus hundreds of interviews with those close to him, including family, collaborators, and even enemies. For his book on Leonardo Da Vinci, Isaacson immersed himself in more than 7,000 notebooks belonging to Da Vinci, which are found all over the world.

“Isaacson has sought throughout the years to understand the secret to brilliance and scientific breakthroughs,” says Harrison. “In his most recent biography of Leonard da Vinci, he sums up all of the historical insights he has gathered throughout the decades to identify the key to genius.

“He argues that the key for both Jobs and Da Vinci was being able to cross disciplines and benefit from the intersection of art and science.”

Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization
by Branko Milanovic

Economist Branko Milanovic covers the winners and losers of globalization but also offers suggestions on policy that could bring about economic justice in this book.

“Milanovic makes the important point that while inequality in the United States and other countries has been rising, inequality across nations is actually falling,” says Harrison.

“If we look at all individuals across all countries, global inequality has declined as middle classes in countries like India and China have expanded, and poverty rates have declined.” 

Francesca Di Meglio

Francesca Di Meglio has written about higher education for two decades. She covered business schools and all aspects of management education for what became Bloomberg Businessweek from May 2004 to December 2013. Di Meglio was the consultant editor for the book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting into a Top MBA Program (85 Broads Publishing, 2011), which was written by admissions consultant Betsy Massar. In addition, she is a family travel and parenting blogger at the Italian Mamma website

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