Pre-MBA Business Books: Saïd Business School Recommendations I

Pre-MBA Business Books: Saïd Business School Recommendations I main image

To help give you the best possible head start on your MBA, here is a list of business books that come recommended, alongside insights and commentary, by professors at Oxford University's Saïd Business School (SBS) -  as part of TopMBA.com’s series on pre-MBA reading. Politics, economics and entrepreneurship are all covered by these six business books.

1. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson

Why Nations Fail

Why Nations Fail looks at why countries develop differently, and why some nations prosper while others struggle.

“Although there are big gaps in the argument, this is still a wonderful book to introduce the big questions of economics, and some of the proposed answers. I read it in one sitting on the beach a few years ago. The authors clearly appreciate and partially address the main issue, which is that a theory of economic growth and prosperity must explain all the facts, not just some of them,” says Mungo Wilson, associate professor of finance at Saïd Business School.

2. Who Gets What - And Why: The Hidden World of Matchmaking and Market Design by Alvin Roth

Who Gets What - And Why

Nobel laureate, Alvin Roth, looks at how people's lives are shaped by the choices they make, but also by the choices they are presented with. He examines the economic rules of matching markets, in which buyers and sellers choose each other.

“Roth shows how to diagnose and fix the problems with market-like mechanisms which have broken down, such as the allocation of pupils to schools. His approach is fascinating, and similar to that of a traffic engineer trying to improve the flow of traffic in a big city. I refer to Roth's book, and to Why Nations Fail [see above] in a class I give on market versus government failure,” says Wilson.

3. Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception by George Akerlof and Robert Shiller 

Phishing for Phools

Economists Robert Shiller and George Akerlof delve into the darker side of the free market economy in this entry to our list of business books recommended by faculty at Saïd Business School. Phishing for Phools examines how sellers systematically manipulate and take advantage of people's psychological weaknesses.

“[These] two Nobel laureates examine what economics says differently about capitalism and the world if you relax one of the assumptions of classical economics by allowing agents to make poor decisions, at least some of the time. They apply the resulting insights to marketing and politics, among other topics. The citation and attribution are not quite perfect in this book, but it's well worth the read,” says Wilson.

4. The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

The Lean Startup

In The Lean Startup, Eric Ries relates the lessons he learned through his first trials and failures as a startup founder, and as a software engineer responsible for a sizeable product launch that ultimately failed.

The Lean Startup is a modern bible for aspiring entrepreneurs. Lots of practical advice that is surprisingly congruent with academic thinking too,” says Thomas Hellmann, professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at Saïd Business School.

5. Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System – and Themselves by Andrew Ross Sorkin

Too Big to Fail

New York Times columnist, Andrew Ross Sorkin relates how some of the most powerful figures in global finance and politics ultimately decided the fate of the world economy in the late 2000s. He recounts how the drama of the economic crisis unraveled, and tells of the greed, fear, egoism and drive for self-preservation that drove many individuals in Wall Street, Washington and beyond to make the erroneous choices they made.

“This is a great account of the events during the financial crisis that culminated in the bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers,” says Amir Amel-Zadeh, associate professor of accounting at Saïd Business School.

6. The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street by Justin Fox

The Myth of the Rational Market

The Myth of the Rational Market chronicles the century-long making of the modern financial industry, as well as the rise and fall of efficient market theory, from Wall Street’s formative days, through the Great Depression and on to the financial crisis of 2008.   

Justin Fox provides the historical origins of the models and theories of finance that MBAs are taught in business school and puts them in context. Both Too Big to Fail and The Myth of the Rational Market read more like thrillers and are great reads for those who want to understand financial markets and risk taking. They are packed with lessons to be learned by future business leaders,” says Amel-Zadeh.


These are just six business books from Saïd Business School's top pre-MBA reading suggestions. Tune in for more of its professors' recommendations in the next chapter in TopMBA.com’s series.  

Images: Why Nations Fail; Who Gets What and Why; Phishing for Phools; The Lean Startup; Too Big to Fail; The Myth of the Rational Market

Karen Turtle
Written by Karen Turtle

A content writer with a background in higher education, Karen holds an MA in modern languages from the University of St Andrews. Her interests include languages and literature, current affairs and film. ​

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