The “Well-Balanced Meal” MBA Reading List

MBA Reading List

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Last year, I stumbled upon a reading list entitled The MBA Reading List According to the Top Business Schools in the World. As a business school professor who is always getting asked for book recommendations from my students, I eagerly looked at this list to see if there were any new ones that might be interesting for me to check out. And what I discovered was that every single book on the list was written by a man. And so, I quickly shot off this tweet:

It’s not just this list. I started looking to see what other lists were out there. And almost every list related to MBAs or business or leadership that I found was dominated by male authors. And predominantly white male authors.

We can do better

It’s clear that we need much better MBA Reading Lists. If these are the books that we’re telling our students to read, these are the books that are going to inform their perspectives—these are the books that are going to give them templates and mental models and prototypes about what types of business leaders they should be.

So I decided to compile a different list that I’ve circulated to my students and colleagues at other business schools—a list of books on topics that I think MBA students really should know something about, in broad strokes… in marketing, finance, entrepreneurship, leadership, operations, and so on.

In compiling this list, I’ve gotten input from a diverse set of CEOs, organizational scholars, and workplace leaders—and importantly, in putting together this list, I include voices and perspectives that go beyond just white males. So that our students may someday lead with these perspectives in mind too.

I know there’s no way to make everyone happy—there’s a lot of great books that I’m certainly leaving off this list. But I wanted to keep this list concise, comprehensive, and well-researched.  And I hope this is a list that will jumpstart lots more thinking and lots more reading on these topics. In the comments section, please feel free to suggest books that have changed your thinking in these areas. 

Featuring diverse perspectives for a well-rounded MBA Reading List

So without further ado, here’s my “let’s fill our students’ minds up with a wide range of perspectives” MBA reading list. Also known as the “Well-Balanced Meal” MBA Reading List. I’m hoping that this is a much better “well-balanced” list of readings that provides a well-rounded set of perspectives. This MBA Reading List was first shared on LauraHuang.net.

For each topic (Finance, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, etc.), I’m giving a breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert selection.

BreakfastThese are your basics, the fundamentals, which can help fuel the rest of your learning
LunchA break from the grind, and a book to get your mind thinking (and hopefully avoiding the afternoon slump)
DinnerLet’s dig into something heartier…
Dessert…You won’t want to stop indulging
Navigating the “Well-Balanced Meal” MBA Reading List
The “Well-Balanced Meal” MBA Reading List
Support your local bookstores.
Ordering information for books included on the list available at bookshop.org.

There are some books that could have fit into multiple topics, but I think that speaks to how transcendent they are, and how these books intersect topics and encourage you to think with a well-rounded, holistic view of business.

One final note: I acknowledge that an MBA isn’t for everyone. You don’t need an MBA to be successful. But an MBA can also push you to think in a more aligned, deeper, and integrated manner. Can you also get this from on-the-job work? Of course. Both can help you gain perspective, and give you the mental models, schemas, and prototypes to build upon—both can help you gain a better intuition for all the things that you might be faced with over the course of your careers. I hope that these books also help do that. Happy reading; I hope you enjoy your meals.

MBA Reading List

Special thanks to Marc Ventresca, Afua Osei, Bridget Kustin, Paul Graham, Isaiah Lim, Catherine Weilaender, Ryan Buell, Brian Yang, Evan Drake, Susan Cohen, Ben Spigel, Mahka Moeen, Allen Spiegel, Rem Koning, Andy Wu, Vijay Gurbaxani, Jose Lopez, Carol Morgan Cox, Wendy Murphy, Yael Cockayne, Rahim Noormohamed, Sara Wheeler-Smith, Merry Sun, Marc Thompson, Arunma Oteh, Paulo Savaget, Maureen Scully, Cecilia Varendh-Mansson, Anna Waring, Gorgi Krlev, Dave Unger, and Dennis West for suggestions, support, and ideas.

Images from PxHere.

About the author

Laura Huang EDGE Harvard Business School
Laura Huang

Laura Huang is a professor at Harvard Business School. She has spent her academic career studying interpersonal relationships and implicit bias in entrepreneurship and in the workplace. Her research has been featured in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, and Nature, and she was named one of the 40 Best Business School Professors Under the Age of 40 by Poets & Quants.

Previously, she held positions in investment banking, consulting, and management, for organizations such as Standard Chartered Bank, IBM Global Services, and Johnson & Johnson. She received an MS and BSE in electrical engineering, both from Duke University, an MBA from INSEAD, and a PhD from the University of California, Irvine. Buy EDGE wherever books are sold!

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