May marks Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which celebrates the histories of Americans hailing from across the Asian continent and from the Pacific islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.
This year’s theme, selected by the Federal Asian Pacific American Council, is “Advancing Leaders Through Opportunity,” which builds on a leadership advancement theme series that began in 2021.
To mark AAPI Month, MBAchic is highlighting AAPI MBAs, leaders, entrepreneurs, authors, and changemakers. By celebrating and supporting AAPI authors and publishers we can enable more authentic storytelling that reflects diverse experiences, identities and voices.
Americans say they read an average of 12.6 books during the past year, a smaller number than Gallup has measured in any prior survey dating back to 1990. In the past, women read nearly twice as many books as men did, but the gap has narrowed as the average U.S. woman read 15.7 books last year, compared with 19.3 between 2002 and 2016. Over the same period, men’s readership declined by barely one book, to 9.5. Reinvigorate your 2023 reading list by diving into these 5 must-read books by AAPI authors. These women are leading organizations and driving change, inspiring us to bring our best selves to work (and home), and sprinkling some serious life and career knowledge inside every page. We promise you won’t be able to put down these must reads. So grab a cup of coffee, throw on your coziest pair of sweats and start turning pages.
Must-Read Books We Love By AAPI Authors
My Life in Full: Work, Family and Our Future by Indra Nooyi
Major themes: culture, business, nonfiction, biography, memoir, leadership, inspirational
About the book: This fascinating read offers an inside look at the business practices behind the iconic PepsiCo corporation, and includes Nooyi’s thinking as she waded through corporate resistance to steer the American company toward healthier products and reimagined its environmental profile. “The more I thought about PepsiCo’s future,” she writes, “the more I felt it was incumbent on me to connect what was good for our business with what was good for the world.” Nooyi also gets real and raw about the difficulties that accompanied managing her demanding job with a growing family, and what she learned along the way. She makes a clear, actionable, urgent call for business and government to prioritize the care ecosystem, paid leave and work flexibility. By improving company and community support for young family builders, Nooyi argues the economy’s full potential will be unleashed. This quick, interesting read is filled with honesty about privilege, regrets, failures, and successes.
About the author: Before author Indra Nooyi became the trailblazing first woman of color and immigrant to run a Fortune 50 company (as the former CEO of PepsiCo), she was a girl growing up in a Hindu Brahmin household in Madras (renamed Chennai in 1996), India, where she learned the importance of family. As a self-described “tomboy,” she loved to buck tradition which became a theme of her professional career. Whether she was co-founding Madras’ most popular all-female rock band, living alone in Bombay while interning at the Department of Atomic Energy, or moving, unmarried, to the U.S. to pursue a degree at Yale, Nooyi’s familial support has been a theme throughout her life.
What readers are saying:
“A must-read for working women and the men who work with us, love us, and support us.”
— Hillary Rodham Clinton
“‘CEO’ and ‘care’ do not usually go together, but for Indra Nooyi, they always have. Rather than offering us a list of policy prescriptions, she shows us what is possible when businesses care about family and families have time to care for one another.”
— Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America, Author of Unfinished Business
Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work by Ruchika Tulshyan
Major themes: Inclusion, structural bias, equity, women of color, gender bias, business practice, leadership skills
About the book: We all agreed. Inclusion is both the right thing to do and good for business. So, why are so many companies still so terrible at the whole executing aspect? Tulshyan centers this read around workplace experiences of women of color who are subject to both gender and racial bias. Each page examines why companies are falling short, and explores the awareness, intention and regular practice required to master inclusion authentically. As she puts it, inclusion doesn’t just happen; we have to work at it. Read this book to learn cutting-edge inclusion best practices. By banishing the idea of the “level playing field” and learning how to use privilege for good by identifying and exposing bias, Tulshyan says we can dismantle structural bias. Geared towards all leaders and organizations to meaningfully promote inclusion, diversity and equity – this book will help spark important conversations and make change.
About the author: Author Ruchika Tulshyan is an award-winning inclusion strategist and speaker as well as the CEO and founder of Candour, which works with organizations to create diverse teams and inclusive cultures. A former business journalist, she has reported from four countries and writes regularly on inclusive leadership for the Harvard Business Review.
What readers are saying:
“Ruchika Tulshyan is on a mission to fix our broken workplaces by tearing down barriers. Her solution is inclusion on purpose and with empathy, and she walks through the steps to get there. Her frameworks and questions, real-world stories and data, and intersectional lens make this book a must-read for leaders and learners.”
— Ellen Pao, CEO, Project Include; author of Reset
“Tulshyan masterfully unmasks the context, cultures, and challenges that women of color uniquely face. She also provides smart frameworks to significantly transform their workplace experiences. A must-read for everyone seeking to practice inclusion!”
— Dr. Tsedal Neeley, Professor, Harvard Business School; author of Remote Work Revolution
Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage by Laura Huang
Major themes: culture, success, perception, personal characteristics, performance, business nonfiction, self help, leadership, psychology, productivity, management, negotiation, persuasion, social perceptiveness
About the book: Adversity and discrimination are unfortunate realities of our professional lives, but Edge offers up digestible, relatable, and real stories and psychology to explain why that’s not a reason to give up on goals and teaches readers tools to turn can adversity into greater succeed in a world that throws all the obstacles your way. Huang says people generally underestimate how hard it is to get your foot in the door as an outsider, and how wide those same doors are open once you’re inside. Her 4 phase approach outlines how you can enrich, delight, guide, and effort your way to finding your “edge” and ensures that readers never disengage thanks to her constant reference to some amazing stories. Instead of addressing bias directly, Huang suggests we should all be guiding others to attributions we want them to make about us so we won’t be at the mercy of unfair stereotypes.
About the author: Author and award-winning Harvard Business School professor Laura Huang currently serves as Distinguished Professor and Faculty Director of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative at Northeastern University, and is on the board of Wharton Alumni Angels. An electrical engineer by training, Laura’s research focuses on ‘quantifying the unquantifiable’ where she examines the role of intuition and signaling in behavioral interactions and economic decisions.
She’s a dear friend and supporter of the MBAchic community, hosting a talk about her book and offering advice for the MBAchic community one week into pandemic shutdowns, sharing with us her well-balanced MBA reading list (looking at why almost every list related to MBAs or business or leadership is dominated by predominantly white male authors and why we can do better), and more.
What readers are saying:
“This book will change how you navigate your career and overcome obstacles along the way. Do yourself, and those you work with, a favor and read it now!”
— Marie Forleo, author of Everything is Figureoutable and founder of B-School
“When hard work alone isn’t enough, what do you do? Edge is an invaluable guide to decoding the biases and harmful perceptions about you and your work that might be standing in your way. Huang masterfully weaves together original research and powerful stories that will leave you newly inspired and empowered to take charge of your biggest challenges.”
— Susan David, Harvard Medical School psychologist, author of Emotional Agility
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong
Major themes: Emotional intelligence, history, racism, friendship, relationships, socioeconomic status, Asian American experience, cultural criticism, race in America
About the book: Minor Feelings was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography, and earned Hong recognition on TIME’s 100 Most Influential People of 2021 list. Part memoir and part cultural criticism, this collection is raw, funny, and provocative. Its relentless pursuit of vital questions about family and friendship, art and politics, identity and individuality, just might change the way you think about our world. Hong uses her own personal story to dive deeper into the racial consciousness in America today. “To recite my poems to an audience is to be slapped awake by my limitations,” she writes. “I confront the infinite chasm between the audience’s conception of Poet and the underwhelming evidence of me as that poet. I just don’t look the part. Asians lack presence. Asians take up apologetic space. We don’t even have enough presence to be considered real minorities.” From her relationship to the English language, to shame and depression, to poetry and female friendship, Minor Feelings offers an honest, at times heartbreaking peek inside one Asian American psyche that’s worth exploring.
About the author: Author, poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose fresh truths about racialized consciousness in America. As the daughter of Korean immigrants, she grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later understand that these “minor feelings” occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality—when you believe the lies you’re told about your own racial identity.
What readers are saying:
“Minor Feelings felt like having someone sit me down in a chair and say your feelings are real… it broke my heart with relief.”
— Mira Jacob, Author of Good Talk and The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing
“We are so not ready for what Cathy Park Hong does in Minor Feelings. And thankfully, she does not care whether we are ready or not.”
— Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
Major themes: developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, success, performance, workplace psychology, perseverance, personal achievement
About the book: Who doesn’t want in on the secret to build a successful life? Duckworth spills in this New York Times best seller – the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.” She’s also found scientific evidence that grit can grow over time. Sharing new insights from her landmark research, Angela explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success, and why some people succeed while others fail.
Watch Duckworth’s famous TED Talk here.
Readers can dive into unique stories and research featuring teachers working in some of the toughest schools, cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, and even young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. Learn what Duckworth has gathered from interviewing dozens of high achievers—from JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon to Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll in this page-turning exploration of personal performance. They can also get a glimpse at how Duckworth’s personal journey has shaped how she views the world. Her parents are Chinese immigrants, but she didn’t get lectured on the salvation of hard work. Against stereotype, she can’t play a note of piano or violin. “The morning the MacArthur was announced,” she writes, “I walked over to my parents’ apartment. My mom and dad had already heard the news, and so had several “aunties,” who were calling in rapid succession to offer congratulations. Finally, when the phone stopped ringing, my dad turned to me and said, “I’m proud of you.” I had so much to say in response, but instead I just said, “Thanks, Dad.”
About the author: Author Angela Lee Duckworth is the co-founder, chief scientist, and a board member of Character Lab, a nonprofit whose mission is to advance scientific insights that help children thrive. She is also a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and in 2013 was named a MacArthur Fellow. Angela has advised the World Bank, NBA and NFL teams, and Fortune 500 CEOs.
What readers are saying:
“With a mix of masterful storytelling and the latest science, she shows that perseverance and passion matter at least as much as talent and intelligence. And far from simply urging us to work harder for the sake of working harder, Grit offers a truly sane perspective: that true success comes when we devote ourselves to endeavors that give us joy and purpose.”
—Arianna Huffington, New York Times bestselling author of Thrive
“When I first saw Angela’s TED Talk two years ago, I was hooked right away by the grit concept and how pursuing grit can lead to an optimistic, process-driven environment conducive to individual and team growth. As a coach, I’m convinced there are no more important qualities in striving for excellence than those that create true grit. Here, Angela does a great job describing those qualities. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.”
—Brad Stevens, Coach of the Boston Celtics
Have you already read any of the books MBAchic is recommending? Be sure to share your takeaways with us here or connect with us on social media to recommend some top reads we can share with our community.