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The Essential MBA Library


While you’re undoubtedly learning a lot from your MBA courses at college, it never hurts to supplement your education with a little outside reading material. There are numerous great books out there on business, entrepreneurship, leadership, and other topics of interest to MBA students that can be immensely valuable to anyone looking to build their knowledge and prepare for a career in business. In fact, you may learn a few tips and tricks you won’t cover in any of your MBA courses. Whether you’re looking to learn more before graduation, or build your business skills afterwards, these books are essential to any MBA library.

Business Basics

These great reads cover a wide range of business topics, from business school to decision-making.

1. Deals from Hell: M&A Lessons that Rise Above the Ashes by Robert F. Bruner and Arthur Levitt Jr.

Mergers and acquisitions are a messy part of business and don’t always produce the expected outcome. In this book, you can read about some of the worst mergers ever to happen and hopefully take away some lessons that will help you in your future deal-making.

2. Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School by Philip Delves Broughton

You might not go to Harvard Business School, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a taste of what it’s like to attend one of the most elite MBA programs in the world. Capturing both the good and the bad of business school, MBA students, no matter where they attend school, are bound to find this book both fascinating and relatable.

3. Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow by Chip Conley

Psychology and business have more in common than you think. This book applies Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to relationships between businesses and their employees, investors, and customers.

4. The Unwritten Laws of Business by W.J. King and James Skakoon

Originally published in 1944, this classic book offers advice that is as true today as it was then, helping you more skillfully navigate the business world.

5. Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions by Gary Klein

We make thousands of decisions every day, but most of us don’t put much thought into how we’re able to do it, especially under pressure. In this book, you’ll learn about some fascinating studies on decision-making, the results of many you can apply directly to the business world.

6. Turning Numbers into Knowledge: Mastering the Art of Problem Solving by Jonathan Koomey and John Holdren

Numbers are great but useless if you don’t know how to use them to solve problems in your business. This book aims to help you learn this essential skill and boost your problem-solving prowess.

7. Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter Bernstein

Risk is an essential element in any business venture and society as a whole. This engaging book takes a look at the history of risk and the many different ways we look at and attempt to control risk in modern society.

8. The Future Arrived Yesterday: The Rise of the Protean Corporation and What It Means for You by Michael S. Malone

The digital age has changed how business is done, and businesses must either adapt or go extinct. This book will educate you on the skills and know-how you’ll need to be a CEO and leader in a 21st-century company.

Management and Leadership

Whether you’re a student or a working professional, these books can help you hone the essential management and leadership skills you’ll need to work as an executive or business owner.

9. How to Become CEO: The Rules for Rising to the Top of Any Organization by Jeffrey Fox

Many graduate with an MBA with the goal of someday becoming a CEO, but without a plan about how they’ll get there. Fox’s book can help you meet that goal by presenting 75 common-sense rules that will help you guild your career and work your way to the top.

10. The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter Drucker

As this book will teach you, the key to being a great CEO isn’t just getting things done, it’s getting the right things done. Drucker shares lessons on time management, prioritization, and decision-making that can help mold you into a better, more effective exec.

11. Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Deming

Deming believes that American management practices need an update for the realities of the modern business world, and shares his famous 14 Points for Management that hold as true today as they did when the book was first published almost 30 years ago.

12. Growing Great Employees: Turning Ordinary People into Extraordinary Performers by Erika Andersen

Anderson distills some great management lessons from her own career, offering others a chance to learn how they can evaluate, communicate with, and encourage their employees.

13. Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor by Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, Patricia Ward Biederman, and James O’Toole

We’ve all heard about transparency, but many may not know how to even begin to create a business that embodies that characteristic. Not to worry. This book offers some great advice on how leaders can create a more transparent workplace.

14. Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management by Scott Berkun

This collection of essays on project management offers a number of philosophies and strategies for becoming a better leader and manager.

15. Hire With Your Head: Using Performance-Based Hiring to Build Great Teams by Lou Adler

Read through this great book to better understand why performance-based hiring could be the best choice for filling your business with great employees.

16. The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig

As much as we hate to admit it, our business decisions may not always be based on reality. In this book, Rozenzweig explains some of the most common delusions that taint business decision-making and how to overcome them to make smarter, sharper decisions.

17. First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

Think you know what it takes to be a great manager? This book may teach you otherwise, explaining why many of the rules of management simply aren’t followed by the best managers out there.


You can’t be a leader in business without at least a touch of innovation. These books will help you cultivate your creativity and better understand the importance of an innovative mind in the modern era.

18. A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink

In this book, Daniel Pink explains why creativity and innovation will soon be at the heart of every business strategy in the 21st century and why you shouldn’t ignore the valuable, though perhaps less practical lessons, provided by your right brain.

19. The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage by Roger L. Martin

Why think like a designer? This book explains that innovation and creativity drive today’s market, especially in fields like technology, where outside-the-box thinking can make or break a company. Martin provides a wealth of examples to illustrate just how businesses today are using design thinking to come out ahead, teaching the true value of innovation.

20. The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp

Tharp may be a dancer and choreographer, but that doesn’t mean many of the lessons she offers on creativity can’t be applied to the business world. Through this engaging book, you’ll learn how to maximize your innovative and creative potential and make the most of whatever genius idea you have.

21. Seeing What’s Next: Using Theories of Innovation to Predict Industry Change by Clayton M. Christensen, Erik A. Roth, and Scott D. Anthony

In this book, the authors present a new model for anticipating innovation and changes in industries, one they promise is more reliable and consistent than past ways of doing things.

22. The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business by Clayton M. Christensen

Don’t let your business get driven out of the market by a disruptive new technology. Learn how to stay ahead of the curve in innovation with a little help from this read.

23. Winning at New Products: Accelerating the Process from Idea to Launch, Third Edition by Robert G. Cooper

First published more than ten years ago, this book is regarded as a must-read for anyone in product development. It showcases some of the innovative strategies being used by big businesses to stay creative, engage customers, and make sound business decisions.

24. The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

There’s a lot of conventional wisdom and advice surrounding innovation, but as you’ll learn in this book, much of it just isn’t accurate.

Networking and Communication

Knowing how to make connections and communicate effectively is essential to anyone embarking on a business career. Brush up on your skills in this area by giving these books a read.

25. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This classic book will provide you with the skills you need to build better relationships, especially when it comes to networking and moving up within your chosen field.

26. Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz

To make it to the top in business, you need to build a strong network of connections. Easier said than done, but this book offers some amazing advice that will have you making the most of any time you spend networking.

27. Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds

At some point in your business career, you’ll undoubtedly have to give a presentation. Make sure that it’s as interesting, engaging, and effective as it can be, with help from this book.

28. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

If you want to get your way in negotiations or business deals, you’d be well-advised to read this book, offering some of the best lessons on what methods truly work to persuade.

29. Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten by Stephen Few

It can be hard to convey just what numbers mean on their own, but this book will teach you how to use graphs and other visual representations to help make sense of any kind of numerical information.

30. Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillian, and Al Switzler

High-stakes conversations can be nerve-wracking, but with the help of this book you can learn how to prepare, deal with anger, and talk about almost anything with success.


Get advice on getting more done in less time with the help of these books.

31. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Are you as effective in your work as you could be? Take a look at Covey’s best-selling book on leadership to learn how to improve your communication, management, productivity, and positive-thinking skills in both your personal and professional endeavors.

32. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

David Allen is known around the world for his works on productivity, probably because his methods are so effective. This book, his most popular title, is a great read for learning how to better manage your time, resources, and energy — helpful both in school and in the working world.

33. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

Is it really possible to work less and still get enough done? Ferriss thinks so, and shares his lessons through this immensely popular book.

34. The Simplicity Survival Handbook: 32 Ways To Do Less And Accomplish More by Bill Jensen

Why work hard when you can work smart? In this book, MBA students and grads will find some excellent advice on being more productive in everything you do.

35. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful by Marshall Goldsmith

Executive coach Marshall Goldsmith offers some advice on helping you reach the top of the corporate ladder in this book, exposing the traits that the best execs have in common.


A great product is meaningless if you can’t sell it. Use these books to improve your understanding of marketing, sales, and branding.

36. Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant by Renée Mauborgne

This classic book is a must-read for any business student looking to learn more about marketing. Even if you don’t embrace Mauborgne’s strategy, you can still take numerous lessons away from the book that are sure to help you in your life after graduation.

37. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath

If you want to make your ideas, products, or services stick in the minds of consumers, then you might want to read this book. It’s full of great methods you can use to improve the resonance of whatever it is you’re selling.

38. Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill

If you want to sell, you have to understand what will make people buy. That’s the focus of this compelling book from retail guru Paco Underhill. Read through it to better understand consumer culture, merchandising, and the all-important online store.

39. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin

Every business wants to stand out, but few know how to do it. This book by marketing guru Seth Godin may give you a leg up, offering insights into what really works in promoting and branding a business.

40. Guerrilla Marketing for Consultants: Breakthrough Tactics for Winning Profitable Clients by Jay Conrad Levinson

You don’t have to be a consultant (though if you are, this book is an even better read) to appreciate the valuable lessons and advice this book has to offer on building a better marketing plan, getting publicity, and reeling in big clients.

41. Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide by John Jantsch

Those who are working in small business or want to start their own should consider this book an essential read for preparing for the challenges of marketing their business.


If you plan to go it on your own, these books are essential reads for preparing you for life as an entrepreneur.

42. Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Peter F. Drucker

Innovation is a key component to entrepreneurship, and in this book you’ll get some great advice from management guru Drucker on what your business can do to succeed in today’s innovation-driven economy.

43. The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki

Having an idea for a business is a first step, but how do you turn that idea into a profitable business? This book covers all the basics of starting your own business, from hiring to getting investors, and everything in between.

44. Purpose: The Starting Point of Great Companies by Nikos Mourkogiannis

Anyone starting a new business or thinking of starting a new business should read this book. It explores the importance of a business having purpose, something Mourkogiannis believes is essential for long-term success.

45. The Entrepreneurial Mindset: Strategies for Continuously Creating Opportunity in an Age of Uncertainty by Rita Gunther McGrath

Looking to start a new business? This book can help you with the fundamentals, with some innovative new ideas that may just set you apart from the competition.

46. The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steven Gary Blank

While focused on the tech industry, any entrepreneur working on a startup can find valuable lessons and examples in this book that can be useful to building a new business.

47. StartupNation : America’s Leading Entrepreneurial Experts Reveal the Secrets to Building a Blockbuster Business by Jeff Sloan and Rich Sloan

Successful entrepreneurs Jeff and Rich share some of their lessons and those drawn from more than 30 other entrepreneurs in this great, inspirational book on entrepreneurship.

48. Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition by Guy Kawasaki

Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Kawasaki offers no-nonsense advice on starting and growing a business that will stand the test of time.

49. Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

This book takes a different approach to helping you start a business, throwing the business plan aside and helping you stop thinking and start doing.

Outside the Box

Looking for something that offers business lessons but isn’t just the standard fare? These books can be great additions to any MBA library.

50. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Created for military strategists in ancient China, this book has been applied with great success to the modern business world, offering sage advice to anyone heading into a situation that requires strategy and calmness of mind.

51. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

This acclaimed work of fiction offers an interesting take on economics and capitalism that any student of business should be familiar with.

52. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Euxpery

This fable of love and loneliness can be good reminder to businesspeople to remember what’s really important, as it satirizes a busy businessman.

53. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

This book explores the reasons why European societies were able to conquer most of the world, even felling some of the great civilizations in the new world. The same principles that apply to societies, however, can also be applied to business, giving you a whole new perspective on your place in the corporate world.

54. Against the Odds by James Dyson

If you need an inspirational biography to read, this might be just the one to give you a morale boost. It tells the story of James Dyson, who is familiar to most of us today, but who struggled through numerous failures in his designs along the way.

55. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

The key themes of this 14th-century political treatise are still timely today and offer the reader great insights into morality (or the lack of it) and power relationships.


This article was first posted on OnlineMBA.com.


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