10 books every MBA student should read

Inspired by this list. 

Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung by Mao Tse-Tung: Inspiring thoughts from a leader who commanded a nation of three quarters of a billion and only killed 20-ish million of those people. Not many CEOs these days have had this level of success.

Key Quote: “The masses have boundless creative power. They can organize themselves and concentrate on places and branches of work where they can give full play to their energy; they can concentrate on production in breadth and depth and create more and more undertakings for their own well-being.” Think about THAT next time you’re micromanaging. 

Skinny Bitch by Rory Friedman and Kim Barnouin: This classic treatsie on weight loss for the American female that speaks to the American female like the American female is 12 years old and going through puberty is how you should speak to your employees. They’re not demotivated. They’re just lazy bastards. So take that doughnut out of your mouth and get to work on the TPS report.  Employees like to be spoken to this way. Trust me on this. There’s a reason this condescending book has been on the bestseller list for 12 million years.

Key quote: “Okay. Use your head. You need to get healthy if you want to get skinny. Healthy = Skinny. Unhealthy = Fat. The first thing you need to do is give up your gross vices. Don’t act surprised! You cannot keep eating the same shit and expect to get skinny.” Teaches great communication skills. 

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy The conference room is always a battlefield, and what better way to understand that than through actual war.  Everyone always reads Marcus Aurelius or Sun Tzu. Screw that. You’re better than that.  You are going to read 1500 pages of war by a Russian dude.  Russians are always more intense.

Key Quote: “Because of the self-confidence with which he had spoken, no one could tell whether what he said was very clever or very stupid.”  Think about THAT next time you’re giving a presentation. 

The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank Tells us the power of the imagination and innovation, that even a girl under extreme danger would still have had the strength to make up imaginary names to address her diary entries to.  Also, the power of documentation. If Anne Frank’s father hadn’t been able to publish the book based on her complete entries, he would not have made any money whatsoever.

Key quote:“Because paper has more patience than people. ”  Again, speaks to the importance of documentation and scoping out projects and products. 

 The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald Really speaks to the greatness of the American dream, the reason many of us go to work, and indeed, start down the MBA path to begin with:  to host lavish garden parties and impress the hell out of other people with our leather-trim Lexuses and the fact that we get our Stumptown coffee straight from New York. Anytime you question the fact that you have multiple  years of education but are still working 12-hour days, read this book and bask in the greatness of Jay Gatsby.

Key Quote: There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired. And all of those are MBA students. 

Freakonomics and the Tipping Point Don’t know enough about economics, psychology, or statistics, but need to at your level in the organization to make it look like you know what you’re talking about?  These will give you a quick primer that will make you seem like you just did a PhD at Harvard. You can also insert tidbits from the books into witty conversations at cocktail hours and coworkers’ houses.

 Key quote: The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Tell this one to your social media intern and have her make it go viral or something for $6/hour. 

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert Sometimes we need to take a break from the rat race and unwind. MBAs as a general rule work too hard and don’t play enough. So, quit your job, forget about your $60k in MBA student debt, and go to some exotic destination with a book advance, hoping that you’ll hit it as big as Gilbert, who now has a second bestseller out.

Key Quote: This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something. You can tell your team this next time there’s no room in the budget for them to get promoted. At least they’re trying and pure of heart. 

__1984 by George Orwell There is no book better than this on company culture. It’s true that some people may initially not be team players and resist changes. It’s your job to gently remind these people that going along with company culture will be better for all of us collectively in the end, because what is an organization but a collection of people? Great people. Your people.

Key Quote: Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood. This is the overall ethos to keep in mind as a manager. 

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling What better analogy for M.B.A. students is there than someone who has no prospects, is living under the so-called staircase of life as a metaphorical junior analyst, then, via magical owl and spells and a school that is probably costing upwards of $50k a year if you include room and board, tuition, NOT TO MENTION transportation, becomes the hottest commodity wizard in the entire magical kingdom, and takes down the biggest, baddest wizard out there. You can think of the wizard as the top competitor in your industry and you as a young start-up leader if it makes you feel better about yourself.

Key quote:I don’t go looking for trouble. Trouble usually finds me.Exactly that badass machismo that MBAs need to build character. 

Dilbert by Scott Adams Corporate life is funny sometimes, and MBAs need a good laugh from time-to-time. What’s funniest about Dilbert is that Scott Adams has no idea how corporate life actually works. Because he was an engineer, and not a business student, in the workforce, he’s missing a lot of the subtleties of life and his cartoons aren’t often sharp-witted, but adorably clueless, like Anne Geddes pictures. Laugh at Adams and the empire he has built on top of that naiveté.

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