10 Books Every MBA Should Read

May 27, 2021

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Even in the era of movies, TV and podcasts, books are still a great way to learn something new. Books can inspire us, show us a new perspective and help us work through roadblocks in our personal lives and professional careers.  

We consulted those in our alumni network to find out which books have been most influential in their lives. Using their recommendations, we compiled a list of 10 books that every MBA should read. 

Influence by Robert Cialdini 

“While there are many books centered on behavioral psychology, this is one of the earliest that provides practical examples and usage of those principles. The principles outlined in this book can be used in everyday examples such as how to get the best price when buying or selling a used car and are used to shape consumer behavior when staying at hotels or showing support for political candidates or initiatives. Direct work applications include negotiating, garnering leadership support and when additional stakeholder buy-in is necessary to move projects forward.”  
— Shawn Davis ’18 MBA, Senior Advisor and Product Owner, CVS Health 

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Integrity is All You’ve Got by Karl Eller 

Written by our namesake, Karl Eller, this book chronicles the highs and lows of his career, the guiding principles that helped lead to his success and important lessons that managers and entrepreneurs can apply in their roles and organizations.  

Recommended by Sylvia Muñoz ’92 BS, ’02 MA, MBA Admissions Manager, Eller College of Management 

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Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin 

“This multiple biography is centered on Lincoln's mastery of men and how it shaped the most significant presidency in the nation's history. Historian Goodwin illuminates Lincoln's political genius, as the one-term congressman rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals to become president. When Lincoln emerged as the victor at the Republican National Convention, his rivals were dismayed. Throughout the turbulent 1850s, each had energetically sought the presidency as the conflict over slavery led inexorably to civil war. That Lincoln succeeded, Goodwin demonstrates, was because of his extraordinary ability to put himself in the place of other men, to experience what they were feeling, to understand their motives and desires. It was this that enabled Lincoln to bring his disgruntled opponents together, create the most unusual cabinet in history and marshal their talents to the task of preserving the Union.” 
— Simon & Schuster 

Recommended by Lisle W. Payne ’64 BSBA (Marketing) ’67 MBA, Chairman, Payne Family Foundation 

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Secrets of Question-Based Selling by Tom Freeze 

“For nearly fifteen years, The Secrets of Question Based Selling has been helping great salespeople live you deliver big results. Its commonsense approach has become a classic, must-have tool that demonstrates how asking the right questions at the right time accurately identifies your customer's needs.  

But consumer behavior and sales techniques change as rapidly as technology—and there are countless contradictory sales training programs promising results. Knowing where you should turn to for success can be confusing. Now fully revised and updated, The Secrets of Question Based Selling provides a step-by-step, easy-to-follow program that focuses specifically on sales effectiveness—identifying the strategies and techniques that will increase your probability of success.” 
— Sourcebooks 

Recommended by Thomas C LaMantia ’87 BSBA (MIS), CEO, Magenium Solutions 

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How to Lead by David M. Rubenstein 

“The essential leadership playbook. Learn the principles and guiding philosophies of Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey and many others through illuminating conversations about their remarkable lives and careers. 
 
For the past five years, David M. Rubenstein—author of The American Story, visionary cofounder of The Carlyle Group, and host of The David Rubenstein Show—has spoken with the world’s highest performing leaders about who they are and how they became successful. How to Lead distills these revealing conversations into an indispensable leadership guidebook.” 
— Simon & Schuster 

Recommended by Walt Zipperman ’69 BSBA, ’75 MBA (University of Santa Clara), Senior Managing Director, Accenture 

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Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard 

“In this newly revised 10th anniversary edition, Yvon Chouinard—legendary climber, businessman, environmentalist and founder of Patagonia—shares the persistence and courage that have gone into being head of one of the most respected and environmentally responsible companies on earth. 
 
From his youth as the son of a French-Canadian handyman to the thrilling, ambitious climbing expeditions that inspired his innovative designs for the sport's equipment, Let My People Go Surfing is the story of a man who brought doing good and having grand adventures into the heart of his business life-a book that will deeply affect entrepreneurs and outdoor enthusiasts alike.” 
— Penguin Publishing Group 

Recommended by Steve Morrison ’10 MBA, Director, Full-Time MBA Program, Eller College of Management 

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Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson 

“Based on more than forty interviews with Steve Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than 100 family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing and digital publishing. Isaacson’s portrait touched millions of readers.” 
— Simon & Schuster 

Recommended by Jim Muzzy ’63 BA (Economics) ’64 MBA, Co-Founder, PIMCO 

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The Road to Excellence by David Mattson 

The Road to Excellence identifies the common blind spots that can take any business off track. The book gives you six powerful leadership strategies that, when followed, make it easier for you to find the answer the critical question: What, exactly, stands between my company and organizational excellence—and what do I do about it?” 
— Sandler Training 

Recommended by Kristen Garcia-Hernandez ’05 MSM, CEO, Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona 

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Blink by Malcolm Gladwell 

“In his breakthrough bestseller The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell redefined how we understand the world around us. Now, in Blink, he revolutionizes the way we understand the world within. Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant—in the blink of an eye—that actually aren't as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work—in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others? Blink reveals that great decision makers aren't those who process the most information or spend the most time deliberating, but those who have perfected the art of ‘thin-slicing'—filtering the very few factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables.” 
— Back Bay Books 

Recommended by Mike Myers ’88 BSBA, ’92 MBA (University of Southern California), Managing Director and Founder, Cross and Wild/CrowdPharm 

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The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz 

“While many people talk about how great it is to start a business, very few are honest about how difficult it is to run one. Ben Horowitz analyzes the problems that confront leaders every day, sharing the insights he’s gained developing, managing, selling, buying, investing in and supervising technology companies. A lifelong rap fanatic, he amplifies business lessons with lyrics from his favorite songs, telling it straight about everything from firing friends to poaching competitors, cultivating and sustaining a CEO mentality to knowing the right time to cash in.” 
— Harper Business 

Recommended by Jay Hernandez ’98 BSBA (Accounting and Finance), ‘04 MBA (Georgetown University), Managing Director and Sector Head of Industrial Technology Investment Banking, Raymond James 

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