Skill and knowledge are not the same thing. However, one can rarely exist without another. So, when you are approaching an MBA course you are doing so to learn certain skills. And if you are able to bring the knowledge required before learning the skill, you will be the most holistic candidate ever!

There are two ways to learn about businesses, either you need to run one or you need to read about someone who has run one. Since the first is unlikely to happen for you at this stage, let’s try option number two!

Here is a list of books along with a short synopsis. Each of them is highly recommended by MBA professors and AdComs worldwide. We strongly recommend reading at least a few of them before you walk into a top B-school interview.

So, let’s get started.

1. How to Win Friends & Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

Carnegie’s business lessons are truly timeless and although this was published way back in 1937, it is recommended even today by top entrepreneurs such as Warren Buffet. In this book Carnegie provides the ultimate skill combination required to succeed in business and it is a must read for every MBA aspirant. As someone who wants to take on the global business world headfirst, this book will prepare you like no other.

2. Connect the Dots, by Rashmi Bansal

As an applicant from India, this is a must-read MBA book! It tells the story of 20 Indian business leaders and how they did without an MBA. If you are thinking that’s somewhat against you, no it’s not. This book will teach you to be critical of what you learn ahead and also ensure that your idea of what is necessary to succeed is not something out of this world.

3. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D.

This is of course a book based in psychology. But, with the modern business world so heavily reliant on dynamic marketing, psychology becomes an important tool for someone who aspires to spearhead a business organization. It also provides a great lesson on business ethics which is truly important in our times.

4. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth

This is a book that’s hot in every top list be it Forbes or The Washington Post. Duckworth takes a critical angle at the world of business and presents a case that passion is a much more valuable asset to a business leader than being a genius. She even goes to the extent of using science to prove her views. Clearly, it’s a must read if you want to challenge your viewpoint with an open mind.

 5. The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham

While investments are not the typical aspirations of an MBA, understanding the world of investing through a myriad of lenses allows one to understand how to shape their business. This book is also highly recommended by Warren Buffet.

 6. The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success, by William N. Thorndike, Jr.

Another one from Forbes’ must read business books list, this tells the story of 8 underdog business owners who played the long game and won. We all more or less know the stories of the greats, but it’s truly refreshing to learn about the success of those who made it from the ground up.

 7. See Sooner, Act Faster: How Vigilant Leaders Thrive in the Era of Digital Turbulence, by George S. Day and Paul J.H. Schoemaker

How leaders deal with problems is something we all need to learn from, and this book sums up a good number of such cases. From MasterCard to Shell Global, many companies have been faced with turbulent times and you can now learn about how these leaders guided their ships through stormy seas.

 8. The Infinite Game, by Simon Senak

This book is truly apt for the current age. Senak, the multiple bestselling author, in this book describes how to keep a business afloat in an everchanging world. And to many business owners the market can be a scary object due to its constant changes. This is a book to understand how you can also constantly evolve and use that as a business skill.

 9. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike, by Phil Knight

Memoirs are some of the strongest books available and you should definitely read one or two in order to momentarily step into the shoes of one of the greats. And what better shoes to step into than Phil Knight, the founder of Nike! Give this a go; it will probably keep you up night after night!

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

Learning the ropes is highly necessary, but to be able to think outside the box makes you an asset like no other. The authors conducted a series of interviews with top business leaders and penned down when the rules no longer mattered to them. This book can seem harsh at times, but that is also a much needed reality check.

 11. The Lean Start-Up, by Eric Ries

Adopt, adjust and innovate – that’s necessarily what this book teaches you to do. If you have an entrepreneurial mindset, then this is something you should definitely not miss out on! The faculty from Harvard had high praises for this book, and the author is also a successful entrepreneur. Make sure you pick up an e-copy of this masterpiece!

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

Self help books are a dime a dozen. But, this is recommended specifically to MBA aspirants because it is written by and draws examples from business leaders. Even if you don’t want to go into depth about how you can become a better you, skim through this book, and you will not be disappointed.

 13. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, by Peter Thiel

More than half of the applicants to top B-schools have a startup in their mind. But, you need to hold that thought and learn whether you are really ready for it. And this is the book that will definitely help you realize that. Thiel states that as an entrepreneur you need to act like a pioneer, somebody with an open mind. If that didn’t get you interested already, Thiel’s visionary achievements as an entrepreneur should!

 14. Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

Finishing off this list with something that’s a bit off center, but it’s still a great read for MBA students. This book talks about the different mental frameworks one has and how they influence the people around them. It can be a bit of a slow read, but in the end it might just change your life!

Final Words

Books can do what no other thing can. That does not undermine the documentaries you watch or the podcasts you listen to. But, books are a direct look into the minds of entrepreneurs, industry leaders, and business gurus. That is why you will often be faced with the question at a top MBA interview, ‘what is the last book you have read?’

Hopefully you were able to shortlist a few entries from this list. Now head to amazon and let the reading begin!

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