10 Best Books for MBA Students [Recommended by CEOs] All through my MBA, books and online courses helped me develop my thinking quicker. I developed perspective for discussions and problem solving. In this article, I share with you the books recommended by CEOs to me which are the best books for MBA students and aspirants.

best books for MBA students

Here’s the thing, the smartest and the some of the most successful people have always admitted to be reading absolutely obscene number of books every month. And that’s why I though, why shouldn’t I write about the best books for MBA students and aspirants that will make you obscenely smart?

Just when I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning I came across an article on the 5-hour Rule which is followed by the most successful people in the world.

And what I read in that article will coincidentally serve as a really good starting point to this article in which I will tell you about the best books for MBA students and aspirants.

This article suggested how world’s smartest and the busiest people like Barack Obama, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett find at least one hour per day to read books (also known as the ‘5-hour-rule’).

Oprah Winfrey credits most of her success to reading good books and is quoted in that article to be saying that books were her path to personal freedom.

In fact, here’s what many others had to say about reading books.

But, I won’t recommend you to read books just because reading books worked for someone else’s life.

“Hey, I am a visual person. I can’t read books”

“I can watch videos and do courses, as long as the purpose is to gain knowledge”

“I heard a few podcasts this morning. I don’t need books for knowledge”

These are all the things I used to think till the first-year of MBA ended for me. And let me tell you, all of this is absolutely wrong.

Reading is for everyone. Even for those who think its not.

If you have been reading books since your childhood, that’s great. Now while you are going for your MBA, there’s all the more reason for you to read some best business books of all time.

On the other hand, if you haven’t read a book in your entire life, don’t worry. What is keeping you away from a great world of knowledge is just one interesting book that will make addicted to books.

I write this article specifically for the MBA aspirants. Those joining or  planning to join an MBA program soon.

So, let me help you find that first book which you should pick up right now to expand your horizons and develop a perspective before you even enter a B-school.

These are the 10 Best Books for MBA Students and Aspirants.

How did I begin reading and why should you!

I never read a book before MBA. Not more than 20 pages of any book which was not a textbook. And I told you exactly why.

But then, I picked up a book that hooked me onto it like crazy. This was in the 3rd term of MBA and the book was one of Seth Godin’s.

The book was un-put-down-able!

It was a short book and that was good. I read it in about a week’s time with not more than 30 minutes of reading each day.

And with that book I developed a flair for reading which I followed in all the other books that I read after that. I started highlighting all the important points I found in a book.

My habit of highlighting the important sentences in any book that I read

I did this so that I could come back anytime, skim through the book and revisit all those pearls of wisdom. Even if you read through a Kindle eBook Reader, which is a savvy way to manage books in MBA, you will be able to highlight statements in it using its features.

From that book, I got better at reading. I got faster at reading with each book that I read. I still used to highlight every important thing. No compromises on that.

And guess what, I developed a habit of reading one new book every 5 days! These were the best books to read for MBA students.

Most of the next few books I read were on Marketing. And I purposely did that because I found my interest there.

But then here’s how reading changed my life.

  • I was able to come across the perspectives of the best people in the business.
  • All those perspectives and experience came together to form my own perspective. This happens when you read enough and you are able to accept and reject things each book offers.
  • I was able to appreciate my classroom learning even more. All of that started making sense almost instantly.
  • My personality evolved because my thought process changed. It’s a beautiful feeling when you change from within, it need not really reflect outside.
  • I could talk extensively on a business problem because I had a better sense of things now after having read the industry leaders

And lastly,

  • I created a personal brand and a blog which is being read by thousands of people right now as you read this

At the end of it, if there’s one regret that I have then it is this. I wish I could have read these books before I joined MBA.

Just so that I could have approached my entire first term, my summer placements and the rest of my first year with this much knowledge.

And I have this regret only because I know that I was laying around at home before joining the MBA program when I could have been reading these great books.

Maybe tucked in my blanket, eating Oreo while reading them.

Which are the 10 Best Books for MBA Students and Aspirants

I suggest these 10 books to you out of my reading experience during my MBA. This reading experience is fairly rich.

Because most of the books that I read had been recommended to me by CxOs and Business Leaders when I approached them personally for guidance.

Take for example the founder of a leading Data Analytics company based out of Bangalore. This company has been really active in Politics/Voting based analytics.

I wrote to its founder, an IIM Bangalore alumni, and at least 50 other business leaders seeking reading suggestions. This is something that I always do.

One of the interactions seeking book recommendations from a CxO

I ask my faculty and industry people for their reading recommendations. The 5 best books that they have read.

Just like others, he replied to me with his list of best books for MBA students. I compiled and read the books suggested by other top CxOs and here I am with my list of 10 Best Books for MBA Students and Aspirants.

I don’t really feel or expect that you will be able to read all 10 of the books I mentioned below. I expect that you’ll be able to read around 8 of them (that is if your interest kicks in).

You could see it as a course - 8 books, 10 days per book.

So if you’re reading this on 1st of March you will have exactly 90 - 100 days before the first day of your B-school. Therefore, going through these books will put you in good stead.

More importantly, if I am recommending you to invest your time in these best books for MBA students, I realize that I have a responsibility of giving you a transformational experience through each book.

Each of these books should have and will transform you after you read them. The kind of transformation you need before an MBA.

Here are the best books for MBA students and aspirants that you should read.

1. So Good they Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport

I mention this book first in the list because this fundamentally changed my thought process about the work life.

I came across this book during my first year of MBA. Our Programmes Manager was conducting a batch meeting to redraft our B-school’s constitution. In one of his arguments he was making on the stage, he waved this book in the air to make one of his points.

That’s the first time I saw this book. He spoke about this book and some of the things that Newport mentioned in it that were relevant to us, the first year students, at that point in time.

Quite a few of us have passions that we wish to pursue. Most of us don’t, yet we strive to find our passion. We feel meaningless till we find our passion.

In this book, Cal Newport debunks this myth that “follow your passion” is a good advice. He says that the journey of finding your passion results in anxiety, feeling of worthlessness and chronic job hopping.

What he suggests is to move away from this ‘passion mindset’ and believe in that fact that passion comes after you put in the hard work to become good at something.

His narrative in this book is supreme. He uses examples and case studies of various people to suggest the recipe for success in any job.

There is not one thing that I dislike about this book. And that’s because somewhere this book calms your mind. Especially, when you are coming out from a job that you didn’t like (maybe) going into B-school, this book will set your thought process about career straight.

This is my first recommendation in the best books for MBA students and aspirants.

2. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey

Mental health, self-improvement and personal goals were not among the best of people’s interests when it came to reading books in the early 1980’s.

However, Stephen R. Covey, an American businessman challenged the conventional reading trends and extensively demonstrated the importance of self-improvement in his much-renowned works “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.

It acclaimed the title of an international bestseller pretty quickly. From top-tier businessmen to MBA students, almost all age-groups are reading and adapting to the ideologies proposed in the book.

As for me, I felt that it could really elicit my inner conscious and bring out all my strengths, weaknesses, hidden apprehensions out in the open.

The book talks majorly about ways to increase an individual’s effectiveness and how to accomplish personal/professional goals and become successful in life.

Although I believe that everyone’s definition of successful is different and how one achieves them is also their personal decision, but this book pretty well summed up the significant and unavoidable habits one needs to follow or adapt in order to have, what I can call – a better life.

The author talks about 7 major principles in the book- being proactive, beginning with the end in mind; putting first things first; thinking win-win; seeking first to understand rather than to be understood; energizing; and sharpening the saw.

In a nutshell, it is a great read if you’re looking for something strong in the “Self-improvement” genre.

3. The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell

This is one of the bestsellers that inspired the marketer in me to look for moments that can create magic. Malcolm Gladwell describes ‘the tipping point’ phenomenon.

The phenomena which he describes as the point where a thing, trend or an idea crosses the threshold and spreads widely across everywhere. Soon these ideas become the fashion trends and even cults.

The book was engaging throughout, from cover to cover.

Gladwell goes on to analyse a lot of trends that have taken over the world over the last few years. Further, he analyses what sort of personalities are the most potent to develop new ideas that have the potential to cross the tipping point.

The book is one of the best books for MBA students and aspirants.

Most of you aspire to be entrepreneurs and therefore this will be a thought provoking read, giving you clarity of what to look for when coming up with an idea and how to make it cross the tipping point.

4. How will you measure your life?, by Clayton M. Christensen

Clayton Christensen is one name that you will hear quite a few times during your MBA. Prof. Clayton is a professor at Harvard Business School and is highly regarded for his body of work in Strategy and Marketing.

I had only read his Harvard Business Review articles before this book.

When one of the business leaders I connected with suggested me to read this I was excited because I loved Prof. Clayton’s articles a lot but never knew that he wrote books.

This book is born out of a speech which Prof. Clayton gave to one of the graduating classes at the Harvard.

Prof. Clayton asks and discusses an important question ‘How do you measure your success?’. Having done MBA myself, trust me, this is one question that daunts most young business people.

Is money success or position or power?

Not just this, but a series of other equally though provoking questions and the author’s own experiences with illness and life make this book an extremely insightful experience.

5. Day to Day Economics, by Satish Y Deodhar

Definitely a book you should read even before your B-school interviews! This book is written by an IIM Ahmedabad professor, Prof. Satish Y Deodhar, and he does a fine job of explaining some of the toughest Economics concepts in the simplest manner.

I fortunately started reading this book much before coming for MBA. During the MBA right in my first year, I realized the importance of understanding Economics.

Because, when you understand Economics you also develop the ability to analyse the business scenario in context of the trends of economy and government policies.

Businesses are not run in isolation after all. They are run in micro and macro environments that are volatile due to various factors. This book describes all of those factors that affect the economy.

6. What I did not Learn at IIT, by Rajeev Agarwal

Here’s a little back story to how I came across this book.

The author Rajeev Agarwal is an entrepreneur who has an IT venture in the US. This company came to our campus to recruit.

One of the points mentioned in the job description was a strange and unique one. Something you’ll not see in job descriptions often.

It read that the candidates should have read this book written by the founder who was Rajeev Agarwal. I did not buy this book then, because I didn’t apply to that company.

I did read up about it on a blog (just like you’re reading this one right now) and I was convinced to at least give it a try.

Now, Rajeev has written two books, What I did not learn at IIT and What I did not learn in B-school. I went on to read both of them but right now I would suggest you to start off with the first one.

This book tells you less about Rajeev’s story of passing out from IIT and moving on to a job, but more about the lessons he has to share from it.

I had worked before my MBA and I know how relevant those points are that Rajeev made in this book. This book is aimed at inspiring you to create a basic work ethic and tell you about the intricacies of the world that recent graduates need to learn.

7. Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert T. Kiyosaki

This is one of my most favourite books. Frankly, I was in doubt whether to mention this book in this list of best books for MBA students and aspirants.

That’s because I thought it will be slightly distracting for the MBA aspirants considering this book talks about creating wealth and about financial freedom.

But then, I remembered one of the lines that I read in this very book.

The author mentioned how schools don’t make the students financially literate. And all you require to make money is to be financial literate and have a few other qualities that come with it.

This book talks about a really simple financial framework that explains the difference between the poor, the rich and the wealthy. I remember sharing that framework with my friends over dinners and lunches with full enthusiasm. As if it was my own framework.

But here’s the thing.

You need this book right now even before MBA because it will open your eyes towards the kind of things you should do to create assets that will eventually create wealth for you. 

8. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, by Richard P. Feynman

Engineers and Science students would enjoy this book the most. Richard P. Feynman, who is a Nobel Laureate in Physics, describe his adventures in his own style.

It is one of those rare books where a researcher comes out with his personality which is very unlike what you would expect of a scientist. And that is the coolest part of the book.

For example,Mr. Feynman was frank enough to admit that attracting women was a mystery to him, until he met a man who educated him.

You are likely to find some part of this experience chauvinistic and misogynistic. But then that’s what you must read it for. The book is real. The real and vivid explanation of a nobel laureate.

The serious part of this book also discusses topics like integrity in science (a topic which is rarely touched upon).

There is a lot to be gained from all of his experiences which this books brings together beautifully.

9. This is Marketing, by Seth Godin

I mentioned at the beginning how Seth Godin was the first author of whom I read a book completely. This is the latest book by Godin and has the same magic as All Marketers Tell Stories had.

All of you will be studying Marketing in the first year of MBA.

Even for those who wouldn’t take up Marketing electives after that.

You must realize that marketing and selling is the single-most important skill that can make you successful.

I often quote this from another book that I read. There are always “best selling authors” and not “best writing authors”.

At the end of the day whatever skill you may have, it needs to be paired up with the skill of sales for you to be successful.

And this book tells you exactly how to do marketing and how to sell. Trust me when I say this, Seth’s book on marketing can single handedly make you feel like an awesome marketer strategist.

I would never read his books just once. There’s so many different thing you can take from them every single time.

But here’s your time to read it for the first time so that you understand Marketing like no one else in your class would.

10. Six Thinking Hats, by Edward de Bono

Six Thinking Hats is a multi-million-copy bestseller business book which is authored by Edward de Bono. It basically teaches you how to run more effective and efficient meetings.

Questioning the flow of the typical meetings that we come across on a daily basis, Edward has suggested some simple yet impactful ideas in his book that could generate better, faster and more precise decisions.

So, in your MBA use all of these principles he talks about for your group meetings and see everything in action.

He talks about 3 fundamental principles which propels us in the direction of a conclusion- intelligence, experience and information.

These principles significantly impact the way we think, process and interact with other beings.

Whether it is an individual or an entire government, all beings are bound to act in a certain way which is biased by their own thinking process.

Edward de Bono invented the concept of lateral thinking by which we can possibly innovate better solutions and get creative with our perception of things.

I highly recommend this book for all the MBA students and aspirants out there who wish to stand out in the crowd and actually create breakthrough ideas.

It not just gives you a different approach to complex problems but also boosts your inner confidence and opens up new alleys of creativity which are practically applicable to real-world business knowledge.  

Some Free Books Resources

I mentioned some of the best books for MBA students and aspirants. Those are some of the best business books of all time and other books that business leaders and CEO recommended me to read.

As you may know, I also went ahead and spent a lot of time creating some Marketing eBooks of my own.

These books are a results of my own wishes as an MBA student. The books I wish I could have read.

I wrote these Marketing eBooks. I am offering the access to my Marketing Library for Free right now and I suggest you to go through them before your MBA.

Hope you enjoy the time till the first day of your B-school in learning some good new things from these books.

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About the Author:

Darpan is a Marketing Strategist & Consultant by profession and a blogger by hobby. He is an engineer by qualification and also an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Udaipur. In his 6+ years of professional experience, he has crafted go-to-market strategies for brands like Abbott (in Singapore), Genpact and CL Educate apart from the other small and medium businesses which have witnessed growth through his marketing and strategy consultation. Darpan has worked as a Product Head of the biggest vertical of an education technology company in New Delhi.
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