Summer Reading List: The B-School Edition

For aspiring MBAs, the summer is a time for quiet reflection, not to mention getting a jump on the competition through either an internship or other educational opportunities. Reading is another affordable way to expand your mind and give you deeper insight into management.

"I'm a fervent believer that information adds to knowledge, and knowledge is a powerful tool for good decision-making," says Hassell McClellan, associate professor of operations and strategic management at Boston College's Carroll School of Management (Carroll Full-Time MBA Profile), who used to have his own children read five to six books each summer and turn in one-page book reports. As a professor, he gives his students a list of 20 to 25 books, which he believes they should try to read over the course of their two years in the full-time MBA program.

Voracious readers could make for more successful leaders. Heather Elms, associate professor of international business at American University's Kogod School of Business (Kogod Full-Time MBA Profile), hopes that her students pick up the newspaper sometimes, too. "We want MBAs to be good citizens," she says. "To be a good citizen, you have to keep up with what's happening."

Judging by the readings on the minds of business school professors for the summer of 2010, the economic crisis, innovation and technology, and ethics are all top of mind. If you're looking for ideas for your own reading this summer, you might want to consider the picks below, culled from the summer reading lists that several business school professors recently shared with Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Management as a Profession

Business school students at Kogod often talk to Elms about the notion of making management a profession like medicine or law. She says her students have one of two reactions: Either they say, "I thought it was already a profession," or they say, "I thought management was about making as much money as you can."

Saddened by both responses but hopeful that students will see the value in professionalizing management, Elms says From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession (Princeton University Press, reprint 2010), by Rakesh Khurana, is a must-read book for incoming MBA students. "It will help you to understand the original motivations behind the institutions in which you'll study, the issues associated with management as a profession, and why it might be good for you if it were," writes Elms in her summer reading list.

Technology is also giving management aspirants something to think about. As iPads and Kindles become more popular and the Internet overtakes traditional publishing, businesspeople and writers alike are wondering what's going to happen to the printed word.Will it become extinct? The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2005), by Elizabeth L.Eisenstein, allows readers to look at the 1500s, a time when it was not clear whether hand-copied books or mechanically printed ones would rule the day, writes Dan Brooks, a professor at the W.P.Carey School of Business (Carey Full-Time MBA Profile) at Arizona State University, in his summer reading list. "For 50 years or more, the tide seemed to flow in one direction and then the other," writes Brooks. "For anyone interested in the shift from newsprint to Web sites, the history provides an interesting perspective."

An Ethical Education

Ethics is on the minds of Brooks and Elms as they set forth to educate the next generation of business leaders. For his part, Brooks suggests reading Fool's Gold: The Inside Story of J.P. Morgan and How Wall St. Greed Corrupted Its Bold Dream and Created a Financial Catastrophe (Free Press, reprint 2010), by Gillian Tett, which Brooks says is a great companion to the more recent The Big Short (W.W. Norton & Co., 2010), by Michael Lewis, which is a narrative-driven look at how the U.S. economy veered off course and crashed, thanks to the bond and real estate derivative markets. "Fool's Gold not only explains the technical details behind the economic turmoil of the past three years but ties in the behavioral influences of the investment community, the regulatory agencies, governments, and markets," writes Brooks.

Morality is an issue around the world. Short and sweet, yet thought-provoking, is how Elms might sum up Thick and Thin: Moral Argument at Home and Abroad (University of Notre Dame Press, 2006), by Michael Walzer. "It is a contemporary and politically active philosopher's straightforward account of how to think about ethics across borders," writes Elms. "It's better and shorter than most of the other treatments you're likely to ever encounter." And at about 100 pages, there are fewer excuses for not reading this one.

If right and wrong doesn't seem like your idea of a poolside page-turner, there are other options. Good enough for McClellan to give to his son when he was in high school, Talent Is Never Enough (Thomas Nelson, 2007), by John C. Maxwell, helps readers understand the various characteristics that contribute to success—from mindset and character to perseverance and passion. "This book is a great starting point for developing a healthy perspective on how to navigate the many relationships, demands, and challenges that will be encountered, and is useful reading for any profession," writes McClellan.

Globalization is also atop the priority list at business school. In The World Is Flat (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005), Thomas L. Friedman explains how technology is putting us in touch with others around the world more easily than ever and creating a burst of wealth in China and India. It is the only book that has appeared on at least one summer reading list since Bloomberg BusinessWeek began asking business school professors to share their suggestions in 2005. Writes McClellan, "For future executives and decision-makers, the subtext of work is a need for not only thinking about the world as a place of globally interconnected differences but rather unexplored commonalities and potential for collaboration."

For the complete lists of books suggested by McClellan, Elms, and Brooks, click here.

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