10 Books for Every MBA Student to Read in 2024

February 21, 2024
Stack of books

Kick off the year with inspiration and advice from some of the brightest minds in business. 

Most business leaders can point to a lofty stack of books that ignited their imagination and shaped the way they approach the world. Between the pages of insights, anecdotes and formulas for success lies immense potential for each reader. MBA students who aspire to take their degree and career to the next level should consider starting a library of success of their own. 

In 2021, we presented a definitive list of 10 books for every current and prospective MBA student to read. This year, we have sorted through more classic and newly-released books to freshen the reading list.

If you are looking for insights that stick with you throughout your MBA journey and beyond, take a look at our list of 10 books for every MBA student to read in 2024:

1. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein

In a world that pressures students and professionals alike to “niche down” as quickly as possible, generalists are often dismissed and overlooked. “Range” takes a closer look at research on the world’s most successful musicians, athletes, scientists and artists and draws a surprising conclusion: It is the generalists, not the specialists, who are best equipped to excel. The more interests, experiences and skills a person accumulates throughout their lifetime, the greater their capacity for creativity. If you are an MBA student who is struggling to fit into a neat, well-defined category, you might be exactly where you belong.

2. Atomic Habits by James Clear

Many people do not think consciously about the habits they form, but habits are the building blocks of our lives. “Atomic Habits” has helped leaders everywhere create better services, products and businesses by breaking old habits and forming new ones. As daunting as it sounds to rebuild the scaffolding of your day, it only takes small, incremental changes to get 1 percent better every day. If you are looking for practical advice that moves you closer to the leader you want to become, “Atomic Habits” delivers.

3. Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

Leave it to Peter Thiel to take the contrarian position that we are living in an age of technological stagnation. In “Zero to One,” the famed investor and entrepreneur argues that progress is based on learning to think more independently—and there is not enough independent thought across industries, regardless of the rapid advances in information technology in recent years. An MBA student with an entrepreneurial bent will find solace in the idea that there is plenty of uncharted territory left to explore. Rather than going from one to n, adding more of the same in a crowded lane, the most successful entrepreneurs of the future will go from zero to one, creating a brand-new lane in an unexpected space.

4. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Any MBA student who aims to think more strategically must first understand the way their brain processes information. In “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman describes the two systems that drive the way we think. One system is faster, more emotional and more intuitive while the other is slower, more logical and more deliberative. By understanding the ways in which these systems impact our perceptions, biases and decisions, we can gain greater insight into why we do what we do and become wiser leaders as a result.

5. Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz

Negotiation is one of those topics that tends to make incoming MBA students apprehensive, but they usually have a greater head start than they realize. Whether it is creating a cleaning schedule with a roommate or buying a car, life is full of opportunities for negotiation. No business education would be complete without practical knowledge of the tactics and strategies that lead to favorable outcomes in every situation, however high or low the stakes. Chris Voss, a former hostage negotiator for the FBI, shares principles for negotiation that are as useful in the boardroom as they are on the streets. In “Never Split the Difference,” MBA students will walk away with tangible guidance on how to become a master negotiator.

6. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Many students will relate to the story of Phil Knight, who had no clue what direction he wanted to take his career in his early 20s. In 1962, he borrowed $50 from his father to begin importing affordable, high-quality shoes from Japan and sell them from the trunk of his car. Today, Nike is one of the world’s most recognizable brands, with more than $50B in annual revenue and 80,000 employees. MBA students will draw valuable life lessons from reading about the heartbreaks, roadblocks, early wins and resounding victories that Knight has experienced throughout his career. 

7. AI 2041 by Kai-Fu Lee and Chen Qiufan

The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) seemed to happen slowly and then all of a sudden. Since the release of ChatGPT in November 2022, the explosion of new technology has elicited excitement, fear and trepidation across industries. In 10 compelling stories, “AI 2041” paints a portrait of how this technology might transform our world over the next two decades. From healthcare and education to entertainment and communications, nothing will be left untouched. Every MBA student can benefit from understanding the forces that will shape the world of work for years to come. 

8. Crucial Conversations by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler and Emily Gregory 

It has become a classic for a reason. “Crucial Conversations” trains business leaders to make the most out of every conversation, particularly those that involve high-stakes or controversial topics. Every MBA student knows—or will soon learn—that long-term success hinges on the ability to work through areas of disagreement with grace and empathy, even when others let their emotions get the better of them. This book draws on decades of social science research to offer strategies that can help them avoid common pitfalls and become more effective communicators.

9. Hidden Potential by Adam Grant 

Whether an MBA student pursues a degree at an early or late stage of their career, they have probably spent considerable time trying to discern where they are most gifted. Common wisdom tells us that if we identify our God-given talent and apply it toward a career, success will follow. “Hidden Potential” takes the opposite approach, arguing that our talent-obsessed culture downplays our potential to learn and improve. According to the author, an organizational psychologist and business professor, success is less about possessing innate genius and more about developing the character traits and strategy to persevere through the learning process. 

10. Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller

Too many business leaders struggle to connect with potential consumers because of the way they talk about the product or service they are selling. Ultimately, people make sense of the world in stories. Where there is a good story, there is a sale. “Building a StoryBrand” teaches entrepreneurs,  business owners and marketers to use the seven universal elements of effective stories to engage and sway consumers. Whether they go on to work in a marketing department or lead a company, MBA students will find value in this guide to crafting a message that moves people. 

Are you looking for more ways to expand your knowledge in 2024? Click here to learn more about MBA programs at Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business or fill out the form to speak directly with an Enrollment Coordinator.