Faculty Recommended Reading

We asked members of Babson’s faculty for some of their favorite reads.

The responses we received include everything from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and 2016’s National Book Award Winner The Underground Railroad to the inspiring story of Eleanor Roosevelt.

Happy Reading!

Build, Beaver, Build!: Life at the Longest Beaver Dam by Sandra Markle (Illustrated by Deborah Hocking)

I might be biased, but this children’s book about the life of a beaver kit at the world’s largest beaver dam is a must-read. It’s a beautifully illustrated and informative look into the life of beavers, who, just like those in the Babson community, are great at working together to build amazing things.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Peter Drucker

This is the first book to present innovation and entrepreneurship as a purposeful and systematic discipline that explains and analyzes the challenges and opportunities of both entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship. It was published in 1985. I recently listened to the audiobook version and was surprised by its timeliness.

The New Urban Crisis by Richard Florida

“Intellectual rock star” Richard Florida confronts the dark side of the creative economy he celebrated in The Rise of the Creative Class, and grapples with the gentrification, inequality, and segregation it has created in our cities.

The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida

In The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited, Florida further refines his occupational, demographic, psychological, and economic profile of the Creative Class, incorporates a decade of research, and adds five new chapters covering the global effects of the Creative Class and exploring the factors that shape “quality of place” in our changing cities and suburbs

The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

Lewis is even more engaging in this writing that usual in this book about a unique and important collaboration of two psychology researchers, Dan Kahneman and Amos Tversky, whose ideas have and will change the way we think about financial decision making, and decision making in general. Great read, important topic.

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Mind-changing ideas of how people make decisions and why. It will change the way you think about many things we do, so beware, this book has a consequence. Great read and, in paperback 500 pages for less than $10. Way more important than its cost suggests.

Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools by Jonathan Kozol

Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools is a book that exposes the stark differences between the kind of education affluent children receive in boarding schools or public schools in wealthy communities and the kind of deprivation that exists--in terms of teacher education, dedication, and outcomes--in inner city public schools. It is a book that will help each student contextualize his or her own experience and understand the extent to which s/he is privileged or under-privileged. 

Since disparities in education have tremendous consequences and help perpetuate the growing gap between rich and poor, this book is an important one. 

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

This book won a Pulitzer Prize in 2015 and tells the story of how humans have replaced evolution—we have become the force that decides which species will survive and which will disappear. I have taught it twice, and it packs a punch. A must-read for any educated person who wants to know what’s going on in the world today.

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

This book won a Pulitzer Prize in 2015 and tells the story of how humans have replaced evolution—we have become the force that decides which species will survive and which will disappear. I have taught it twice, and it packs a punch. A must-read for any educated person who wants to know what’s going on in the world today.

To the Finland Station by Edmud Wilson

It's a history of leftist, Marxist, and Communist thought and thinkers from the French Revolution to Lenin's April 1917 arrival at the Finland train station in St. Petersburg.  Lenin's return from exile was a dreadful event for the Russian people and changed the course of world history.  But World War I was on, so Germany gave him safe passage (in a sealed train) from exile in Switzerland to Russia.  The Germans hoped Lenin would come to power in Russia and make peace so that they could turn their full attention to the Western front.  The plan worked in the sense that Lenin did take power and make peace but not in time for them to prevail on the Western front, thanks partly to America's entry into the War in the same month that Lenin arrived at the Finland Station.

The rise of Communism may seem a dreary and boring subject these days.  But To the Finland Station is compelling reading and makes it possible to understand something of the excitement and attraction that Communism had for many, including many Americans, during the Great Depression.  Wilson was not a Communist or even a fellow traveler, having been disabused of illusions during a mid-1930s visit to the Soviet Union.  But he was powerfully drawn to the creation story of what in his time was one of the world's most influential economic and historical theories. To the Finland Station is a great example of the way history should be written.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Being Mortal is written by a physician and gifted medical writer who takes us through the aging process to our last days and what it means for care givers, young and old. This is relevant for yourself, or if you have elderly parents, or if you want to give this to your children to read. Gawande is a great storyteller who can make you laugh at times or move you to tears. I have used Gawande’s earlier articles in the past for summarizing strategy sessions at Babson executive education programs.

Destiny Disrupted by Tamim Ansary

Tamim Ansary is originally from Afghanistan but living and writing for some time in the United States. He also has authored many chapters used in U.S. textbooks that deal with Islam. This is the best book I have ever read on the history of Islam from the perspective of a Muslim, and its relevance for the world we are living in today. It is captivating, and I read it twice on a flight to China, once on each leg of the trip. The content of this book helps me understand events happening today, every day.

Plague & Cholera by Patrick Deville

Plague & Cholera is a book that received many prizes since its publication. Deville describes the life of a Swiss-born scientist, Alexandre Yersin, who joined the Pasteur Institute in France, became a navy physician in the French overseas maritime service, and discovered the vaccination for the bubonic plague in Hong Kong in 1894. Yersin chose to live in Vietnam for most of his life and became a scientist, botanist, and rubber plantation owner, and remains revered in Vietnam beyond all the changes and wars. The book is based upon painstaking research of Yersin’s letters to his mother and sister. Great read with many implications for our business lives today. I am using this book’s organization as the model for my next book on the history of a business organization.

Thank You for Being Late by Thomas Friedman

Thomas Friedman, longtime journalist for The New York Times, describes his book as a “guide to thriving in the age of acceleration” and is a superb book on the technological developments that shape our age, as well as globalization. Full of examples, this book is relevant to the debate in many countries about if and how globalization can be made to work for everyone. This was my daughter’s Christmas gift to me, and I found it to be a must-read book for today.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Moby Dick is a classic if you can tackle a 1,000-page book. I read it last year, together with my wife, and found so many situations that are of value even in today’s business and management life. The language is phenomenal, and the story keeps you engaged. If the book is too long for you, consider getting on the website of the Nobel Prize Committee in Sweden and hear the audio of the acceptance speech delivered by Bob Dylan. He made an extensive reference to this book, which he named one of the three most important books influencing his work.

The Most Important Thing Illuminated: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor (Columbia Business School Publishing) by Howard Marks

As a finance professor, I read many books in finance and the reference below is one of the few that profoundly changed some of the views I have held for several years. Reading it forces the reader to question their personal investment philosophy and reflect on their potential biases that we all suffer from. A must-read for both budding and seasoned investors!

The Coaching Manager: Developing Top Talent in Business by Babson Professors James Hunt and Joseph Weintraub

The Coaching Manager: Developing Top Talent in Business (3rd Ed.) provides a practical guide to managers and entrepreneurs in how to manage talent by coaching others at work. Much of our research in the new edition comes from the many Babson alumni and friends who have contributed their time and expertise during the last 20 years in Babson’s Coaching for Leadership and Teamwork Program (CLTP).

The Entrepreneur's Playbook by Len Green

The Entrepreneur’s Playbook encapsulates all the inside secrets, proven strategies and mistakes experienced by Len Green. Based on the beloved, Ultimate Entrepreneurship Course, this book will help to increase your ventures success through locating sure-bet opportunities to improve products, ways to find funding, strategies to make calculated risks, positioning, distribution, licensing, and minimizing risks. Tap into the best ideas and increase your chance of success!

The Poor Economics: A Radical Way to Rethink Global Poverty by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee

A comprehensive (yet easy to read) explanation of scientific advances in our understanding of how the poor live and make decisions, accompanied by what can be done to alleviate global poverty with scientifically-backed evidence. Simply the best book on this subject.

Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald

German writer W.G. Sebald is rightly regarded among the 20th century’s greatest writers. Austerlitz was his last book, and I have read it three times. In 1939, Jacques Austerlitz was brought from Czechoslovakia to Wales during Kindertransport: children fleeing the onslaught of Nazi Germany. As an adult, Austerlitz slowly gains information concerning his childhood, culminating in his mother’s deportation to Theresienstadt concentration camp. The novel combines photography, fact, and fiction to tell Austerlitz’s story. Once read, not forgotten.

Paris Stories by Mavis Gallant

I adore everything written by Mavis Gallant. She left Canada for Paris in the 1950s, the better to become a short story writer. The subtlety and wit of her fictional worlds are ever-renewing, as far as I am concerned. As a short story writer myself, I return again and again to stories like “The Ice-Wagon Going Down the Street” and “Mlle Dias de Corta” to learn, to laugh, and to marvel at Gallant’s emotional economy.

The Visiting Privilege by Joy Williams

This book gathers stories from a decades-long writing career, as well as new work. Williams is beloved by writers and readers alike, for the beauty of her language and her refusal to offer easy resolutions to very strange predicaments. Joy Williams knows more than most writers how to begin a short story, but gosh, does she know how to close one. She’s a literary treasure.

Reinventing the Bazaar: A Natural History of Markets by John McMillan

A fun, insightful look at the evolution of markets. Chapter titles such as “The Embarrassment of a Patent”—referring to quotes from both Thomas Jefferson and the U.S. Supreme Court discussing the awkwardness of the government granting monopoly power—and “Come Bid!”—discussing the evolution of auctions and the new power of online bidding—give a sense of the tone of the book. I recommend this book to students who want to understand markets better or just have a fun economics read, and I often pull this book out to find great examples to back up what I teach in micro and managerial econ classes.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

Why? Pirsig explores the depths of self-reflection along with why and how to apply the concept of “quality” to all things in life. Everyone can take something different out of reading this book.

Sapiens by Yuvol Noah Harari

Why? In this book, Harari explores how humanity has traveled through the cognitive, agricultural, and scientific revolutions and the societal constructs we have created to survive. Especially notable are the “shared myths” we have created, like money and firms, and the unifiers we have created—money, empires, and religion.

Homo Deus by Yuvol Noah Harari

Why? His follow-up work, where Harari explores the future of mankind through the lens of the inevitable march of evolution and technology. Thought provoking and informative, a must-read for anyone looking to manage a career in the rapidly approaching age of machines.

Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut

Why? An excellent exploration of the purpose of humanity in the face of automation. Perhaps even more relevant today than when it was written.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Why? Whether you agree with it or not, Rand does an excellent job of provoking thought on the role of business and government in the lives of the broad public.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Why? An excellent read of basic principles of working with others, if you read it through that lens. Wisdom for the ages.

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Why? Sir Terry Pratchett’s first book introducing the reader to the wild and fantastical world of Discworld. The cross section of Harry Potter, Monty Python, and Doug Adams’ Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Mort by Terry Pratchett

Why? Perhaps his best work, exploring his creative depth with my favorite of Sir Terry’s characters, Death.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet, by Jesse Itzler

Jesse Itzler is a serial entrepreneur and will try almost anything. Living with a SEAL is his story of living and extreme training with a NAVY Seal for a month. Fun fact, Jesse and his wife Sara Blakely were inducted into Babson's Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs in 2018. The book is very entertaining, and is available on Audible - a great way to "read". 

Disciplined Growth Strategies by Peter Cohan

I wrote it for students in my Strategic Problem Solving class—which I am told is required for all Babson students to graduate. And, I believe it can help companies to brainstorm, evaluate, and execute strategies that accelerate and sustain high growth.

The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

Lewis is the author of many well-known books (including Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, The Big Short) about both the benefits and dangers of quantitative thinking applied to business and sports. In this latest (2016) work, Lewis chronicles the unlikely friendship and groundbreaking work of the quantitative psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Kahneman and Tversky demonstrated that the human mind had a tendency to mislead us when we are dealing with randomness and uncertainty, and Lewis’ account of their discoveries is both thought provoking and exciting.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

In her book, Becoming, Michelle Obama shares her story from growing up in Chicago to her last days in the White House as First Lady. This memoir  will inspire readers to cherish their own “story” and to live that story with purpose and gratitude.

The Innovation Navigator - Transforming Your Oganization in the Era of Digital Design and Collaborative Culture by Sebastian Fixson

Innovation is a top strategic priority for firms across all industries. In The Innovation Navigator, explore four innovation archetypes or modes – "specialist," "venture," "community," and "network" – which feature prominently in the expanding innovation landscape.

The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh

It’s an interesting analysis of the cultural debate around climate change. Recommend it highly.

No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends by James Manyika, Jonathon Woetzel, and Richard Dobbs

I won’t give away the four forces—you’ll need to read the book (or its reviews)—to see them. But, I will recommend this book for those who think broadly about innovation and entrepreneurship. It provides a reasoned explanation of how the world is changing, which should provide entrepreneurs with useful ideas about opportunities and constraints.

The Chessboard and the Web: Strategies of Connection in a Networked World by Anne-Marie Slaughter

Although the title of this book makes it seem as if it’s about the internet and the book’s arguments rest to some degree on the connectivity provided by the web, it’s really about politics and new ways to think about how political power is best wielded.

Online Communities as Agents of Change and Social Movements by Steven Gordon

Of course, I have to recommend my own book, which is an edited collection of research addressing the political and social impact that online communities and social media can have upon the world. Full text is available online at the  website.

What if?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

If you like xkcd, you will love this book.

The recommendations stated herein represent only the view and/or opinion of the stated faculty member and do not constitute the view nor opinion of, nor an endorsement by, Babson College or any of its subsidiaries.