Since the admissions season hasn’t really started (even though it has) we’re going to throw out some useful and productive ways for you to keep yourself busy and your head in the game for this whole MBA shindig you say you’re interested in.
We’re gonna give you a reading list.
Today we’re offering a random assortment of books that we find interesting and relevant for one reason or another for Brave Supplicants and others who profess to be interested in business.
‘Cuz after all, getting an MBA is about studying business, right?
These are in no particular order, but the first has – lucky you – been made into a movie. We mentioned it here a few months ago and maybe you’ve seen it.
It’s called The Big Short and the movie we talked about is certainly worthwhile, but the book is, too. It’s about the economic crisis of 2007-2008 and it explains in lay terms how everything fell apart and which parties’ bad behavior compounded to create the threatened downfall of the entire economic system. It’s by Michael Lewis (Moneyball , Liar’s Poker , The Blind Side, and other incredible stories) and the movie was directed by Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and other brilliant pieces of art).
Michael Lewis has this gift of educating you without you noticing it. The guy is amazing. Highly recommend all of his work.
If you’re interested in business then you need to understand how the economic forces (and incentives) contributed to the problems that we all lived through.
One that has not yet fully played out is (no coincidence) another Michael Lewis contribution: Flash Boys goes into the technology behind high-frequency trading and its implications for all of us, that most people are totally unaware of. We were reminded of this just recently when seeing Steve Wyman’s comments from Wynn Casino’s Q1 earnings call where he complained about the “unconscionable manipulation” of the stock market and he referenced this book. If you want to go deeper into that world, then this blog will lead you to all sorts of places.
Again, if you’re interested in business, you need to be aware of how these things work and the changes that are going on in the world of finance.
Another book that relates to Wall Street but this time from the perspective of the young analysts that work there is Young Money by Kevin Roose. This book came out at exactly the same time as Flash Boys (unfortunate timing, actually, as Flash Boys eclipsed it a bit, in our opinion) and we’ve mentioned it here on the blahg before mostly because it’s so darn relevant to so many of you. This one is about culture. The author followed a crop of new college grads from Princeton to the major New York banks and told their stories; it’s a bit biased (anti-bank) but it’s still very much worth reading.
All of the books we’ve named above are relevant to you even if you don’t think you care about finance.
Now, on the MBA specifically, we’ll toss out a mention of two books coming from opposite ends of the argument:
The recently released You Should Totally Get an MBA by Tuck grad Paul Ollinger
And on the flip side: The MBA Bubble: Why Getting an MBA is a Bad Idea by Mariana Zanetti
In case it’s not clear, that’s meant as point and counterpoint.
We have not read that second book. Obviously EssaySnark’s position is that the MBA is indeed worth it, but if we understand Zanetti’s argument, it’s essentially that there are too many people out there with MBAs and the degree does not hold its value. We’re not going to condemn the logic of that (except to say, wouldn’t that also hold true of the bachelor’s degree then??) since like we said, we haven’t read it – but we don’t think it’s all that relevant to our audience here on the blahg. Most of you do, in fact, want to go get an MBA, for whatever reasons you hold. There might be value to you in reading that book as a way to evaluate and possibly question your motivations, to cross-check your assumptions before plunking down all this time and money and effort to trying to get into bschool, so we’re tossing it out there as a resource to consider (again, untested; we have not read it – but hey, what’s with that cover image, is the author saying that anyone holding an MBA is an airhead?!??).
The other book we’re mentioning because, well, the guy who wrote it is pretty funny. He’s, like, a comedian, and his Twitter is worth a follow . (Oh hey while we’re at it: Are you following EssaySnark on Twitter too?)
So is the “Totally!” book worthwhile for you?
We hafta say…. Prolly not. 🙁
Not if you’ve already made your way to this blahg, it’s not.
Because it’s too high level and basic. He does stuff like tell you about GMATClub as if you’ve never heard of it. Yeah, that. If you’ve managed to find EssaySnark, then we’re assuming you’re a little bit further along on the learning curve for the MBA application process than that.
This book would be AWESOME to kick down to a little brother in college who’s thinking about his options and what to do with his life. Or to that second cousin twice removed who hits you up on Facebook because his mom told him to ask you if you’d help him get into grad school.
We have to throw Ollinger some major points though. We’re definitely kindred souls. Like in chapter 3 where he corrects you before you blunder:
[Y]ou are seeking admission to “business school,” not to “MBA school.”
Just typing those words here is painful.
Saying “MBA school” is like saying “diploma school.” Doctors don’t go to “MD school.” Lawyers don’t go to “JD school.” So badass future holders of the MBA don’t go to “MBA school.” They go to business school.
As you can see, we feel the same:
The phrase "MBA school" is so annoying.
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) July 26, 2014
There's no such thing as "MBA school." Do people talk about wanting to go to "MD school" or "JD school"?
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) October 21, 2014
LOL "Col MBA schl" MT @brainpicker Off to teach a class at the Columbia MBA school on networked knowldge+combinatorial creatvty is.gd/vsmCr5
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) October 3, 2011
(We assume that we both came up with those examples independently.)
The actual how to get in advice? Pretty darned lightweight. This person is not an admissions consultant. He has not been in the trenches with applicants. He doesn’t claim to be offering admissions advice per se, so perhaps we should not fault him for that – but we figure, if you’re going to be spending your hard-earned money on a “I wanna MBA!!” book then it probably should have a bit more hardcore value in helping you get in. Like we said, the guy is entertaining (at least on Twitter – didn’t actually LOL in reading the book but we did crack a smile in places) however the actual info quotient in this one is probably not worth the $$ for most of you BSers. Of course, it might make a very a good Christmas present for someone you know who’s in the earlier stages of the process!
Finally, and also in the category of maybe not worth it for most of you, but one that hit our radar based on, again, the subject of working on Wall Street:
Opening Belle would probably be what they call “chick lit” – it’s a novel about a female MD (Managing Director) at a finance firm when the economic crisis began. The author, Maureen Sherry, is a Columbia MBA and was an MD at Bear Sterns, so she’s writing from a place of experience, though the story is fiction.
It’s a bit heavyhanded on the sexism angle so this won’t appeal to everyone, but she does a decent job of explaining some of those market forces that Michael Lewis goes into in greater depth. If you want a beach read this summer (and probably more so if you’re female) then perhaps it’s worth picking up.
So there you have it, a list of books you (might) want to check out. If you’re planning on applying to bschool this year then getting in a habit of work during your spare time is a very good practice indeed. Picking up a business-y (or MBA-ish) book or two and making a point of reading through them quickly can help you exercise those outside-of-work productivity muscles.
Soon enough you will be up to your ears in essays. Dipping a toe into this world, particularly if it’s all new to you, is a good way to get started.
Disclosures: Affiliate links to Amazon in this post mean that if you click through and buy then EssaySnark gets a few pennies for sending you there; also, Ollinger sent us a free promo copy of his MBA book (thanks dude!!) though he never asked for a review and all opinions expressed here are clearly the ‘Snark’s alone.
Here's what others have said about this:
A quick question(s) – when I look through the forums and this blog (strike through) blahg – I mostly see stuff revolving around finance, product management, general management etc. Isn’t there a psychological side of running a business? Psychology in terms of consumer behavior, negotiations, and so on.
Is psychology far apart from MBA or a niche within MBA? What do you say?
@apoorvbhargava – fascinating question and yes, psychology is very, very important to running a business! At least some of what you’re describing comes through the standard MBA curriculum of organizational behavior (helping to manage change in organizations), and then of course the psychology of consumer behavior is part of marketing, and bschools offer separate courses on negotiations. We don’t often post about psychology per se but certainly it’s intertwined with all of this stuff; it’s an underlying thread, especially when the bschool environments are so team-focused, too. Many bschools use things like psychological assessments as part of their leadership training as well. So it’s all interrelated, but psychology itself is not typically a core course or subject offered in an MBA curriculum.
Does that answer your question?
Indeed helpful to understand how these two are linked.