In 2015, I graduated with an MBA in Finance. My course program consisted of 20 classes on Accounting, Marketing, Human Resources, Finance (of course!) and some other things I’ve already forgotten. With tuition and the cost of books ringing in at $25,000 per year, I paid about $50,000 out of pocket for MBA. While $50,000 can hardly be considered “cheap”, it is a bargain as far as most MBAs go.
But there is one way to get a business education for even less: a good book collection.
I’ve been a voracious reader ever since I was a child, often burning through as many as 50 books per year. Throughout university, I read novels and non-fiction on top of what was assigned to my classes. I felt like reading always enhanced my education, and that was true through my masters degree as well.
This list and its categories and contents are just for fun! It’s not the equivalent of getting an MBA from a recognized school, but that doesn’t mean they’re not full of great information. I learned plenty from some of the books listed below that I didn’t get to learn in my MBA! I hope you enjoy this list and find something useful to pick up the next time you’re browsing the bookstore or your library.
These books will help you better interact with co-workers customers, clients, and even business rivals. When it comes to succeeding in any industry, people skills virtually always come first. Which is why it makes sense to make how-to-deal-with-people books the top of your list when it comes to improving your business education.
If “networking” is on your to-do list, How To Win Friends & Influence People will teach you how to do it successfully. You might think charm and charisma are natural traits, but this book actually gives you a step-by-step guide on how to woo anyone. The contents are extremely useful not only for situations like job interviews, but will also help you with securing clients, making sales, and even getting promotions.
I most recently recommended this book in my YouTube video, How to Negotiate Your Salary, but it’s been on my must-read lists for years. The book contains everything from how to find a job to how to write a resume to — surprise! — how to negotiate your salary. I used it in 2010 to land my dream job after my bachelors degree, and it’s been my most gifted book to new graduates ever since.
The Corner Office was actually one of my MBA textbooks. It’s an easy read, but full of great perspectives and advice from prominent leaders of major corporations. If you need something that’s ooey-gooey feel-good and chock-full of quotables, this is it. It’s reading you can pick up to take a break from the numbers and figures, without feeling like your shirking work.
If I had written this post a few years ago, I would have put Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” in this spot. However, since slugging through a few more years of work and becoming a mom, I think this is a better fit. What To Expect When No One’s Expecting can also fit in the next category (Economics) because of its focus on how changing demographics impact the economy, but I think it’s a worthy read to understand why it’s in every company’s best interest to support parents. Many millennials are foregoing parenthood altogether or choosing to have smaller, single-child families because of their finances and career. This is going to place a huge burden on governments in the coming decades. One of the best things we can do to ensure profitable economies and happy citizens is to support parents through maternity benefits, affordable childcare, and flexible work schedules.
I found my MBA economics classes fairly dry, but that doesn’t mean I hate the subject. In fact, economics books are some of my favorite pleasure reading. Priceless might fit better under Marketing than Economics because of its focus on consumer psychology, but since so much has to do with supply and demand (or the illusion thereof) it fits for economics.
This book introduced me to more technical economic concepts, like price elasticity, so when they came up in my economics textbooks, I already had a headstart on some concepts. Much like Priceless, Why Popcorn Costs So Much At The Movies discusses the consumer psychology behind why we buy, but also delves into
In the personal finance community, few people think beyond getting the things they need and want at the cheapest price possible and adding shares of Dollarama to their portfolio, but the cost of cheap is a lot steeper than most would think. This book opened my eyes to how high of a price we’re really paying in terms of environmental destruction and decline in the standard of living in order to get things at a discount.
Finance was my favorite subject in my MBA program, but when it came to reading material, my textbooks left a lot to be desired. That is, if we had textbooks at all, since many of my classes were based entirely on the instructor’s notes. Also, I had to endure a painful introductory Accounting education, and while I’m sure those textbooks contain valuable information, I wouldn’t recommend you read them. Accounting is boring, and it’s much easier to just pay to hire an accountant!
This has been my go-to investing book for half a decade, and it’s still the number one technical investing book I recommend to new investors. It’s a tome, so getting through it can be a drag, but it’s full of all the in-depth knowledge you need to evaluate common stocks for investment. Warren Buffet called it, “the best book on investing ever written”, but it was also written a long time ago (1949!) and there has been some major market changes since then. Nevertheless, it’s an essential read for anyone that wants to trade.
I took an entire course on financial derivatives in my MBA, and this was our textbook. If you’ve already built a solid investment portfolio of ETFs and blue-chip stocks, but are interested in taking your trading to the next level, this book is exactly what you need. As far as finance books go, it’s a short read in relatively simple language (assuming you already have a solid understanding of investing) that can help you make more money on your investments by trading options.
Despite the time and tuition fees I invested in my MBA, I never really ended up using my degree in the workforce. I had been employed full-time during the last year of my degree, and six months after I graduated, I quit to run Money After Graduation full-time. I’ve now been self-employed for two years, and while I’m still learning, there were a few books that really helped me on my journey.
I first read The $100 Startup years ago, and I’ve kept a copy on my bookshelf for things like the one-page business plan ever since. This is a great book that provides both inspiration and practical tools on how to bootstrap your idea into a real business that can support you.
Profit First came as a recommendation to me by fellow personal finance blogger Desiree at Half-Banked. Even though I had already been self-employed for a year by the time I read this book, my business finances were complete chaos. For all the control I had over my personal bills and bank accounts, I had no idea how to manage the money in my company. I operated on a complete “feast-and-famine” cycle, putting out whatever fire was most urgent and then paying myself what was left over. After reading Profit First, I had my business finances completely under control within 3 months, and within 6 months I was thriving — generating a profit even after paying myself!
The Pumpkin Plan is by the same author as Profit First, and while I didn’t like it as much, it did teach one major valuable lesson: fire your worst clients/products that are a headache to work with (even if they pay you well!) and focus all your energy on your dream clients/products. For anyone running a business and feeling like they’re getting nowhere but can’t figure out why, this is your answer.
What makes something go viral? Contagious breaks down exactly why some ideas take off, while others get left in the dust. Essential reading for anyone who’s humble enough to recognize that sometimes good ideas never make it, and wants to learn how to make sure they do.
There’s only one thing that drives a successful business: sales. But securing clients and customers is hard work, unless you know what makes people accept the pitch. I’m a big fan of Martin Lindstrom in general, and Buyology is another book on the same topic that I also loved.