What do HBS Students Read?

February 3rd, 2008

One of the small things I like at HBS is that the school gives us all course-related books for free. I don’t think it’s the same at other schools, and it could have easily mounted to thousands of dollars per year just for books. Not a big deal maybe compared to the ridiculously high amount of money we pay as tuition, but still a nice touch.

As a book lover, I thought it could be nice to start a list of the books we’ve been given for courses and otherwise. Some of them are more technical reference books, but some are interesting general management / business books.

If you feel like reading the books read at HBS, there’s an Amazon link for each one. The list is divided according to courses and I’ll try to keep it updated as we get new books.

And speaking of Amazon and books, the new Kindle device is one cool thing to read books with…

The Case Study Handbook: How to Read, Discuss and Write Persuasively about Cases / William Ellet: this book was given to all HBS Pre-MBA students and proved to be useful especially when preparing for a case-based exam. It’s also an interesting read for everyone interested in the “mechanics” of HBS case method – what is a case? how do you approach a case? It also contains a few sample cases.

Microsoft® Office Excel® 2007: Data Analysis and Business Modeling / Wayne L. Winston: I wasn’t an Excel expert before starting HBS – yes, I knew how to use it and build formulas and charts, but I’ve never used Pivot Tables or did any sophisticated business analysis or financial models. This book – unlike many other Excel books I looked at – is really good because it doesn’t just explains Excel in a documentation or reference format, but rather gives practical, real-life, business examples and then shows how to solve them in Excel. So instead of just theoretically explaining Pivot Tables, it poses the question “Suppose you have data about salespeople, sales regions and sold products, and you want to know what’s the total sales of each salesperson in each region and of each product” – you get the idea. For me practical examples are the only way to learn and therefore I highly recommend this book. A similar version exists for Excel 2003 /2000 – here.

Barbarians at the Gate – The Fall of RJR Nabisco / Borrough, Helyar: a 500-pages classic we’re reading for one Finance 2 class sometime in March, and is actually quite a good read. It’s about the rise and fall of RJR Nabisco, a tobacco and food conglomerate in the ’80s, and I think an alternative title for it could have been “creative uses for corporate cash” – the CEO and his top executives were so creative in spending company’s money it’s just unbelievable – corporate jets, luxury apartments, cars, you name it.

Getting Unstuck: How Dead Ends Become New Paths / Timothy Butler: I just love Dr. Butler, head of HBS Career Services Office at HBS. Ever since I first heard him speak at HBS Admit Weekend last year, I was impressed by his psychological / philosophical approach to life and career in a place where people are frequently driven by a cold rationale of money and power. The book is a career advice guide for people who feel stuck in their current career (=90% of MBA students), and has some practical exercises for finding a new career path. Some of the exercises are on the verge of bizarre, including guided imagination and semi-hypnosis… I’m probably the last person on earth to be drawn to such things, and yet when Dr. Butler gave us a workshop based on the book at HBS I found myself being mysteriously hypnotized and miraculously finding my goals in life. No, really!

The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Business Law / Bagley, Dauchy: I only got this book a few days ago for our Entrepreneurial Manager course – which hasn’t started yet so I can’t really comment on the book. In light of the recent events in Israel getting this book is a bit ironic, but oh well. Apparently some people need to read books and some don’t. :)

Shaping The Waves: A History Of Entrepreneurship At Harvard Business School / Cruikshank: notable entrepreneurs in the last 50 years who are HBS MBAs.

Analysis for Financial Management / Higgins: a short, concise and sometimes funny (yes!) introduction to corporate finance. HBS recommended (actually more than just “recommended”) reading parts of it before starting school, and it was definitely helpful before and during the first weeks of the first term.

Corporate Finance / Berk, DeMarzo: More than you ever wanted to know about finance in this comprehensive reference book: DCF, arbitrage, CAPM, options, bonds and other goodies. With more than 1000 pages, it can also be used as a doorstop.

Dictionary of Finance and Investment Terms / Downes, Goodman: a very good dictionary to use when one of the investment bankers in your section says “market cap” / “EBIAT” / “Poison Pill”.

Excel Applications for Corporate Finance / Adair: quite useful even for people who know Excel but didn’t use all of its financial functionality before (NPV, bonds etc.). HBS required us to read parts of this book before starting school.

BGIE (Business, Government and the International Economy)
A Concise Guide to Macro Economics: What Managers, Executives, and Students Need to Know / David A. Moss: Macro Economics for dummies. No complicated graphs, equations or models. Short, too. Written by HBS Professor Moss.

Introduction to Financial Accounting / Horngren, Sundem, Elliott, Philbrick: comprehensive reference book for everything that’s accounting – balance sheet, income statement, statement of cash flow etc. Useful but a bit lengthy at times.

Cost Accounting / Horngren, Datar, Foster: Cost Accounting is taught at the second part of the FRC (accounting) course at HBS. I have to admit I never liked the topic, but the book is good if you’re into this thing.

3-d Negotiation: Powerful Tools to Change the Game in Your Most Important Deals / Lax, Sebenius: Most people will negotiate multiple times in their lives, however most people will never learn negotiations in a formal way. This book does a very good job in explaining and expanding a lot of concepts that feel intuitive but are actually much more complex than they seem (like ZOPA – Zone Of Possible Agreement or BATNA – Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement). It also presents ways of negotiating Win-Win agreements, by maximizing value creation for both sides and then claiming value (for yourself). Recommended!

20 Responses to “What do HBS Students Read?”

  1. CS @ HBS » Blog Archive » Toposts Says:

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  2. Anonymous Says:

    do you have the booklist for the RC? how can i obtain the list?

  3. cs@hbs Says:

    Most of the books here are for RCs (I noted the course name in the book description). There isn’t a “list” per se and the books actually change ever year – this year’s RCs received slightly different books than these ones. But these are a good start IMHO.

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  9. Nick d Says:

    Love the book list, I’ve been looking for something like this for a while scouring the coop website not realizing that HBS just gave students the books. The one topic that i am foaming at the mouth for that seems to be missing here is books on marketing. If you could add a section or shoot me an email of a few of your favorites from that class i would be grateful. Anyways thanks for taking the time to compile this list and good luck with everything you do!

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  11. HBS MBA: Learn about it first, apply second! « Adam Markus - Graduate Admissions Guru Says:

    […] While Harvard Business School is most known for its use of the case method (80%), many other top programs use it typically 30%-50% of the time with the remainder consisting of lecture, experiential learning, simulations, and other methods. In addition to HBS, Darden and IESE are also schools that primarily use the case method. By the way, if you want to know what HBS students read in addition to case studies, see http://www.computersexy.com/blog/2008/02/03/hbs/what-do-hbs-students-read/. […]

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    Probably not. Although many of them have the MBA degree, they tend to work in andutiig and accounting. To the extent they advance to higher management position, you would be in competition with them as with any other MBA wanting to move up.To find a suitable MBA program, consult the Official MBA Guide, a free service with more than 2,000 programs worldwide.

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