Ivy Exec Reviews: 5 Books to Use for a “DIY” MBA Reading List

Ivy Exec Reviews

There’s no substitute for the networking opportunities and one-on-one instruction you can experience with an MBA program. But this reading list will give you the basic tools to define your career goals and advance professionally. Our team at Ivy Exec reviewed the top reading lists in business strategy to come up with these five power-hitting titles. 

5 Books That Appear on the Top MBA Reading Lists

1. The Lean Startup

Eric Ries

The Lean Startup

The Lean Startup turned traditional entrepreneurship on its head; rather than focus on creating a business plan in painstaking detail, the lean startup tests multiple hypotheses from the onset. User testing is key to this approach, and companies produce only the minimum viable products for launch. The premise of The Lean Startup is based on principles of iteration, agile development, and adaptation. Some make convincing counterarguments (like Ethan Mollick from the Wharton School), but ultimately, this book is a necessary item in any business curriculum. 

Who is this book for?

  • Startup leaders
  • Established business owners
  • Department heads

Ivy Exec Reviews2. Red Thread Thinking: Weaving Together Connections for Brilliant Ideas and Profitable Innovation

Debra Kaye

Red Thread Thinking seeks to become “a way of life, a natural part of how you see the world, ask questions, approach new information, and achieve success.” It’s a helpful resource to tackle anything from launching a new business to managing a team, troubleshooting, and more. Ultimately, Kaye outlines concrete guidelines on how to challenge fixed ideas and find connections between seemingly disparate intuitions and pragmatism.

Who is this book for?

  • Innovators and industry disruptors 
  • Marketers and creative professionals 
  • Agile project managers and leaders

Ivy Exec Reviews3. Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value

William Poundstone

Behavioral science proves our decision-making abilities are as much informed by assumptions as by reason. Poundstone uses rigorous studies to demonstrate the effects of anchoring, priming, emotional investment, and prospect theory on pricing models—and he outlines real-world applications on how to harness those insights for maximum profitability. 

Who is this book for?

  • Entrepreneurs
  • Salespeople and stock traders
  • Financial decision-makers
  • Armchair economists

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Ivy Exec Reviews4. How Will You Measure Your Life?

Clayton M. Christensen

Clayton M. Christensen, Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, delivered a passionate speech to the graduating class of 2010. This talk applied principles of business, such as resource allocation, toward the idea of personal fulfillment. How Will You Measure Your Life? is the groundbreaking book that transpired as a result. It includes masterful strategic insight paired with philosophical explorations of happiness and “the good life.” 

Who is the book for?

  • Mid-career professionals seeking direction
  • High-achievers
  • Chronic people-pleasers
  • People trying to “have it all” with a career and active family life

Ivy Exec Reviews5. The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business

Josh Kaufman

With over 400 5-star reviews on Amazon, The Personal MBA is one of the most highly acclaimed books on business management ever published. It outlines how to conduct experiments to measure strategic performance, tips on agile decision-making, managing ambiguity, and increasing productivity.

Who is the book for?

  • Business leaders tasked with making important decisions 
  • Aspiring business leaders
  • Management consultants and entrepreneurs

Looking for books to add to your reading list? Ivy Exec reviews these six books on negotiating a business deal.


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