UNC Kenan-Flagler Insights

Summer reading recommendations from UNC Kenan-Flagler

June 20, 2011 By Heather Harreld

booksBloomberg Businessweek contacted UNC Kenan-Flagler to ask our professors to make summer reading recommendations for business students. Dean Jim Dean and MBA Associate Dean Sridhar Balasubramanian shared suggestions, which Bloomberg Businessweek used abbreviated versions in “Summer Reading List: The B-School Edition” and “More Summer Reading for Business Students.” We thought you would like to see their full lists.

Recommendations from Jim Dean

1. The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed by Adam Bryant

Developing leaders is something I’m passionate about, and I’m a fan of Bryant’s “Corner Office” column in The New York Times. In his new book he shares CEOs’ lessons of leadership (failures and successes), key personality traits and life lessons that are insightful for new and seasoned managers whether at a Fortune 50 firm or a non-profit organization.

2. Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System—and Themselves by Andrew Ross Sorkin

3. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

To my mind, these are the two best books on the financial crisis. Too Big to Fail covers the days leading up to the government’s unprecedented intervention, from both the banks’ and the Fed’s point of view, and is based on incredibly rich source material. Don’t cheat and watch the HBO film! The Big Short describes the small set of individuals who saw what was about to happen and found a way to bet against the investments that almost brought down the economy. Truth really is stranger than fiction.

4. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Vision, passion, love, corruption, venality, politics, even leadership feature in this multi-generational epic set in medieval England. And it provides a decent primer on the design and construction of cathedrals.

5. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Avoiding clichés is impossible when describing this book. It is literally about the triumph of the human spirit over unimaginable obstacles. (I always wanted to write that sentence!) It’s useful to recall the story of Louie Zamperini when, say, the econ exam seems daunting.

Recommendations from Sridhar Balasubramanian

1. Your Creative Brain – Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life by Shelley Carson, PhD

Can you systematically “train” your brain to be more creative? This book offers readers a detailed roadmap to do just that. Fortunately, the author resists the temptation to solely focus on the “how-to.”  Instead, the book offers a rich and useful set of mental and paper-and-pencil exercises and conceptual insights that are anchored in a research-based understanding of how the brain works. The outcome is credible and compelling tome on a challenging subject.

2. The Emperor of All Maladies – A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD

This tour de force from a doctor and medical researcher describes the relentless fight between humans and cancer. It dives into anatomy, chemistry, psychology, and a half-dozen other disciplines, but ultimately reads like a gripping detective novel. For the business student, this unlikely source sheds light on how creativity and innovation can be applied to tackle fuzzy, continuously morphing problems, how combining distinct pieces of knowledge can lead to surprising insights, and how failure must be embraced and managed in innovative organizations.

3. The Decision Book: Fifty Models for Strategic Thinking by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler

This under-the-radar, pick-me-up gem of a book distils 50 models of relevance to business students into one slim volume. The models cover a range of topics, including those that explain individuals and the world, business and marketing strategy, project management, leadership, and psychology. Each model gets but a (sometimes whimsical) graphical sketch or two accompanied by sparse notes. Therein lies the beauty of this book – it demands some thinking on the part of the reader. A caveat: Some formal exposure to business concepts is useful towards assimilating and employing the models.