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Books to Read if You're a Business Major

Updated: Nov 12, 2020

Hi, I’m Vanessa! I am a senior at Wilkes University studying management and entrepreneurship. Throughout my education at the Sidhu School of Business and Leadership, I have been challenged to research and explore the operations of some of my favorite organizations, such as Lululemon, Rothys, and Nike. I have even written research biographies on entrepreneurs who I view as role models, like Tory Burch and Coco Chanel. I learned that I not only performed well on these assignments, but I also enjoyed doing them. 

With that said, I combined my love for reading and my appreciation for gaining knowledge about the industries, brands, and individuals that I respect the most and organized a list of some favorites that I would recommend to anyone, especially fellow business majors. 

* These reviews are based solely on my own perceptions. To purchase any of the six books below, please click on their titles. 

#1: The Catalyst by Jonah Berger 

Jonah Berger is a professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania with expertise in why things catch-on in society and social influence. The Catalyst explains the reasons why people resist change and how to overcome those barriers. I loved this book because it challenged my typical method of trying to change someone’s mind. Usually, I continue to throw more information at others to support my case, as most do, but a true “catalyst” considers what the barrier is that is stopping an individual from changing and removes it. I have also applied concepts from this book concerning resistance to change to courses in other areas of study, like sustainability, and have gotten great feedback from it as well. 

#2: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight 

I won’t lie. This one’s a tear-jerker. Phil Knight chronicles his young adult life and his journey to founding Nike. A former runner, Knight started his career as a Japanese running shoe salesman, selling shoes from the trunk of his car at high school track meets. Years later, as tensions with his Japanese partners rose, he founded Nike with the help of his former running coach and a few friends. Knight transparently gave credit where it was due to every partner that he had throughout his career, which is something that I applaud him for. He also discusses his struggle to find a balance between building his company and being a present father to his sons. This raw, arduous, and incredible journey is one that I feel is truly inspiring to young entrepreneurs. 

#3: Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard

The founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, originally intended for this book to serve as a manual for his employees to understand the principles that the brand lives by. He shares his story of starting the company to fund his climbing excursions, and his apprehension to call himself a “businessman.” I was astounded by the description of the quality of Patagonia clothing, the benefits that the company offers its employees, and the initiatives that it has taken to make the clothing industry more sustainable. To the Patagonia employees, sustainability is a lifestyle, both in and out of the office. 

#4: #GirlBoss Sophia Amoruso

I know, I know. This one seems so typical … and it is. Sophia Amoruso is an unconventional entrepreneur (I think the best ones are), and she started her online retail empire through an eBay shop. She had been broke living in San Francisco and turned her eye for vintage clothing into a business opportunity. Unsure of herself at first, Amoruso was unprepared for the growth that her shop experienced, but she decided to embrace it and made NastyGal into what it is today. She does not hold back in this book, discussing her hiring tactics, her leadership style, and her journey to becoming the businesswoman she is today. 

#5: Onward by Howard Schultz

This is another tear-jerker, and it is potentially my favorite book on this list. Howard Schultz details his original vision for Starbucks, down to the quality of the individual coffee beans and the aroma he wants customers to enjoy in the shops. It is obvious that he is so passionate about Starbucks and its mission from his attention to every detail, concern for the well-being of each and every Starbucks employee, and dedication to finding and brewing the world’s highest quality coffee. He addresses that, when he stepped down as CEO, the company lost sight of its mission and focused too much on expansion. This made him return as CEO to fix these problems. It was a difficult journey, but the company succeeded because of his passion. 

#6: Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia

This book is co-authored by John Mackey, Co-CEO of Whole Foods, and Raj Sisodia, an international speaker on organizational philosophy. The Conscious Capitalism movement explains how businesses should exist for greater purposes than making a profit. They should stand for something, and they should be socially responsible because they want to, not because they have to. They explain how the issue with capitalism is not the free enterprise system itself, but rather it is businesses and leaders who lose sight of this greater purpose. Conscious capitalism strives to serve all stakeholders, including the communities in which it exists.   

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