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Summer Reading: 10 Not-to-Miss Biographies of Great Business Leaders

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For successful admits in the most recent MBA admissions cycle, the date to arrive on campus at business school is fast approaching. If you’re looking for ways to spend your remaining summer leisure time, check out this list of not-to-miss business tycoon biographies. From tech titans like Elon Musk and the late Steve Jobs to the Oracle of Omaha and cosmetics empire entrepreneur Mary Kay Ash, the titles below promise to provide inspiring insights for soon-to-be MBA students of every stripe.

10 Not-to-Miss Biographies of Great Business Leaders

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

There’s a high probability you have some kind of Nike gear sitting in your dresser or closet. The ubiquity of the Nike brand is quite impressive when you consider it started with just one man selling shoes out of the back of his car. Phil Knight uses Shoe Dog as an opportunity to talk about his life and the rise of Nike, including detailing the various struggles the encountered.

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Love him or hate him— it is impossible to avoid the effect that Elon Musk has had on the tech sector. Musk’s companies have disrupted both the automotive and astronautical industries. His story—peaks, valleys, warts and all—will surely inspire burgeoning entrepreneurs.

Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist

Despite the existence of a more recent biography about Buffett (The Snowball), Roger Lowenstein’s 1995 volume, Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist, offers a more comprehensive overview of both Buffett the man and Buffett the investor. Using information gathered from friends, family members, and colleagues, Lowenstein takes a deep dive of his own into the paradoxical “Oracle of Omaha.”

business leader biographiesThe Mary Kay Way: Timeless Insights from America’s Greatest Woman Entrepreneur

Armed with a quality product and a simple premise, Mary Kay Ash created a cosmetics empire worth billions of dollars. The Mary Kay Way illuminates how anyone can kick off a successful business with a good idea. More importantly, the book offers several tips for how women can navigate all sorts of male-dominated industries.

Sam Walton: Made in America

Sam Walton embodies the American dream. With a single dime store, Walton created Wal-Mart, a multinational retail empire that has changed the business landscape. His story has the potential to influence future empire creators.

Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built

Former school teacher Jack Ma created Alibaba, one of the largest and most valuable Internet marketplaces in the world. Author Duncan Clark takes readers on a journey from Alibaba’s inception to its $25 billion IPO in 2014.

Hit Refresh

Not everyone longs to create their own operation; many prefer to devote themselves to solving problems that bog down an established organization. This is exactly what happened to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Hit Refresh surveys Nadella’s uncanny journey, as well as his efforts to reestablish Microsoft in the tech landscape.

business leader biographies

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Sheryl Sandberg’s memoir unpacks her experience of climbing the tech industry ladder to become Facebook’s COO. Sharing vital insights for women who want to survive and thrive in any industry, Sandberg’s book helped make “Lean In” a modern-day catchphrase paralleled by the likes of “YOLO.”

Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller

Ron Chernow’s history of the American businessman is renowned as one of the most important business biographies ever published. Chernow touches upon both Rockefeller’s dizzying highs and crushing lows to present a fully rounded image of the business icon.

Steve Jobs

Walter Isaacson’s biography of the Apple co-founder presents a complete portrait of the man, discussing his complexity while also highlighting the myriad advances that Jobs made in the business world. This story provides inspiration for anyone who wishes to pursue their dream.  

Jonathan Pfeffer
Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as Contributing Writer at MetroMBA and Contributing Editor at Clear Admit, he was also a co-founder of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.