And the result? Well, I managed to get through the five books I set myself. Even then, it was difficult, with continuing projects and internships getting in the way of solid reading time. And in the end I missed out on the stretch goal of reading Don DeLillo’s "White Noise", something I will have to remedy in the week after exams and before graduation.
So what were the key takeaways from each book, and is it worth reading them yourself?
Guns, Germs, and Steel (Jared Diamond):
This didn’t disappoint. Jared Diamond could rightly be called a true polymath, moving between diverse topics to weave together a compelling narrative of human history. It blows apart former theories of human civilization, and does it in a way that is thorough but eloquent. A definite read if you have the chance.
Customers for Life (Carl Sewell):
After the dense and heavy work above, Sewell’s manual of customer service, told through personal experience and anecdote, could easily be interpreted as light fare. However, even though the style is straightforward, the lessons put forward in the work make it an eye opener for anyone in business. It’s another great exponent of the “Texan Capitalism” concept, in which you make money precisely because you invest in the wellbeing and development of your staff and your customers.
International Business: The Challenge of Global Competition (Donald Ball et al.):
This was a bit drier in its content, but being a textbook that was to be expected. Still, it prepared me well for the course, especially since there’s a weekly quiz on book chapters. Perhaps the biggest takeaway though was that I had been referring to the American supermarket chain Trader Joe’s as “Aldi for hipsters”; it turns out that Trader Joe’s is actually owned and operated by Aldi. For hipsters. (No disparagement meant to either Aldi or Trader Joe’s – I shop at both.)
Hooked (Nir Eyal):
This read almost as a step by step guide to designing the next killer web app, with a clear logic model and case studies of how it is applied in real services. Combine this with a good book on entrepreneurship, and a guide to coding for iOS and you’d basically have a road map for an internet startup.
The Life of a Stupid Man (Ryūnosuke Akutagawa):
Finally, I got to read something that wasn’t academic. Akutagawa’s stories are a fusion of Japanese and European styles, minimal in size and structure, but with rich imagery and powerful emotion. I was pleased to find that within the collection was the short story “In a Grove”, the investigation of a murder as told from each of the actors. The story would become the basis for Kurosawa’s cinematic masterpiece “Rashōmon”.
And that was as many books as I could get through in the break. The last one was finished with a few hours to spare. The book pile is that little bit smaller, and with no time to spare, as the required course readings began to pile up straight away. Such is the way of the MBA.
As a footnote to this post, there a couple of things to announce this week. Firstly, (and I’ve been sitting on this for a while), I was selected as a winner of the Golden Key International Honour Society Graduate Scholar Award for Fall 2014. It’s an internationally competitive and prestigious award, and I am honoured to have been selected. More importantly though, the award, which recognizes the potential of the recipient to contribute to society through academics, leadership, and service, is a reflection of the high quality of the MA/MBA program at SMU. In that sense, the honour is as much deserved for my faculty, friends, family, and fellow students who have supported me throughout the journey.
The second thing to announce is that there’ll be no (substantial) blog post next week as I’ll once again be representing Southern Methodist University and the Cox School of Business at the World MBA Rugby Championships in Danville, Virginia. Wish us luck.