Career & Success

Here’s What You Should Read over the Holidays

Seven Stanford business professors recommend their favorite books.

December 03, 2018

| by Steve Hawk Jenny Luna


A woman browsing the shelves at a bookstore. Credit: iStock/Satoshi-K

Looking for a good book to read in front of the fireplace during the upcoming holidays? You’re in luck. We asked several Stanford Graduate School of Business professors to suggest their favorite books, and their recommendations are delightfully diverse. Pour yourself some eggnog and read on.

Susan Athey, Economics of Technology Professor

Prediction Machines, by Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans, and Avi Goldfarb, 2018

“Companies across the economy are grappling with the question of how digitization generally, and artificial intelligence specifically, will affect their organizations and industries. The media tend to highlight impressive illustrations of the promise of AI, as well as many doomsday predictions about the future for workers, neither of which well represents the near future for most businesses. Prediction Machines is a down-to-earth and realistic look at AI from an economics and business perspective.”

Kostas Bimpikis, Associate Professor of Operations, Information and Technology

Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-Class Metropolis, by Sam Anderson, 2018

“It’s a fascinating tale of Oklahoma City’s history that in a unique way blends urban planning, supersonic planes, and sports.”

Lisa De Simone, Associate Professor of Accounting

Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande, 2014

“This book changed my life and the way I think about end-of-life care decisions. I shared it with my parents and as a consequence have had priceless conversations with them about how to help them manage this inevitable phase of life. They found it priceless, too, and seem to have bought the book for everyone they know!”

Amir Goldberg, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior

A Horse Walks Into a Bar, by David Grossman, 2014

“The protagonist in Grossman’s brilliant novel slowly disintegrates as he delivers hilarious but brutally painful stand-up comedy. Grossman is a master storyteller, and every word in this novel is meticulously placed. It is a poignant and beautiful reflection on the human condition. Reading it reminded me that the most insightful social science comes in the form of comedy.”

David F. Larcker, James Irvin Miller Professor of Accounting

Everything I Know About Business I Learned from the Grateful Dead, by Barry Barnes, 2012

“There are lots of great books on business that delve into fundamental concepts and new ways to manage an organization, but they can be fairly dry for the reader. This book is insightful, engaging, and provides some much needed humor for the holiday reader.”

Neil Malhotra, Edith M. Cornell Professor of Political Economy

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, by Robert Putnam, 2015

“An amazing book about the decline of equality of opportunity in America and the illusion of the rise of meritocracy.”

Ilya A. Strebulaev, David S. Lobel Professor of Private Equity and Professor of Finance

The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough, 2015

“An amazing story of perseverance and entrepreneurship.”

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