A summer reading list for prospective business majors (and everyone else)

beach_book_400What is it about the summer months that make reading more conducive? Whenever people pack for the beach or a trip to the great outdoors, they usually will include at least one or two good books.

It only seems natural to have a good page-turner for when you’re sitting under the umbrella as the tide rolls in or when you’re swinging in the hammock — in between the naps.

We recently received a request from a national news publication about recommendations from Indiana University Kelley School of Business professors for fiction books that incoming freshman should read over the summer.

U.S. News and World Report featured this tip from Jamie Prenkert, professor of business law. He suggests that incoming freshmen read the Herman Melville novella “Billy Budd,” which he first read in college as part of a seminar on the death penalty in law and literature.

Professor Prenkert recommends the Herman Melville novella "Billy Budd."

“If students think of the ship as an organization and Captain Vere as its chief executive, the novella’s themes of leadership, duty and principle, and the individual versus society raise important questions for future business leaders,” Prenkert said. “Though the story offers little in the way of answers, it is excellent food for thought.”

Melville began writing Billy Budd in 1888 and left it unpublished at his death in 1891. The novella was published in 1924 and is considered a masterpiece of American writing today.

While the magazine could only feature one recommendation from one IU professor, I thought you would like to hear about other faculty members’ suggestions.

Scott Shackelford, an assistant professor of business law and ethics, recommended a science fiction classic, “Ender’s Game (Tor Science Fiction, 1994)” by Orson Scott Card.

“At its basic level, this novel tells the story of a boy and his friends who save the world, but at a deeper level it uncovers an impressive array of leadership and managerial best practices that have been appreciated in institutions as diverse as the Defense Department to boardrooms to Hollywood,” Shackelford said.

"Ender's Game" was a great book before it was a movie.

“From how to stay innovative in a competitive marketplace to seminal lessons in dispute resolution, gaining the respect of senior colleagues, and leveraging the power of small groups to take on big issues, this entertaining read is chalk full of lessons for the 21st century junior executive. And of course, it’s also good preparation in the event of an alien invasion,” Shackelford added.

If the book sounds familiar, perhaps it’s because you took your child to see the film version of the story, which came out last year, starring Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley.

Joshua Perry, assistant professor of business law and ethics, suggests “The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement (Random House, 2013) by David Brooks, senior editor at The Weekly Standard and a contributing editor at Newsweek and National Public Radio commentator.

“It is a fictional boy meets girl story that is reasonably entertaining, but it’s the infusion of social science insights about why we humans act the way that we do that makes it extremely thought-provoking and practically useful,” Perry said. “Students in all disciplines — but particularly business — need to appreciate the importance of social and emotional intelligence, behavioral economics, positive psychology and other empirical explanations for the conscious and unconscious ways in which humans make decisions and create their lives.”

indexH. Shanker Krishnan, chairperson and professor of marketing, suggests a book that may be more familiar to many people as an Academy Award winning film, “Life of Pi.” The screenplay for the 2012 film directed by Ang Lee was adapted from a 2002 novel by Canadian author Yann Martel (Mariner Books).

“It shows how Pi faces uncertainty and difficult environmental circumstances — including a tiger on the boat — to creatively solve problems,” Krishnan said, adding, “Very applicable to the business world.”

While these books were suggested for incoming freshman, I hope you’ll find them worth considering as you pack for the beach, the back woods or wherever you like to do your summer reading.

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