7 Books to Help You See the World Differently

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Tuesday, July 11, 2023
By AACSB Staff
Photo by iStock/praetorianphoto

Looking for a riveting read during your break? Consider one of these books that readers say expanded their understanding of our increasingly complex world.

What’s on your reading list? We recently posed that question to users of The AACSB Exchange to discover what books had captured their attention so far in 2023. We were particularly interested in works whose subjects reached beyond business education, offering unexpected or innovative insights that expanded the reader’s view of the world.

The books they proposed ran the gamut, from one simplifying the world’s complex global economy in a way that everyone can understand to one delving into the importance of bringing people together. Another discusses how our toughest challenges can act as our biggest inspirations, while others provide greater insights into the idiosyncrasies of Generation Z, the evolution of democratic governments, and the impact that one person’s behavior can have on others.

Below is our curated list of titles, perfect for a midyear break from the whirlwind of academic activities. We hope that at least one will spark curiosity, inspire a new idea, or provide greater understanding of our increasingly complex global landscape.

  1. Talking to My Daughter About the Economy, or How Capitalism Works—and How It Fails by Yanis Varoufakis

George Sakoulas, marketing manager at experiential learning provider Edumundo, enjoyed readingTalking to My Daughter About the Economy, in which author Yanis Varoufakis seeks to simplify the concept of capitalism—a force that affects nearly everyone in the world, but that few truly understand. Better yet, says Sakoulas, Varoufakis does so in a way that is both practical and engaging. It’s how I talk to my daughter about economics, only better,“ Sakoulas says. As he explores the nuances of capitalism, the author discusses everything from how the ancient Mesopotamians invented the written language to track food surpluses to what the author calls the “black magic of banking. This book, says Sakoulas, is for anyone who is curious about “how we got into this mess and wants a simple way to explain the current state of capitalism to others.

  1. Generation Z Unfiltered: Facing Nine Hidden Challenges of the Most Anxious Population by Tim Elmore
Generation Z Unfiltered offers a comprehensive understanding of the current generation of students, says Carla Mandell, project and data manager and instructor at RutgersThe State University of New JerseyCamden. Mandell appreciated the way Tim Elmore “helped me better understand and learn how to navigate the differences in students today.” She says the author’s rundown of Generation Z’s biggest concerns illuminated her own role as a parent and as an educator and helped her realize how she contributes to the challenges young people face today. As Elmore puts it, this generation’s “best chance of success starts with adults believing in them, challenging them, and walking with them through nine of the greatest challenges they’ll face.” This book is a must-read for parents, educators, hiring managers, and human resource professionals who will be working alongside this generation in the coming years.
  1. The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker
In The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker encourages us to reconsider the way we bring people together and the purpose behind it, says Jason Harkins, executive dean of Maine Business School. Parker asks readers to reconsider what is involved in forming groups in which people can interact with one another in the most beneficial ways. Harkins says that the book helped him realize that “one of the most important things you can do in building the guest list is identify who should NOT be at the gathering.” This book, he adds, is for “anyone responsible for bringing together people to accomplish some purpose,” whether that purpose is delivering an enjoyable experience or achieving a critical business outcome.
  1. Contagious Culture: Show Up, Set the Tone, and Intentionally Create an Organization That Thrives by Anese Cavanaugh
Mari W. Buche, associate dean of the College of Business at Michigan Technological University, recommended Contagious Culture for its practical advice on creating and maintaining effective and positive work cultures. Buche found Anese Cavanaugh’s explanation of a technique called an Intentional Energetic Presence especially useful. The book explains “the contagious ripple effect of behavior in the workplace,” says Buche. “It is often vivid and startling to see the impact of one person on individual moods, communication, outcomes, and work culture.” Buche recently felt this impact herself during a visit to a fast-food restaurant, where the manager was yelling at workers for moving too slowly. “I felt my attitude change from positive to negative almost instantly,” Buche recalls. According to Cavanaugh, people who behave in such a “culturally toxic” manner should be held accountable by their organizations. Buche believes anyone could benefit from reading this book, but it could be especially enlightening for those who are currently in or aspiring to be in positions of leadership.
  1. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumph by Ryan Holiday
Stephanie Bryant, executive vice president and global chief accreditation officer of AACSB International, nominated The Obstacle Is the Way, which delves into the lessons of stoicism. In the book, Ryan Holiday provides time-honored wisdom on “turning trials into triumphs” through his study of how historical figures successfully navigated challenges. According to Bryant, the book teaches readers how to make choices based on pragmatism rather than emotion. “The book taught me to look at obstacles differently,” Bryant says. “Obstacles can be fuel for ingenuity and innovation.” Bryant recommends this book to anyone who wants to learn how to turn the “mental, physical, emotional, and perceived obstacles that we face every day” into advantages that can lead to personal growth and progress. As Holiday puts it, “the path is there for those ready to take it.”
  1. From Development to Democracy: The Transformation of Modern Asia by Dan Slater and Joseph Wong
Geoff Perry, executive vice president, global membership officer, and managing director of AACSB International’s Asia Pacific office, had two recommendations to offer, which both put the world’s current political climate into historial perspective. In the first, From Development to Democracy, Dan Slater and Joseph Wong analyze the rapid transformation and democratization of 12 economies in East and Southeast Asia over the last 70 years, discussing how each nation followed a different path. The authors present a framework that shows that, contrary to conventional wisdom, “several Asian authoritarian regimes moved to democracy not as a last resort but as a proactive strategy,” Perry explains. The authors also look into why other regimes did not become democracies under similar conditions. This book, says Perry, will appeal to those interested in the evolution of East and Southeast Asian nations, as well as those fascinated by authoritarian and democratic regime change.
  1. China and Russia: Four Centuries of Conflict and Concord by Philip Snow
Perry’s second recommendation, China and Russia, explores the interaction between these two global giants over the past four centuries, up to 2022. He appreciated the book’s “in-depth analysis of the relationship between them, through the conflicts and alignments.” Perry found of particular interest the way Philip Snow juxtaposes the views of ordinary people with those of the leaders and decision-makers of each era. The book’s comprehensive examination of the histories of these two countries shows that, as the author puts it, “Nothing is eternal in human affairs.” According to Perry, Snow’s analysis will intrigue anyone who is interested in learning more about geopolitics and understanding the dynamics between these influential countries.


Do you have another title that you think belongs on a business educator’s “must-read” list in the coming months? If so, submit your suggestion to be considered on a future list of recommended reading. Our thanks to everyone who submitted the compelling titles above!

The views expressed by contributors to AACSB Insights do not represent an official position of AACSB, unless clearly stated.
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