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MBA Reading List: "Year One"

Posted in Test Prep on November 13, 2010 by

Welcome to this week’s installment of Knewton’s MBA Reading List. The books we’ll cover are some of the essential texts for anyone interested in management and entrepreneurship — plus they provide some excellent GMAT-level reading practice!

This week’s pick: Year One: An Intimate Look Inside Harvard Business School by Robert Reid

Why It’s Worth Your Time: Whether you’re headed to HBS, contemplating an MBA, interested in exploring career options, or looking to reminisce about those good ol’ b-school days, Year One is the classic business school memoir. Published in 1995, the memoir is beginning to date but will likely gain relevance in the years to come as a reflection of the time and culture in which it was written. Supposedly drafted by Reid during his first year of business school, the memoir is every bit as “intimate” as its subtitle suggests. The book provides a first-hand account of what Reid terms the “lemming march”–the process through which over-achievers double-down at every stage in their lives and continue to compete for prestigious jobs.

What You’ll Learn: In short, exactly what business school is like on a daily basis – from the trivial details to the aimless thoughts, habits, and anxieties. Reid covers the intricacies of the admissions process, the tensions involving study groups and class seating arrangements, the recruiting process, the stress over grades (despite non-disclosure policy), and the competition for summer internships. Unfortunately the book ends rather abruptly after the first year; readers will undoubtedly wonder what happened to Reid and his friends and where they are now.

Want to Read More? Though Reid and some of the other characters are generally ambivalent about the value of the degree (and in some cases, the direction of their lives), they are more or less glad to be in business school and pleased with their career prospects and positions in the world – thus the book’s light-hearted tone and gentle humor. For a more critical (and comical) review of the MBA experience, read Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA by Peter Robinson, a former Republican speechwriter who was admitted to Stanford GSB in the nineties, found the coursework exceedingly difficult, and was hired post-MBA for an elite media job with Rupert Murdoch only to be fired soon after during the ensuing recession. Robinson’s counterpart to Reid’s tamer memoir has been called “wild, weird, and totally accurate” in its depiction of the absurdities of the top MBA.

One-Sentence Takeaway: Candid, funny, and detailed, Year One is a precise account of the first year of the HBS MBA experience.