Recommended Books For the CAT (And GMAT)


  • Director, Verbal Ability | Elite's Grid


    Recent Classic Fiction : These are usually well known books that have some of the best style and rich vocabulary.

    1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - One of the most romantic books on the list. Though it will capture you, leave a very warm feeling and may even make you cry, the main value of the book is its stunningly beautiful language and great history insights (Do you know who a bootlegger is?).
      Review by someone: "The book is easy to understand because it is a romance. While reading, you imagine the scene, every detail.You may find some "elder" words reading it, such as "any body" instead of "anybody", but nothing like you would find reading an original text by Christopher Columbus . Still, the story has a rich vocabulary."
      Someone said that the book has some tough parts that could make one cry, but I did not even got "sad".
      The bottom line: it worth both your time and your money
    2. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - the most well know of Steinbeck's masterpieces. Not the best value for the money with only 92 pages, but it has the most cultural value as everyone in the US read, watched, or heard of it.
    3. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck - a story about a group of good-natured bums living in Salinas, Northern California in the 1920's and 1930's - the book has plenty of humor to keep you cracking through all 200 pages - a quick read. A movie with the same title has been made based on this book. 4.5 Amazon stars based on 233 reviews.
    4. Daisy Miller by Henry James - definitely one of the most romantic books by James, but he has fantastic English - 3 line sentences and more on 128 pages.
    5. A Movable Feast by Earnest Hemingway - a very inspiring book about the writer's years in Paris. Ideal book for a trip - great language, good sentence structure, and great useful vocabulary.
    6. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov - great language and style. Also the annotated edition will keep you much more in sync with all the references. The most famous of Nabokov's pieces and one that coined a name for itself in history.
    7. Sidartha by Herman Hesse - if you ever wondered about the meaning of life or how to be happy - read through a short book about an Indian boy who seeks enlightenment and satisfaction. This is one of the most famous works by Hesse. He received a Nobel prize for his life-long contribution to the world's literature.
    8. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro - fantastic language and a very interesting book about the life of a British butler. A movie has been made based on the book, but it is not even 10% as good.
    9. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden - 2,500 Amazon reviews probably speak for themselves. This was the first book I read after starting business school - good language, captivating plot that will have you read through nights and a lot to learn about early 20th century Japan and the role of a Geisha. I read it over a course of several weeks and when I was finished, I felt a part of me was missing.
    10. To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee - this story grew with and around single family in small city Monroeville, which said to be Herper Lee's hometown. Herper Lee delineated each character through the eyes of Jean Louise who was a girl between 7-8 yrs. This story helps identify each character based on its vicinity and consequences.
    11. Men without women by Earnest Hemingway - compilation of fourteen short stories so good reading guide for them who think that reading novel could waste precious preparation time. Stories are distinct and readers have enough room to juxtapose their thoughts with those of author.
    12. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (P.S.) - The book is meant to be read with concentration and a sound mind (which is very important in papers like GMAT and CAT). It is not only psychologically motivating (if understood), but also trains the reader's mind for complex texts.

    Heavyweights (500+ Page Fiction Books)Longer books but worth every page

    1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - a timeless classic and required high school reading, this book covers the lives of several families caught in the 1930's great depression. 464 pages of great English, interesting story, and full of cultural references.
    2. Wild Swans by Jung Chang - a fascinating journey through the 20th century history of China - may not be the best style book, but extremely captivating and educational. 544 pages.
    3. Shogun by James Clavell - let the 1,200 pages not scare you - this will be a fast read about 17th century Japan. A TV-series was made based on this book. Good English, though language can get tough sometimes.
    4. Guns Germs and Steel" - fascinating book for history freaks. Certainly improved my RC skills. An enjoyable book as well.

    Non-Fiction - Captivating and educational

    1. The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal by Desmond Morris - if you want a new perspective on the human race, learn what makes us who we are, laughing most of the way, this book is for you. 256 pages
    2. The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography by Simon Singh - the only book on this list with a flawless record of 5 Amazon stars based on 255 reviews. If you are interested in code and how cryptography works - this book is almost a step by step guide - very interesting if you are into puzzles.
    3. Future Shock by Alvin Toffler - The book is dense and idea rich and yet just 385 pages in length.
      Other Recommendations

    Finance Books

    1. Blue Blood and Mutiny: The Fight for the soul of Morgan Stanley
    2. Handbook of Corporate Finance: A Business Companion to Financial Markets, Decisions and Techniques
    3. Banker to the Poor - book about the Grameen Bank and microfinance in the third world, and delves into how capitalism and the free market can be harnessed to return value to vulnerable communities
    4. Liar's poker - a bit dated but its gives you a sweet intro to the S&T world
    5. Ugly Americans
    6. When Markets Collide
    7. Damn it feels good to be a banker - And Other Baller Things You Only Get to Say If You Work On Wall Street- by Leveraged Sellout (it looks brilliant if it's the same quality as the blog)

    Economics Books

    1. Travels of a T-shirt - is pretty fun, written by a prof at georgetown - she explores the global economy (and the institutions that govern it) by following the creation, life, and death of your average t-shirt.
    2. The World is Flat - Do not Buy
    3. Passionate Economist
    4. The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More
    5. The End of Poverty - Harvard Alum and Professor at Columbia's Global Earth Institute, Sachs presents interesting, simple (perhaps even common sense) solutions to tackling the following obsctackes we will face in the upcoming century namely: the environment, poverty (extreme - less than $1-2/day) and population growth (in the poorest countries).
    6. Common Wealth - regarding Jeffrey Sachs - as someone who works in international development, I'd like to point out that for all his popularity among the general public, most people working in the field think a lot of his "big ideas" are sheer lunacy. Particularly the idea of a "big push" to massively increase the amount of official development aid to developing-world governments. He's a very smart guy, and End of Poverty (as well as Common Wealth) are both interesting books with a lot of good information - but the policy prescriptions they contain are totally off the mark.
    7. The White Man's Burden - it provides an outstanding analysis of not only successes and failures of trying to develop the third world, but at lot of it also applies to life in general (politics, economics, society, etc).
    8. The Forgotten Man
    9. The Chicago School - For those thinking about going to Chicago and going to economics
    10. Vienna and Chicago, Friends or Foes? - For those thinking about going to Chicago and going to economics
    11. Rise and fall of great powers by Paul Kennedy - though i read it about 10 years ago(when the book was too good for me). i immensely liked it. It beautifully captures a history of all great powers(economic and military) from sixteenth century to mid twentieth century. wonderful analysis and breadth in my humble opinion.

    Leadership Books

    1. A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future
    2. We need Managers, Not MBAs - It's a scathing look at MBAs. If anyone reads this again, please keep an eye out for the part where he reveals the statistics that something like 70% of MBAs quit their jobs within two years of graduating (suggesting that the vast majority pick "wrong"). I cant find the exact stats anymore, so please, if you see it, take note of the page.

    Behavioral Books

    1. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking - There's a little pop psychology to it, but it has some interesting insights.
    2. Fooled by Randomness
    3. Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell: I had thought about many of the theories he exposes way before this came out, but it's still an interesting/easy/quick read.
    4. Predictably Irrational - is by a fuqua prof that is a total boy genius. it's behavioral econ.
    5. Why We Buy - if you have any interest in running a business that is consumer-facing (CPG, banking, retail, restaurants, the post office) this is a must-read. or if you just wanna know why the bananas are where they are in the grocery store. Behavioral Econ.
    6. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler - written by a lawyer and an economist from the University of Chicago. The book sort of sits at the intersection of public policy and business, and provides examples of how consumers can be 'nudged' towards decisions that are in their economic/physical/emotional/etc... best interest. You get the point after the first few chapters, but it's worth finishing nonetheless. (recommended by CS11)

    Investment Banking Books

    1. More than Money by Mark Albion - No, its not a rant against banking - he says thats the right path for some - but it is a very real depiction of MANY MBA attitudes and it will make you consider your goals. Frankly, in retrospect, this short book is probably the single most important thing I could have read before getting my MBA. It so accurately captures exactly what so many of us have thought or felt at some point - about jobs, about money, about careers - I virtually promise that it will resonate with you at some level. Its also worth noting its a short and easy read.
    2. Tearing Down the Walls: How Sandy Weill Fought His Way to the Top of the Financial World. . .and Then Nearly Lost It All - to all future investment bankers
    3. Monkey Business - which was a very quick read that provides an interesting look into the IB landscape in recent times.
    4. Barbarians at the Gate - really is a must read. I thought it was great and included all of the major Wall Street legends, Kravis, Wasserstein, Fortsman, Lipton, etc.
    5. Risk Takers
      6.Pioneering Portfolio Management
    6. The accidental investment banker - Jonathan Knee - pretty funny; give you a very good idea over the Ibank world. Not great though.
    7. Den of Thieves - well-researched book that brings up a number of scandals involving Michael Milken, Ivan Boesky, Martin Siegel, and others
    8. When Genius Failed
    9. The Money Culture by Michael Lewis - It is a collection of articles published by Michael Lewis in various magazines in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I thought it made a brilliant read not just because Michael is a very funny guy. His articles were very insightful and, in some cases, prophetic. He has consistently been critical of levels of debt in wall street since the 1980s (if only everyone else took notice). He takes particular joy in poking fun at the LBO players and the value they add to a takeover target. His criticism of the American Express card had me splitting my sides laughing. This book will not be too much fun for those without enough knowledge of wall street history (especially of the 80s and early 90s when Japan and not China was considered threat #1 to US supremacy). A recommended light read for those long flights to b-school. (recommended by BSD Lover)
    10. Reminiscences of a Stock Operator - This book is a timeless classic for anyone moving to any form of trading / investment(recommended by BSD Lover)

    M&A Books

    1. M&A Titans M&A Titans: The Pioneers Who Shaped Wall Street's Mergers and Acquisitions Industry - about some of the legendary dealmakers in Wall Street's golden era (recommended by JB32)
    2. Deals from Hell: M&A Lessons that Rise Above the Ashes - (especially relevant for future Darden IB's since it was written by a Darden prof.) - case study about 10 of the worst deals of all time. (recommended by JB32)
    3. The Big Deal by Bruce Wasserstein - The book is loooooooooonnnngggg (like 1,000+ pages), but provides a history of deal making by industry from the 1950's up through 2001 (published in 2002). It's amazing how much M&A shaped many of the familiar brands we know today. Then, the second half of the book chronicles how a deal gets done and who the main players are. I would recommend this book for anyone that wants to be a dealmaker. (recommended by JB32)

    Design Thinking Books

    1. The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage - Martin shows how leading companies such as Procter & Gamble, Cirque du Soleil, RIM, and others use design thinking to push knowledge through the stages in ways that produce breakthrough innovations and competitive advantage.
    2. Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation - Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, introduces the idea of design thinking and it′s a human−centered approach to problem solving that helps people and organizations become more innovative and more creative.

    Accounting Books

    1. The Portable MBA in Finance and Accounting

    Marketing Books

    1. Why We Shop: The Science of Shopping" by Paco Underhill. I found it very interesting especially for those with an interest in CPG, brand management, marketing, retail and even consulting. Its a quick read and very entertaining. I definitely find myself thinking differently every time I walk into a store now.

    Management Books

    1. How Would You Move Mount Fuji?: Microsoft's Cult of the Puzzle -- How the World's Smartest Companies Select the Most Creative Thinkers - to all future Management Consultants...
    2. The Halo Effect:... and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers - Wow! Good book. It pretty much blows apart a lot of the analysis people do to find out what makes a company "successful".

    International Relations and Policy Books

    1. confessions of an economic hit man
    2. Rise and Fall of Empires
    3. Shock Doctrine - Naomi Klein: Must read. it opened my mind to sooo many things. please go read it, it gets long but towards the end it's amazing.
    4. Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism - Sixty percent of the world's population live on 6% of the world's income. The author argues that capitalism, if it accepts a social conscience out of self-preservation, can eventually develop a world where poverty is on the decline.
    5. The Post American World - By far one of the most accessible poly-sci books around. Zakaria presents brutally honest opinions on the state of the U.S. in contrast to the rest of the World. He brings forth the challenges that face the U.S. and the world in the 21st century. Good read, not heavy at all.
    6. No Logo - is a bit dated but a lovely attack on globalization. if i weren't already too old, i'd grow up to be naomi klein.
    7. Fortune at the bottom of the pyramid - by Dr CK Prahalad. a must read for all those interested in social entrepreneurship and non-profit careers.

    Career and Networking Books

    1. Ahead of the Curve - best book I've read on business school - more specifically HBS - looking at a top bschool from the pov of a non-business candidate gave me an amazing idea of the whole thing.
    2. Never Eat Alone - Its a great book about the power of networking and how to build a strong network

    Green Books

    1. Hot, Flat, and Crowded - which is about why we need a green revolution. While i'm just 1/3 of the way through, it's excellent so far... He's got some hard facts scientifically, politically, and economically about why we need to care about our planet and makes it easier for me to explain to another layperson why we need a green revolution.2. Green to Gold by Daniel Esty

    IT and Operations

    1. Black Swan - not recommended (I read part of the book when it came out but just got sick of it and never finished. If true "black swan" events by definition cannot be predicted or foreseen in any way, what's the point of it?)
    2. The Goal - is something you'll probably read in your ops class. the best textbook ever, the worst novel ever. i'm a closet ops geek, so i dug it.

    Poker and Gambling Books

    1. Harrington on Hold 'em Expert Strategy for No Limit Tournaments - Dan Harrington
    2. Read 'em and reap 'em
    3. Bringing down the house

    Fiction and Other

    1. The prince - Niccolo Machiavelli: I don't know why but I recently picked it up and it's full of pretty interesting stuff. It is not about business but it gives you an idea of how Power was seen in the 1500.
    2. Guns, Germs, and Steel - overview of Human Civilization, focusing on the question why Eurasians took over other continents rather than inhabitants of other continents - a bit repetitive but a good read - a lot of interesting information
    3. Nathan McCall's Them - t's an interesting read, and a great book to invoke discussion amongst peers who view the world differently.
    4. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier - (not for the faint-hearted; story of a young boy in Africa). A diary/journal of sorts of a young boy who escaped the "recruitment" of rebels in Sierra Leone. Witness of death and consumed by drugs at a young age, he manages to escape through a very graphic yet inspiring story. Now in the U.S.
    5. The snowball - Biography about Warren Buffet - I got this one as a present and thought it would be amazing, however I still haven't really started loving it (ive read around 25% of it- its looong) but I guess if you like biographies then you'll like it.
    6. The Last Tycoons - “Cohan's thoroughness—he interviewed over 100 current and former bankers and assorted bigwigs—unearths a trove of colourful titbits, many quite racy . . . Illuminating are Mr. Cohan’s descriptions of the scheming, politicking, and general dysfunction that was Lazard.”—Economist
    7. Atlas Shrugged - the last and best of Ayn Rand's books - beware 1,000 pages and not really a travel size.

    Sourced from various websites, handpicked, referenced, and aligned.


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