10 Business and Economics Books Every Student Should Read
Whether you’re preparing to study at university next year or you’re still exploring your potential interest in the subjects, we’ve got some Economics and Business book recommendations for you.
Below, we’ve narrowed down our favourite Business and Economics books to just ten titles, curated to offer a taste of the wide range of content these fields cover. We’ve included something for everyone, ranging from simple introductions to history, autobiography, self-help and even a novel. Books one to five focus on the business side of things, while six to ten are more economics-centric.
Best business books for students
1. How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
We couldn’t come up with a list of business books without including this one. Written in 1936 by an expert in business, How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of the best-selling books of all time. While it is, in practice, a self-help book, it focuses on the interpersonal skills necessary to excel in business, especially leadership and persuasion.
Despite being a bit older than most books you will come across in business, it was pioneering in many ways and laid the groundwork for the modern business guide genre. This makes it a valuable and relevant read, no matter how much the business world has changed since the ‘30s. It was also written for a popular audience, not an academic one, making it an easy introduction to the world of business, and a good first step towards more complex reads.
2. Giants of Enterprise: Seven Business Innovators and the Empires They Built – Richard S. Tedlow
This business book focuses on the lives and achievements of George Eastman, Thomas Watson, Henry Ford, Charles Revson, Robert N. Noyce, Andrew Carnegie and Sam Walton. All of these businessmen were incredibly successful due to their innovation and use of modern technologies. The author delves into their stories and illustrates their path to business success.
This book is helpful as a tool for students to pick out the common features shared by these great innovators, to learn which tactics work, and to provide important background knowledge of the progress made in business throughout the 20th century. As it is written by a business historian, this text is a little more academic. However, being split into seven sections makes it easily readable, and you could even pick the two or three innovators that interest you the most and focus on them.
3. Sam Walton: Made in America – Sam Walton
Perfect as a follow-up to number two on this list, this business book offers Sam Walton’s journey to success from his own point of view. This autobiographical text follows Walton’s career from the owner of a single shop to the development of Wal-Mart as America knows it today.
Made in America describes the challenges Walton faced, including persuading people to trust in his vision. He doesn’t shy away from recognising both his achievements and his mistakes. The book also frames Walton’s success in terms of the pursuit of the American Dream, the distinctly American conception of independent economic achievement as the mark of a fulfilled life. This is written in a conversational and direct style, making it a relatively easy read. Walton’s use of anecdotes coupled with his impressive story mean that this book is anything but boring.
4. Outliers: The Story of Success – Malcolm Gladwell
Is there a secret to success? While not exclusively a business book, this bestseller aims to examine and identify the various factors that lead to success. Examples of the successful range from Bill Gates to sports players and musicians. Outliers discusses the impact of several factors on success, including cultural differences, intelligence and practice.
Gladwell takes psychological, historical and sociological principles and incorporates them in his argument in a way that makes them easily accessible, without assuming that his readers have extensive prior knowledge of these subjects. The conclusions of this book are easily applicable to the world of business, and so it is perfect for students who are interested in the social side of the subject.
5. Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter
This book focuses on the importance of financial education and financial intelligence. It is written as a set of parables inspired by Kiyosaki’s own life: the poor dad is Kiyosaki’s father and the rich dad is said to be a friend’s father. The main message of Rich Dad Poor Dad is that hard work alone may not be enough to achieve wealth. Instead, being financially educated enough to make sound investments and build your own business is what Kiyosaki recommends as a key factor in successful business. Kiyosaki has also published several other books on financial advice, and has started offering classes with the purpose of providing financial education. Rich Dad Poor Dad is a great introduction to important financial principles for those with little to no prior knowledge.
Best economics books for students
6. Freakonomics – Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
A fun and easy-to-read introduction to the subject, this economics book is perfect regardless of your existing level of knowledge. The authors apply economic principles to seemingly unrelated everyday occurrences, making this book extremely accessible and entertaining.
It may also be a good start if you’re wondering how economic principles materialise in real life; these concepts are explained in a simple and relatively intuitive way. This is an excellent choice if you want to explore economics as a possible degree subject although, given its notable popularity, you may want to avoid mention of it on your personal statement, or combine it with a more academic exploration of economics, if you want to stand out from the crowd.
7. The Wealth of Nations – Adam Smith
Yes, we know this may not sound like the most fun read, but we promise it’s worth it. The Wealth of Nations was groundbreaking at the time it was written, and it has heavily influenced the theory and practice of economics up to the present day.
If you want to study economics at university, reading this book is a great challenge to set yourself. Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything in it at this stage; it’s definitely among the most challenging in this list. You might find it useful to find some lectures or summaries online to enhance your understanding.
8. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy – Karl Marx
Speaking of classics…For some balance and breadth in your reading of economics books, Marx is essential. Marx has been hugely influential, and for those interested in pairing economics with politics, this text is a great way to begin linking the two.
Marx was also responding to classical economists like Adam Smith, so if you read The Wealth of Nations and are interested in an opposing view, this is the right place to go. The importance of both The Wealth of Nations and Capital derives from the many practical ways that the theories in these texts have been applied. This means having a grounding in these historical texts will help you better comprehend more practical principles and discussions in relation to the economics issues of today, such as the free market, state intervention and socialism.
9. Manias, Panics, and Crashes – Charles Kinderberger
Things don’t always run smoothly in the economic world. What happens when they go wrong? What causes financial crashes? Can we avoid them? This book by a former MIT economics professor aims to answer these questions.
This text will help you become well-rounded in your economics knowledge, as well as guide you in the important practical application of economic principles. It will be particularly interesting for those fascinated by the behavioural side of economics, as well as students of macroeconomics and finance.
10. North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell
A slightly different one to end with: North and South is a Victorian romance novel. If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, or you’re wondering what it has to do with economics, trust us, it is relevant. The novel follows its female protagonist, Margaret, from the idyllic south of England to the industrial north.
Through Margaret’s eyes, we are introduced to a world to which she is a stranger, of factories and trade unions, and extremes of poverty and wealth. The plot is engaging, the social critique thought-provoking, and the reader can learn along with Margaret as you meet and develop an understanding of the multi-dimensional characters of both factory workers and owners.
Next steps for young entrepreneurs and economists
- Check out Duke University’s business school’s YouTube channel for interesting business and economics content.
- Richard Kiyosaki’s website offers videos and blog posts aiming to teach financial principles.
- Thinking of applying to university to study business or economics? Check out our Ultimate Guide to UCAS and Personal Statements.
- Learn more about our Oxford Business Summer School for high school students and how it can prepare you for your future.
- Looking for more business-related articles? Here are our top business articles for students, specially curated for you.
Want more Business and Economics recommendations and support?
Whether you’re eager to explore whether Business is a field that really interests you, or you’re looking to get the edge in your upcoming business degree, Oxbright can help. An expert mentor will take you beyond the school curriculum with weekly live tutorials and original content, while an international community of like-minded students will help to keep you focused and expand your horizons.