The Reading List 2020 Hero

BCG Reading List 2020

Our 2020 reading list has been greatly influenced by the personal implications of the unfolding global COVID-19 pandemic and profound unrest. While our reviewers are a diverse group of BCGers, you can see this undercurrent reflected in almost every suggestion:

We hope that whether you’re a CEO or a student you will find something to teach or inspire you, or simply to enjoy.

Purpose & Creativity

Creative BCGers have found that equally creative business leaders often write the most readable books. These books on creativity and purpose may spark your creative fire and get you moving in a new direction.

The Songs of Trees

In The Songs of Trees, BrightHouse luminary and Pulitzer-prize nominated author, David Haskell explores the roots of connection; how our biology has shaped our relationships; and the complexity of networks that shape culture, awareness, and being.”

Ashley Grice
CEO, Brighthouse

Small Data

“As a designer I'm always looking at the small data—the micro-behaviors of real people—to help identify the latent unmet needs that are so critical to invention. This book is a great journey through Lindstrom's time spent in people’s homes, and the small data that led to some big decisions.”

Alison Rushworth
Partner & Vice President, Strategic Design, BCGDV

A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM

"Written in the early 1960s—well before purpose was a business topic—the former CEO of IBM tells the story of IBM’s values and how its refusal to compromise those values became IBM’s primary strength. It is also one of the first books by a major CEO to discuss a corporation’s responsibilities in society, and how firms can meet expanding social expectations while still turning a profit."

Brad White
Managing Director & President, Europe & Middle East, BrightHouse

Body Braille

Body Braille by Beth Gylys is a poetry collection that explores the failures and complications intrinsic to existing in the world as a sentient being. The collection attempts to gain an understanding of our humanity through its exploration of sensual and bodily experience.”

Cathy Carlisi
Managing Director and President, Americas, BrightHouse

A Whack on the Side of the Head

“One of the best books on creativity and innovation that I have read—full of practical examples and great exercises to unlock mental blocks. We use it in DV to really excite and get the whole team humming.”

Ajay Chowdhury
Managing Director & Partner, BCGDV

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

"I didn’t read it because Warren Buffet called it the best book he read last year, I read it because I wanted to know the story of Nike, and now I do. An absolutely fascinating read."

Mike Lear
Executive Creative Director, BrightHouse

Diversity and Inclusion

BCGers, like many others, are thinking a lot about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and beyond. These books on diversity and inclusion run the gamut from history to parenting to real advice on how to make a difference professionally and personally.

97 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice

"I can’t even begin to imagine how the Black community is feeling after the continued murder and violence against Black people in America these past few weeks: Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Chris Cooper. This resource has given me actionable steps I can take to be a more compassionate citizen and ally."

Beth Viner
New York Center Lead, Managing Director & Partner, BCGDV

The Economic Case for LGBT Equality

“For me, the case for LGBT inclusion is grounded in values and human rights – but it’s also true that demonstrating the business case for inclusion can open up new and surprising dialogues. Lee Badgett is a hugely respected economist at UCLA and this new book is the most definitive work to date on the business case for LGBT inclusion.”

Elliot Vaughn
Managing Director & Partner

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

“This book is full of moving personal stories that vividly illustrate the crushing cycle of unemployment, eviction, and homelessness affecting America’s urban poor.”

Jaimon Olmsted

Allyship in Action: Recommendations on Racial Equity

Learning is a key part of allyship, but it can be difficult to navigate ever-growing lists of titles. BCGers have recommended these books and other media to leverage as you learn about racism and Black experiences.

Leading in the New Reality

BCGers have selected some must-read books for your business reading list and must-hear podcasts for today’s business leaders to help them lead into the new reality. Some are classics and some are cutting-edge, but all have relevance.

GRIT: Why Passion and Resilience Are the Secrets to Success

"A great book for everyone who strives to succeed. Based on comprehensive research—the author points out that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent, but focused persistence"

Mai-Britt Poulsen
Managing Director & Senior Partner

The Great Bridge

"This is a fascinating nuanced story of human innovation and leadership describing both how driven leadership accomplishes something incredible, and the costs that come with it."

Rich Hutchinson
Managing Director and Senior Partner; Social Impact Practice Leader

Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve

“We often think good leaders only need to have a clear vision and the drive to execute it. However, this article outlines how great leaders also integrate their humility and will to achieve the top level of leadership.”

Jennifer Roh
Manager, BCG Platinion

Personal Wellbeing

Times of crisis call for deep personal reflection and BCGers are not neglecting their personal growth, openness to learning, and sense of wellbeing. Here are books for personal growth that will help you through the hard times.

Markets, Mobs and Mayhem: A Modern Look at the Madness of Crowd

“Menschel is one of Wall Street’s most successful strategists, and Goldman Sachs’ CEO. If you need advice on how to invest in these times of panic and uncertainty, be sure to read it.”

Vladislav Boutenko
Managing Director aand Senior Partner, Chairman, BCG Russia


“This book was offered to me by a close friend. Michelle Obama gives an account of her life, from her youth to life as the president’s wife, even though her own merits were impressive. The book is captivating with great imagery and a strong message to young people about following your purpose.”

Leila Hoteit
Managing Director & Senior Partner

Genius Foods

"This powerful and insightful guide to achieving optional brain performance through food resonates with a lot of my philosophies on health and wellbeing. It highlights some of the strong links between the gut and brain that influence our health and longevity."

Mark Kelly
Global Wellbeing Senior Manager

International Relations

Some of BCG’s global experts submit their choices for the best books on international relations. China may be a recurring theme in this section, but these reads cover more general issues as well.

The Free Voice: On Democracy, Culture and the Nation

"Across the globe, more and more authoritarian leaders are coming into power based on the fear instilled in people via mainstream media, social media, etc. This book speaks to how to hold onto the democratic rights our ancestors fought for over a century ago. Asking questions of the people in power and doing your homework before asking those questions is the greatest service to one’s country."

Aakash Masih
Senior Data Engineer, BCG Platinion

Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire

"COVID-19 has exacerbated the divide between the rich and poor, once again raising the issue of wealth distribution. And as other issues such as the environment take center stage, many are questioning our model of capitalism. Too often the debate flips for and against capitalism, but why not modify it instead of throwing it out?"

Grant Freeland
Managing Director & Senior Partner

What Our Alumni are Reading

BCG is proud of its alumni and what they have accomplished. Here, are books recommended by business leaders to broaden their personal and professional outlook and achieve their goals.

Personal History: Katharine Graham

“A fascinating personal take on Watergate. Lessons in leadership disguised as an autobiography.”

Dan Gulati
Founding Partner Forecast Fund, former BCG Consultant

The Change Monster

"Given the times that we are in today, Jeanie Duck's classic is particularly applicable and relevant. In addition, I really love listening to the podcasts, ‘Planet Money,’ ‘How I Built This,’ and ‘The Daily.’"

Azim Barodawala
CEO at Volantio, former BCG Project Leader

Arguing Religion

“Adapted from talks at Google and Facebook. Bishop Barron invites us to engage in a meaningful dialogue about religious concepts, as opposed to the bifurcated (either violent or apathetic) way religious disagreement is engaged in today. The book is interesting to me because it touches on a topic many of us may have not considered in a long time.”

Dave Rimshnick
Senior Director of Data Science, Clinical Product Analytics, Analytics and Behavior Change, former Principal, BCG GAMMA

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