For quite some time now, I have been recommending two books to everybody, who wants to know about life at a B-school. I believe that to this date, I must have made at least 15-20 people in my circle (real-life and the virtual world) buy one or both of these. Both these books are enjoyable reads and you get to know a lot of things about two top B-schools. Also, reading these two very clearly brings out the answer to the key question that many of us have: How does an International B-school differ from that of an Indian one?

Enough of preface, here’s a quick sneak into both books:

  1. Snapshots from Hell: Half of you must have already guessed the name of this one while reading the first paragraph. After all, which MBA blog is complete without discussing “Snapshots from hell” at least once.  😀
    Seriously, for those of us, who are not fortunate enough to visit the schools in person or talk to the students/alumni in detail, SFH is a must. It deals with life of a student during his first year at Stanford GSB. The best thing about the book is that the writer Peter Robinson does not ever try to paint a rosy picture of his alma-

    Snapshots from Hell

    Snapshots from Hell

    mater; his primary aim is to give an outsider a first-hand honest view of life@Stanford. In the process, there’re times when he’s grossly irreverent too, like the time when the high-ups of the school try to patch up things after a fall in the rankings or when he refers to a professor, whose voice didn’t reach beyond the third row. I understand that in the process, he may have made some enemies from the loyal alumni group, but as an author, he succeeds in what he wanted to achieve. 
    I really loved the details he delves into while discussing each class.  (And no, he doesn’t ever let that be boring.) If you’re a mathematics junkie like me, the discussions on probability and decision-modeling are sure to excite you. (In case you’re not, this may scare you as well, but then, you’ll at least know something that you need to work on. ) And then, there’re elaborate case studies, which give you a flavor of what you’d be studying shortly.
    Finally, it’s a short glimpse of life after Stanford (skipping the 2nd year almost completely), which makes you think that if this is the life after hell, then perhaps that hell is the place I want to be at!! 🙂  And here too, Peter is totally honest in setting your expectations.  He does mention cases of compromises and failiures too. In sum, it’s a book, which an  applicant can’t afford to miss. Whether you’re still contemplating embarking on the MBA path or you already have a few admits in your kitty, make sure that you read this one from cover to cover.  

  2. Joker in the Pack: Unlike SFH, JITP isn’t book that you’d often find being referred to in the world of applicants. But in case you are an Indian and want an inside view of an Indian B-school, go ahead and pick this up. (In case you’re not from India, you can afford to skip this one.)
    Joker In the Pack

    Joker In the Pack

    The book begins with a prologue when the protogonist Shekhar Verma has finally “arrived”.  
    After that, the story goes in a flashback.. Strating from the days of his childhood,  Shekhar narrates a story to which almost every middle class Indian can relate to. Nagging aunts, parents judging their kids by their academic performance, general sense of directionlessness in career and then going ahead with a path that your peers are going to without analysig whether that’s where you want to go:: Aren’t these things that most of us have gone through??
    Very soon, the book reaches the main course: the life at IIMs. And here you get to know how things happen at the top managment institutes of the country. I won’t spoil the fun by going into the details, but I would like to point out a few striking attributes. One would be the quality of intake at the IIMs: If you ever needed an example for the phrase Crème de la crème, IIMs are the places for this. I knew this and this book proves this at different points in the story.
    But at the same time, the book very clearly brings out the lack of goal clarity even at the top B-schools of the country. I understand that going to a B-school with an open mind is one thing, but being clueless even till the day of placements, that’s something which disappoints you. Yes, even to this date, the careers of many of us are decided by which company came first for the recruitment. Some of the other things that I liked: the way people show solidarity with each other during the placements and the way the effect of hectic schedule on Shekhar’s love life is portrayed. The story is  set in IIM-B. But from whatever I have gathered so far form two of my good friends at IIM-Bangalore and IIM-Lucknow, it seems that most of the stuff holds true for any top B-school in India.  

             So if you thought your shopping was complete when you bought the OG, Kaplans and Manhattans, I have just added two more to your list. But believe me..find time to read both of these and you won’t regret it.

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6 Responses to “Two books for MBA Aspirants”

  1. Neo2000 says:

    isn’t it ironic that the “creme de la creme” are “clueless till the day of placements”??? Makes you question your initial assumption no??

  2. P O D says:

    SFH is an awesome book no doubt…it sort of throws you into the sea and hopes u will be able to keep urself from drowning…

    Congrats on the Goizueta admit!



  3. Tom says:

    Congrats on the Goizueta admit … .
    Was trying to get in touch with people who apped to Duke this Fall .. would love to get in touch with you . My mail id is in the comment ( hopefully it should come straight to your inbox )
    Could you please pass yours ?


  4. Caesar says:

    If I had to recommend just one book to an MBA aspirant it would be “How to get into the Top MBA Programs” by Richard Montauk. It gives you a wealth of information on how to prepare every part of your applications and the logic behind adcom reasoning. Great resource.

    I’ll write a full review of it soon @


  5. Thanks for the recommendations. I’ve actually never heard of Snapshots from Hell and will definitely read before starting school in the fall.

  6. Isabel says:

    Fantastic post. These books are both entertaining and informative. Having gone through the MBA program, I can say they are helpful for those considering heading down that path.

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