Harvard Business School Summer Reader List Highlights Social Justice

Harvard Business School has released its “Summer Reader 2021,” a faculty-curated reading list of top picks ranging from biographies to memoirs.

With an increased focus on social justice in recent years, HBS faculty picks included a number of readings on civil rights and social impact.


Julia Austin, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School’s Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, recommended When They Call You a Terrorist, a memoir by Patrisse Cullors, the founder of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Cullors shares her incredible journey from childhood to adulthood as a Black queer woman in LA,” Austin says. “It is an emotional, yet insightful book worth reading. My college freshman shared her copy of the book with me after she raved about it and we both continue to reflect on key learnings.”


Jeffrey Bussgang, Senior Lecturer in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at the Harvard Business School, included Ali: A Life, a biography of Muhammad Ali by Jonathan Eig.

“The book frames the arc of Ali’s life as a social-justice warrior, not just a pugilist, placing him as one of the most impactful civil rights leaders of his era alongside Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.,” Bussgang says. “America initially loathed him for refusing to go to Vietnam (‘I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong’) and then loved him for his courage and grace. During this era, the book makes it clear that Ali didn’t change—America did.”


Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, highlighted Around the Corner to Around the World, a memoir of the early history and growth of Dunkin Donuts, written by Robert Rosenberg.

“HBS alumnus Rosenberg tells a great story that includes personal insights about nearly everything you want to know about managing family conflict, scaling a startup, picking talent, leading turnarounds, and engaging with private equity,” Kanter says.


2020 proved to be a challenging, yet historic year for the world. In The Premonition: A Pandemic Story, author Michael Lewis explores the U.S. government’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I hear so often that all of us, including our governments, will be more inventive post-pandemic,” Mitchell Weiss, Professor of Management Practice in the Entrepreneurial Management unit and the Harvard Business School, says. “I hope we will be, but it’s not inevitable. Will our agility stay when COVID is gone? To know that, in part we have to be clear about where we tried new things in our pandemic response and where we hesitated too long or failed to try altogether. I’m confident Lewis will shed insight there.”

Check out the full Summer Reader 2021 list here.

Sources: Harvard Business School, Harvard Business Review

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