Getting Happy, Taking Risks, Making Wine

Noteworthy Books from Harvard Business School Alumni

As the new year rolls across my threshold, I thought I’d share a few books on getting happy, taking risks, and making wine from some of my alumni colleagues at Harvard Business School. Admittedly, I’m one of the few MBA-ers writing fiction (which is why you’ll find many entrepreneurial characters in my novels); most are in the business of business, so you’ll find their books first-rate.

These selections run the gamut from happiness to winemakers to the greening of New York City. Besides achieving a life-in-balance and mountains of happiness, you’ll also find more B-school-y topics of risk, disruption, growth, and investing in this collection. Click through to explore more on Amazon or check ’em out at your favorite bookseller.

The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything
by Neil Pasricha (MBA 2007) 
(G.P. Putnam Sons)

Neil Pasricha unveils nine secrets to happiness, along with step-by-step instructions, to infuse your life with happiness. He explodes the multi-tasking myth and dispels wisdom on why eliminating options can lead to more choice in your life.

The Happiness Equation will lead to tremendous changes in both your professional and personal life!” –TONY HSIEH, author of Delivering Happiness and CEO of, Inc.


The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe For Success and Satisfaction
by Samantha Ettus (MBA 2001) (Ghost Mountain Books)

In The Pie Life, Samantha Ettus examines how successful, busy women carve up the pie to achieve success in both their personal and professional lives, covering TV writer and producer Shonda Rhimes, news anchor Gayle King, Wall Street maven Sallie Krawcheck, and entrepreneur Liz Lange.

“Samantha Ettus is a work/life balance pioneer. I devoured The Pie Life and her ideas have profoundly changed my approach to family and career.  Full of deep insight and practical solutions, The Pie Life will fill you up and leave you more than satiated.” –Marcia Cross, Actress



Even the Odds: Sensible Risk Taking in Business, Investing, and Life
by Karen Firestone (MBA 1983) (Bibliomotion)

Karen Firestone proposes four core tenets of risk-taking we can apply to our lives that will assist readers in anticipating, evaluating, and responding to the risks faced in their business, investing, and personal lives. The four tents include right-sizing; right-timing; relying on skill, knowledge, and experience; and staying skeptical about numbers, promises, and forecasts. As an experienced investor, Firestone brings a wealth of real-world knowledge and examples.

“This book teaches you to manage risk as a highly proficient and articulate investment professional does. Karen Firestone shares her copious experience in a series of useful and engaging examples.” — Professor Ben Shapiro, Harvard Business School


Wineries of the Sierra Foothills: Risk-Takers & Rule-Breakers
by Barbara Keck (MBA 1976) (Range of Light Media Group) 

John put his kids and suitcases and a 15-gallon drum of fermenting wine into his Chevy and drove from Ohio to the Sierra Foothills. That’s the kind of passion for wine-making and risk-taking behavior that characterize the 250 wineries in this part of California. Including 21 compelling “why we did it” stories, followed by a comprehensive guide to wineries in the 10 Sierra Foothills counties.


“Finally, a book about the wines and winemakers of the Sierra Foothills…A willingness to push boundaries by trying new things is one of the reasons the Sierra Foothills is one of the most exciting wine regions today.” – Cyril Penn, Editor of Wine Business Monthly


Reinvention: Accelerating Results in the Age of Disruption
by Shane Cragun and Kate Sweetman (MBA 1988) (Greenleaf Book Group Press)

Reinvention entrepreneurship readingShane Cragun and Kate Sweetman explain that the ability to pivot quickly, profoundly, and effectively might be the most important core competency individuals and organizations can attain in order to prosper in the new economy.

“This is one of those rare business books that is both conceptual and pragmatic about fostering change.” -Foreword Reviews



The Founder’s Mentality: How to Overcome the Predictable Crises of Growth
by James Allen (MBA 1989) and Chris Zook (Harvard Business Review Press)

Fellow classmate James (Jimmy to us) Allen and Chris Zook conducted a decade-long study of companies in more than 40 countries. They demonstrate how applying three traits of a “founder’s mentality” (an insurgent’s clear mission and purpose, an unambiguous owner mindset, and a relentless obsession with the front line) can resolve the predictable crises of growth.
“As a founder myself, I get it. I care about my company so much. I understand what it means to have a founder around. … I think your book is so interesting, so right on.” — J.J. Abrams, MSNBC’s “Your Business”

The Sidewalk Gardens of New York
by Alicia Whitaker (MBA 1979) (The Monacelli Press)

Alicia Whitaker and photographer Betsy Pinover Schiff chronicle the “greening” of New York City in Sidewalk Gardens of New York, revealing the transformation of the “city of concrete and glass” into one of the most richly planted urban centers in America.

“New York City looks nothing—nothing—like it did just a decade and a half ago. It’s a place of newly gorgeous waterfront promenades, of trees, tall grasses and blooming flowers on patches of land and peninsulas of concrete and even stretches of rail tracks that were blighted or blank before.” —Frank Bruni, The New York Times

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