Books are arguably the most cost effective and accessible method for entrepreneurs to learn the necessary skills for achieving personal, professional, and financial success. The goal of this list is to highlight the 20 best books for entrepreneurs, which means that each book must in its own right be one of the most influential books in its field.
You will be familiar with many of these books, and some will be new to you. This list aims to be quite well rounded, and as such there are books which focus on lifestyle design, financial literacy, marketing, psychology, personal achievement and more. There are also a range of tactics to achieve success as an entrepreneur. Some books advocate living frugally and saving, while others advocate doing all you can to build a business that will (relatively) quickly build wealth. Some authors advocate pursuing businesses based on what the market demands, while others suggest that you ought to follow your passions and dreams when creating a business. The topics are certainly diverse, and each book contains numerous golden nuggets that can be applied towards entrepreneurship.
In an effort to organize these books in a useful way they have been ordered based on the number of 5 star reviews each has on Amazon. An imperfect method to be sure, but still rather useful. If you would like to know more about a book on this list, just click on the book’s title. This will take you to Amazon (all book sales from Amazon directly support content creation on this site). Lastly, please let me know in the comments which book on entrepreneurship has been the most influential to you!
1) The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich / Timothy Ferriss
Quote from The 4-Hour Workweek: “If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.”
The book that launched Tim Ferris to rockstar status is partially misleading. Yes, The Four Hour Workweek does tell you how Tim managed to create a business that only required four hours of work per week and a very healthy cash flow. And yes, if you take his advice to heart you could probably do the same (and indeed many have). The sticking point for some people comes from the fact that starting a business is bloody hard work, and can require insane hours at the beginning. Tim is completely aware of this, and The Four Hour Workweek does not attempt to negate this. At its core the 4HWW aims to teach its readers how 20% of actions produce 80% of results. If you want to work 16 hour days utilizing the 80/20 principal, you will probably be incredibly successful. This is what people like Elon Musk do. However, if you want to simply live a life where you call the shots (and in time only work four hours per week), you can certainly do that as well. So while many people gripe about the book being misleading (based on its title), the content inside is extremely actionable and pragmatic.
2) How To Win Friends And Influence People / Dale Carnegie
Quote from How To Win Friends And Influence People: “It isn't what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”
How To Win Friends And Influence People is full of timeless advice that can be used in both business and personal settings. The premise of the book is that if you appeal to a person’s highest ideals then you will be able to build alliances with almost anybody. This is done by active listening, letting the other person talk more than you, speaking about things that include the other person’s interests, and remembering the other person's name. A little known fact is that there is a missing chapter in which Carnegie wrote that it is impossible to find compatibility with everyone you meet in life, and that these people ought to be avoided. The take away being that if Carnegie’s techniques don’t work with someone, it is okay to move along to someone with whom you get along better.
Quote from Rich Dad Poor Dad: “In school we learn that mistakes are bad, and we are punished for making them. Yet, if you look at the way humans are designed to learn, we learn by making mistakes. We learn to walk by falling down. If we never fell down, we would never walk.”
Rich Dad Poor Dad recounts the lessons that Kiyosaki learned as a young man from his friend's father, a multimillionaire eighth grade dropout. Likely the most valuable insight in this book is the difference between assets and liabilities. Essentially, assets are things that feed you and liabilities are things that eat you. Thus your car is not an asset (even if the bank thinks it is), nor is your house (unless you earn rental income from it). The book heavily focuses on not going into debt for liabilities, and building a portfolio of assets that produce positive cash flow via rental property, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, business partnerships with limited involvement, promissory notes and royalties. This is the go to book for building strong financial literacy.
4) Outliers: The Story Of Success / Malcolm Gladwell
Quote from Outliers: “Those three things - autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward - are, most people will agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.”
Perhaps most famous for its assertion that with 10,000 hours of practice a person can reach the upper echelons of success, Outliers is a fascinating look at how to optimize human potential. It dives into the hidden patterns that catapult a certain few to the top of their field. According to Gladwell, the true origins of high achievement lie not in the mythical ‘self-made man,’ but in a series of circumstances that give unusually talented people the rocket fuel they need to become world class. Full of compelling trivia, such as why most pro hockey players are born in January, Outliers transforms how success is understood.
5) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change / Stephen R. Covey
Quote from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: "It is one thing to make a mistake, and quite another thing not to admit it. People will forgive mistakes, because mistakes are usually of the mind, mistakes of judgment. But people will not easily forgive the mistakes of the heart, the ill intention, the bad motives, the prideful justifying cover-up of the first mistake."
Covey’s 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People is another timeless book that examines how to be successful by balancing personal, interpersonal, and professional effectiveness. Basically, how to be an amazing and highly regarded business person, member of society, and family member. According to Covey, in order to fully adopt the 7 habits a person needs to undergo a paradigm shift, a change in how one interprets the world around them. Habits 1 to 3 focus on self mastery, habits 4 to 6 focus on teamwork, cooperation, and communication, while habit 7 advocates continuous improvement. This book’s perennial popularity is a testament to the effectiveness of the 7 habits.
6) The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business / Charles Duhigg
Quote from The Power Of Habit: "Change might not be fast and it isn't always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.”
The Power of Habit is an in depth look at the powerful yet ordinary habits that shape our lives. According to Duhigg, habits follow a three step process: a cue, routine, and reward. If you can determine what part of the habit loop you need to modify, be it adding one of the three steps in order to create a positive habit or removing one to stop a habit, then you will be in a strong position to control your life. Duhigg is adamant that anyone can reshape their habits, and in doing so transform themselves. Whether you want to turn your back on addiction, or reach the upper echelons in your chosen field, you can do so by modifying your habits.
7) Think and Grow Rich / Napoleon Hill
Quote from Think And Grow Rich: “The starting point of all achievement is DESIRE. Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desire brings weak results, just as a small fire makes a small amount of heat.”
Napoleon Hill wrote Think And Grow Rich in 1937 after steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie suggested he study and organize the characteristics of people with tremendous personal achievement. During the course of his research Hill interviewed a number of household names, including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and John D. Rockefeller. The breadth of this book is much greater than merely a philosophy on how to become financially wealthy, its salience comes from the fact that it can be used as a roadmap to become or do anything you desire. Hill lays out why certain people have a distinct edge over others, and gives 13 principles of success to help you do the same.
8) Who Moved My Cheese / Dr. Spencer Johnson
Quote from Who Moved My Cheese: “What you are afraid of is never as bad as what you imagine. The fear you let build up in your mind is worse than the situation that actually exists.”
If you feel that a book with only 100 odd pages and two mice as the protagonists may insult your intelligence, then don’t bother with Who Moved My Cheese. This book has many 1 star reviews on Amazon by such people. Yes the book is short, yes the characters are simple, and yes the lessons are straightforward. The challenge with this book is to not get wrapped up in the simplicity, and instead take in its very succinct lessons on how to approach and adapt to change. It responds to the very real fact that many people are anxious and fearful about the future, and uses a simple parable as an illustration on how to effectively move forward in this dynamic world.
9) Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... And Others Don't / Jim Collins
Quote from Good To Great: “For, in the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.”
Good To Great is a well researched, easy to read, and fascinating book. Over a period of five years Collins and his team poured over reams of data in an effort to discover the factors that made good companies great. One of the main takeaways is that great leaders are often humble yet extremely determined, and that their focus is on the success of their company rather than themselves. Another takeaway is that a strong culture which combines discipline and entrepreneurship will lead to extraordinary results. This book is a guide on how to build a great company, and make the complex task of management a little simpler.
10) Thinking, Fast and Slow / Daniel Kahneman
Quote from Thinking, Fast and Slow: "A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth. Authoritarian institutions and marketers have always known this fact."
Written by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast & Slow is an extremely accessible and insightful book on behavioural economics. It sheds light on the psychological underpinnings of decisions, reactions, judgements, and many more mental processes. The first part of the book focuses on explaining the fast and slow systems within our brain. Fast reactions come in the form of snap decisions, such as deciding to run immediately after hearing a noise in the bushes late at night. The chance of making a correct decision while thinking fast is normally only as high as 50%. Thus the book offers salient advice on how to engage slow thinking in order to make the best possible choices in our business and personal lives alike, and at a minimum avoid troublesome mental malfunctions.
11) The Millionaire Next Door / Thomas J. Stanley
Quote from The Millionaire Next Door: "I am not impressed with what people own. But I’m impressed with what they achieve. I’m proud to be a physician. Always strive to be the best in your field…. Don’t chase money. If you are the best in your field, money will find you."
The Millionaire Next Door follows the protestant work ethic that if you become educated, work hard, live within your means and save money, then you will in time reach millionaire status (if this doesn't sound like your cup of tea check out The Millionaire Fastlane, #17 on this list). It is excellent advice to take to heart, especially if you find yourself with lots of debt and little money left over at the end of each month. While many (if not the majority) wealthy people follow this advice to the letter, there are also many people of modest means who follow it without reaching millionaire status. The lesson being that you should certainly follow the advice contained within, but don’t rely on it alone to become financially wealthy.
12) The 48 Laws of Power / Robert Greene
Quote from The 48 Laws of Power: “When you show yourself to the world and display your talents, you naturally stir all kinds of resentment, envy, and other manifestations of insecurity... you cannot spend your life worrying about the petty feelings of others”
The 48 Laws Of Power pulls principles on how to achieve power from a variety of influential minds throughout history. These thinkers and leaders include Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, Carl Von Clausewitz, Henry Kissinger, and P.T. Barnum. For gentle souls this book can come across as amoral, for instance two of the lessons are "Get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit…,” and “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy.” For those with a single track mind towards gaining power in business or politics, the strategies contained within will be invaluable. For others, understanding the 48 laws will allow for comprehension and appropriate reaction to the sometimes harsh tactics and strategies which are very much at play in business and life.
13) The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It / Michael E. Gerber
Quote from The E-Myth Revisited: “Contrary to popular belief, my experience has shown me that the people who are exceptionally good in business aren't so because of what they know but because of their insatiable need to know more.”
The E-Myth Revisited is a response to the cries from the vast majority of small businesses that fail. Gerber’s primary argument is that most small businesses are created and run by ‘technicians,’ people who have a specific skill set such as computer programers, acupuncturists, electricians, lawyers, etc. These technicians may be talented at what they do, but they are often unaware of how to manage what they do as a business. Gerber believes that entrepreneurs make poor businesspeople, and that with a clear and organized plan (which Gerber helps you formulate) the entrepreneur will be able to secure long term success for their business. Read this book if you want a minimum 75% chance at long term success, the same percentage that well-oiled franchises achieve.
14) Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative / Austin Kleon
Quote from Steal Like an Artist: “Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use – do the work you want to see done.”
Unlike many other books on this list, Steal Like An Artist is not a book about building a business or achieving financial well being. It is a book about creativity, the gold dust that every entrepreneur wants to possess. The premise behind the book is that originality does not exist, only collected, remixed, and reimagined ideas. By acknowledging this, and consciously absorbing the nuggets of wisdom in everything you find important, you will be a much more creative person. This book is a quick and fun read, perfect if you need a burst of inspiration. Pro tip, this book is best in its paperback form due to the illustrations.
Quote from The $100 Startup: “To succeed in a business project, especially one you’re excited about, it helps to think carefully about all the skills you have that could be helpful to others and particularly about the combination of those skills.”
Guillebeau’s The $100 Startup is based on a study that he did of 1,500 individuals who created businesses earning $50,000 or more per year, often with only around $100 in initial investment. The premise is that you don’t need to follow the traditional path of creating a business plan or spending a fortune before you serve your first customer, and you don't even need to be a person with special skills. What you do need is to find the intersection of your expertise (this may not be super obvious to you at first) and what other people are willing to pay for it. Through numerous case studies, Guillebeau will help you uncover what your hidden (or not so hidden) expertise is, and how to use it to design the life you want. If fortune favours the brave, this book is all about being brave and taking decisive action.
16) Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion / Robert B Cialdini
Quote from Influence: “A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.”
Influence is arguably the foremost book on the science of persuasion. One of the main findings is that the human brain runs on autopilot most of the time, which is a very helpful feature as it frees up the conscious part of the brain to fully concentrate on the task at hand. However, our tendency to use auto pilot thinking can also create blind spots big enough for others (especially marketers) to manipulate our thought processes. Cialdini utilizes interesting examples in order to both help you understand when auto pilot thinking takes over, and also to enable you to build a persuasive case for others to hire you or buy your product. This book is a must read for all business people as it elucidates the psychology of marketing.
Quote from The Millionaire Fastlane: “Have you ever met a college student who got rich investing in mutual funds or his employer’s 401(k)? How about the guy who bought municipal bonds in 2006 and retired in 2009? I wonder if that guy driving a $1.2-million car can because of his well-balanced portfolio of mutual funds? These people don’t exist because the youthful rich are not leveraging 8% returns but 800%.”
The Millionaire Fastlane is unabashedly a book about how to ‘get rich quick’. This does not mean that getting rich is easy, nor does it mean that you will achieve great wealth this year. The realistic time frame is 5 to 10 years, during which you will build a profitable business and then liquidate it for a large sum. In order to do this the business must fill a need, be of value in the market place, and be scalable. While not groundbreaking advice, the book is well written and contains no filler. This book stands in opposition to the Millionaire Next Door which advocates working hard, living within your means, and saving money. Demarco’s argument is that while this can work, you may be in a wheel chair by the time you have amassed your riches. While the book’s cover and title make it look like an infomercial, the large number of rave reviews (and few poor reviews) on Amazon attest to the quality of the advice contained within.
18) The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-but Some Don't / Nate Silver
Quote from The Signal And The Noise: “Distinguishing the signal from the noise requires both scientific knowledge and self-knowledge: the serenity to accept the things we cannot predict, the courage to predict the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
The Signal And The Noise is a very accessible book about scientific and statistical forecasting. Making accurate predictions is vital to success in business, science, politics, and virtually every other human endeavour. Unfortunately cognitive biases, too much information (noise), and other systemic problems make the art and science of prediction notoriously difficult. Silver dives into topics such as finance, baseball, chess, earthquakes, and climate science, which makes the book a fascinating read for a wide range of people, while giving you the tools to develop an intuition which can be applied in multiple arenas. Read it if you want to know how experienced forecasters make accurate predictions, and how to interpret key metrics for your own advantage.
19) Crush it! / Gary Vaynerchuk
Quote from Crush it!: “Live your passion. What does that mean, anyway? It means that when you get up for work every morning, every single morning, you are pumped because you get to talk about or work with or do the thing that interests you the most in the world.”
Crush It is the quintessential book about turning your passions into income via the internet. If you have something in your life that you are obsessed with, Vaynerchuk will show you how to create a business out of it, and use social media to reach the greatest number of potential customers. In order for your business to succeed using Vaynerchuk’s methods you need to have tremendous fervor, work hard, persist, and be authentic. While he has some excellent advice and is quite inspirational, the book can come across as a tad self-promoting and unrelatable due to his fortuitous start in business (he took over his father’s established liquor store). Be that as it may, the book is full of excellent resources, and may inspire you to give this ‘using your passion to make money online’ thing a try!
20) Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action / Simon Sinek
Quote from Start With Why: “All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year. Those who forget WHY they were founded show up to the race every day to outdo someone else instead of to outdo themselves.”
Start With Why aims to answer the question ‘why are certain people, companies, and organizations more innovative, profitable, and more loyally followed than others?’ According to Sinek, the key to success for all those who wield great influence in the world is that they all start with the why. As an entrepreneur, it is your job to answer why your company or organization exists, and why what you do is important to those you serve, as well as society at large. Those who have a solid answer for this question will find it infinitely easier to be more innovative, profitable, and loyally followed. Trust is easily established when your clients and customers understand and believe in the why of what you do. Ultimately, Start With Why may make you a more inspirational business person who enjoys increased business from word of mouth, and repeat customers.
Read every book on the list? Give yourself a pat on the back, you are awesome! Now get back to reading. Here are 20 more books to help you be the best entrepreneur possible.
21) Rework: Change The Way You Work Forever / Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson
Quote from Rework: “When you don’t know what you believe, everything becomes an argument. Everything is debatable. But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.”
22) EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches / Dave Ramsey
Quote from EntreLeadership: “If you don’t own the goal and it doesn’t come from your dream, then you won’t have the toughness to persevere when the going gets tough. And I will promise you that the going will get tough. There is never an exception—everyone who wins must push through obstacles, lots of them.”
23) Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions / Dan Ariely
Quote from Predictably Irrational: “Standard economics assumes that we are rational... But, as the results presented in this book (and others) show, we are far less rational in our decision making... Our irrational behaviours are neither random nor senseless - they are systematic and predictable.”
24) The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses / Eric Ries
Quote from The Lean Startup: “As you consider building your own minimum viable product, let this simple rule suffice: remove any feature, process, or effort that does not contribute directly to the learning you seek.”
25) Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose / Tony Hsieh
Quote from Delivering Happiness: “Happiness is really just about four things: perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness (number and depth of your relationships), and vision/meaning (being part of something bigger than yourself).”
Quote from The Slight Edge: “The truth is, what you do matters. What you do today matters. What you do every day matters. Successful people just do the things that seem to make no difference in the act of doing them and they do them over and over and over until the compound effect kicks in.”
27) Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World / Gary Vaynerchuk
Quote from Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: “The incredible brand awareness and bottom-line profits achievable through social media marketing require hustle, heart, sincerity, constant engagement, long-term commitment, and most of all, artful and strategic storytelling.”
28) The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement / Eliyahu M. Goldratt & Jeff Cox
Quote from The Goal: “So this is the goal: To make money by increasing net profit, while simultaneously increasing return on investment, and simultaneously increasing cash flow.”
29) Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers / Alexander Osterwalder
Quote from Business Model Generation: “A Value Proposition creates value for a Customer Segment through a distinct mix of elements catering to that segment’s needs. Values may be quantitative (e.g. price, speed of service) or qualitative (e.g. design, customer experience).”
30) How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It / Mark Cuban
Quote from How To Win At The Sport Of Business: “What makes a good salesperson? Let me be clear that it’s not the person who can talk someone into anything. It’s not the hustler who is a smooth talker. The best salespeople are the ones who put themselves in their customer’s shoes and provide a solution that makes the customer happy.”
31) #GIRLBOSS / Sophia Amoruso
Quote from #GIRLBOSS: “Abandon anything about your life and habits that might be holding you back. Learn to create your own opportunities. Know that there is no finish line; fortune favors action. Race balls-out toward the extraordinary life that you’ve always dreamed of, or still haven’t had time to dream up. And prepare to have a hell of a lot of fun along the way.”
32) Mastery / Robert Greene
Quote from Mastery: “People around you, constantly under the pull of their emotions, change their ideas by the day or by the hour, depending on their mood. You must never assume that what people say or do in a particular moment is a statement of their permanent desires.”
33) The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph / Ryan Holiday
Quote from The Obstacle Is The Way: “There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.”
34) The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More / Chris Anderson
Quote from The Long Tail: “Up until now, the focus has been on dozens of markets of millions, instead of millions of markets of dozens.”
35) Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity / Hugh MacLeod
Quote from Ignore Everybody: “Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the 'creative bug' is just a wee voice telling you, 'I'd like my crayons back, please.”
36) The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence / Josh Waitzkin
Quote from The Art of Learning: “The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity. Usually, growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety."
37) The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail / Clayton Christensen
Quote from The Innovator's Dilemma: “ The very decision-making and resource-allocation processes that are key to the success of established companies are the very processes that reject disruptive technologies...”
38) So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love / Cal Newport
Quote from So Good They Can't Ignore You: “Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it.”
39) Daily Rituals: How Artists Work / Mason Currey
Quote from Daily Rituals: “A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.”
40) The Startup of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career / Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha
Quote from The Startup of You: “All human beings are entrepreneurs.”
What Do You Think?
I would love to know what your favourite books for entrepreneurs are! Is there a book that has completely shifted the way you look at business or the world? If so write it in the comments.
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