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50 business books that could change your life

50 business books for entrepreneurs

If you know me personally, you know I read… I read A LOT…. Probably an unhealthy amount. It’s not uncommon for me to walk into a bookstore with plans of buying one book but end up having walked out spending a couple hundred dollars and bags worth of books. Reading “physical” books is one of my passions, I rarely buy digital… I love the feeling of flipping the crisp pages of a freshly bound book between my fingers as I read through it. (I also have a far fetched dream of having a massive personal library one day… if you know New York City space… you know this is indeed a DREAM…. perhaps even a FANTASY.)

I read non-fiction books almost exclusively, reading a lot of business books, biographies, and technology books on wide ranging topics from starting businesses to becoming more productive, looking to build upon my skills, learn new strategies, understand different industries… all in hope of getting a better grasp on the ever evolving consumer, technology, markets and the world around us.

Boy do I love me a good book… if I finish a book and have dog-eared the hell out of it I know:

1. I learned a lot from it.
2. That the learnings are going to stick with me.
3. I going to continually reference it.
4. It was GOOD.

50 Great Business Books

While many of these 50 business books listed below have some form of tech / marketing spin, many of the lessons within them are universally applicable no matter your field of work.

Here are 50 Business Books (in no particular rank order) that have made a huge difference in both my personal life and career.

1. The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris

A must on any entrepreneurs bookshelf. Tim Ferris goes in detail in this book and gives concrete examples of how to live more and work less. I’ve always viewed the “title” of the book as a bit of a turn-off (honestly almost did not buy it b/c of the title), simply because it implies that you may only want to work for hours per week… that’s never been a goal of mine. What is always a goal of mine is working “smarter” with the time I have, and some of the methods and tools in this book have done exactly that for me.

2. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

If there is one thing you need to be able to do better as an entrepreneur it is this: making better business decisions faster. Going to repeat that: Incredibly better, incredibly faster business decisions. Combining principles from lean manufacturing and agile development to the process of innovation, the Lean Startup gives you the tools and processes to succeed in a business landscape riddled with risk.

3. Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur

After reading this book you will systematically understand and be able to design, and implement “game changing” business models or analyze and reinvent old ones. Business Model Generation features practical innovation techniques used by some of the worlds leading consultants and companies. You can check out my full thoughts on the book here.

Business Model Generation

4. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Not sure I have to say much about this one…. Walter Isaacsons’ biography piece is amazing and dives deep into the ferocious drive of the man that revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing. How can anyone not read this?

5. The Goal by by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

​​Although it describes manufacturing operations and is written in the form of a novel, “The Goal” is relevant for all types of industries/fields because it’s about learning what makes the world around you tick so that you can then improve upon it. As the characters in this book think “logically” about their problems they gradually uncover the “cause and effect” relationships between actions and results.

6. How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything by Dov Seidman

Through entertaining anecdotes, case studies, research in a whole host of fields, and interviews with a diverse group of leaders, business executives, experts, and everyday people, this book explores how we think, how we behave, how we lead, and how we govern our institutions and ourselves in a world flooded with information, in a time of unprecedented transparency and ever increasing interconnectedness.

7. Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins

Perkins, a former chief economist at a Boston strategic-consulting firm, says he was an “economic hit man” for 10 years, helping intelligence agencies and multinationals persuade and blackmail foreign leaders into serving U.S. foreign policy and awarding lucrative contracts to American business. “Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars,” Perkins writes. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is an extraordinary and gripping tale of intrigue and dark machinations.

8. Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki

Kawasaki argues (convincingly so) that in business and personal interactions, your goal is not merely to get what you want but to bring about a voluntary, enduring, and delightful change in other people. By enlisting their own goals and desires, by being likable and trustworthy, and by framing a cause that others can embrace, you can change hearts, minds, and actions.

Enchantment Guy Kawasaki

9. One Simple Idea by Stephen Key

This book teaches everyday people how to leverage their ideas into profitable licensing businesses. The book was created by the guy who taught Tim Ferris a thing or two about business. Nothing bad about an award-winning inventor, a renowned intellectual property strategist, and a successful entrepreneur his knowledge.

10. The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk

The Thank You Economy offers compelling, data-driven evidence that we are in an entirely new business era, one in which the companies that see the biggest returns won’t be the ones that can throw the most money at an advertising campaign or product, but will be those that can prove they care about their customers more than anyone else.

Thank You Economy Gary Vaynerchuk

11. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable by Seth Godin

A linchpin, as Seth describes it, is somebody in a company who is indispensable, someone who cannot be replaced, their role is just far too unique and valuable. You need to be one of these people, you really do. To not be one is economic and career suicide. Read this book and find your path.

12. The Third Wave by Steve Case

Steve Case explains in his book a new paradigm called the “Third Wave” of the Internet. In the first wave saw companies (like AOL) lay the foundation for consumers to connect to the Internet. In the second wave we saw companies like Google and Facebook build on top of the Internet to create search and social networking capabilities, while apps like Snapchat and Instagram leveraged the smartphone revolution. Now, Case argues, we’re entering the Third Wave: a period in which entrepreneurs will vastly transform major “real world” sectors like health, education, transportation, energy, and food and in the process change the way we live our daily lives.

13. Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull

Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality. It’s also the first-ever all-access, behind the scenes trip into the inner workings of Pixar Animation

14. The Art of the Start (version 1 or 2.0) by Guy Kawasaki

The Art of the Start will give you the essential steps you need to take to launch great products, services, and companies-whether you are dreaming of starting the next Google or a local non-profit this book is for you.

Art of the Start 2.0 Guy Kawasaki

15. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

A book that tells an amazing business story: the building of a $1 billion online business selling shoes, and doing in it in less than a decade. Tony is one of those entrepreneurs who is both fearless, untraditional and imaginative about pursuing his dreams. At Zappos, he’s built a culture around “truly” taking care of the needs of his employees, so they’re inspired to take care of the needs of their customers.

16. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen

Focusing on “disruptive technology,” Christensen shows why most companies miss out on new waves of innovation. Whether in electronics or retailing, companies established products will get pushed aside unless managers know when to abandon traditional business practices to adopt new ones. Using the lessons of successes and failures from leading companies, this book presents a set of rules for capitalizing on the phenomenon of disruptive innovation.

17. Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie

You want to love your work?, work for what you love?, and have a positive impact on the world… all at the same time? Here’s the proof you CAN do it.

18. The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets that Change the World by John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” -George Bernard Shaw. Says it all right there. This book reveals how unreasonable innovators have built their enterprises, how their work will shape risks and opportunities in the coming years, and what tomorrow’s leaders can learn from them.

19. Netflixed – The Epic Battle for America’s Eyeballs by Gina Keating

Gina Keating recounts the fast-paced drama of the Netflix’s turbulent rise to the top and its’ attempt to invent two new kinds of business. First it engaged in a grueling war against videostore behemoth Blockbuster, transforming how you rent movies forever. Then it jumped into an even bigger battle for online video streaming against Google, Hulu, Amazon, and big cable.

20. Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America by Jeff Ryan

Jeff Ryan shares the story of how this quintessentially Japanese company found success in the American market. Lawsuits, Hollywood, die-hard fans, and face-offs with Sony and Microsoft are all part of the drama.

21. Present Shock by Douglas Rushkoff

In Present Shock Rushkoff argues (rather convincingly) that the future is “now” and we’re contending with a fundamentally new challenge… that we no longer have a sense of a future, of goals, of direction at all. We have a completely new relationship to time; we live in an always-on “now,” society where the priorities of this moment seem to be everything, and that fact defines everything that happens (or doesn’t happen) around us. I was simply blown away by this book, you can read my deeper review here.

Present Shock Book Cover

22. Built To Last by Jim Collins

Filled with hundreds of specific examples and organized into a understandable framework of practical concepts that can be applied by managers and entrepreneurs at ALL levels. Built to Last provides a master blueprint for building companies that will prosper long into the 21st century and beyond.

23. Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky

Here Comes Everybody is a revelatory examination of how the wildfire like spread of new forms of social interaction enabled by technology is changing the way humans form groups and exist and interact within them.

24. Tribes by Seth Godin

Tribes will make you think (really think) about the opportunities for leading your fellow employees, customers and investors. It’s not easy, but it’s easier than you can probably imagine.

25. The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida

The Rise of the Creative Class gives you provocative new way to think about why we live as we do today – and where we might be headed. Weaving storytelling with masses of new and updated research, Richard Florida traces the fundamental theme that runs through a host of seemingly unrelated changes in American society: the growing role of creativity in our economy. This book has probably had the biggest single impact any book has had on me – “eye-opening” to say the least.

26. Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey, Rajendra Sisodia

Whole Foods cofounder John Mackey and Raj Sisodia argue that both business and capitalism are inherently good, and they use some of today’s best-known and most successful companies to illustrate their point.

27. 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

Robert Greene and Joost Elffers have distill three thousand years of the history of power into 48 essential laws by drawing from the philosophies of Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, and Carl Von Clausewitz and also from the lives of modern day figures ranging from Henry Kissinger to P.T. Barnum.

28. ReWork by Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson

Rework shows you a better, faster, easier way to succeed in business. Read it and you’ll know why plans are actually harmful, why you don’t need outside investors, and why you’re better off ignoring the competition.

29. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience teaches you how, by ordering the information that enters our consciousness, we can discover true happiness and greatly improve the quality of our lives. Introduced to me at a business conference during some very turbulent times – I read this book and became an instant student.

30. The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson

The computer and the internet are among the most important innovations of our era, but few people know who created them. They were not conjured up in a garage. Instead, most of the innovations of the digital age were done collaboratively. There are lots of fascinating people involved, this is the story of these pioneers, hackers, inventors, and entrepreneurs. Find out who they were, how their minds worked, and what made them so creative.

31. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

In The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, draws on his own story of founding, running, selling, buying, managing, and investing in technology companies to offer essential advice and practical wisdom for navigating the toughest problems. Read this book and learn all the things they didn’t teach you in business school.

32. Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton

This is the tale of twitter. A story of betrayed friendships and the high-stakes power struggle between the four founders (Biz Stone, Evan Williams, Jack Dorsey, and Noah Glass) who went from everyday engineers to wealthy celebrities.

33. Start Your Own Business – Entrepreneur Mag

Don’t know where to “start.” Let this book guide you through the critical steps of starting your first business, and then let it support you in surviving your first 3 years. Packed with information from business experts, practicing business owners, and thriving entrepreneurs, you’ll uncover what you need to know before taking the plunge.

34. Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy

A candid and indispensable primer on all aspects of advertising from the man Time Magazine has called “the most sought after wizard in the business”.

35. Terms of Service: Social Media and the Price of Constant Connection by Jacob Silverman

Shifts in communication and privacy are affecting us more than we realize or understand. Terms of Service crystalizes this current moment in technology and contemplates its implications: the identity-validating pleasures and perils of online visibility; our newly adopted view of daily life through the lens of what is share-worthy; and the surveillance state operated by social media platforms—Facebook, Google, Twitter, and others—to mine our personal data for advertising revenue, an invasion of our lives that is as pervasive as government spying.

36. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

A look at the extraordinary life of one of Silicon Valley’s most exciting, unpredictable, and ambitious entrepreneurs, Elon Musk. Fascinating examination of the life of the man who is single-handedly renewing American invention.

37. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek

In this book Simon Sinek shares the essential ingredients of a leader. It’s the job of leaders to do their best to create cultures where people feel loved, safe and fulfilled. They start with the premise that their leadership is there to serve the employee, not the other way around. Sinek shines a light on a path toward building a business that can provide a more stable “human” environment that benefits all employees while they reach for shared excellence.

38. The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael D. Watkins

Learn how to win the first 90 days with these proven strategies for conquering the challenges of taking on a new role — no matter where you are in your career.

39. Search & Social by Rob Garner

Search and Social is a detailed, hands-on guide to building a successful real-time content marketing platform. This book is a must-read for SEOs, social media marketers, content marketers, Internet marketers, marketing executives, and CMO’s.

Search and Social

40. Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong by Robert Bryce

In the face of today’s environmental and economic challenges, dooms-dayers constantly warn that the only way to stave off disaster is for humans to completely reverse course: to de-industrialize, re-localize, ban the use of modern energy sources etc. etc. Robert Bryce argues otherwise and hows how innovation and the inexorable human desire to make things “Smaller, Faster, Lighter, Denser & Cheaper” is fostering unprecedented prosperity, greater liberty, and better environmental protections.

41. The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism
by Jeremy Rifkin

Capitalism is making way for the age of FREE. The bulk of the energy we use to heat our homes, run our appliances, power our businesses, drive our vehicles and operate every part of the global economy will be generated at a near zero marginal cost in the coming decades. In this book Rifkin explores the impact this fact will have on society.

42. Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday

You’ve seen it all before. A malicious online rumor costs a company millions. A political sideshow derails the national news cycle and destroys a candidate. Some product or celebrity zooms from total obscurity to viral sensation. What you don’t know is that someone is responsible for all this. Usually, someone like Ryan Holiday.

43. The Everything Store. Jeff Bezos and The Age of Amazon by Brad Stone

The story of Amazon.com, one of the most successful companies in the world, and of its driven founder, Jeff Bezos. Yes it started off delivering books through the mail. But Jeff Bezos, wasn’t content with being just a “bookseller”. He wanted Amazon to become the “everything” store, offering limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptively low prices. To do so, he developed a corporate culture of relentless ambition and secrecy.

44. The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter by David Sax

We still love the tangible. David Sax has uncovered story after story of entrepreneurs, small business owners, and even big corporations who’ve found a market selling not apps or virtual goods, but instead “tangible” things. As e-books are supposedly remaking reading, independent bookstores have sprouted up across the country. As music allegedly migrates to the cloud, vinyl record sales have grown more than ten times over the past decade. Even the offices of tech giants like Google and Facebook increasingly rely on pen and paper to drive their brightest ideas.

45. Iacocca: An Autobiography by Lee Iacocca

An oldie but a goodie. The fascinating story of Lee Iacocca, a business legend in his own right. He helped shape Ford into the number two US auto maker and then saved Chrysler from going out of business. In this book, Iacocca reveals the situations he faced and the management magic he performed to make both companies into good performers.

46. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal

Hooked is based on Eyal’s years of research, consulting, and practical experience. He wrote the book he wished had been available to him as a start-up founder—not abstract theory, but a how-to guide for building better products.

47. Content Rules by Ann Handley

Content Rules equips you for success as a one-stop source on the art and science of developing content that people care about. This book is interwoven with case studies of companies successfully spreading their ideas online and using them to establish credibility and build a loyal customer base.

48. Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want by Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Gregory Bernarda, Alan Smith, Trish Papadakos

Using the same stunning visual format as the authors’ global bestseller, Business Model Generation, this sequel explains how to use the “Value Proposition Canvas” a practical tool to design, test, create, and manage products and services customers actually want.

49. The New Digital Age by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen

In this book, Schmidt and Cohen combine observation and insight to outline the promise and peril awaiting us in the coming decades. At once pragmatic and inspirational, this is a forward-thinking account of where our world is headed and what this means for people, states and businesses.

The New Digital Age

50. The Conversion Code: Capture Internet Leads, Create Quality Appointments, Close More Sales by Chris Smith

If you need more traffic, leads and sales The Conversion Code is a must read. This book provides clear guidance toward conquering the new paradigm shift towards online lead generation and inside sales. Literally a MUST HAVE for anyone involved in using the internet to market, promote and sell their brand/business online.

And there you have it 50 books….

There are countless books that are not on this list that probably deserve to be, but right here, “right now”, these 50 business books are the ones that I have been picking back up and referencing the most lately.

Do you have a favorite business book not on this list? Let me know in the comments (and thank you for making it to the very end of this very long post.)

P.S. Would love your feedback re: the images? would you like to see an image for each book? debated back and forth on including…

Disclosure: The links to books in this post are affiliate links. “No” I didn’t write this post with the goal of making money, and trust me these links are not going to make me a millionaire, I wrote this because I genuinely LOVE these books, they have all had an impact on my life/career and if any one these books makes (or has made) a single impact on you – that’s awesome. Should you buy something on Amazon using one of the links above, I may make a couple of extra bucks and use that money to take my daughter to the movies. (or buy her a book to read!)

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