Updated: March 2020
Looking for the best business books for entrepreneurs? Wondering how to decide what book to read this year?
Here’s your list! Below are the 21 best business books I’ve read in my 20+ years as an entrepreneur.
Each will challenge and inspire you as an entrepreneur to develop the habits, skills, and mindset necessary to succeed.
Plus, there’s an infographic at the end so you can save for later. Pin it, share it, and get reading!
For those with a limited attention span, here’s the TL;DR version. Below is a quick review and why I’ve added each book to the list.
- The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage by Mel Robbins
- Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott
- Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff
- Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
- When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
- The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
- Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson
- The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy
- Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brene Brown
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz
- The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
- Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
- Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
- The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
- The Alchemist Paulo Coelho
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It
- Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance by Marcus Buckingham
- The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick
Book Review for the Top 21 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read
Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage by Mel Robbins
Seth Godin says he reads for a specific amount of time before he gets the gist. The gist of the 5 Second Rule is simple and one.
Use the 5-second rule to get out of your own way and get stuff done.
Now while I don’t have much of an issue with self-motivation, this book connected with me on a very deep level. No matter the habit or fear holding you back, the beauty of this book is in its simplicity to push you through it. As Mel explains,
“The moment you feel a desire to act on a goal or a commitment, use the Rule.”
Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott
I first became aware of Kim Scott after reading her article on First Round, “The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss,” (and subsequent video) After her book came out, it became a staple among our team.
It changed our culture, communication, and mindset.
The results of how it impacted our team were mind-blowing. I wrote about it here if you want additional context.
As Kim explains, the idea behind Radical Candor is this:
“We believe that the relationships you have with your team are at the center of being a great boss, helping the people on your team achieve their fullest potential, and drive results collaboratively.”
Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff
Every once in a while, a book comes along at the exact right moment. There I was, working on a new project and finding everything difficult. The ideation, development, and content writing felt heavy and overwhelming.
Even though I’d been through this process many times before, I was dragging my feet and couldn’t figure out why. Then along came Jon with the words I needed to hear and the formula to get it done and to the “Finish” line.
“The world is littered with half-finished books, almost started businesses and nearly done diets. Who knew the secret was to have more fun, kill the hidden rules you live by and embrace imperfection? Jon Acuff did, and you’re about to as well.” – Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art
An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
I’m a big fan of Charles Duhigg and, “The Power of Habit.” So when James Clear came along with a book complementary to Charles, I gobbled it up.
What he’s provided is an easy to follow approach to incorporating positive habits and eliminating those that don’t serve us. Too often I find myself laying the shame on thick when I can’t overcome a bad habit that’s cropped up.
James Clear says no to that. He offers very practical steps to let go of the guilt and instead embrace your own habit-building system.
The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink
This was one of my favorite reads of the year. We make critical decisions every day, within our lives and businesses.
But what if those decisions require more than careful consideration? What if when we decide impacts how we decide?
Science and Daniel Pinks research says it does. If you enjoy data and the science behind why we do what we do, this book is for you!
6. Deep Work
Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
As someone that works in the online world, distraction is easy to come by. Guarding our time and our minds are essential to getting things done.
In his book, “Deep Work,” Cal explains that getting into a deep work zone isn’t as hard as many would have you believe. It’s a skill anyone can develop and one that’s critical to your success.
It impacts how you work, the results you produce, and how quickly you can move from one task to the next.
7. Lean Startup
How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries
According to a Harvard Business School study by Shikhar Ghosh, the failure rate of all U.S. companies after five years is over 50%, and skyrockets to 70% at 10 years.
I’ve read all or portions of this book a dozen times over the years and with good reason. There’s gold in every chapter that shares how to avoid failure.
The Lean Startup will radically change how you run your business, work with your team, innovate, and how to smartly navigate your market. this is a methodology and a movement your business needs to implement.
Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson
Crucial conversations are all around us. But are we really prepared when they come along? Think about your last crucial conversation where:
- Opinions varied
- Stakes were high
- Parties involved had strong emotions
How did the conversation go? Was it heated, argumentative, and left all parties feeling frustrated or angry? You can avoid that by staying in conversation (promoting positive dialogue) to get the results you want.
Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success by Darren Hardy
Are you an entrepreneur or creative that gets excited about a project, partnership or “big idea” only to lose steam in a short amount of time? This book will get you out of that cycle, giving you step-by-step actions to multiply your success.
The concept of, “The Compound Effect,” is simple, reap rewards when you take small, consistent action. It has far bigger rewards than taking big steps over a short period of time.
10. Dare to Lead
Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brene Brown
After barely getting through Dare Greatly, Rise Strong, and Brave the Wilderness, I hesitated to purchase this book. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Brene and her work, but her books aren’t my typical style.
But this book was different. I immediately found myself identifying and relating to it on a very deep level. Brene’s easy style, sense of humor, and incredible storytelling, you’ll learn what it takes (and what the data says) about being a braver, more daring leader.
“One of the most important findings of my career is that daring leadership is a collection of 4 skill sets that are 100% teachable, observable, and measurable. It’s learning and unlearning that requires brave work, tough conversations, and showing up with your whole heart. Easy? No.”
11. The Hard Thing About Hard Things
Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz
Ben Horowitz is a technology engineer and the co-founder/general partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. If you think this book might only be for startups, specifically SaaS-based, you’d be wrong.
This book applies to anyone building a business and eager to circumvent the biggest challenges any business owner or leader’s faces. From hiring to pricing, communication and company culture, it sheds light on topics (the hard things) other books don’t.
The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday
No matter the struggle or personal tragedy, we all have mishaps, unfortunate events, and roadblocks that come up within our business and life. Too often though, we allow those obstacles to derail us instead of learning how to turn that obstacle into an advantage.
As Ryan explains, flipping an obstacle on its head isn’t the solution. Pushing through that obstacle is where greatness is born. The obstacle standing in your way can (and will) become your way.
13. Good to Great
Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
What does it take to make anything great and what separates the good from the great? As another classic on my list of business books, “Good to Great” focuses on what it takes to create explosive results in your business.
If you’re looking for a baseline and want to better understand what makes great companies truly great, start with, “Good to Great.”
Through data, interviews, and analysis, you’ll learn the 7 key principles successful companies adhere to without fail.
The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
As I mentioned above, I’m a big fan of Duhigg. Any time I can build a better mousetrap and increase productivity, I’m all in.
The trick to motivating ourselves and improving productivity? It turns out it’s as simple as believing that we have authority over our actions. As humans, we crave control and understanding how that motivates us, changes everything.
15. Start with Why
How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
Chances are, if you’re a business owner, entrepreneur or creative, you lead a busy life. But busy can often become the one thing standing in our way to better results.
Whether you lead a team or yourself, this book uses real-world examples to show you how to find your purpose, turn that into action, and make your vision come true.
How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell is one of those authors I could listen to all day long. He’s a master storyteller, pulling you into the narrative, artfully using them to support his theory. With everything from Paul Revere to Sesame Street, listen in to learn:
- What makes an idea reach its tipping point and why it then spreads like wildfire
- The 3 types of people that are responsible for tipping those ideas
- How stickiness impacts tipping and why without it, no idea will ever tip
17. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
When I first read Mark Manson’s 2015 post that turned into his best-selling book, I was mesmerized by his raw, direct, and brash communication style.
After reading his book, I could see why. His writing forced me to look at tough questions like our version of success, why we allow others or society to creep into the lens we see ourselves through, and why we focus on all the wrong things.
As Mark shows us, if you want to live a more fulfilled, happier, and energetic life, you have to let go of things that don’t define you. Shed those and you’re left with only the things you should truly care about.
18. The Alchemist
A Fable About Following Your Dream by Paulo Coelho
This isn’t your standard business book. If you’re looking for a step-by-step, how-to book, this isn’t it. Rather, what you’ll find is the story of Santiago, a shepherd boy on a journey.
What we learn along the way is why our fears are often a bigger obstacle than the obstacle itself, how to embrace the present, and why your success has a ripple effect.
Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber
In the E Myth Revisited, a book I first read over a decade ago, Michael Gerber shares why most businesses fail. He then gives you the exact steps to take to avoid that failure.
You’ll hear the characteristics that define each founder or owner, what’s critical in the early stages of a startup, and why it’s so important to delineate between working in and on your business.
If you want to transform your business results, the E-Myth will show you the systems and processes necessary that allow growth to flow into your life and business.
“The most menial work can be a piece of art when done by an artist. So the job here is not outside of ourselves, but inside of ourselves. How we do our work becomes a mirror of how we are inside.”
20. Go Put Your Strengths to Work
6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance by Marcus Buckingham
I first read this book in 2008 as a gift from a mentor. I knew that revisiting it in 2018 might tarnish my view of what I’d always considered one of the great leadership books of our time.
I was pleasantly surprised that the advice is not only sound but still incredibly relevant. If you want to better understand how to lead a team, bring out their best work, praise, and support them in unique ways, don’t miss this gem.
Because believe it or not, your strengths aren’t “what you’re good at” and your weaknesses aren’t “what you are bad at.” Once you overcome that myth, you can identify your true strengths, leverage each one, and better instill that same greatness into your team.
Power Tips for Power Users by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick
Ever wonder what it takes to create a significant social media presence? Turns out, it’s a little bit of art and science.
In, “The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users” Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick share time-tested social media strategies to:
- Create a successful social media foundation
- Ways to gain the attention of your target market
- How to best optimize your social media profiles
- Where to spend your time and what to share when you’re there
No matter your industry or business, this book will get you set up and running on social media in no time.
As John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, commit to continuous learning.
Books are your best source of knowledge and a gift that keeps on giving. If you want to improve your business and life, pick one from the list above.
You won’t regret it!
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Full disclosure: Links on this page may be affiliate links which means that if you decide to buy, I will earn a commission. 3 things you need to know: I only recommend products I use within my own business, am extremely happy with, and can confidently promote.