100 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read

I’ve always hated reading books.  In fact, I felt so strongly that I could learn more by reading blogs and figuring things out on my own that I dropped out of college and started hustling at work when I was just 20.  But I’ve since come to realize after years of working that there’s really no alternative to knowing the fundamentals.

Because of this, I’ve recently challenged myself to read 100 books by the end of the year, using the following list that I’ve compiled from other entrepreneurs, my mentors and via recommendations in other books.  I’m currently a quarter of the way there and am pacing at two books a week.  To me, the experiences I’ve had so far with SEO and business in general are equivalent to a college degree.  Reading these quintessential business books is going to be my MBA.

So, not only should you read these books – you should take notes and execute as much of what you learn as you can.  But that’s a topic for another blog post…

Here’s what I’m reading (or planning to read), broken down into categories for your reference:

Biographies and Company Histories

Reading about what’s made other people or companies successful in the past gives me lots of great ideas about how I can improve my own work at Single Grain.  The following biographies and company histories aren’t just inspiring – reading them can also be a good way to avoid the common pitfalls that other entrepreneurs have faced.

  • Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson
  • Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business      My Way – Richard Branson
  • Delivering Happiness – Tony Hsieh
  • Founders at Work – Jessica Livingston
  • The Toyota Way – Jeffrey K. Liker
  • The Smartest Guys In The Room: The Amazing Rise And Scandalous Fall Of Enron – Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind
  • Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace – Ricardo Semler
  • What I Really Think: The Business Chapters – Jeff Rusinow

Business Classics

In my opinion, these books are default reading for anyone who’s even remotely interested in business (although really, the lessons taught in these books can help you to achieve greatness in any aspect of your life).  Seriously – they wouldn’t be known as classics if they hadn’t stood up to the test of time!

  • Good to Great – Jim Collins
  • Great by Choice – Jim Collins
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
  • Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill
  • Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Steven Covey
  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship – Peter Drucker
  • The Magic of Thinking Big – David Schwartz
  • Awaken the Giant Within – Tony Robbins

New Business Classics


The following recent titles have all earned rave reviews by the business community at large, so while these books aren’t quite on the well-known level of “Good to Great” or “Think and Grow Rich,” my suspicion is that they will be someday.  Read these important current works to get a feel for what works in today’s business world.

  • The 4-Hour Work Week – Timothy Ferriss
  • Switch – Chip and Dan Heath
  • Outliers: The Story of Success – Malcolm Gladwell
  • Rework – Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
  • Crush It! – Gary Vaynerchuk
  • Drive – Daniel H. Pink
  • Guerrilla Marketing – Jay Conrad Levinson
  • Inbound Marketing – Brian Halligan, Dharmesh Shah and David Meerman Scott
  • Tribes – Seth Godin
  • Linchpin? Are You Indispensable – Seth Godin
  • Made to Stick – Chip Heath
  • Ready, Fire, Aim – Michael Masterson

Business Strategy


Personally, I think it’s important to balance “inspiring” reads with more technical guides that give me step-by-step, actionable guidelines to follow for improving certain aspects of my business career.  For more detailed, strategy-oriented business info than can be found in my old classics and new classics lists above, check out any of the following business books:

  • Start Something that Matters – Blake Mycoskie
  • From Resource Allocation to Strategy – Joseph Bower
  • Start with Why – Simone Sinek
  • The Big Enough Company: Creating a Business That Works for You – Adelaide Lancaster and Amy Abrams
  • The Innovator’s Dilemma – Clayton Christensen
  • Predictable Success – Les McKeown
  • The Four Steps To The Epiphany – Steve Blank
  • Steal Like an Artist – Austin Kleon
  • Blue Ocean Strategy – W. Chan Kim
  • Business Model Generation – Alexander Osterwalder
  • The Ultimate Sales Machine – Chet Holmes, Jay Conrad Levinson and Michael Gerber
  • Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries – Peter Sims
  • My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire – Michelle Goodman
  • Driven: Business Strategy, Human Actions, and the Creation of Wealth – Joel Litman and Mark Frigo

Startups 101

As a startup entrepreneur myself, I’m looking forward to reading the following books for wisdom on the fast-paced world of new businesses.  Recommended to me by other entrepreneurs and blogs I frequent, these titles should provide a balanced look at both the mistakes made by past startups and the steps I can take to be more successful.

  • The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses – Eric Ries
  • Startup Weekend: How to Take a Company From Concept to Creation in 54 Hours – Marc Nager, Clint Nelsen and Franck Nouyrigat
  • Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup – Brad Feld and David Cohen
  • The Startup Game – William H. Draper
  • The Startup Owner’s Manual – Steve Blank
  • Street Smarts – Norm Brodsky
  • Potemkin, Inc. – Philippe Joly

Marketing and Branding


You might have noticed that this list is a little Seth Godin heavy, but really, the dude’s got some great things to say about business strategy and promotion.  And really, without a good promotion strategy in place, you’re never going to reach the business goals you set for yourself!  Check out his books below, as well as the other marketing and branding texts listed below.

  • The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding – Al Ries and Jack Trout
  • Purple Cow – Seth Godin
  • UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging – Scott Stratton
  • The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself – John Jantsch
  • Permission Marketing – Seth Godin
  • All Marketers are Liars – Seth Godin
  • Smarter, Faster, Cheaper – David Siteman Garland

Personal Development/Psychology


Being a successful business isn’t just having a great idea.  If you aren’t mentally prepared to face the challenges of running a company, you’ll want to take a look at this list in order to set yourself up for success.  Although some of the selections below are a little controversial (“The Alchemist,” in particular), I’m looking forward to expanding my horizons with the following texts:

  • The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business – Josh Kaufman
  • The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
  • The War of Art – Stephen Pressfield
  • The 4-Hour Body – Timothy Ferriss
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert Pirsig
  • How Successful People Think – John Maxwell
  • What I Wish I Knew When I Was Twenty – Tina Seelig
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
  • The Art of the Start – Guy Kawasaki
  • The Dip – Seth Godin
  • The Art of Possibility – Rosamund Zander

Leadership and Management Skills

Learning to lead others and manage employees is a skill just like any other.  Although I had the chance to expand my skills in this area while working with Oversee.net, I’m still developing my management acumen each and every day.  If you don’t have past management experience, you’ll want to pick up any of the following texts before diving too deeply into the business world.

  • Getting to Yes – Roger Fisher
  • Emotional Intelligence 2.0 – Travis Bradberry
  • The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t – Robert Sutton
  • Crucial Conversations – Patterson, Grenney, et al
  • Lifescripts – Stephan M. Pollan and Mark Levine
  • Tribal Leadership – Dave Logan
  • The 48 Laws of Power – Robert Green

Time Management and Productivity

Good business owners get more done.  Really, the more effectively you can accomplish a given set of tasks, the more you’ll be able to do – and the faster your business will grow.  Check out any of the following books if you need a kick in the pants to get more done.

  • Getting Things Done – David Allen
  • The One Minute Entrepreneur – Ken Blanchard
  • Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and Email Overload – Mark Hurst
  • Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality – Scott Belsky
  • The Zigzag Principle – Rich Christiansen

21st Century Business

The “Information Age” has created some incredible opportunities for a new type of entrepreneur.  I make use of them every day at Single Grain, but really – I only scratch the tip of the iceberg.  To learn more about how people are using 21st century business practices to turn new ideas into legitimate businesses, take a look at any of the following books:

  • The E-myth Revisited – Michael E. Gerber
  • The Master Switch – Tim Wu
  • How to Change the World – David Bornstein

Consumer Behavior

Understanding your customer is key – without customers, you really don’t have a business!  For this reason, it’s important to understand the psychology behind how people behave in the marketplace, which is why the following titles should all be considered an important part of your preparation before launching a new business.

  • The Thank You Economy – Gary Vaynerchuk
  • The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development – Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits
  • The Mating Mind – Geoffrey Miller
  • Enchantment – Guy Kawasaki
  • Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely
  • Influence – Robert B. Cialdini
  • The Paradox of Choice – Barry Schwartz

Inspiration and Motivation

Sometimes – when the thought of spending yet another hour hustling away on my business seems entirely overwhelming – nothing gets me motivated like reading success tales from past entrepreneurs.  The following books are all ones that have been recommended to me as being particularly motivating, so I’m looking forward to seeing what inspirational tips I can pick up from them.

  • Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance – Jonathan Fields
  • Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: How I Went from Gang Member to Multimillionaire Entrepreneur – Ryan Blair
  • Never Get a “Real” Job: How to Dump Your Boss, Build a Business and Not Go Broke – Scott Gerber
  • The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence – Tom Peters
  • The Education Of Millionaires – Michael Ellsberg

Networking                               

Networking has been incredibly important to the growth of Single Grain, so I firmly believe that it’s not what you know – it’s who you know that matters.  To keep growing my skills in this area, I’m picking up the following books for some concrete tips on how to expand my network even further.

  • Never Eat Alone – Keith Ferrazzi
  • Networking for People Who Hate Networking – Devora Zack
  • Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty – Harvey Mackay

General Economics


Finally, I consider understanding general economics to be a vital part of my personal MBA program, so I’m planning to take a look at all of the following books.  Each of them has been recommended to me as a great way to learn general economic principles (without having to pour through college textbooks or sit through droning lectures!).

  • The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World – Niall Ferguson
  • The World is Flat – Thomas Friedman
  • Freakonomics – Steven D. Levitt and Stephen Dubner

Overall, my hope is that reading through these titles will help give me the same foundation of business knowledge – including everything from overarching principles to strategic action plans – that I would have obtained had I stuck around for my MBA.  (Heck, I’m pretty sure that I’ll get even more out of this self-directed program, as it’s me who’s instigating it and not some random professor shoving a syllabus down my throat!)

However, since I’m always looking for ways to grow further, I’d like your recommendations as well.  Are there any other books I should be reading?  Add your thoughts to the comments section below to help me improve my list!

Comments

  • Really solid list. It would be cool to add a fiction section too. Entertaining and insightful. Like “Atlas Shrugged”.

    Also a must read is “Behind the Cloud” by Marc Benioff. He takes you through his entire story building Salesforce from the ground up. Really valuable book.

  • Wow nice list, I recognized a few books that I have read, and found awesome, so it gives me trust that the rest of it is genuine. And with tips for books with new subjects to read and learn new things. Networking and leadership section caught my eye :)

    Thank you Sujan

    And since we always need to sell something I found a book Secret Of Selling Anything – Harry Browne to be really good, and I haven’t seen it on your list so this is my suggestion

  • great list. Have read probably about 40%. Of those books. Definitely some titles I’ve been meaning to read for a while as well.

    Well done.

  • I’ve personally adapted to skimming knowledge all over the web, so I’m finding it harder to commit attention to books. Have you heard of getabstract.com? I’m thinking of combining their subscription with this list — productivity win!

    • getabstract.com is great but I feel that you learn most of the information from the littlest details on some of these books (at least for me). Definitely great to do both.

  • Thanks for the list! I will recommend you to read Filipe Careras book about networking “Networking – your professional survival guide!”. Both for beginners and pros.

    Best regards

    Pimpim

  • Wow… that is a big ask for 1 year.. especially if you have work and family commitments. I’m not talking about reading the books… that is the easy part… it’s the distilling of the ideas and concepts and development of strategies for implementation of the concepts.
    With the volume of books to work through in a relatively short timeframe, I wonder if it would be better to reduce the quantity and focus on the quality…

    • It’s definitely a lot of books to read. Some books I use for inspiration and others for tangible actions. I mostly read books on my commute while taking notes on my phone. This way when I get to work I’m ready to take action even if it’s for that day.

  • Good list, I’m not sure I could get through that in the next year let alone 10. If you had to pick only a few to read in the next few months what would those be? Basically your favorites on the entire list…

    • Thanks Keith. It’s hard to choose just 10 books. I recommend starting with areas you are weak in or want to improve.

      If I had to choose a few these it would be these (no particular order):
      The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding
      Blue Ocean Strategy
      Great by Choice
      Thinking, Fast and Slow
      How to Win Friends and Influence People

  • Kudos Sujan, and good luck with your challenge! Though I agree with most of the sentiments above – where does one even begin or find the time to read these in ONE YEAR? Thank goodness I can check a few off of the list, but still that is quite a feat.

    Can anyone suggest perhaps maybe 10 (or so) from the list as a starting point?

    • Thanks Stephanie. It’s hard to choose just 10. You can’t go wrong with any one of the books mentioned. I started with books that help me improve areas I was weak in.

  • Hi Sujan, great list of books & great post! You have one of my fav on here Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill – its what inspired to start the entrepreneur journey along with other Rock Star Books that you’ve listed – a few others I would suggest as a read: TIPPING POINT by Malcolm Gladwell & Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe & The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Steven Covey

    “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
    ― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

  • Very good list. Lot of reading to do.

    I would add three of my favorite books:

    “The Power Broker” by Robert Caro
    “The Making of the President” by Ted White
    “Stalingrad” by Antony Berov

  • thank you for the list. I have read a few of the books myself, and glad to know that i have read them.

    I have a suggestion…

    An author once said, I write books for kids, because adults read only book reviews and summaries.

    So from an adult reader…

    I wish we had all that time you seem to have, to read so many books !

    I suggest if you can put this list on a website or something, and some thing like a wikipedia option exists, then you and us the rest of the readers can begin to write a summary of the book, and it can keep getting edited by newer readers..

    This way, we can sample these books, and then, go for a full read, if we found something specific to pursue.

    It might even be on the net already , then it might be a question of organising it, in one website !

    A search facility on the contents of the summaries might help even more..

    Ex. If I want to search on Retail, then a get a summary or links from these 100 books’s summary on Retail.

    This way, I hope we avoid any copy right issues, if any …

    Best of luck in your reading.

  • Awesome list Sujan… i am putting a list together :-)
    Seeing that we have some great books in common like Good to great, how successful people think, Getting things done, Seven habits of highly effective people etc..
    I would also recommend the following books that you can add to your list.

    Under leadership and management skills
    – 21 laws of irrefutable leadership, John C. Maxwell
    – One minute manager, Ken Blanchard

    Personal Development/ Psychology (If you had a section for Sales – it might fit better)
    – The greatest salesman in the world, Og Mandino

  • *The Radical LEAP by Steve Farber
    *Fish By Stephen C. Lundin, Ph.D., Harry Paul and John Christensen.
    *Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

    enjoy and thanks for sharing your list Sujan!

  • Awesome list ! Very impressive.
    Thanks for sharing it, Sujan.
    Some books I read and in which I found some inspiration:
    The Leader Who Had No Title – Robin Sharma
    The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari – Robin Sharma
    The Art Of Non-Conformity – Chris Guillebeau
    The Power Of Now – Eckhart Tolle
    What Got You Here Won’t Get You There – Marshall Goldsmith

  • Pingback: Thursday Thoughts
  • I know that one can read all of these books with adequate comprehension but ruling out interaction with peers and professors in the classroom context will somewhat be depriving oneself added flavor and wealth of understanding. Unless we recognize that insights of others have a way of clarifying or simplifying issues beyond our own perspectives, it is likely we may end up with only with our individual grasp of what is read. The list of books is great, of course and I can add two or three books here: The Holy Bible, Strategic Agility and the Conversation Manager. Check authors, please!

  • great list. I’ve read only a few of your list. I’l try to look for them in our bookstore. Principle-centered leadership by Stephen Covey is also a great book to include in the list. Thank you again for the information. More power.

  • Wow, great list! I think i’ve read just about 4 of them. Guess I have a long way to go. I found The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman especially insightful. :)

  • This is a great list and one that will always be lengthening.I listen to audio books whenever I am driving any distance and have listened to a few of these ones on audio. Audio is a great way to use that dead time commuting, plus while exercising.

  • Great work. Will try to read as much as possible. Couple of books which may add more value to your list may be
    The monk who sold hos ferrari by Robin Sharma
    Economics by Ben bernanke

  • Hi Sujan, your post is well organised, keep up the good work. Im happy that your categories are well balanced from Economics, start-up, networking and personal development. I guess from an African Perspective, personal development is one area that will make a difference for us. Im surprised though that you missed ‘Eat the Rich’ by P. J. O’Rourke. I consider it a most humurous depiction of how Economics can be learned. ‘How to become a person of Influence’ by John Maxwell is great for ethics and accountability – and my very best for Networking is ‘ Secrets of Building a Million Dollar Network Marketing Organization’ by Dr Joe Rubhino. The reason why i highly recommend it is above everything else the book contains a powerful chapter on the subject of listening. It changed my life. Most people mean something different from what they say. Even here in Kenya, we are not socialised to mean what we say. My favourite quote from that chapter is ” I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”

  • Great list! (Haven’t read most of them ) Seth Godin Books are amazing. Just surprised to not see any of Robin Sharma’s Books – especially ‘The Greatness Guide’ under Personal Development/Psychology.

  • Great list! Dividing into categories is much help needed. Keep us posted on your thoughts and reviews from the book you reading!
    Cheers!

  • Pingback: Project Eve
  • Pingback: Link Hype 9-21-12
  • Sujan and all, I erroneously used the title Strategic Agility instead of Fast Strategy. Please forgive the rush in such an important matter. Thanks and best wishes!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

About Sujan

Sujan Patel is the VP of Marketing at thisCLICKS, the makers of When I Work & Wage Base. Previously Sujan founded Single Grain, one of the top Digital Marketing agencies in San Francisco, CA. With more than 10 years of Internet marketing experience and has led the digital marketing strategy for companies like Sales Force,…