25 Must-Read Books To Become A Successful Entrepreneur.
Too many entrepreneurs are running around like blind mice.
Are you one of them?
Maybe you’re the startup founder who received funding with no product/market fit, and then asked themselves this question:
How come all this money can’t solve my problems?
Or maybe you’re the startup founder trying to find creative ways to keep your free interns instead of building a sales funnel.
If that’s not already bad, you could be the startup founder who realized their product has zero validation but still continues to push forward because they don’t want to be seen as a failure.
It’s not uncommon. I’ve seen many of these exact scenarios play out over and again in the startup scene. The worst part: I’ve been there.
The first startup I founded, failed; and then, several startups I worked for failed, too. This was one of the lowest periods of my life.
The ugly truth of being a startup founder is that if your product fails, it’s your fault.
Don’t blame your failure on a lack of funding; most startups don’t need funding to be successful. What they need are smarter founders.
Funding creates stress, liability, and results in emotional decisions. Moreover, the last thing society needs is another entrepreneur who gets funding without a single paying customer.
It happens all the time. Investors throw money at brands – not people. If you worked as a custodian at Google or Facebook, you would have a higher chance of getting funded than an already successful business owner with no formal education or corporate brand name behind them.
Many investors believe these “entrepreneurs” from tech corporations are the next Will Hunting.
They don’t understand how to create a business from scratch in the twenty-first century. These investors just assume that if you work for a well-known tech company then you know how to run a startup.
If you don’t have a track record of growing startups into well-known companies and building successful sales funnels, then there’s NO REASON to trust you.
Countless startups fail because their founders never learn how to run a business on a bootstrap budget before they get funding.
Furthermore, don’t blame your startup’s failure on a lack of product/market fit. You don’t need to create a company to find out if someone will purchase your product.
The funny part is that it’s easier than ever to create a sales funnel to find out if you’ve hit product/market fit. You don’t need a million dollars of funding to do it. Moreover, all the information on creating a successful business exists at our fingertips.
The problem is that there is too much junk information available. Correspondingly, it’s hard to know the exact steps to take.
I can’t blame you.
Too many people want to become rich by teaching you how to become rich even though they are not making a penny themselves.
Where is the line drawn between the books you should be reading and the books you should avoid as a startup founder?
I tried to find it and failed. It doesn’t exist.
Lucky for you, I went through trial and error with over a hundred and twenty books on selling, psychology, marketing, and business to find the ones that make all the difference.
After reading enough of the right books, I hit a turning point – I rose above the noise. I now advise startups on growth, and can outline a high-converting sales funnel in a short period.
To give you a head-start, here are my top twenty-five books that took me from one of the millions of failing entrepreneurs to someone with a track record of growing businesses:
Sidenote: We have linked these books with our amazon associates program, which means that if you decide to buy a book, we will get a small commission at absolutely no additional cost to you. We don’t recommend these books simply to make money, they are amazing books and our endorsement comes from a place of complete sincerity.
1. “How To Win Friends And Influence People”
I don’t know a single successful entrepreneur who hasn’t read this book. If you haven’t picked it up, you’re missing on some of the key principles of building an incredible business and life.
Here are some of the excellent points found in How to Win Friend and Influence People:
- People don’t respond well to criticism; so don’t do it, not to their face nor behind their back.
- Don’t talk bad about people and say only good things about everyone.
- Appreciate others often because people yearn for appreciation.
- When you speak, talk about what others want and help them achieve it.
- Be willing to let others take credit for your ideas because they’ll appreciate your ideas more if they think of them to be their own.
- Always be happy to see people.
- Make sure to always smile.
2. “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is an incredible leadership book that teaches you how to get sh** done. If you’re looking for the motivation to take the initiative to bring your ideas to life – read this book immediately.
Author Stephen Covey iterates how focus and action are the fundamental skills of every successful entrepreneur. Without these two skills, no matter how talented one may be, they will never create anything great.
This book is aimed to give you a jump-start in knowing the vital characteristics of every person who wants to lead or achieve a remarkable feat.
Here is a short overview of the book’s seven principles and habits:
Habit #1: Be Proactive
Remaining proactive is the foundation of the entire seven habits paradigm. This entails a realization that you are a person who can take direct control of a situation through action and attitude.
Habit #2: Begin with the End in Mind
Covey introduces this part with a description of the reader’s funeral as an illustration of seeing the end as the start to any successful plan.
Habit #3: Put First Things First
The second step of a successful plan, following the visualization, is to perform the task.
Habit #4: Think Win/Win
Covey explains that mutually beneficial agreements known as Win/Win are where the highest success take place.
Habit #5: Seek first to Understand, and then to Be Understood
Communication is not a pipe to stuff information down. Rather, it requires an understanding of communicative channels so that your message won’t meet resistance. Our communicative strengths lie in how we control our reactions and listen.
Habit #6: Synergize
Synergy is the result of a group of independent people combining their creative energies. The result is more than the sum of their individual input; this requires integrity to be most effective.
Habit #7: Sharpen the Saw
It’s important to keep all the other skills sharpened by continued planning, practice, and renewal. These are the dynamics of the saw: physical, social, mental, and spiritual.
3. “30 Lessons For Living”
The self-improvement market is saturated to say the least. The market is over $10 billion and the worst part: there’s no stop to it. Anyone can claim they are the next self-improvement guru. The barrier to entry is knowing some motivational psychology and how to outsource an eBook for credibility.
What differentiates 30 Lessons for Living as incredible self-improvement book is that it’s all from experience. Author Karl Pillemer took on this 5-year project and interviewed thousands of Americans over the age of sixty-five to get their best advice on living the happiest life possible.
As an entrepreneur, you need to find a balance in life, so your emotions don’t spill over into your decision-making processes.
Some of the main takeaways from 30 Lessons for Living:
Lessons for a Happy Marriage
Marry someone similar to you, friendship is crucial, don’t keep score, communicate often, and commit to the idea marriage and not just your partner.
Lessons for a Successful and Fulfilling Career
Make sure to seek intrinsic rewards over financial ones, don’t stop looking for a job you love, work hard even at a bad job, emotional IQ trumps smarts, and everyone needs some freedom.
Lessons for Parenting
Remember, it’s okay to have a favorite, but just don’t show it. Also, don’t hit your kids, avoid arguments, and take a lifelong view of your relationship with your children.
Lessons for Aging Fearlessly and Well
It’s not bad being old, but make sure to treat your body like you will live it in for another 100 years. Also, don’t worry about dying, keep in touch with others, and always plan ahead if you move residencies.
Lessons for Living a Life Without Regrets
Stay honest, say yes to opportunities, find your inner traveler, carefully choose a partner, and say what you think now before it’s too late.
Lesson for Living Like an Expert
Always choose happiness, time is short, happiness is a choice, time spent worrying is pointless, think small, have confidence, and live by the Golden Rule.
4. “The Power of Habit”
When you drill success down to the core, you find excellent habits. Charles Duhigg, an investigative reporter for The New York Times, spent countless hours researching how habits develop and how they can be beneficial and destructive.
He put all his findings into his book, The Power of Habit. The book takes you on a wild journey through how the brain develops habits, how individuals and companies utilize them for success, and how retailers take advantage of them to get customers to purchase.
This book is perfect for any aspiring entrepreneur interested in knowing how companies can cater to their consumers’ habits. Moreover, how they can put themselves back in control of their habits that encourage ideation and creation.
The Power of Habit teaches you how habits form in a variety of ways, not just product specific as it covers the benefits of utilizing good habits for embracing change.
5. “The Sovereign Individual”
If you haven’t read The Sovereign Individual, then do so immediately. This book changed everything I thought about the future of society, government, and technology.
Authored by James Dale Davidson and William Rees-Mogg, this thought-provoking read gives you a powerful perspective and accurate predictions on the direction of our interconnected world. Written in 1997, The Sovereign Individual aimed to forecast the future – it was dead on.
Moreover, much of what is predicted was a gradual change in the relationship between society and technology that is still happening and will continue for many upcoming years.
If you are intrigued on how to create a product that won’t just be relevant now, but also in the years to come, then this is your go-to book.
6. “Steve Jobs”
Steve Jobs is an excellent read about an entrepreneur who defied the impossible. He proved to the world that you can accomplish almost anything. If you’re looking for inspiration, you’ll find every bit of it in this book.
Author Walter Isaacson put together a masterpiece by compiling over forty interviews with Steve Jobs and a hundred plus with family and other connections.
If you’re interested in starting a business that will make a dent in this world and is not just the next trendy app of the month, then this book is for you.
It’s one thing to read about the principles you should adopt to create an entrepreneurial and successful life, it’s another to read about someone who did it.
This book dives into almost every aspect of Steve Jobs’ life from personal to religious beliefs. It also talks about the many pieces of his life that people don’t know such as being born out of wedlock and adopted by working class parents.
Moreover, the book examines one of the brilliant minds behind Pixar and Apple. Don’t miss out.
7. “The Art of Learning”
The truth is many of us spend hours learning without knowing the best way to learn. The Art of Learning fills this void by turning the action of processing information into tangible skills.
The book surrounds the author, Josh Waitzkin’s incredible life journey.
Waitzkin was mostly known for the best-selling book, Searching for Bobby Fisher, which details his life as a chess prodigy where significant publicity had adverse negative effects on him.
Waitzkin worked tirelessly to the top of the world in tai chi martial arts and chess. By describing his experiences to master both fields, he teaches us his valuable strategies that we can use to reenact his ability to learn for our passions.
If you’re an entrepreneur, this book is a must-read for learning new things faster, so you can concentrate more on creating value and marketing. Furthermore, famous entrepreneur and investor, Tim Ferriss, lists The Art of Learning as one of his top book choices. One of the best takeaways: We should focus on executing tasks at hand instead of on the results and outcomes. This type of learning leads to the path of mastery.
Also, Waitzkin teaches us how we can create a lifestyle that sparks creativity and personal growth to consistently breaking through mental obstacles.
Are you ready for your breakthrough?
9. “the War of Art”
Author Steven Pressfield wrote The War of Art to help entrepreneurs and artists of all backgrounds overcome their creative hurdles. The book focuses on fulfilling your potential because you have beautiful art to give to the world.
Pressfield believes we are all artists and that our creativity just needs proper channeling. Steven Pressfield consistently refers to the mental obstacles we must overcome as “resistance.” This “resistance” wants you to be average, fear entrepreneurship and kill your ambitions.
He notes that overcoming “resistance” is a never-ending battle. It only ends the day we die. Some of Pressfield’s better moments include referring to the idea of following the right formula to conquer your dreams as foolish. He disproves this notion and convinces his readers that “We are not born with unlimited choices… Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal that we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”
One of my favorite parts is when he’s brutally honest about overcoming mental obstacles by telling his readers the prescription is showing up every day and getting to work.
Seth Godin is one of the most well-known marketers in the world and is an author of seventeen books. He refers to his book Linchpin as the one that’s changed the most lives.
Godin’s enthusiasm to encourage the reader to become a leader ripples through every page. By the end of the book, you should have the courage to take on a more dominant role in your company as a founder or even as an employee.
So what exactly is a Linchpin?
It’s someone in an organization who’s indispensable because their role is vital and unique. He makes it clear that if you don’t become a Linchpin, it’s the same as committing career suicide.
If you’re looking to understand the role you should play in any organization, Linchpin will put you on the right path.
11. “How To Work A Room”
Networking is vital in the digital age. If you don’t know how to socialize, land customers, and create partnerships, you’ll find yourself out of a job quickly. How to Work a Room by Susan Roane gives you the tools to overcome the hurdles to good networking.
Without connections and the right relationships in place, it’s almost impossible to build a company and get funding when needed. Moreover, without connections, your “great” product will remain invisible. Don’t be that entrepreneur.
Keep in mind, no one is born a great socializer – you learn most social skills. Correspondingly, Roane notes that there’s no such thing as a natural public speaker – it takes repeated practice.
Also, she mentions how we are all self-conscious, and the difference is that excellent socializers have just learned the proper techniques.
Some of the great finds in How To Work A Room include:
- How to prepare yourself for a social event both mentally and physically
- How to act as if you’re the host
- How to approach people
- How to strike a conversation, close, and then follow-up
- How to exit when it’s time to circulate
- How to find out who else is attending and plan ahead who you want to meet
- Some cool ways to excuse yourself from a conversation
12. “Purple Cow”
Authored by Seth Godin, Purple Cow is one of those few motivational books that will inspire you to live differently. The idea behind purple cows is that no one stops and looks at a field of cows because they’re all the same. However, if you see a purple one, then you’ll stop and stare.
Seth Godin refers to a purple cow as something rare, phenomenal, exciting, unpredictable, and counterintuitive.
So ask yourself:
Does what I create stand out?
If no, then you’re in serious trouble. If you’re not unique, then you can’t capture your customer’s most valuable asset, attention. All founders have an inner purple cow; however, they’re hard to release because they have to embrace vulnerability while leading a company.
Ready to step up and be a founder of a startup? If so, then read Tribes, another excellent book by Seth Godin.
Godin teaches you how to create a community with common goals and passions. He notes that it’s human nature to want to attach to a community.
And if you’re going to lead a company, you need to build a tribe. Without loyal followers, you won’t accomplish huge projects or create a brand.
Godin explains that the internet has removed many of the barriers to creating communities and has fostered a tsunami of new tribes. However, with so many tribes, who will lead them?
Will it be you?
To change this world as an entrepreneur, you need to build a powerful tribe to help create your vision. One of the best examples is the tribe Steve Jobs built with Apple where their customers became almost fanatical.
Even though the book won’t teach you the exact steps to become a leader, you’ll gain the motivation to take charge.
Authored by Nir Eyal and Ryan Hoover, the founder of Product Hunt, hooked provides the foundation for every great product – the cycle of increasing user engagement.
The book dives into the ins and outs of building habit-forming products. If you don’t do your research with how your product or service will engage customers, then you’re in for a harsh reality.
Habits control almost every part of our lives.
Hooked provides the foundation of knowledge for controlling habits; therefore, influencing customer decisions. This book is a great read for building a successful business, but also for learning about your interactions with everyday products that attempt to manipulate you.
Expect this book to help you remove negative habits from your life while also providing you valuable knowledge for creating habit-forming products:
This is a summary of the “hooked model:”
- Trigger: Often starts through external triggers (email, notification, icon badge, etc.) and through successive loops the user creates internal triggers where a particular thought or emotion sends them back to your product.
- Action: Once the user responds to using your product (through the trigger), you create the simplest action they can perform to receive a reward (e.g. Facebook “Like”).
- Variable reward: Could be social validation, a collection of material resources (e.g. add a photo to an album) or personal gratification (e.g. inbox zero). The “variable” part is critical – rewards should not always be predictable, incentivizing users to repeat the cycle to see what’s new.
- Investment: The user needs to invest back to increase the chance of repeating the loop. This could be content (e.g. a checklist in a scheduling app), user entered data (e.g. Facebook profile info, reputation (e.g. karma points), or a learned skill (e.g. I now know Chinese). The investment also sets up the trigger for the following cycle of the loop.
15. “The 4-Hour Workweek”
Written by Tim Ferris. The 4-Hour Workweek provides you with the information you need to maximize your productivity and to create an enjoyable lifestyle
Tim Ferriss wrote the book to help entrepreneurs become business gurus for the twenty-first century. Many startup founders acclaim the book as their foundation for success.
The 4-Hour Workweek includes Tim Ferriss’s history of how he went from spending 80 hours a week while making $40,000 per a year to working 4 hours a week and making $40,000 per a month.
Also, Ferriss teaches you how to outsource much of your work while traveling the world like a rich entrepreneur without actually having the money. The best part: he gives you many of the resources to replicate his success and lifestyle.
16. “Think and Grow Rich”
The principles laid forth in the book are timeless and have helped countless business people create companies. Andrew Carnegie, a famous business person who led the massive expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century, had Napoleon Hill interview and analyze over 500 successful people including many millionaires.
Carnegie was interested in finding the formula for success and with Hill’s effort, Think And Growth Rich was born.
Hill focuses much of the book on explaining the power of personal beliefs and their critical role in propelling success and creating value. It’s a must-read for any aspiring business person.
If you’re interested in getting an incredible overview of the book’s thirteen principles, then go here.
17. “Write. Publish. Repeat.”
John B. Truant and Sean Platt authored Write. Publish. Repeat. to teach writers how to get published and find traction. The authors published 1.5 million words in 2013 enabling them to make a full-time living as indie authors.
In this book, the authors tell you how they honed their focus and skills that resulted in 50+ published works. Most importantly, they teach you how they turned their passion into a sustainable business and how any author can do the same.
What’s incredible about this book is that the message of resilience and putting in effort resonates for any startup founder. It’s an excellent reminder that founding a startup is not about the money, but the journey.
The book goes into depth about self-publishing and covers how to become a successful author not just now but in the years to come. Furthermore, Write. Publish. Repeat. covers every detail on how to write an awe-inspiring and how to effectively market it.
This book has been pronounced by many as the best book on self-publishing making it a must-read for any entrepreneur interested in using this avenue for credibility.
18. “bird by bird”
Bird by Bird is one the most entertaining reads on writing I’ve come across. Author Anne Lamott has a special gift for captivating readers and teaching them how to become great writers.
Here’s the intriguing passage where the title comes from:
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”
What I found particularly attractive about this book is the recommendation not to think of the big picture, but to think of the task at hand. Startup founders seem to have a habit of spreading themselves too thin because they think too much about possibilities instead of the reality at hand.
Sometimes founders need a nice reminder that the journey to creating a successful company happens “Bird by bird.”
19. “the Personal MBA”
Josh Kaufman’s motivation for writing The Personal MBA comes from his understanding that college is too expensive, few high-level decision makers care about degrees, and you learn little in college even if you get straights A’s.
Kaufman argues that self-education is the best method for success, so he decided to take all the most useful pieces of an MBA and put it into his book.
For some, it costs upwards to several hundred thousand dollars for an MBA, and it will take approximately twenty years to pay off. He notes that this is counter-intuitive because you can just work in a job field you love and explore guided readings to hone your skills and learn things that are relevant to what you’re currently doing.
As a startup founder, sometimes you need a nice refresher on the basics of running a business. Chances are you don’t have time to get your MBA or have forgotten much of what you learned, so keep this book close.
20. “The Lean Startup”
The startup life has a huge learning curve. In fact, 90% of startups fail. However, many of those failures could have been prevented. Authored by Eric Ries, The Lean Startup is about building companies and products more efficiently.
The lean startup approach is for utilizing capital and creativity. The methodology is based on validated learning through rapid experimentation to decrease product development cycles; this results in progress unhindered by trivial metrics.
Consequently, a company can move with more agility allowing them to experiment rapidly. The point of the book is drilled down to the idea of continually testing ideas by putting out minimum viable products so you can adapt over and again until you find product/market fit.
No startup founder should skip this one.
21. ” Zero to One”
Super entrepreneur and a member of the PayPayl Mafia, Peter Thiel, tells us how we should think about progressing society with innovation in his book Zero To One.
Thiel begins with the notion that we live in a technologically stagnated world. He points out that the most important skill every leader needs to embrace is thinking for themselves because doing what someone already knows how to do, does little for the world. And that’s what’s currently happening.
He explains that when you do something new, you don’t have competition because your business is fundamentally unique.
Zero to One also dives into society’s culture, business practicalities, and the power of innovation to shape society. Overall, it’s a top-notch book that teaches entrepreneurs how to think about changing the world.
A critical part of the book is when Thiel writes the seven questions that “Every business must answer:”
- Can you create breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements?
- Is now the right time to start your particular business?
- Are you beginning with a big share of a small market?
- Do you have the right team?
- Do you have a way not just to create but deliver your product?
- Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future?
- Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see
22. “The Black Swan”
Authored by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan is about coming to terms with the notion that we can’t predict the unpredictable.
What are black swans?
They’re the improbable events that have enormous consequences. The book explains how observing an event has no relation to whether it will occur in the future, no matter how many added observations.
Taleb enlightens us with the idea that we can’t have full faith in learning from experience because we the future is uncertain. The solution is to be self-aware of this fundamental flaw in the way humans think.
Taleb continues to inform that we can’t look at life through the lens of a bell curve because reality has ill-defined borders.
What does this have to do with entrepreneurs?
The biggest hurdle many entrepreneurs face is starting because they can’t find the “right moment.” These entrepreneurs need to realize that the future in unpredictable no matter what business you start. So, spend less timing wondering about the “what ifs” and become more focused on getting things done.
This Black Swan has generated a devoted legion of fans to Nassim Nicholas Taleb. He’s noted by many as one of the great philosophers of our age. Don’t skip over this one-of-a-kind read.
23. “Never Eat Alone”
How To Work A Room is a fantastic book to teach you about networking, and when paired with Never Eat Alone, you’ll become an expert.
Author Keith Ferrazzi notes that the difference between those with success and those without it is the way they yield the power of relationships, so everyone wins.
Keith Ferrazzi details his experience with networking from paving his way at YALE to receiving a Harvard M.B.A. and then being placed in various top executive posts.
Some of his networking methods I haven’t found in any other book. If you’re interested in learning the keys to building long-term relationships for your success, then this book is for you.
Some of his main principles include:
Don’t keep score: It’s not about just getting what you want. Instead, it’s about getting what you want while making sure everyone important to you gets what they want, too.
“Ping” constantly: It’s vital to keep in consistent contact with those around you and not just to contact them when you need something.
Never Eat Alone: Don’t be invisible – stand out and socialize.
Become the “King of Content”: Ferrazzi provides an in-depth understanding of utilizing social media channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to create relationships and develop a network of people who can help you accomplish goals.
24. “Lean Analytics”
Lean Analytics by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz details how to analyze a company efficiently as it grows. Similar to The Lean Startup, its goal is to help entrepreneurs understand the fastest way to put out a minimum viable product and identify roadblocks.
The book includes over thirty case studies and is the result of interviews with over a hundred founders and investors.
Lean Analytics takes the science and strategy of data collection and analysis for startups far and above any other book I’ve read. By the end, you should be able to answer these four questions:
1) What data is important to my work?
2) Why is it important?
3) How do I measure it?
4) What do I do with the results?
25. “How I Raised Myself From Failure To Success In Selling”
How I Raised Myself From Failure To Success In Selling is the best book I’ve read on how to be a top-notch salesperson. Also, it’s endorsed by Dale Carnegie as one of his favorite books.
It doesn’t matter what you’re selling; this book will take your relationship skills up a couple of levels. The author began as a failed salesperson and through much practice he eventually became widely successful and put his most valuable knowledge into this book.
Author Frank Bettger covers every aspect of a successful salesperson from attitude to identifying a prospect’s needs. By the time you’re done reading his book, you’ll already feel like you’re a better seller.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can’t become a successful startup founder. After reading these twenty-five books, you’ll find the confidence to create an incredible product.
No more scrolling through the endless library on Amazon to find out what’s worth reading.
This book list is your head start on your journey as a startup founder.
You just have to be willing to take the first step.
What about you? What books are you reading to jumpstart your success? Has a book you read recently changed your view of your life or your business? Let us know in the comment section below.
Josh blogs at Digital To Community and manages growth for a cutting-edge Facebook software company, 22Social. He read one hundred and twenty books in one year and experienced eight failed startups before success. You can friend him on Facebook here, or check out his personal website here.