What business books should I read? Below is our must-read list of the best business books of all time.
Perhaps you are a beginner just entering the business world or are looking for the best entrepreneur books. Or perhaps you are an experienced professional seeking the best management books. Or maybe, just maybe, you want to find the best books on how to run a small business.
Reading great business books is one of the most cost-effective methods to become a whip-smart business person. As business book editors, we read a lot of books — and this curated book list is to bring you the best choices.
Top 10 Business Books of All Time
The first group of books we looked at is the top business books overall. You may have heard of some of these books because they are classics. These are some of the all-time most popular business books — must-read choices:
How to Win Friends and Influence People
How to Win Friends and Influence People is a classic for any professional person. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is about people and that’s the secret. Use the Dale Carnegie system to win friends, influence people, and connect with employees and team members in an authentic way.
This is Marketing
This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See is an Amazon bestseller by veteran marketer Seth Godin. You don’t have to be a professional marketer to realize that marketing is everywhere. Seth Godin addresses the colossal shift in marketing from pushing your message and your offer down the throats of unwilling customers, to focus your marketing efforts on “people like us”. Get this Seth Godin book on Amazon.
If you want to get the right things done, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport will show you how. Instead of multitasking. Deep Work shares research and a common-sense process that will inspire you to dig in and get stuff done. If you need to get and stay focused on achieving your goals, read Deep Work.
The Innovators Dilemma
In the age of disruption, you need a solid guide for figuring out how to pivot. The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen. Christensen focuses on showing you how to listen to customers so that you know where to invest your resources.
First Break All the Rules
If you want to be the best founder you can be, you’ll have to break some rules. First, Break All The Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham is based on an extensive research study by the Gallup Organization.
First published in 1989, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout is a classic marketing book. If you do nothing more in marketing, you should learn how to position your brand in the mind of your customer. Ries and Trout include dozens of real-world cases and insightful analyses. Positioning is required reading if you are looking for tips on breakthrough advertising.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things
Ben Horowitz is considered an icon by many entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers is based on Horowitz’s popular blog and provides strategies for navigating building and running a startup. Ben Horowitz shares his best advice on how to fire employees (even a friend), confront competitors, and maybe most importantly, how to cultivate a CEO mentality.
When it comes to influence and persuasion, the one name that comes up most often is Robert Cialdini. His groundbreaking book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is a book that gives you greater insight into the psychology behind persuasion and marketing in a way that will help you grow personally and professionally, Robert Cialdini outlines the six principles of persuasion in a logical manner.
Good to Great
Ever wondered why some companies succeed and others don’t? Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins provides a compelling answer. First published in 2001, the primary lesson in Good to Great has remained relevant over the years — discipline. Even though some of the companies listed weren’t able to sustain their greatness, the insights by the author remain relevant.
Built to Last
Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras is the result of a six-year research study about what qualities make visionary companies. The authors focused on 18 well known, well established, and healthy companies (‘visionaries’), and compared them to a counterpart in their niche or industry. Bet you didn’t know that the term “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” was coined by Jim Collins in Built to Last.
Best Business Books for Beginners
The books on the below list are ideal for a recent graduate, new manager, or a new entrepreneur. Many of these are on the list because they contain timeless lessons.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: 30th Anniversary Edition by Steven Covey is just as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1989. You may think of this book as a self-improvement book, but at the heart of every successful entrepreneur is self-discipline and good habits. To gain the habits of highly effective people, get this book on Amazon or the Franklin Covey site.
Getting Things Done
The original Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen was published in 2001 and started a productivity movement that has changed how we work. Reprinted in 2015, the new version of Getting Things Done stays true to the key principles of staying relaxed and getting everything out of your head and into a system.
There’s a difference between being efficient and effective. The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated by Timothy Ferriss challenges the cultural norms of working life and our assumptions. The book helps you design a lifestyle to get away from the drudgery of mind-numbing work and build a life you love. Author Tim Ferriss has added an additional 100 pages to this updated 4-Hour Workweek, with case studies, tips and templates.
The New One Minute Manager
As engaging today as it was when first published in 1981, The New One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson is a parable of a young man looking for an effective manager — and more relevant than ever. With barely more than 100 pages, the book embodies the lesson it seeks to teach that short management moments yield big results.
Think and Grow Rich
If there were ever a classic, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill meets the definition. First published in 1937. Some people today question Hill’s abilities, but there’s a reason this book appears on so many lists of best business books for beginners. You can get this book on Amazon, but you can sometimes find it online for free.
Made to Stick
Why do some messages spread and others don’t? There are six traits that stand between a marketing message that falls flat and one that flies around the world in a viral wave. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath, outlines the anatomy of ideas that stick and explains ways to make ideas stickier. Understanding viral content will make you a better marketer.
Laws of Marketing
Some things work and others don’t and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason. In The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, authors Al Ries and Jack Trout try to provide a sense of predictability by laying out 22 Laws of Marketing that you can use to create breakthrough advertising. Written in 2009, read this book for the big ideas like be first, be patient, be humble and not the specifics.
Just because you learned it in school or you may have practiced it years ago, doesn’t mean it’s still true. Rework by Jason Fried is a book that shows you how to see your world for what it is and manage accordingly. Jason Fried shares advice like stop glamorizing the startup, the “hustle” and workaholic behaviors. Instead, use simplicity as a differentiator. The key message from this management book is that not every piece of advice works for everyone. Be clear-headed about your business.
Dare to Lead
Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Bréne Brown is a New York Times best seller for a reason. Bréne Brown has made being vulnerable and authentic a strength in today’s working environment. Brown engages vulnerability as a strength by providing research, sharing personal narratives, as well as offering practical advice, tips, and tools.
The Psychology of Selling
There are a lot of selling systems out there. But The Psychology of Selling: Increase Your Sales Faster and Easier Than You Ever Thought Possible by Brian Tracy is a classic. You will get an easy outline of the sales process and fantastic techniques to improve yourself and your sales presentations to close more sales.
Best Management Books
Successful people know how to inspire everyone to take action. A great manager and a great leader know how to increase employee engagement and bring out the best in a team. The following list of management books will give you insights and new ideas on powerful decision making strategies and mindsets.
Start With Why
Great leaders inspire everyone. This job becomes much easier when you understand your why and can communicate it to your team. If you don’t have a burning desire or “why” established for your business, you’ll have a difficult time managing your team in a way that will help you reach your goals. In Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action, Simon Sinek breaks down how to rethink what you do each day in a different light.
Blue Ocean Strategy
Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by management experts W. Chan Kim and Renée A. Mauborgne, was first published in 2014 . The new and expanded edition of Blue Ocean Strategy brings all of the original case studies and examples up to date. It adds new material that addresses a manager’s key challenges and trouble spots in putting blue ocean strategy into practice.
Feel busy but not productive? Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg Mckeown is the book you should be reading. Think of essentialism as minimalism. The idea is to pare down your “stuff” to what really matters to create a better life. Do less, do it better. Think of Essentialism as a productivity technique for figuring out what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that isn’t.
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell is a book that analyzes the way people make decisions. Gladwell says that people use one of two strategies to come to a decision; a conscious strategy and an unconscious strategy in which a person’s brain reaches a conclusion in a matter of seconds. These conclusions are what we call hunches or instincts. It is the development and reliability of these types of decision making strategies that Malcolm Gladwell outlines in this book.
Leaders Eat Last
Leadership is more about helping people thrive and find meaning in their work than managing numbers. Unfortunately, many a manager seems to have lost sight of this fundamental truth. In Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, Simon Sinek explains where we’ve gone wrong and puts out an urgent call for real leaders to step forth to make a positive difference.
Are you sick and tired of reacting to problems? Then Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath us a must-read if you’re ready to stop the madness and prevent those problems from robbing you of your time and sanity. Dan Heath outlines three barriers to upstream thinking; Problem Blindness, Lack of Ownership, and Tunneling.
Never Split the Difference
Perhaps the most important management skills are conflict resolution and negotiation. Top FBI negotiator, Chriss Voss uses his negotiating skills to secure business deals in his book, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It. You’ll learn nine effective principles, counter-intuitive tactics, and strategies that you can use to become more persuasive in both your professional and personal life.
The Power of Habit
Is management a talent or a skill? This question is deftly answered by Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. This book explores how habits are formed, what influences them, and how to create new habits. This isn’t just about personal habits. It’s about how to implement habits within an organization. This is a great book for understanding the social psychology and science behind habits.
One way to see where you stand on management as a woman leader is to read Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer. This book generated responses on all ends of the spectrum; both negative and positive.
As a manager, you’ll most likely be involved in creating, developing and selling products. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal is a great book for a manager who wants to understand insights around the user journey. This book will teach you how to create a lasting engagement with the user instead of designing for a one-off experience.
Best Entrepreneur Books and Startup Books
You’ve decided to take the leap toward becoming an entrepreneur. We’ve got you covered. Here are the best books for entrepreneurs to read and the best startup books to get up and running fast. And they will help you with building a business.
The Art of the Start 2.0
Written by iconic entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki, The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything is an unvarnished take on what every startup should keep in mind when starting a business. Art of the Start covers topics such as innovating, recruiting, fundraising, and branding.
The E-Myth Revisited
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber is the updated version of his original groundbreaking book. The E-Myth assesses the most common problems faced by founders and co-founders. Michael Gerber guides small business owners through the process of embracing your “why” and then creating a process that shares that process and passion with team members.
Zero to One
In Zero to One: Notes on Start-Ups, or How to Build the Future, Peter Thiel and Blake Masters argue that as more and more businesses come into existence, innovation will be the gate to survival, and the monopoly may very well be the key. Peter Thiel and Blake Masters advise startups to think for themselves — don’t get caught up in culture or movements.
Escape From Cubicle Nation
Thinking about leaving your day job? Then read Escape From Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur by Pamela Slim. The book covers how to determine if you have what it takes to become an entrepreneur, how to recruit a team of advisors and tips on breaking free from your corporate job.
The Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan
The Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan (StartUp Series) by Tim Berry simplifies the planning process and reveals how to create business plans that grow with you. This book covers instructions to help you quickly build the type of plan that helps you take total control, improve profits, raise capital, operate a profitable enterprise, and stay ahead of the competition.
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries has become a classic. The Lean Startup gives entrepreneurs a way to test their vision, adapt, and adjust before it’s too late. Eric Ries provides a scientific approach to creating and managing a successful and lean startup in an age when companies need to innovate more than ever.
The $100 Startup
You don’t need a ton of money to start your business. In The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau, you’ll learn how to connect your skills and interests with what people want and how to test pricing and positioning to generate the highest profits.
If there’s anything that an entrepreneur needs, it’s grit; the ability to persevere in the face of obstacles, challenges, and rejections. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth gives entrepreneurs proof that you don’t have to be a genius to start and build a successful venture.
Start Your Own Business
Start Your Own Business: The Only Startup Book You’ll Ever Need by Rieva Lesonsky and the Editorial Staff of Entrepreneur Magazine is written with millions of freelancers in mind. This book will help you get through the first three years of being on your own. Find tips on everything from testing ideas to Facebook ads.
The Thank You Economy
The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk is like the “B-side” song that never became a big hit, but should have. Written in 2009, when Gary Vaynerchuk was more like everyone else than a celebrity. The Thank You Economy offers a customer-first strategy any entrepreneur can implement. This book is one of the best books for entrepreneurs because it gives practical, real life advice to use when building a business.
These are the best books for entrepreneurs that business owners can use to get real life advice that will help them on a business plan.
Best Books on How to Run a Small Business
Starting a business is easy. Running it takes commitment and discipline. Here is a list of the best books on running a small business.
Built to Sell
You want to work on your business and not in it, but how? Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You by John Warrillow shows you how. This book is written as a parable. The main character, Alex is struggling to sell his advertising agency. Alex turns to Ted, an entrepreneur and old family friend, who helps him transform his company.
J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes
J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes 2021: Your Complete Guide to a Better Bottom Line by Barbara Weltman is a must-read for owners who want to understand business taxes. After all, it’s not just about how much revenue your company generates, but how much you keep to turn into big profits.
Simple Numbers 2.0
If you had to choose between investing in yourself or the stock market — choose yourself. Simple Numbers 2.0 – Rules for Smart Scaling: A Play by Play Analysis for Pure Growth by Greg Crabtree shows you how to generate big profits. This book provides advice from Greg Crabtree on how to use data to find hidden opportunities for maximum return on investment.
Fix This Next
According to author, Mike Michalowicz, the biggest problem owners have is not knowing what their biggest problem is. Fix This Next: Make the Vital Change That Will Level Up Your Business provides a simple problem-identification model that you can use to help you focus on the most important thing your company needs right now.
Legal Forms for Starting and Running a Small Business
Legal Forms for Starting & Running a Small Business: 65 Essential Agreements, Contracts, Leases & Letters by Fred S. Steingold is an ideal book that contains all the forms you’ll need to manage and run your company. Each document comes with thorough, plain-English, line-by-line instructions.
Rich Dad Poor Dad
Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert T. Kiyosaki highlights different attitudes towards money, work, and life and the need to build assets not debt. The author shares advice about what it takes to be financially literate — something every owner needs.
Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine by Mike Michalowicz shows you how to use the “pay yourself first” philosophy to guarantee that your company is profitable.
Don’t let negative people drag you down. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.
Best Business Biographies
Great leaders inspire everyone. The companies we admire and use daily often started as a vision. We’ve curated what we think are the best biographic of all time. Our goal with all of these books is to provide value. Investing your time in understanding how these people turned into great leaders.
Shark Tales: How I Turned $1,000 into a Billion Dollar Business by Barbara Corcoran and Bruce Littlefield will inspire everyone to take action. After failing at 22 jobs, Corcoran borrowed $1,000 to start her real estate office in New York. In this book, she shares her common-sense advice on how to turn lemons into lemonade.
The Everything Store
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone tells the story of Amazon icon, Jeff Bezos. In July of 1995, Jeff Bezos started an online book store. But he wanted more than that. The Everything Store tells the story of Amazon and how it implements his vision of becoming the world’s most customer-centric company.
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
Experience a deep dive into controversial entrepreneur, Elon Musk. Written by Ashlee Vance, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future compiles more than forty hours of interviews into this fascinating history of one of today’s most visionary entrepreneurs.
Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography
This Silicon Valley icon is just as popular today as he was decades ago. After hundreds of interviews with friends, family, and associates, Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson offers an unvarnished view of Steve Jobs and his obsessions, flaws, and genius.
Empire State of Mind
An inspirational biography of JayZ and how he went from being a rapper to entrepreneurial superstar. Written by Zack O’Malley Greenburg Empire State of Mind: How Jay Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office tells Jay Z’s story from the perspective of classmates, friends and the people who convinced him to focus on music.
Business the Bill Gates Way
Believe it or not, it’s hard to find a good biography about Bill Gates. After reviewing several, we chose Business the Bill Gates Way: 10 Secrets of the World’s Richest Business Leader by Des Dearlove. This book highlights universal strategies and identifies lessons that can be applied to any career.
Have you ever wondered what made Nike the iconic brand it is today? Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight tells the story of how he took $50 that he borrowed from his father and started building a shoe empire.
Warren Buffett on Business
The name Warren Buffett is synonymous with success with common sense. Warren Buffett on Business: Principles from the Sage of Omaha is a practical management handbook. Before Warren Buffett was a billionaire, he was a small business owner. You’ll learn how Warren Buffett incorporates his personal style and values into corporate governance: patience, perseverance, admitting mistakes, value-investing and having a sense of humor.
Losing My Virginity
Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way explains entrepreneurial icon Richard Branson’s meteoric rise to success. The book outlines what made him the daring, adventurous, go-with-the-flow entrepreneur he is today and what lessons you can learn from him.
Grinding it Out
You’re never too old to start a business. Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald’s by Ray Kroc is the personal story of the man behind McDonald’s meteoric growth.
And that concludes our list. If we had more room we would have included such classics as Business Adventures by John Brooks, which Bill Gates called one of the best business books ever.
How Do You Choose a Business Book?
The factors to choose a good book are not always what you think. Successful people go beyond big-name authors or books about well-known figures. Such books don’t always have sufficient practical help for a startup entrepreneur or owners of smaller companies. We suggest you consider:
- Your goals – The business book category is broad, encompassing everything from Wall Street finance to marketing approaches, to stories about famous entrepreneurs. Pick the type of book to meet your need.
- Skill gaps – You don’t have to be an expert in everything. But you do need general knowledge about leadership, marketing, finance, management and more. Find your gaps and fill them.
- Inspiration – What will get you fired up? One thing that’s awesome about books is their ability to inspire and motivate.
Additional Reading Lists
See other best books for business people:
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