Of the books I read, I’d say 75% of them fall into the “nonfiction business” category, a broad group that includes business biographies, business history, guides on selling and scaling your business, marketing, and so on. These books are indispensable for those of us on the path of entrepreneurship. Knowledge is power, and never has so much knowledge been so accessible. These books are cheap, and can make you rich, or at the very least add useful information for your life. Mark Twain said, “The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t.” Do the entrepreneur in your life a favor and pick her up a copy of one of these books. It may make all the difference.
Great for those interested in behavioral economics, or “why we do the things we do”:
“Thinking, Fast and Slow“ by Daniel Kahneman
When people ask me to recommend a book to them, this is usually my go-to response, right alongside “The Right Stuff.” I remember reading this book while on vacation on Santa Rosa beach shortly after it came out. This was before I was an entrepreneur, back when I was a worker bee. This book really set in motion the events that came to me quitting my job and make a full-time commitment to building Astute Communications. The book itself has little to do with entrepreneurship, but it’s a smart book that looks at a challenging subject and will make you smarter if you read it. It made me feel smart enough to believe that I could do whatever I wanted in life. Basically, Kahneman’s book is a Malcolm Gladwell book on steroids.
Great for those looking to take on giants, and win:
“Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Michael Lewis
Perhaps the best non-fiction writer working today, no “business book” list would be complete without a title from Michael Lewis. Though many of his other titles would have also been a great fit for this list (Liar’s Poker, Flash Boys, etc.), I particularly like “Moneyball” and believe its underdog message is fuel for the entrepreneurial spirit. In Moneyball, Billy Beane had one job: to beat other teams that are much wealthier and have more resources than he does. As an entrepreneur, this is our story on a daily basis: beating bigger companies that have more resources, not by outspending them, but by outthinking them. If you’re looking for a book that makes you think anything is possible, pick this one up!
Great for those who think they’ve made it:
“Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” by Ashlee Vance
He’s a Silicon Valley fan favorite with a cult-like following, and this Elon Musk bio will have you drinking the Kool-Aid. Musk runs both Tesla and SpaceX, and is the real-life inspiration for Iron Man. He also once famously said you should try to work 80-hour weeks, because at the end of a year, you would be a full year ahead of those who only work 40-hour weeks. (Musk reportedly works 100 hours a week.) Whether you buy into all the hype or not, this book will leave you awe-inspired at what Musk was able to create and how he did it without compromising on his vision. Born in South Africa, Musk’s rise to Top Tycoon of American Industry (he’s essentially the modern-day Vanderbilt) is breathtaking and inspiring.
Great for those who need help making their small business sustainable:
“The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It” by Michael Gerber
Probably the best “entrepreneur” book in this list, “The E-Myth Revisited” is the best nuts-and-bolts look at how to start, set up, organize and run a small business I’ve ever read. Gerber is excellent playing the wise veteran to the overwhelmed newcomer. His advice is timeless and applicable across a variety of industries. If you’re looking for one book to read to make you feel that entrepreneurship (and your dream of running a business) is possible, this is the one.