11 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read

One of the most talked-about traits among highly successful people is the tendency to read—a lot. Some of the most dynamic business leaders—Oprah Winfrey, Mark Cuban, Warren Buffett—prioritize reading, not just for entertainment, but also for continued learning and self-improvement.

At a time where any question can be posed to Siri, typed into Google, or found in the depths of the internet, books still serve an important purpose: they offer information you didn’t know you needed. While you might find a certain title through searches around a specific topic, or via posts like this one, what you will read on its pages will expand your knowledge in ways that Siri and Google searches simply cannot. The nuggets of truth, the unexpected perspectives, the catalysts for a change of mindset are the real gifts behind the sought after title or topic. Here are the books every entrepreneur should read (in no particular order).


 

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

This book is your guide to the Lean Startup Method: a cycle of ideation, execution, learning and adaptation that has the capacity to jumpstart any big idea. Even if your business is not a startup (and this book offers a clear definition), you can use a version of this method to create optimal outcomes for your customers and your bottom line.

Toxic Inequality by Thomas Shapiro

In a perfect world, every adult in the U.S. would read this book. It uses real stories, told with intimate detail across multiple decades, to illustrate the intergenerational impacts of economic and racial equality in this country. For entrepreneurs specifically, it could shape ideas that may be forming about who your business will serve—not just who make up your consumer base, but how you can use your gains to positively impact the communities that need it most.

Darling, You Can’t Do Both: And Other Noise to Ignore on Your Way Up by Janet Kestin and Nancy Vonk

Though this book is geared toward women—especially those who have or would like to start a family while building their careers—men should read it, too. It reveals with much-needed candor the nuanced barriers women still face in the workplace. Perhaps more importantly, it demonstrates how women can harness the added, gendered pressures to rock the boardroom as well as the home front.

Smart People Should Build Things by Andrew Yang

As the title suggests, author Andrew Yang believes that those who can should build. This might mean a company or a non-profit or even a dilapidated home in Detroit that will become an entrepreneurship incubator (as was the case for alumni of the fellowship Yang started in 2011). Either way, Yang says, people who are capable, scrappy and smart should build organizations that will usher in a new era of American innovation.

Zero to One by Peter Thiel

By some definitions, what makes a startup a startup is that it creates a solution where there previously was none. That what makes it a ‘one’: it’s the first in a category that did not exist before. Uber: the first crowd-sourced, on-demand car service. AirBnB: the first crowdsourced temporary housing app. TravelNoire: the first travel and experiences community for and by people of color. Peter Thiel walks readers through what it takes to go from zero to one—like he and his cofounders did with PayPal—and what it means to be number one instead of two, three or four.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

The author had two fathers: one was biological, and the other took Kiyosaki under his wing to teach him about business. He learned a lot about money from both dads, and this book weaves a story about mentorship and outlook as much as it does about the fundamentals of personal finance. It’s at times blunt and brutally candid, but leaves the reader accepting the fact that most of us have choices when it comes to money—and each decision we make can affect us and those that will follow in our footsteps.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

The official description of this book mentions that it’s rife with “practical wisdom for managing the toughest problems business school doesn’t cover.” Coming from one of Silicon Valley’s most notable founders, that means a lot—especially for those of us who pursue entrepreneurship without an advanced degree in hand.

Originals by Adam Grant

If its New York Times bestseller status doesn’t compel you to read, note that this title has a foreword by Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg. The focus of the book is to get business leaders to stray from the pack in order to find success— rather than succumb to groupthink, Grant suggests that those who win are original by choice.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

After interviewing over five hundred highly successful people, Hill compiled his notes into thirteen steps to success. These became the focus of this book, which was first published in 1937, but has multiple abridged editions that have added onto the wisdom of the original work.

Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun? by Reginald Lewis and Blair S. Walker

Reginald Lewis, a lawyer, philanthropist and Wall Street tycoon, asked the title question of his grandparents when he was just six years old. Even though he was born at a time when income and wealth inequality across the races were often accepted facts, he was determined not to be a victim of those inequities. This book combines his unfinished autobiography with notes from interviews with friends, family and colleagues.

Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli

Eric Reis, author of The Lean Startup, often mentions that people don’t know what they want. Here, in a book that charts the Apple founder’s course as a business leader, Schlender and Tetzeli demonstrated how Jobs know what consumers needed even before they did. He capitalized on that instinct, even in the face of uncertainty and skepticism.

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