35 must-read books for every entrepreneur and startup founder

What are the best books for entrepreneurs?

With so much information and advice on marketing, sales, startups, and entrepreneurship out there, it is difficult to filter out what is really worth listening to. This is equally valid for those just entering the business world, as well as for those who have been running a business for a while.

Globally, there are roughly 500 million people (or 6% of the total population) who are in the process of starting or running their own business. However, if we look at the developed countries, solopreneurs, small business owners, and even people with a side hustle (aspiring entrepreneurs) constitute up to one-fourth of the working population. And the numbers are growing each year.

Did you know that the average age of startup founders is about 42 (MIT study, 2018)? This said it is never too early or too late to start.

At ENLOYA – a young legal tech startup – we have a solid business, marketing, and legal background. For our team, these books for entrepreneurs would be the top pick.

35 Must-Read Books for Entrepreneurs: From an Idea to a Business Plan

1.The Business Start-up Kit, Steven D. Strauss, 2002

The Business Start-up Kit is a comprehensive guide to start your own business. Although some of the explanations might be considered somewhat simple, the contents of this books range from tips on how to translate an idea into a business plan, to growth strategies for the startup once it is up and running, thus proving to be an excellent introductory material for those who are stepping into the world of startups.

2. Startup From the Ground Up, Cynthia Kocialski, 2010

Startup From the Ground Up collects Cynthia Kocialski’s insightful advice on starting your own business from scratch. This straightforward, easy-to-read book will help you define a checklist of actions that need to be done alongside your entrepreneurial plans.

3. Competitive Strategy, Michael E. Porter, 1998

If you know nothing about marketing, sales, we suggest you start here. Competitive Strategy has been a remarkable source of knowledge gathered from the business industry for two decades, and there is a good reason why. Michael E. Porter, who happens to be a professor at the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at the Harvard Business School, dissects the competitive strategies used by different companies in a way that allows the reader to know every basic scheme of operation and understand the underlying principles of marketing. He presents a method to understand a competitor’s structure, including their own strategies, and using this as profitable information for one’s own company.

4. Competitive Advantage, Michael E. Porter, 1985

As another one of Michael Porter’s books on competition, Competitive Advantage brings further advice on such a topic. This sharp guide reviews the complexity of competition, which in turn establishes the concept of discrete processes as elemental building blocks of building the advantage. How to stand up and cut through the buzz? What makes people buy from you and not someone else? This book has become a reference for almost every entrepreneur, organization, or even business schools for years.

5. Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim, Renee Mauborgne, 2004

Authors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne discuss the requirements of strategic success in their book Blue Ocean Strategy. This bestseller provides powerful tools and delineates competition principles that allows the entrepreneur to create their own market space, by redesigning their value proposition and revisiting their potential customer base, and thus making competition irrelevant.

6. This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See, Seth Godin, 2018

Most of the present-day business owners have grown up in the mass market world where TV and billboards defined what we buy. The times have changed. There is no more need to shout louder or sell cheaper, instead, we’ve got a big chance to serve, to help people solve their problem. This book will teach you how to spread your ideas and to make the impact you seek.

7. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, Peter Thiel, 2014

Peter Thiel’s prominent career in business has shaped a philosophy that has been proven successful in multiple occasions. Based on such knowledge, Zero to One shows the reader the way to refine a business idea after answering some crucial questions. As a result, the reader will learn how to think like an innovator who can make a breakthrough in the desired market.

8. Business Model Generation, Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, 2010

Besides its creative and engaging design, Business Model Generation presents powerful tools to build and analyze business models, such as the Business Model Canvas. The examples and case studies in this book result equally important in either creating an innovative business model from scratch, or revisiting an older one to boost your company’s results.

9. Value Proposition Design, Alexander Osterwalder et al., 2015

As a sequel of Business Model Generation, Value Proposition combines an enticing design and concise teachings to provide tools and practical exercises that will help the reader grasp the fundamentals of value creation, as well as designing and evaluating value propositions. This book, just like its predecessor, offers valued advice not only for new startups, but also for businesses that are already up and running.

10. The Art of The Start, Guy Kawasaki, 2004

A guide for starting anything new: a new product, a new service, a new company, a new division. It all starts with a dream, a vision, an idea… But how do you make it to the next stage, how do you materialize your idea? The internet is full of advice in various forms – podcasts, webinars, blog posts, to an extent that makes new business owner lose their minds. Information overload results in task overload and reduces attention span which kills our productivity.

In The Art of the Start byGuy Kawasaki collects two decades of experience. In the 1980s, he was responsible for marketing Apple’s first Macintosh line. Later, as founder and CEO of Garage Technology Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, he has field-tested his ideas with dozens of startups. The book will walk you through all the aspects of business creation – from idea to positioning to hiring the right people.

11. Platform Revolution, Geoffrey Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne, Sangeet Paul Choudary

The power of network is now stronger than ever. Facebook, Fiverr, Uber, Amazon, eBay etc – all of these companies disrupted their respective industries or created totally new ones. The new economy is not imaginable without them. What unites them? They are built on platforms. And why are they successful? Platforms bring value to its users; each new user creates an additional value by listing their goods or services, more users = more value for the existing ones. Learn how to capitalize on the growing trend and create yours!

12. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip Heath, Dan Heath, 2007

As the name suggests, the book is centered around the idea of “stickiness”—that is, the art of making new concepts stay in our mind. Made to Stick provides a thorough research on socio-psychological studies: memory, emotion and motivation. The authors take into consideration 6 key principles: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories.

Through telling very funny yet true stories, authors bring into the light how bleak messages can be made intriguing. In the era of “fake news”, isn’t everyone obsessed with cutting through the noise and bringing to the world something of value? A book for entrepreneurs and beyond.

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13. The Startup Playbook, David S. Kidder, 2013

After conducting a series of interviews with the founders of the world’s biggest startups, David Kidder exposes the A to Z of startups: the interviewees’ journey offers honest insight about business growth that will help the reader to not only select the right idea to pursue, but to achieve their short and long-term objectives within the company.

14. The Lean Startup, Eric Ries, 2011

Eric Ries, best known as the co-founder of the social network IMVU, summarizes concepts such as lean manufacturing and agile development in his book The Lean Startup. Have you ever heard of people having great ideas but lacking on the implementation part? Or never picking up the right speed and giving up too soon. The author links the concept of lean development to applicable tools for enhancing an initial product based on testing hypothesis and customer-feedback data. Ultimately, a startup can prevent some failures through a rigorous scheme of experiments, measurements, and analysis, without wasting too much time or money on the ideas that maybe won’t work.

15. Lean Analytics, Alistair Croll, Benjamin Yozkovitz, 2013

Lean Analytics teaches you how to accommodate a product in the correct market by focusing on the measuring stage of the Lean Startup methodology. More specifically, this book offers various examples and study cases, and provides several metrics that can be used in different industries in order to validate your product idea.

16. The $100 Startup, Chris Gillebeau, 2012

Chris Guillebeau, an entrepreneur and writer, focuses on 50 case studies of entrepreneurs who started businesses that have captivating success stories. In his book, Guillebeau lays out what is needed to start a new business: ranging from finding a way to monetize what you are good at, to the necessary planning that must precede each stage of growth, as well as the common mistakes that most entrepreneurs struggle with.

17. Explosive Growth, Cliff Lerner, 2017

Cliff Lerner’s entertaining storytelling conveys the powerful lessons that he acquired during his years as the head of the first online dating startup. In Explosive Growth, you will explore the tactics that can be used to ignite explosive growth and scale a business to a big corporation. Plus, if you are running a matchmaking platform, this book will be without doubt very helpful.

18. Traction, Gabriel Weinberg, Justin Mares, 2014

Traction presents itself as a detailed guide for building a strong customer base by utilizing different traction tactics in businesses. The authors go in-depth into a list of marketing channels for you to choose the one that is most appropriate for your industry and company stage. Moreover, the tactics introduced in this book are suitable for both B2B and B2C business models.

19. Talking to Humans: Success Starts With Understanding Your Clients, Giff Constable, 2014

Through versatile stories and examples, Talking to Humans shows the way to set up a desirable customer development fit for any startup. In this book, the reader will learn how to arrange effective customer interviews, among others, in order to gain a better approach to a more extensive coverage of clients.

20. One Million Followers, Brendan Kane, 2018

Brendan Kane, a guru in social media presence, teaches the basics of obtaining a useful and potent marketing channel in just a few clicks. In One Million Followers, the author goes through the most fundamental steps that the entrepreneur should take in order to satisfy the startup’s marketing-related goals: from creating eye-catching content that will increase your target audience, to consolidating a brand available in nowadays most popular online platforms, this book covers in great detail the why’s and how’s.

21. Lean Customer Development, Cindy Alvarez, 2014

Based on interviews and research data, Lean Customer Development introduces an efficient guide that shows how to validate a value proposition through customer development. If you want to keep track of a product’s impact on a specific market, this book is worth consulting at any time, even before launching the product itself.

22. The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick), Seth Godin, 2007

Another mindblowing book by Seth Godin that will re-set your mindset. “The winner takes it all”, “If you build, they’ll come”… Right? Not necessarily. Businesses can have ups and downs. Is THE DIP a temporary setback or a dead-end? Seth Godin discusses scenarios when you’re better off quitting and when it is worth to stick – and commit to beating the right Dip. Don’t you think that sometimes quitting is the best win?

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23. Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days, Jessica Livingston, 2007

Jessica Livingston, one of the founding partners of the startup accelerator Y Combinator, gathers the journey of over 30 founders of technology startups during their early stages in this top-rated book. In this collection of interviews, the reader will learn from the founders themselves the must-knows of building a successful business, from working on an idea and developing a product, to releasing it and obtaining investments.

24. Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg, 2016

If you are new to startup-related reading material, this book will be particularly insightful. Charles Duhigg analyses examples of choice-making processes in either leadership positions or team-working environments to teach valuable lessons about productivity. In addition, the author complements the information with key concepts of business research, as well as describes his own method for increasing productivity.

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25. Million Dollar Consulting, Alan Weiss, 1992

Million Dollar Consulting is a classic, not only when it comes to the consulting business, but also when dealing with any kind of business development. The author advises on basic topics, such as how to open your own business, as well as on more specific steps that will skyrocket your startup, such as brand development and protection of your products under intellectual property legislation.

26. Superbosses, Sydney Finkelstein, 2016

What is the difference between a boss and a superboss? Sydney Finkelstein studies over two hundred interviews of leaders to determine which traits you should work on in order to become a boss who inspires and supports their team. Essentially, a superboss will have created a top-performing work environment that boosts the development of its staff, so it is important to keep an eye on your leadership skills.

27. The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz, 2014

Becoming a CEO is no easy job and Ben Horowitz explains you why. In his book, Horowitz looks back on his career as CEO at IT company Opsware and Founding Partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz to analyze crucial moments, for instance, management decisions and staff-related issues. Planning ahead of these situations will make your organization a good place to work, increasing productivity, and helping the company reach its goals.

28. True North, Bill George, 2007

True North poses a vital question for the reader: What kind of a leader do you want to be? Bill George pours invaluable advice on how to become a better head of your organization by working on your leadership awareness. Through reading material and exercises, you will find how to shape your values and motivations into your company’s purpose.

29. Who, Geoff Smart, 2008

Geoff Smart, who runs the consulting firm ghSMART, devises and shows the method to hire the adequate staff for your company, project or task: the A-Method relies on implementing an effective hiring process that ensures the selection of the most adequate candidate, including strong advice on how to sell the job to the best candidate. Besides, in this book, you will find more useful tips regarding staff management.

30. The E-Myth Revisited, Michael E. Gerber, 1995

In this revisited version of The E-Myth, Michael Gerber examines commons myths surrounding the launch of a small business and how to create a successful business. After displaying the several ways in which a business leader must step up their game, as well as the most frequent assumptions and expectations that might withhold the business’s growth, the author offers great guidance through every step of a development.

31. Rework, Jason Fried, 2010

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, both experienced leaders in the web development company 37signals, present a ground-breaking panorama that reshapes the idea of being the head of an organization. Rework offers an out-of-the-box approach to running your own company, based on the authors’ vast experience in the digital industry, aimed to promote your business’s growth to the point where it generates millions in profit.

32. The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss, 2009

The 4-Hour Workweek portrays the life of the “entrepreneur 2.0”: those who have reached an almost passive income by becoming the business owners instead of business runners. By giving the right guidance to the reader, Tim Ferriss devotes himself to revealing the way to leading such a life. Spoiler: delegate, scale, and work smarter not harder.

33. The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg, 2012

Another Charles Duhigg’s bestseller, The Power of Habit breaks down the effects that either good or bad habits have on both individual and organizational aspects. This book, which consists of absorbing anecdotes and is supported by scientific research findings, provides the necessary means to start working on bigger and better habits.

34. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey, 2004

Stephen R. Covey’s work does not introduce business-related knowledge per se. However, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People does provide a method for organizing your to-do list in order to maximize the gains of every daily activity. In this book, models and ideas are given to the reader leading to an overall awareness of day-to-day decisions. This results in an internalized way to achieve an improved routine, a trait that every entrepreneur must develop to be the leader of an organization.

35. The Leader’s Guide, Eric Ries, 2016

The Leader’s Guide uses the Lean Startup methodology to exemplify situations in which leaders can channel great uncertainty into a company’s successful growth. Both large and small businesses can obtain great benefits by applying the core concepts discussed in this book.

the best books for entrepreneurs

And what are the best books for entrepreneurs for you?

Do you have more to add? Tell us in the comments!

And be sure to check other articles for small business owners on our blog.

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