13 Books Every Entrepreneur Can Benefit From Reading

A lot of times I find myself referencing a book or two that I’ve read and people will ask me for a list of books that I recommend on business startups, business growth, personal development, or about being an entrepreneur in general so I compiled this list of books with links where you can purchase them on Amazon.

UPDATE: I’ve recently added 13 more books every entrepreneur should read!

Here is the short list:

  1. The Art of the Start – Mantras and milestones
  2. Getting Things Done – Work when appropriate
  3. Good to Great – Kill the cash cow and sell the mills
  4. The E-Myth Revisited – Organize and appoint
  5. The 4 Hour Workweek – Outsource and diversify
  6. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us – Use the crowd
  7. Think and Grow Rich – The secret to everything
  8. The Richest Man in Babylon – Pay yourself first
  9. Cashflow Quadrant – Ownership pays dividends
  10. Made to Stick – Stories stick
  11. The Tipping Point – Little things don’t always stay so small
  12. Freakonomics – Question “common sense”
  13. Multiple Streams of Income – Tim Ferriss + Robert Kiyosaki

And here is more detailed descriptions:

The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

Kawasaki  draws upon his dual background as an evangelist for Apple’s Macintosh computer and as a Silicon Valley venture capitalist in this how-to for launching any type of business project. Each chapter begins with “GIST” (“great ideas for starting things”), covering a variety of facets to consider, from identifying your customer base and writing a business plan to establishing partnerships and building brand identity. Minichapters zero in on particular jobs that will need doing, while FAQ sections address the questions readers are most likely to have: Kawasaki covers the basics in an effectively casual tone. Much of the advice, however, consists of generic banalities—start your company’s name with a letter that comes early in the alphabet, use big type in presentation slides for older businessmen with declining eyesight, and avoid writing e-mails in all capital letters—that can be found in any mediocre guide. Fortunately, Kawasaki does rise to the occasion here and there. He goes into great detail when it comes to raising capital and offers effective methods for sorting through the nonsense associated with interviewing prospective employees.

Getting Things Done by David Allen

With first-chapter allusions to martial arts, “flow,” “mind like water,” and other concepts borrowed from the East (and usually mangled), you’d almost think this self-helper from David Allen should have been called Zen and the Art of Schedule Maintenance, but although Getting Things Done offers a complete system for downloading all those free-floating gotta-do’s clogging your brain into a sophisticated framework of files and action lists–all purportedly to free your mind to focus on whatever you’re working on. However, it still operates from the decidedly Western notion that if we could just get really, really organized, we could turn ourselves into 24/7 productivity machines. As whole-life-organizing systems go, Allen’s is pretty good, even fun and therapeutic. It starts with the exhortation to take every unaccounted-for scrap of paper in your workstation that you can’t junk, The next step is to write down every unaccounted-for gotta-do cramming your head onto its own scrap of paper. Finally, throw the whole stew into a giant “in-basket”

That’s where the processing and prioritizing begin; in Allen’s system, it get a little convoluted at times, rife as it is with fancy terms, subterms, and sub-subterms for even the simplest concepts. Thank goodness the spine of his system is captured on a straightforward, one-page flowchart that you can pin over your desk and repeatedly consult without having to refer back to the book. That alone is worth the purchase price. Also of value is Allen’s ingenious Two-Minute Rule: if there’s anything you absolutely must do that you can do right now in two minutes or less, then do it now, thus freeing up your time and mind tenfold over the long term. It’s commonsense advice so obvious that most of us completely overlook it, much to our detriment; Allen excels at dispensing such wisdom in this useful, if somewhat belabored, self-improver aimed at everyone from CEOs to soccer moms (who may need this book more than anyone).

Good to Great by Jim Collins

Five years ago, Jim Collins asked the question, “Can a good company become a great company and if so, how?” In Good to Great, Collins, the author of Built to Last, concludes that it is possible, but finds there are no silver bullets. Collins and his team of researchers began their quest by sorting through a list of 1,435 companies, looking for those that made substantial improvements in their performance over time. They finally settled on 11–including Fannie Mae, Gillette, Walgreens, and Wells Fargo–and discovered common traits that challenged many of the conventional notions of corporate success. Making the transition from good to great doesn’t require a high-profile CEO, the latest technology, innovative change management, or even a fine-tuned business strategy. At the heart of those rare and truly great companies was a corporate culture that rigorously found and promoted disciplined people to think and act in a disciplined manner. Peppered with dozens of stories and examples from the great and not so great, the book offers a well-reasoned road map to greatness that any organization would do well to consider.

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

In this first new and totally revised edition of the 150,000-copy underground bestseller, The E-Myth, Michael Gerber dispels the myths surrounding starting your own business and shows how commonplace assumptions can get in the way of running a business. He walks you through the steps in the life of a business from entrepreneurial infancy, through adolescent growing pains, to the mature entrepreneurial perspective, the guiding light of all businesses that succeed. He then shows how to apply the lessons of franchising to any business whether or not it is a franchise. Finally, Gerber draws the vital, often overlooked distinction between working on your business and working in your business. After you have read The E-Myth Revisited, you will truly be able to grow your business in a predictable and productive way.

The 4 Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

Forget the old concept of retirement and the rest of the deferred-life plan–there is no need to wait and every reason not to, especially in unpredictable economic times. Whether your dream is escaping the rat race, experiencing high-end world travel, earning a monthly five-figure income with zero management, or just living more and working less, The 4-Hour Workweek is the blueprint that teaches you step-by-step how Tim went from $40,000 per year and 80 hours per week to $40,000 per month and 4 hours per week, how to outsource your life to overseas virtual assistants for $5 per hour and do whatever you want, how blue-chip escape artists travel the world without quitting their jobs, how to eliminate 50% of your work in 48 hours using the principles of a forgotten Italian economist, and how to trade a long-haul career for short work bursts and frequent “mini-retirements”.

The new expanded edition of Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek includes more than 50 practical tips and case studies from readers (including families) who have doubled income, overcome common sticking points, and reinvented themselves using the original book as a starting point, real-world templates you can copy for eliminating e-mail, negotiating with bosses and clients, or getting a private chef for less than $8 a meal, how Lifestyle Design principles can be suited to unpredictable economic times, and the latest tools and tricks, as well as high-tech shortcuts, for living like a diplomat or millionaire without being either. Tim Ferriss maintains a blog here and is still one of the most respected entrepreneurs and authors of our day.

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin

Short on pages but long on repetition, this newest book by Godin argues that lasting and substantive change can be best effected by a tribe: a group of people connected to each other, to a leader and to an idea. Smart innovators find or assemble a movement of similarly minded individuals and get the tribe excited by a new product, service or message, often via the Internet (consider, for example, the popularity of the Obama campaign, Facebook or Twitter). Tribes, Godin says, can be within or outside a corporation, and almost everyone can be a leader; most are kept from realizing their potential by fear of criticism and fear of being wrong. The book’s helpful nuggets are buried beneath esoteric case studies and multiple reiterations: we can be leaders if we want, tribes are the way of the future and change is good. On that last note, the advice found in this book should be used with caution. Change isn’t made by asking permission, Godin says. Change is made by asking forgiveness, later. If that means you lose your job, then that may mean you are an entrepreneur.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

If you really need to know the power behind a single thought and how backing it up with desire will work wonders, check this book out. The language seems archaic (this is one of the reasons why I haven’t completed it since 2007) but it’s well worth all the stress. It was when I read part this book that I knew there was indeed more to life than what fate says. You would do yourself a great favor by laying your hands on the book and more importantly, putting the laws into practice. Because of this book, I have scheduled time to meet with myself to let whatever thoughts come to me. It’s been surprising what I’ve discovered during these times.

The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason

The Richest Man in Babylon gave me the idea of saving 10% of whatever income I get but more importantly to write it down. Since then I’ve gone ahead to use like 3 big diaries and quite a number of small ones too. Basically, the mantra is “Pay yourself first or else you’ll never get paid,” and by “pay yourself first,” it means save and invest for yourself first. George S. Clason clearly stressed the importance of hard work and enterprise. You cannot achieve anything if you don’t work HARD to achieve it.

Cashflow Quadrant by Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter

This is the sequel to Rich Dad Poor Dad. It rightly shows that there are four quadrants where every working person belongs – The Employee and the Self Employed on the left side while The Businessman and The Investor are on the right side of the quadrant.

The people in control are those on those on the right while those that are on the left are the controlled class. The Business people and Investors are in control of the economy; they pay less tax, are able to spend more and they also have the ability to make more money faster (this is the class you will see me in some few years from now).

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

“The best way to understand the dramatic transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life,” writes Malcolm Gladwell, “is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.” Although anyone familiar with the theory of memetics will recognize this concept, Gladwell’s The Tipping Point has quite a few interesting twists on the subject. For example, Paul Revere was able to galvanize the forces of resistance so effectively in part because he was what Gladwell calls a “Connector”: he knew just about everybody, particularly the revolutionary leaders in each of the towns that he rode through. But Revere “wasn’t just the man with the biggest Rolodex in colonial Boston,” he was also a “Maven” who gathered extensive information about the British. He knew what was going on and he knew exactly whom to tell. Today we might call Revere a “networking guru.”

Gladwell develops these and other concepts (such as the “stickiness” of ideas or the effect of population size on information dispersal) through simple, clear explanations and entertainingly illustrative anecdotes, such as comparing the pedagogical methods of Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues, or explaining why it would be even easier to play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with the actor Rod Steiger. Although some readers may find the transitional passages between chapters hold their hands a little too tightly, and Gladwell’s closing invocation of the possibilities of social engineering sketchy, even chilling, The Tipping Point is one of the most effective books on science for a general audience in ages. It seems inevitable that “tipping point,” like “future shock” or “chaos theory,” will soon become one of those ideas that everybody knows by name.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Brothers, Chip Heath and Dan Heath, read “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell and decided to write an entire book out of Gladwell’s thoughts about the “stickiness” of ideas. Chip is a professor at Stanford’s business school and Dan is a teacher and textbook publisher. Together they offer a fun, practical guide to effective communication and marketing. Drawing extensively on psychosocial studies on memory, emotion and motivation, their study is couched in the art of making ideas memorable. The book starts by relating an urban legend about a man who succumbs to a bar-room flirtation only to wake up in a tub of ice next to a note that says to, “Call 911, your kidney has been taken.” What makes such stories memorable and ensures their spread around the globe the authors claim are due to 6 key principles: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, and stories. These principles illustrate how bland messages can be made intriguing.

Freakonomics: a Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

Economics is not widely considered to be one of the sexier sciences, but Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have changed minds (they currently have over 356,000 followers on Twitter @Freakonomics). In the book, Levitt argues that many apparent mysteries of everyday life don’t need to be so mysterious: they could be illuminated and made even more fascinating by asking the right questions and drawing connections. For example, Levitt traces the drop in violent crime rates to a drop in violent criminals and, digging further, to the Roe v. Wade decision that preempted the existence of some people who would be born to poverty and hardship. Elsewhere, by analyzing data gathered from inner-city Chicago drug-dealing gangs, Levitt outlines a corporate structure much like McDonald’s, where the top bosses make great money while scores of underlings make something below minimum wage. And in a section that may alarm or relieve worried parents, Levitt argues that parenting methods don’t really matter much and that a backyard swimming pool is much more dangerous than a gun. These enlightening chapters are separated by effusive passages from Dubner’s 2003 profile of Levitt in The New York Times Magazine, which led to the book being written.

Multiple Streams of Income by Robert G. Allen

Robert Allen laid out explicitly different business models (Info Marketing, Network Marketing, Real Estate, and even Internet Marketing) and right at the beginning of the book, he made a strong case for the power of a dollar. The book asks, “If you are told to choose between $1,000,000 and $1 that would double itself every day for 30 days what would you choose?” The $1 million of course! But you would be surprised to find out that the $1 option would have generated way more than $1 million after 30 days.

Comment (1)

  • Matthew Stibbe (@TurbineHQ)| October 24, 2011

    Some good recommendations here. Some I haven’t read yet.

    I love the Freakonomics podcast.

    I would also recommend Peopleware (for anyone in software development), The Trusted Advisor (for any consultancy business) and, with a slight reservation, The Lean Startup (for anyone starting up).