10 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read for Inspiration

Business.com / Business Basics / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

What are some of the best books that an entrepreneur should read? These 10 are a good start for inspiration and guidance for your venture.

If there’s one common denominator that a lot of successful entrepreneurs share, it would be them taking the time to invest in themselves.

For one thing, they read books—lots of them! Mark Zuckerberg made it his New Year’s resolution to read a new book every other week with the intent of learning different histories, beliefs, cultures, and new technologies.

At this point, you're probably wondering how he’s taking the time to read so much despite how busy he is running such a massive company, so what kind of excuse do we have for not reading?

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Let’s Get Started

I hope you're pumped to start reading. Here are 10 books I believe are must-reads for entrepreneurs.

1. How to Win Friends and Influence People (1937) by Dale Carnegie

This book may be old (and the oldest book on this list by nearly 50 years), but many of its ideas are timeless. Carnegie’s book was one of the first best-selling self-help books and has sold over 15 million copies today.

How to Win Friends and Influence People is broken into different sections based on subject and offers advice on human relations. While some of his lessons may appear obvious, this book provides relevant insights on how to make people like you more and how to convince people to change their habits or thinking to be more in line with yours.

2. The 4-Hour Workweek (2007) by Tim Ferriss

Unfortunately, this book doesn’t offer advice on how to work only four hours a week and make a living. Without a lot of initial capital or extraordinary circumstances, you’re going to have to work more regular hours like the rest of the population.

What The 4-Hour Workweek does offer, however, is sound advice for the modern era. Some of Ferriss’ most important lessons are cutting back information intake to better focus on your work, a concrete example that Ferriss offers is checking email only twice a day, and how conquering fear can be beneficial to efficiency in the workplace.

3. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It (1995) by Michael E. Gerber

The E-Myth was first published in 1985 before being revisited a decade later, and it is regularly included in many best business books lists, including this one. Gerber primarily investigates the entrepreneurial (“E”) myth: that entrepreneurs use technical expertise to build their business.

Gerber instead suggests that successful businesses come from entrepreneurial techniques unrelated to technical skill. Regardless of whether he is right on that point, The E-Myth Revisited offers sound advice on the mentality an entrepreneur needs in order to create a successful business and details the steps a businesses should take to flourish.

4. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers (2014) by Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of the most experienced entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, shares his experience and advice in his business book The Hard Thing About Hard Things.

Using anecdotes from his own career, Horowitz talks about how to do everything from demoting a friend to how to handle promotions or bad employees. Taking a straightforward tone laced with humor, Horowitz’s book is an enjoyable read that also gives great insight to aspiring entrepreneurs and veterans alike.

5. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) by Stephen Covey

A best-selling self-help and business book that has been translated into 34 languages, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People details the, you guessed it, seven elements that make a successful individual.

The steps are broken into three sections: dependence, independence, and interdependence, and the lessons range from how to be proactive and take steps one at a time to how to engage other people by finding win/win situations and understanding others first.

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6. The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future (2012) by Chris Guillebeau

This book is a great read for anyone looking to start a small business. For The $100 Startup, Guillebeau created a list of 1,500 individuals with self-built businesses that started on a modest budget and later turned at least $50,000 in annual profits, and from that pool, Guillebeau focused on 50 for the book itself.

He details their trials and errors as they grew their business from the ground up, and through these anecdotes reveals what it takes to build a startup in different countries all over the world.

7. Rework: Change the Way You Work Forever (2010) by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried

Hansson and Fried challenge the way businesses can be successful in their book Rework. The two are the founders of 37signals, a successful software company that has defied conventional business models for over 15 years.

Their book shares the secrets behind their own success and details why long-term plans are harmful, why businesses don’t need outside investors and why you’re better off ignoring the competition. While initially sounding counterintuitive, the more you read the more these two make a strange kind of sense.

8. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future (2014) by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters

Peter Thiel, co-founder of Paypal and Palantir, shares his entrepreneurial experience in his book Zero to One, which is based on notes taken by Blake Masters during Peter Thiel’s lectures at Stanford.

While the book does show some of Thiel’s libertarian mentalities including praise of monopolies, he nonetheless makes insightful points about how to start a business, focusing on small markets, technological superiority, scalability and network potential. Thiel’s main point is that the most successful businesses do something new, not something better.

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9. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don’t (2001) by Jim Collins

In Good to Great, Jim Collins discusses the results of a huge management study that he did in the 90’s with a team of researchers. In the study, Collins picked a set of companies that, on average, had stock returns seven times larger than the general stock market for 15 years.

He then compared those businesses to companies poised on the brink of success that never bridged the gap. In the book, Collins discusses why some companies make it when others don’t, mentioning factors like “Level 5 Leaders, ” the now classic “Hedgehog Concept,” and the “Flywheel” and “Doom Loop.”

10. The Lean Startup (2011) by Eric Ries

Ries began a lean startup movement with the release of his book in 2011, which made waves among entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. The Lean Startup details a business model in which small businesses can effectively grow and scale.

Ries’ model involves iterative product releases of minimum viable products, shortened release cycles, a focus on pleasing early customers, and a process that he terms “validated learning.” In a model based around trimming excess, Ries provides lessons on how to shore up the essential components of a company.

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