is supported by commissions from providers listed on our site. Read our Editorial Guidelines.
BDC Hamburger Icon


BDC Logo
Search Icon
Advertising Disclosure
Advertising Disclosure aims to help business owners make informed decisions to support and grow their companies. We research and recommend products and services suitable for various business types, investing thousands of hours each year in this process.

As a business, we need to generate revenue to sustain our content. We have financial relationships with some companies we cover, earning commissions when readers purchase from our partners or share information about their needs. These relationships do not dictate our advice and recommendations. Our editorial team independently evaluates and recommends products and services based on their research and expertise. Learn more about our process and partners here.

Updated May 17, 2024

Give Your Brain a Boost: 12 Books Guaranteed to Make You More Intelligent

Reading can greatly improve your business skills and make you smarter all around. Here are 12 books to boost your business smarts.

John Rampton, Community Member
Verified CheckEditor Verified
Verified Check
Editor Verified
A editor verified this analysis to ensure it meets our standards for accuracy, expertise and integrity.

Table of Contents

Open row

Do you want to be smarter ― or at least feel like you are? Pick up one of these classic reads for great minds. The idea that reading makes you smarter has been proven by numerous research studies, including some that have identified improvements in crystallized, fluid and emotional intelligence in individuals who read regularly. Reading can help expand vocabulary and understanding and increase the ability to detect emotions and feelings in others for better communication and relationships.

Books to make you more intelligent

Here are 12 books that can enhance the intelligence boost you get from reading.

1. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Source: Amazon

While this ancient book might initially appear like a military manual, its ideas about strategy translate into successful tactics that anyone can use to create a more intelligent strategy for their company.

2. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Source: Amazon

So much of today’s success comes from having the right mindset for business. This book is dedicated to showing you how to think methodically and rapidly as well as how to know when to make faster or slower decisions. You want to be quick on your feet but don’t want to rush into a decision that needs more contemplation. Kahneman teaches both a “fast system” and a “slow system” to help you determine when and how to use each thinking speed [Related article: What are decision support systems?]

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Source: Amazon

In this popular book, Bryson shares information across many areas of science related to the universe and how we got to where we are in human history. Along the way, Bryson adds some heavy information on physics, biology, chemistry and more. When you can discuss how and why we might be here as well as our purpose, you could impress more than a few people in conversation. 

4. The Greatest Secret in the World by Og Mandino

The Greatest Secret in the World by OG Mandino

Source: Amazon

First published in 1972, this book has stood the test of time and is on several must-read lists. It not only makes you more intelligent with insights on personal and financial success but also gives you a plan for developing the traits that will get you what you want. The transformational processes Mandino describes can also help you improve your relationships with all types of people.

5. The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes

The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes

Source: Amazon

Those who write well are often deemed more intelligent than those who cannot. Pick up this manual, which serves as a how-to book and a fountain of inspiration on bravery. This book gives you the information you need to improve your grammar, structure, tone and style. 

6. Jump Start Your Business Brain by Doug Hall

Jump Start Your Business by Doug Hill

Source: Amazon

This book is designed to enhance your level of intelligence around designing and launching a new product. It focuses on the skills and knowledge essential to making a viable product. Hall uses research and analysis to help you develop an effective sales process, marketing strategies and other business techniques.

7. Cosmos by Carl Sagan

Cosmos by Carl Sagan

Source: Amazon

While you might think some aspects of this book are over your head, Sagan makes deep and expansive topics accessible. He covers areas such as religion, philosophy, history, culture and science, to make you feel more well-rounded or at least deliver some tidbits you can toss into a dinner party conversation about the meaning of life.

8. Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

Source: Amazon

Creativity continues to be pegged as a critical success factor and a pathway to differentiation in business. Yet, it can be one of the most challenging things to put into a defining practice for use. With examples from today’s biggest creative film successes, the book offers a glimpse of how to tap into the creative potential in all of us. 

TipBottom line
Do you want to share your own knowledge with readers? Learn how to write an e-book for your business.

9. You Are Not Your Brain by Jeffrey Schwartz

You Are Not Your Brain by Jeffrey M. Schwartz

Source: Amazon

Most of us need to practice greater discipline in how we think and act. This book offers tips on how to control your mind while managing any impulses that may be impacting relationships, productivity and overall success. 

10. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Source: Amazon

While having a high IQ is great, Outliers presents the logic behind why some people are more successful than others. It illustrates that high IQs are not always directly related to intelligence. Using findings from evolutionary psychology, Gladwell teaches you how to be smarter and more successful.

11. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Source: Amazon

Since we all seem to develop both good and bad habits in our lives, it is beneficial to understand why we do what we do and the impact that our habits can have on us, our relationships and how well we do in the business world. This book can provide the inspiration and strategy to alter habits and develop ones that position us to be more admired, influential and successful.

12. Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt

Source: Amazon

Becoming more intelligent often requires changing perspectives and altering the way you think and make decisions. Through the use of diverse examples within this book, the authors offer a variety of steps to help readers begin thinking differently.

Bottom LineBottom line
A large part of success is listening to and attempting to understand others' insights and experiences.

Whether these books change how you think, decide or act, others will begin to notice incremental improvements in your intelligence. This could mean greater respect at work, a jump in the influence you have over others or even a fast pass to a spot on Jeopardy.

How reading helps you in business

If you aren’t already sold on the idea of reading more books, here are three ways it can help you in business and life.

Helps you become a better writer 

Writing is essential in business. You use it for memos, emails, social media posts and official documents. When you read, you expose yourself to a variety of voices and styles, which can help you learn different ways of communicating ideas. You’ll learn different tactics, such as using facts to support your points or grabbing attention with various writing styles. Plus, the more you read, the more you will have a beefed-up vocabulary.

Improves reading comprehension 

Reading exposes you to endless pieces of information you might have otherwise never learned.  As reported by WordsRated, people who read regularly have a roughly 50 percent increase in their vocabulary and fact-based knowledge, compared to those who don’t read often. In addition to gaining more expertise from the books you read, you’ll improve your ability to comprehend information. This makes it easier to read between the lines, understand any hidden messages in communications you receive from others and see the bigger picture. 

Did You Know?Did you know
Reading can give you a stronger ability to see from different perspectives, especially if you read books from diverse authors.

Increases your communication skills

Listening to others’ ideas and how they communicate them can help you learn how to communicate more effectively and ensure your ideas come across clearly. This can help with public speaking as you learn the flow of words and sentences, how conversations naturally occur and what structures there are for expressing certain ideas or topics. This is useful when networking or communicating with people within your business. Conversations will be more effective and you will be seen as a great communicator with high emotional intelligence. [Read more about the importance of emotional intelligence in business.]

Reduces stress

Running a small business can get hectic and stressful. But remember, taking time off to relax is as necessary as working hard. A simple way to do this is by reading. Just six minutes of reading a day can reduce stress levels significantly, even more so than music or exercise. Plus, it has the added benefit of potentially lowering blood pressure and heart rate. So, not only does reading enhance your knowledge, but it also bolsters both your physical and mental health.

Sean Peek contributed to this article.

John Rampton, Community Member
John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor, online marketing guru and startup enthusiast. He is founder of the online payments company John is best known as an entrepreneur and connector. He was recently named #2 on Top 50 Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine. He currently advises several companies in the San Francisco Bay area.
BDC Logo

Get Weekly 5-Minute Business Advice

B. newsletter is your digest of bite-sized news, thought & brand leadership, and entertainment. All in one email.

Back to top