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[Year in Review 2019] The top 10 books that entrepreneurs must read

From the stacks of books received for review and picked up from overseas visits, here are some of the best titles of the year for startup founders, social entrepreneurs, innovators, and changemakers.

[Year in Review 2019] The top 10 books that entrepreneurs must read

Thursday December 19, 2019 , 6 min Read

Launched in 2012, YourStory’s book review section features over 200 titles on innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity, and digital media. 2019 has been another outstanding year for books on the startup movement, with more of a focus on leadership, culture and impact – reflecting growing maturity of the startup ecosystem around the world.


See our earlier lists of ‘Top 10 Books for Entrepreneurs’ from the past seven years as well: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012. YourStory has also published the pocketbook Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups as a creative and motivational guide for innovators, accessible as apps (Apple; free Android version).

The selection of our Top 10 Books this year provides advice for organisational culture, leadership, ethics, trendspotting, storytelling, and connecting to a larger purpose. Country-specific titles focus on India and South Africa as well.

Click on each title below to see the full book review; also check out our author interview section for more in-depth insights into entrepreneurship.

Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Handbook of Silicon Valley's Bill Campbell, by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenbery, and Alan Eagle


This book has been authored by business leaders at Google and Alphabet. People, trust, teams, and love – these are some of the core foundations for successful leaders and coaches. These principles have been practised in companies like Google, Apple, and Intuit, as shown in the book. Some of the principles may look easy but are hard to practice, as shown in the frameworks and examples The lessons are particularly valuable for scale-stage startups.

Thank You for Disrupting: The Disruptive Business Philosophies of The World's Great Entrepreneurs, by Jean-Marie Dru


The book captures the business contributions and innovation philosophies of over 20 innovators, entrepreneurs, and brand leaders, ranging from Steve Jobs and Marc Benioff to Zhang Ruimin and Oprah Winfrey. The disruptors are categorised into five sections: leadership, business thinking, organisational culture, brand building, and social purpose.

Iconic Innovations: 75 Business Tales to Help You Find the Next Big Thing, by Giles Lury


Inspiring – and amusing – stories of pathbreaking innovators over the centuries are shared in this book. Each innovation is profiled in just two or three pages, but what they lack in depth, they make up for in breadth and variety. Innovators get ideas from the problems they themselves face, spot trends in a range of industries, or build on earlier innovations. This has to be followed up with customer engagement, market development, and branding.

Do Better With Less: Frugal Innovation for Sustainable Growth, by Navi Radjou and Jaideep Prabhu


This is an updated version of the 2015 book by the co-authors, Frugal Innovation, and includes in-depth interviews with six Indian innovators. In an era of resource shortages and empowered consumers, companies must grow in a responsive and sustainable manner. These best-selling authors provide frameworks, principles, and case studies of frugal innovation. The six principles include iteration, optimisation, sustainability, customer engagement, co-creation, and ecosystem alliances.

Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good, by Ann Mei Chang


The lean startup framework has been used to transform the field of entrepreneurship, and is being adopted by large enterprises as well. A number of social innovators and funds are also advocating and implementing the lean startup model for the social enterprise sector. The material in this book is divided into three sections: inspire, validate, and transform. The author also takes the discussion beyond individual social enterprises to re-architecting the entire ecosystem of funding, policy, alliances, and hybrid structures.

A Human's Guide to Machine Intelligence: How Algorithms Are Shaping Our Lives and How We Can Stay in Control, by Kartik Hosanagar


This book addresses the complex interplay between the power and unpredictability of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Understanding AI today has a sense of urgency due to the scale and speed of large global tech platforms and specialised applications, and varying human perceptions of trust with regard to AI across domains. Issues of workforce displacement and biases regarding gender and religion in algorithms are important issues for entrepreneurs to understand and tackle early on.

Data Story: Explain Data and Inspire Action through Story, by Nancy Duarte


From startup founders to corporate managers, the data story is a powerful way to communicate a point of view and influence action. This book explains how to use analytical structure, compelling visuals, relatable data, and story arcs. Data storytelling helps create connections, evoke emotions, and move people to make decisions.

The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday, by Rob Walker


This author offers an array of techniques and exercises to sharpen and deepen your curiosity. The activities are useful for entrepreneurs, artists, and business professionals. The exercises are divided into five categories: looking, sensing, travel, connections, and being alone. They are physical activities but can also serve as thought experiments.

Saying No to Jugaad: The Making of Bigbasket, by TN Hari and MS Subramanian


Launched in 2011, Bigbasket has carved a unique space for itself in the business of grocery delivery in India, expanding to a range of other categories as well. Stories and hard-earned lessons from their journey are effectively captured in this slender book. It stresses on the importance of quality, frugality, operational excellence, and talent management. Investor relations and acquisition of other firms are also part of the scale-up journey.

Startup Guide Johannesburg


The Startup Guide series of books, published by Sissel Hansen in Copenhagen, covers the startup ecosystem in over 20 cities, such as London, New York, Singapore, Berlin, and Zurich. The publisher and editorial team deserve an award for the entire book series. We pick this title on South Africa because it offers a ray of hope for the startup movement in emerging economies, and shows that the entrepreneurial movement can thrive and excel anywhere in the world.

We look forward to your comments as well as your suggestions for books to review in 2020. All of us at YourStory wish our readers and partners a happy holiday season and a terrific year ahead – may a million successful startups bloom!

YourStory has also published the pocketbook ‘Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups’ as a creative and motivational guide for innovators (downloadable as apps here: Apple, Android).