[Year in Review 2021] The top 10 books of 2021 for entrepreneurs
From the stacks of books received for review this year, here are some of the best titles for entrepreneurs, innovators, and changemakers.
Launched in 2012, YourStory’s Book Review section features over 325 titles on innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity, and digital media. Despite being the second year of the pandemic, 2021 has been another outstanding year for books on the startup movement.
See our earlier lists of ‘Top 10 Books for Entrepreneurs’ from the past nine years as well: 2020, 2019, 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 Ten Books this year provides advice on launching and scaling a startup, leveraging platforms and design thinking, and dealing with pivots and failure. Country-specific titles focus on India and Egypt as well.
Check out these titles below and click through to see our full book reviews; also browse our author interview section for more in-depth insights into entrepreneurship. Happy reading, happy leading!
Masters of Scale: Surprising truths from the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, by Reid Hoffman (with June Cohen and Devon Triff)
Ace entrepreneur-investor Reid Hoffman, Co-founder of LinkedIn, offers a wealth of growth strategies and tips for startups in his latest book. For early, mid and late-stages, it shares stories and advice on how founders can get past the initial ‘no’, build cultures that scale, pivot along the journey, and become a force for good as well. See our book review here.
The Startup Launchbook: A Practical Guide for Launching Customer-Centric Ventures, by Ajay Batra
Ajay Batra, Senior Advisor with Wadhwani Foundation, covers the five levels of startup maturity using a tool called the Startup Operating Canvas. The focus on discipline and reflection helps bring more rigour and precision to a founder’s journey. The guidebook has short profiles of successful startups as well as practical worksheets and dashboard templates. See our book review here.
Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know, by Adam Grant
Much success is attributed to expertise and consistency. But the ability to discard old assumptions and reframe perspectives is also key to success for entrepreneurs and leaders, as explained in this book by Adam Grant, organisational psychologist at Wharton. The book has a mix of research, storytelling, and tips for three levels of rethinking: individual, interpersonal, and collective. See our book review here.
The Fail-Safe Startup, by Tom Eisenmann
The emotional, social, and economic costs of startup failure can be severe. This book by Harvard Business School professor Tom Eisenmann shows founders how to map the failure landscape and gear up for success. It shares research frameworks and stories of seven startups who failed for reasons like the false promise (misplaced confidence from early success), false start (premature launch), and audacious goals (unsuccessful moonshots). See our book review here.
Beyond Good: How Technology is Leading a Purpose-driven Business Revolution, by Theodora Lau and Bradley Leimer
This informative book provides a range of frameworks and examples of fintech startups in action. The authors are co-founders of Unconventional Ventures, a consultancy in financial services innovation. They show how fintech allows business leaders to embrace a sense of purpose beyond just profits, and be catalysts for greater social inclusion and equity, particularly in the hard times of the pandemic era. See our book review here.
Future Tech: How to Capture Value from Disruptive Industry Trends, by Trond Arne Undheim
This wide-ranging book shows how to find alignment between tech, policy, business models, and social dynamics. Startups play a key role in future innovation ecosystems, and it is the alignment between these four forces that determine market success. Mastering the dynamics of this interaction is key for winning in the future of knowledge work, as explained by Trond Arne Undheim, futurist and venture partner at Antler and Hitachi Ventures. See our review here.
Platform Scale for a Post-Pandemic World, by Sangeet Paul Choudary
The pandemic has further accelerated the power and reach of platform businesses, as they expand across sectors. Big tech firms and scale-stage startups are unleashing new value streams while also raising concerns about concentration. Sangeet Paul Choudary, whose earlier books are Platform Revolution and Platform Scale, breaks down the technology, design, interaction, and trust components of the platform model (see my book review here).
Experiencing Design: The Innovator’s Journey, by Jeanne Liedtka, Karen Hold, and Jessica Eldridge
Going beyond tools and processes, the inner evolution of a design thinker is well captured in the compelling new book spearheaded by design thinking guru Jeanne Liedtka. It describes four personas in design thinking: driver, influencer, analyst, and supporter. The authors show how organisations can improve their competencies in each phase of the design thinking journey. See our book review here.
Shifting Orbits: Decoding the Trajectory of the Indian Startup Ecosystem, by iVEIN
This authoritative book is published by the Innovation Venturing and Entrepreneurship in India Network (iVEIN), with contributions from 30 experts. The material spans four sections: innovation, incubation, funding, and industry impact. For example, one chapter tracks the broader impact of VC funding in the pandemic era, while another explores 75 collaboration programmes between corporates and startups, including accelerators. See our book review here.
Startup Guide Egypt
The Startup Guide series of books, published by Sissel Hansen in Copenhagen, covers the startup ecosystem in over 40 cities around the world. Startup Guide Egypt extends the focus beyond Cairo to the Upper and Lower regions of the country, with a particular emphasis on social and environmental impact.
The publisher and editorial team deserve an award for the entire book series, each of which features inspiring interviews with founders, investors, accelerators and educators. We pick this title on Egypt because it shines the spotlight beyond the usual startup hubs of the world, and is one of the most picturesque startup books around! See our book review here.
We look forward to your comments as well as your suggestions for books to review in 2022. All of us at YourStory wish our readers and partners a happy holiday season and a terrific year ahead in ‘The Next Normal’ – 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).
Edited by Megha Reddy