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The ultimate reading list: 50+ books that entrepreneurs should read

The ultimate reading list: 50+ books that entrepreneurs should read

Saturday August 22, 2015 , 16 min Read


Most entrepreneurs need guidance and constant inspiration, especially when they hit a wall. Here's an exhaustive list of little over 50 books that entrepreneurs should read: 

The Startup Playbook: Secrets of the Fastest-Growing Startups From Their Founding Entrepreneurs by David Kidder

In this, Kidder interviews hundreds of glorified founders asking them about their path to success and how they managed to build their multi-million (or billion) dollar enterprises. Going insider to insider with unprecedented access, Kidder, shares the hard-hitting experiences of some of the world’s most influential entrepreneurs and CEOs, revealing their most closely held advice. (Read More).

Zero to One: Notes Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

PayPal founder Peter Thiel offers 12 useful tips for entrepreneurs based on his own experience in startups and investing. Aptly called ‘From Zero to One,’ his 210-page book makes for a quick and useful read, with lots of case profiles gathered along his Silicon Valley journey.

“A startup is the largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future,” Thiel defines. A startup sits at the sweet spot between a lone genius and a large bureaucratic organisation – size allows it to execute on ideas and smallness helps with agility. (Read More) 

The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth by James Altucher

Many reviews say that this book is not for the fainthearted and is a bold one by James Altucher. The book is a sort of revelation of the author's personal ways and methods of making money. Altucher, in this book, answers those looking for a 'new' fix. In this book, Altucher says that one cannot play by the old rules in a new world. Lauded as an eye-opener the book is a guide to becoming wealthy the new works way.

The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

As the name suggests, this book is all about starting up. The first version of the book was released in 2004 and early last year, Guy Kawasaki released the second version of the book. (Read More 

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Rework shows you a better, faster, easier way to succeed in business. Read it and you’ll know why plans are actually harmful, why you don’t need outside investors, and why you’re better off ignoring the competition. The truth is you need less than you think. You don’t need to be a workaholic. You don’t need to staff up. You don’t need to waste time on paperwork or meetings. You don’t even need an office. Those are all just excuses. (Read More) 

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin

You’re either a Purple Cow or you’re not. You’re either remarkable or invisible. Make your choice, Seth Godin writes. The checklist of tired ‘P’s marketers have used for decades to get their product noticed – Pricing, Promotion, Publicity, to name a few-aren’t working anymore. There’s an exceptionally important ‘P’ that has to be added to the list. It’s Purple Cow.

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

This first-rate book by Eric Ries addresses a key problem in the innovation ecosystem: most startups fail. But many of those failures are preventable, and Ries draws from disciplines such as lean manufacturing in the automotive sector to come up with his “Lean Startup” approach to devise new metrics and success criteria for startups. (Read More)

Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore

In his book, ‘Crossing the Chasm’, Geoffrey Moore has used the word chasm to refer to the gulf between two marketplaces encountered by a product startup in scaling up. He has demonstrated that the first marketplace is an early market dominated by early adopters and insiders (a few visionary customers) who are quick to appreciate the nature and benefits of the new development. The second one is a mainstream market representing “the rest of us,” (predominantly pragmatists) people who want the benefits of new technology but who do not want to “experience” it in all its gory details. (Read More)

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim

The phrase refers to ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’, a business strategy book (2005) by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, suggesting that organisations should create new demand in an uncontested market space (‘Blue Ocean’), instead of competing in ‘Red Ocean’, where the market space is known and crowded.

Good to Great by Jim Collins

Jim Collins in his celebrated 2001 book “Good to Great – Why some companies make the leap…and others don’t” identified seven characteristics of companies that went from “good” to “great”. The first and most telling characteristic relates to people and what he calls “Level 5 Leadership” which simply put is all about quiet confident humility and driven to do what is best for the company as opposed to being lauded and heralded as the “greatest” or “ iconic” – or some other similar – leader.

The Innovator's Dilemma by Clay Christensen

In his book, Christensen suggests that companies that put too much emphasis on customers need will fail to adopt and will fall behind. He adds that it's important for organisations to have disruptive innovation to stand out and succeed.

Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson

A famous autobiography by the Founder and CEO of the Virgin Group - Richard Branson, it traces the journey of Branson from Rags to Riches. The book goes ahead to detail the extraordinary and different choices that Branson made in his journey so far.

Nail It then Scale It by Nathan Furr and Paul Ahlstrom

This book gives the secret winning sauce to all those struggling startups. In the book both Furr and Ahlstrom explains that the Nail It Then Scale It method recognises those patterns and principles that most successful entrepreneurs use.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

Even after decades since it was published, this book is full of wisdom and ideas that every entrepreneur could do with. This book has been a top-seller for the simple reason that it ignores trends and pop psychology for proven principles of fairness, integrity, honesty, and human dignity. (Read More)

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini, PhD

People skills are very important for an entrepreneur to succeed. For that he needs to master persuasion. Getting people to say yes is one of the most challenging tasks an entrepreneur has to undergo. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion explains the entire psychology behind why people say yes and how to make them say it.

Also read: 20 must watch Bollywood films for entrepreneurs

Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Peter Drucker

 Though the book had been written way back, the fundamentals for starting up a venture which are mentioned in it, find relevance even today. It talks about the dos and don’ts which should be kept in mind before being an entrepreneur. As Drucker is recognized for his clairvoyance, a fast read is suggested. (Read More)

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

 While every other business and startup books talk about how to start up, Ben Horowitz's book talks more about the realities of the entrepreneurial journey. The book as the name suggests focuses on hard things like hiring and firing, war time and peace time CEO and other practical lessons for entrepreneurs.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

This is one of the best books that will help you assess your aspirations and strategise. In Outliers, Gladwell examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success. To support his thesis, he examines the causes of why the majority of Canadian ice hockey players are born in the first few months of the calendar year, how Microsoft Co-founder Bill Gates achieved his extreme wealth, how The Beatles became one of the most successful musical acts in human history, how Joseph Flom built Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom into one of the most successful law firms in the world. (Read More)

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

As compared to the dozens of books addressing corporate innovation or technology startups or small/medium businesses, The $100 Startup has a refreshingly different focus: the ‘solopreneur’ or individual entrepreneurs who strike off on their own or with small teams, and convert ‘passions into profits’ through micro-businesses. (Read More)

‘The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon’ by Brad Stone

 Brad Stone has written for ‘Newsweek’, ‘New York Times’ and ‘Bloomberg’. The book captures the tenacious spirit and disruptive innovations of Jeff Bezos and Amazon, who have transformed and accelerated entire industries via e-commerce and cloud computing.

Jugaad Innovation: A Frugal and Flexible Approach to Innovation for the 21st Century, by Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu and Simone Ahuja

Leading companies around the world such as GE, Google, PepsiCo, Philips, Renault-Nissan, Siemens, Facebook, Suzlon, Tata Group, and Yes Bank are practising various principles of jugaad or frugal innovation and are learning from grassroots innovators in emerging economies such as India, according to the authors of this informative book. These principles are also being adopted by many NGOs and governments around the world. (Read More)

Startup Leadership, by Derek Lidow

Entrepreneurs succeed not just by creating a good product or an innovative company, but also by developing. Entrepreneur and author Derek Lidow explains that emerging companies have specific leadership requirements, stage by fast-moving stage. Each stage calls for different kinds of skills, not just ideation or management. Startups succeed if their founders can create a personal leadership strategy based on self-awareness and driven by a broad-based focus on evolution and adaptation. (Read More)

Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind, by Biz Stone

 In his book, Biz Stone, the Co-founder of Twitter, discusses the power of creativity and how to harness it through stories from his remarkable life and career. Stone is known as the creative, effervescent, funny, charming, positive, optimistic, altruistic and yet remarkably savvy Co-founder of Twitter. His book Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind spans 224 pages and 18 chapters, and covers the pivotal and personal stories from his life along with lessons earned and learned the hard way. (Read More)



Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert M. Pirsig

 This book by Robert Prisig remains the top read when it comes to philosophy even decades after getting published. A must read book when it comes to philosophy and life.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High Book by Kerry Patterson

 Conversations are the soul of every communication we have. In this book, Kerry Patterson gives us the important tools that are needed to have those difficult conversations. Especially with those ones with high stakes, emotions and differing opinions.

A Never-Before World: Tracking the Evolution of Consumer India, by Rama Bijapurkar

 Five years after her bestseller We Are Like That Only, Rama Bijapurkar takes stock of India’s economy in her new book, A Never-Before World: Tracking the Evolution of Consumer India. She urges businesses and entrepreneurs to focus not just on how much money people have, but on their aspirations, pain points, community context and media usage. (Read More)

The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene

This book blurb begins with saying : The best-selling book for those who want POWER, watch POWER, or want to arm themselves against POWER. Amoral, cunning, ruthless and instructive, this piercing work distills three thousand years of the history of power into forty-eight well explicated laws. These are ancient laws of power, Greene goes ahead to explain that these ancient laws hold true even today.

Recasting India: How Entrepreneurship is Revolutionizing the World’s Largest Democracy by Hindol Sengupta

 “India is being recast, remolded and redefined,” says Hindol. There are two kinds of democratic activities – measured (as with periodic elections) and experienced (as in day-to-day business and political life). Entrepreneurs in India today are thinking, building, creating, sharing, protesting and pushing against the old corrupt and lethargic political order. (Read More)

Recasting India

India Land of a Billion Entrepreneurs by Upendra Kachru

 In this book Kachru believes that entrepreneurship and self-employment is what leads to faster economic growth in India. The book goes through ways and means that make successful entrepreneurs.

‘The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life’ by Alice Schroeder

 Alice Schroeder was an analyst, writer and managing director at Morgan Stanley. Entrepreneurship is as much about creativity as wealth management, and Warren Buffet is a legend in the world of investment. The book provides insights into the genius behind Berkshire Hathaway. (Read More)

Related read: This is what top VCs and entrepreneurs read and recommend

‘Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days’ by Jessica Livingston

 For those who prefer shorter reads about entrepreneurs, ‘Founders at Work’ is a collection of innovator profiles of Steve Wozniak (Apple), Caterina Fake (Flickr), Mitch Kapor (Lotus), Max Levchin (PayPal) and Sabeer Bhatia (Hotmail). Author Jessica Livingston is a founding partner at Y Combinator.

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

 One of the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs face is building an organisation that has a remarkable culture and commitment. In his book Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsiech gives lessons from his personal journey on doing the same.

‘Steve Jobs’ by Walter Isaacson

Walter Isaacson has been chairman of CNN and managing editor of ‘Time’ magazine. The book on legendary innovator and Apple CEO Steve Jobs is based on more than 40 interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than 100 family members, friends, adversaries, competitors and colleagues.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

 Blink is a brilliant book by Malcolm Gladwell which talks about intuition and how it is developed after several years of intense practice. It also talks about how our brains work in different situations and why some people succeed by following their gut feeling in certain situations.

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

 While most of the decisions in our daily life are logic driven and often we feel the need to logically justify them. Predictably Irrational takes the reader through a different ride of behavioural economics and shows us the subtle factors which heavily influence our decision making process. (Read More)

Conquering Chaos by Ravi Venkatesan

 In this book Ravi Venkateshan gives India specific advice of overcoming the different and unique challenges that only Indian entrepreneurs face. He argues that success in India is essential because it's a litmus test that organisations face. It gives the ability to succeed in emerging markets.

'Alibaba's World', by Porter Erisman

In his book Erisman gives us first and evidence of how Jack Ma a humble schoolteacher, who had failed in his college entrance exams twice, built Alibaba - one of the world's largest e-commerce businesses.

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

As the name suggests this book is all about what makes some ideas tick and others not. Dan and Chip dissect the ideas and determine the reasons that make them stick.

The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, by Chris Anderson

 In this book, Anderson talks about why the misses sometimes are more important than the hits. It's about that endless curve of misses that entrepreneurs reach.

The art of War by Sun Tzu

 While an ancient Chinese war strategy, The Art of War makes sense to even the present days and times. One of the most popular themes for business practices and strategic thinking, The Art of War is a must read for all entrepreneurs.

Why We Buy by Paco Underhill

 Underhill in this book decodes the different trends of online retail and what they're doing right. It gives lessons on how every retailer can continue to do better than they already are.

The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox

This book is actually written in the style of a fast paced thriller. The story revolves around Alex Rogo a plant manager who has less than 90 days to save his plant or it will shut down. The Book revolves around his story and the decisions he makes. 

Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono

 A lateral thinking approach, this book helps assess all ideas, facilitates creative thinking. It helps open different principles.

Permission Marketing – Seth Godin

 With the thousand different marketing messages consumers receive today, Seth Godin says that to grab a consumers attention, you need to get their permission. "By talking only to volunteers, Permission Marketing guarantees that consumers pay more attention to the marketing message," he writes. "It serves both customers and marketers in a symbiotic exchange."

Venture Deals – Brad Feld & Jason Mendelson

Outlining the essential elements of a venture term sheet, this book gives entrepreneurs the tips to cracking a fair deal while fund raising.

Related read: Top 8 biographies every entrepreneur must read!

Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman

 This book summarises economics Nobel Prize Winner Kahneman's research he conducted.

The 80/20 Principle – Richard Koch

 This famous principle outlines tips of how to achieve more with less. It talks about how thinking and focussing on the smaller yet important things can change the course of businesses.  

The Design of Everyday Things – Donald Norman

 A usability engineer and a cognitive scientist in his book, Norman talks about the importance of design and how it serves as a great communication tool with the consumer.

Your Money or Your Life – Joel Dominguez & Vicki Robin

In this book the authors give essential tips that boil down to the principle - Your Money or Your Life. It gives the needed help to do the required emotional and mental commitment to create a cleaner financial life. 

The Personal MBA - MASTER THE ART OF BUSINESS by Josh Kaufman

This book gives the principles needed to create a successful business.

The Facebook Effect: The Real Inside Story of Mark Zuckerberg and the World’s Fastest Growing Company’ by David Kirkpatrick

 Journalist David Kirkpatrick was formerly at ‘Fortune’ magazine, and runs Techonomy Media, a tech-focused conference company. The book profiles Mark Zuckerberg and the meteoric rise of Facebook from a Harvard dorm room to today’s social media giant.

Startup Asia: Top Strategies for Cashing in on Asia’s Innovation Boom by Rebecca Fanin

 Startup Asia is a good regional introduction to the startup buzz in China, India, Vietnam and Singapore – but the title of the book is misleading, there is no coverage at all of startups in other countries of Asia such as Japan and Korea, or Malaysia and Indonesia. (Read more)

(With inputs from Abhash Kumar)