Top 10 List

The Top 10 Best Business Books for Entrepreneurs

I read a lot of books. I don’t read fiction and I very, very rarely read something that isn’t about business. Having an e-book reader (in my case, it’s an iPad using the Kindle app) has made my appetite even more voracious. I am currently “reading” 14 different books simultaneously on my Kindle app. I put reading in quotes because it’s tough to say I’m really reading 14 books at the same time, but I am. I’d say that I read 40-50 pages of one book and then switch to another. Back and forth, back and forth. Eventually I complete each and every one. I finish some much faster than others.

Overall, I read 40+ business books each year.

With that concept in mind, I thought I’d list my favorite top 10 business books of all time. These are the ones I have hard copies of. These are the ones I’ve read more than once. I’ll add to this post as I come across new favorites. For now though, I hope you’ll enjoy a brief review of my favorite business books of all time (in no particular order). I’d love it if you’d add a comment to this post with the name of your favorite business books. I’m always looking for a great read, as are others, so please do share your favorites with us in the comments.

ReWork is one of my most recent favorites. I have not met anyone yet that DIDN’T love this book. Rework is a quick read but that doesn’t mean it isn’t FULL of super valuable information. It’s aggressive, lean, new and takes umbrage with many of the old school business techniques. That’s why I love it! Like many of my favorite books, they take a strong stance behind their opinions. I agree with about 80% of it; the other 20% I don’t. You’ll have to get the book and see for yourself if you find 80% of it agreeable or not.

Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers (Wiley Desktop Editions) is a gorgeous book. The illustrations are like porn for entrepreneurs. In all seriousness though, this book is a must have for anyone who is starting or thinking of starting a business. The business model canvas, the centerpiece of the book, is something I think you’ll use time and again throughout your career as an entrepreneur. I have about ten copies of this book in my office that I give away when certain entrepreneurs come by. Get your own copy first though 🙂

Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity is a must if you want to operate a business that has any connection to the Internet (read “pretty much every single business on the planet”). This is the most succinct, direct and detailed book about how to do analytics (the backbone of the Internet) that I have come across. I use it as text in my Internet Marketing class at Weber State University so I obviously think it’s an outstanding text to learn from. If you want a business to succeed online, then you need to own and read this book.

Free: The Future of a Radical Price is a great understanding of how to give things away and then monetize them (or related products/services) later. This is a key concept to understand well. So many websites give away some form of their product or service with a plan (or a hope) to monetize it later. This book goes thru the “free” process and history in detail. It’s really interesting and important if you plan to have any kind of a free offering for your site.

Outliers: The Story of Success is a best seller and perhaps many of you have read it already. Malcolm Gladwell is not someone I agree with all of the time. I vehemently disagree with his views on social media. This book, however, is one that I love! He is a fantastic writer and you’ll find this book, as well as several of his others, very enjoyable to read. Gladwell builds a convincing case for how successful people rise on a tide of advantages, “some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky.”

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game has so many different tangents that relate to business I couldn’t help but add it to my list. It is quite entertaining as well. I love the way Michael Lewis writes. I’ve heard that they are making this into a movie with Brad Pitt as the books main character we well. Don’t let that dissuade you. It’s a must read even though it’s technically about “baseball”.

The Four Steps to the Epiphanyis considered by many as the “Bible” of software startup roadmaps. Although the book is technical and not easy on the eyes, the information it contains is pure gold. I wish this book had been around 20 years ago when I first started out. You have to own this book if you plan to start a business. If you already own a business, put it to the 4 Steps test. Marc Andreesen (founder of Netscape and now huge VC at Andreesen/Horowitz) says this about 4 Steps to the Epiphany: “Buy it, read it, keep it under your pillow and absorb it via osmosis.”

In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives is just a fascinating, fascinating read about how Google was started and what it is like inside of one of the World’s largest, most profitable and most interesting companies. The book is very well written. It flows well and makes the story entertaining and interesting at the same time. I love the early stories of Google, particularly when they tried to unsuccessfully sell it to Yahoo! for $1.6M. These kinds of things make it easier to relate to, and understand how, every company (even Google) starts small and make unusual and difficult decisions.

Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant is a classic. I have given this book away to many entrepreneurs over the years. The BOS is a part of a decade-long study of 150 strategic moves spanning more than 30 industries over 100 years (1880-2000). These strategic decisions, creations of new markets (blue ocean) and innovations are something that every fence-swinging entrepreneur should think about. This is one of the best business books to read before business school.

Atlas Shrugged is a bit out of the mix when compared to the rest of this list. However, if you haven’t read Atlas Shrugged yet, you need to. Now. It is really long, and not technical by any means. However, it contains some of the most important concepts about capitalism I’ve ever seen in print. Oh yeah, it’s total fiction as well which is unusual for me (and this list). Perhaps that shows why it is on my “you have to read this now” list of which few books land.

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About Alex Lawrence

Alex has been a successful entrepreneur for 20+ years. His current venture Lendio ranks #34 on the Inc. 500 list. Alex earned a BS degree at the University of Utah and his MBA at Weber State University, where he is Vice Provost and Director of the Entrepreneurship Program. If you want to talk with Alex about business and entrepreneurship (or other questions), email him (alex AT startupflavor DOT com), or you can find him on Twitter @_AlexLawrence.
  • May I also suggest Orbiting the Giant Hairball. great book recommended to me recently and easy to read

  • Alan Christensen

    They all look like interesting reads. I’ve added them to my reading list.

  • Atlas Shrugged is a must read for anyone that has any interest in business or politics. That book illustrates the dangers of government envolvement in business like no other. Thank you for the recommendations as a few of these I have not heard of.

    • Russ

      I second this suggestion. Still my favorite because it’s backed by scientific studies.

      • Alex Lawrence

        @Russ – dude, a comment from you, Money and Dan on the same day? I’m speechless. Not really. In all seriousness though, two recommendations from people I respect = going to go download it now.

  • Alex Lawrence

    @MySocialVentur: Interesting, I have not heard of that book. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Alex Lawrence

    @Alan – let me know which ones you finish first and what you think of them.

  • Alex Lawrence

    @WealthSavant – Agreed on Atlas Shrugged! Glad the rest of the list was of interest to you. If you read any of them, come back and comment on your thoughts.

  • It may be more for existing organizational structure than for entrepreneurs, but I think “Switch” by the Heath brothers is an excellent book that could be added to the list. My wife went through a phase where she was obsessed with “Atlas Shrugged.” I’ll have to add it to my ever-expanding list of books to read.

  • Alex Lawrence

    @RMoney – First of all, great to see you comment here! I know you’ve lurked for years 🙂 Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll check it out. Now I know how you work your Jedi mind tricks on me!

  • Alex Lawrence

    @Scott – Switch, huh? What’s it about? If you haven’t read Atlas Shrugged yet, move it to the top of your list. It’ll take awhile to finish, but it’s worth it.

    • Alex: Switch is about how to appeal to both sides of the brain (rational and emotional) to achieve results, both personally, in communities, and in organizations. It’s in a similar vein as “Rework” (I’ve read both) but a bit more sophisticated and specific in terms of psychology and how the human mind works.

      I’ll lend you my copy when we meet up next week for lunch!

      • Alex Lawrence

        @Scott – It rings a bell now. That’d be great to borrow it. Looking forward to our lunch!

  • Great list, Alex. Agree 100% on ReWork. A couple other books I’d put here would be “Made to Stick” and “Real-Time Marketing and PR”

  • Alex Lawrence

    @Dan – dude, thanks for the comment oh Blog King (great post about Lendio blog – loved it). I have read Made to Stick and loved it. Real-Time Marketing and PR I have not. Book swap?

    • Thanks, Man. Going through Real-Time Marketing right now. The prequel to it is The New Rules of PR and Marketing. Should read that first.

      • Alex Lawrence

        @Dan – YW. Nice infographic today too! My favorite so far. I’ve heard of the prequel. I’ll have to go thru my stuff and see if I’ve actually read it 🙂

  • One more: Mitch Joel’s book “Six Pixels of Separation” is also a great read. His blog is equally as awesome. http://www.twistimage.com/blog/

    • Alex Lawrence

      @Dan – ‘Six Pixels’ is indeed a great read. I enjoyed it. Haven’t checked his blog though. Thanks for the link.

  • A couple of interesting reads to add. While they’re a little “soft”, I think the general principles they outline are useful to think about, particularly for those less up-to-date on tech and social media: Unmarketing and Thank You Economy.

    Btw, Atlas Shrugged is fiction… so you do read *some* fiction 😉

  • Alex Lawrence

    @Dave – I actually considered both of those for the list. In this months issue of Utah Business Magazine you’ll find my book review of Thank You Economy, actually. So I’m a fan of both. Great suggestions to anyone reading these comments. Love those two.

    And you are totally busted. You didn’t read my post. I say in the comments under the Atlas Shrugged image that it is fiction and out of place on this list 🙂

  • Russ

    I’m going to second Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion… (as a marketing book, but it’s great for sales and many other things as well).

    Influence is all about human behavior, how people operate, what causes them to act, etc… There’s a synopsis here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Cialdini#Six_.22Weapons_of_Influence.22

  • This is a neat list and I’m so glad you included Moneyball! That’s such a fantastic book on business, particularly the disruptive, start-up business.

    If I could add one more, it’d be “Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics, and Everyday Life” by Avinash Dixit and Barry Nalebuff.

    It’s one of the classic introductory texts into the world of game theory. Entrepreneurs are (rightly) focused on tactics to see them from day to day, but no business ever makes it big without the right balance of longer term strategy. There are a lot of really fantastic principles in there.

    Also, nice suggestion, Russ, with the Cialdini book.

  • Huge fan of Atlas Shrugged, read it first in High School and multiple times since. Fan of most of Gladwell’s books. Like the Freakonomics guys he give a different perspective on things by digging into the data. I kept getting bogged down in Blue Ocean Strategy until I finally shelved it. Maybe with my new perspective on life I will have better luck if I give it another shot. That being said, Rework just moved to the top of the list.

  • Here’s a new book that came out today that has the potential to make your list: http://www.lendio.com/blog/interview-todd-henry-author-the-accidental-creative/

  • Jamie Dingman
    wow these books are pretty interesting  . .I’m thinking of having one of them . . .

  • The Complete Bennis, by Warren Bennis.  You can’t excel without classic and thoughtful leadership.  Bennis is the best, and as a result, has advised US presidents and top CEOs.  That’s my addition; but I love the span of your list!

  • I love business books as well and read about 40 a year. Here are my favorites:

  • Check my summary of “Outliers” http://bit.ly/qDcKSF and “Free” http://bit.ly/mYQTwU among the 50 books I have summarized to date. This is a good way to internalize the main concepts even if you have already read the book. Douglas W. Green, EdD

  • Thanks for the list of books I was looking for these kind of posting with books details.:)

  • Awesome list.  I have a few more I could add to it, but Im going to hop on my kindle and read a few of these. Thanks so much for the info!

    • alex_lawrence

      Thanks, glad you found some good ones on here. Let us know what you think of them after you read a few.

  • I really want to see the movie that Moneyball is based on.

    • alex_lawrence

      It was SOOOOO good!  I loved it.  Go see it.  Great movie.

  • Pingback: The List of the Top 29 Must Read Business Book Lists | The Startup Slingshot()

  • Jenluvstowrite

    Just read Small Business Big Vision by the Toren Bros. Very well written.

  • Amy

    Great article, some books I really want to read, but, forgive me for being dumb – I can’t see any details on the ones I looked at on how to get kindle versions?

    • Garrett K

      Amazon. Search em on there, then simply buy using the Kindle version. The rest of the instructions are there 🙂

  • This looks like a great list! I have read many of them and think they are spot on. Atlas Shrugged is an all time favorite of mine. I also especially love the synthesis and integration that The 4 Steps to the Epiphany has with Business Model Generation. I really liked the presentation by Steve and Alexander today at Jordan Commons.

    One book that I really loved recently was Start With Why. It had a great paradigm shift to focusing on the Why of the organization. 

  • Good List! I’ve read two of them and I love them!

  • Good list. I’ve read 3 of them too. I also must say that Seth Godin’s books: Linchpin, The Dip, and Purple Cow & Gary Vaynerchuk’s: Crush It are most def. MUST HAVES for an entrepreneur.
    & thanks for sharing 🙂

  • I haven’t read Atlas Shrugged but I’ve heard about it from my mother and I know it seems to be more well known in her generation than in my younger generation.  Has anyone seen the movie?

    • alex_lawrence

      I haven’t seen the movie yet. Haven’t heard good things about it which was a huge bummer to those that saw it.

    • I saw the movie. I am a HUGE fan of the book and had read it multiple times. The movie was a real disappointment. I felt like it skipped too much of what EXPLAINED the events and why they mattered. They also talked incredibly fast the whole time. I think this was to fit more in a shorter span of time, but it made it harder to follow, especially for my husband who was not already familiar with the story. The book is well worth reading!

  • Peter

    Nice list, thanks.

  • Great list!
    I would add Peter Church’s book The Added Value – the life stories of Indian Business Leaders.

  • LaLaLaLisa

    Wouldn’t it be oh-so-super rad, if we could get a Utah Book Exchange going??? I’d love to read ALL these books, and happy to buy a few and pass them around…. (Anyone have the Business Model Generation book, locally and want to loan it for a month?) 😉

    • alex_lawrence

      Hey Lisa — I have a copy and you are welcome to borrow it. Send me an email — alex at startupflavor.com and we can coordinate me getting it to you.

  • Artem Bezrukov

    Mark Cuban: 6 great books for entrepreneurs – http://favobooks.com/enterpreneurs/48-mark-cuban.html

  • From a entrepreneur and business owner who has launched several.. Just my opinion. Books not to be ‘just read’ but rather read, studied and applied. Start with these three! Think and grow rich -Napoleon Hill How to win friends and influence people -Dale Carnegie The seven habits of Highly Effective People -Steven Covey.

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