Want to take your business from good to great? Start reading every book on this list.
Are you a current or prospective MBA student? Our MBA Corner is just for you.
If you have the drive to start a business all on you own, you know research beforehand is crucial. The best managers and business owners also know that running a successful organization requires continuous learning and reexamination of ideas.
If you’re already an entrepreneur or plan to start your own business soon, add these books to your reading list. Though many are not “official” business books, they can still help clarify what you need to do to get the to heart of problems, build better relationships and help push your business’s success even further.
On business fundamentals and productivity hacks
1. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin
Godin has written a whole library of business-oriented books. But this is one of his best-loved books among marketing and business professionals – and probably one of the first books you should read before you launch your business plan.
Godin’s ideas are simple but elegantly explained: Your business and product must be a purple cow. If you’re not memorable, you probably won’t succeed.
2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
Covey was one of the key players in making “proactive” a business buzzword. Even if you just rolled your eyes at the mention of that word, the book is chock-full of wisdom and ideas that have held true even after two decades.
The author’s son Stephen M.R. Covey spoke about the book with U.S. News. “I think it’s become even more relevant today,” he said. “The world’s become more connected, more interdependent, and technology aids all of that. 7 Habits really moves a person from dependence to independence to interdependence.
“More than ever we need to be able to understand how to effectively work with people. The common approach today is not what 7 Habits is teaching, which is a different way of saying, how can we work together to achieve and attain something better than either of us could do on our own?”
3. You Already Know How to Be Great: A Simple Way to Remove Interference and Unlock Your Greatest Potential by Alan Fine with Rebecca R. Merrill
This book might challenge you to stop reading this article.
Alan Fine says we spend far too much time looking at external material in hopes of improving ourselves. Instead, you should use the skills and resources you already have to release yourself from paralysis and move forward with your goals.
On how to develop better people skills
4. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini, PhD
You’ve probably seen this classic book on the bookshelves of everyone from C-level executives to bookworm friends. Don’t let “psychology” fool you into thinking the good doctor is waxing theoretical for more than 300 pages. Dr. Cialdini draws on 35 years of research and a 3-year study to explain the six universal principles of persuasion.
5. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Can a non-fiction self help book that’s more than 80 years old still be relevant today? Believe it or not, yes.
Carnegie shares valuable insights about how to read, charm and influence people and couples them with historical anecdotes. Warren Buffet called it a life-changing read – so yes, it probably belongs on your Kindle.
Mashable listed Carnegie’s book as a source to fix relationship building while networking. “If you have not spent time building relationships during your career,” said Jayne Mattson, “Start by reading the best book about relationship building of all time: Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, which is still one of the most widely read books today on this topic.”
6. Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi
You know all about the importance of networking – but the way Ferrazzi frames it, you should be focusing more on nurturing relationships than on “making connections.” Learn to reach out to people with Ferrazzi’s practical advice and insight and see what a difference it makes in your career and personal life.
7. The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey by Ken Blanchard
Manager or not, this time-tested mini-manual shows you how to effectively delegate and supervise without compromising your time with family and friends (or even your own job.)
This book is a fast read, and it will help you adapt better time management skills and – lo and behold – carve out more time for yourself.
On reflection on the good, the bad and the given
8. Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl
This book might be best saved for reading at home or during your commute. Psychiatrist Frankl published this memoir about his time as a prisoner in four different Nazi camps in 1946. It makes this list because of its emphasis on finding one’s own meaning and truth, whether that be your professional or personal life.
Frankl explains we might not be able to avoid suffering or hard times, but we can decide how we process pain and find meaning in it.
Frankl’s book is more than just an inspirational read for some business owners. “Throughout Frankl’s analysis of himself and his mental processes as he experienced one of the ugliest times in history, it also encourages professionals to help others find meaning in their work,” says Dr. Tim R Love. “Whether you’re at a desk job from nine to five or working the night shift driving the interstate, it’s important to find meaning in whatever it is that you do.”
9. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
If you’re in the business of, well, business, then you probably have a decent working knowledge of capitalism. Adam Smith’s 1776 masterpiece elegantly describes the inner workings of a modern market economy – and you’ll be surprised at how relevant his theory remains several centuries later. Plus, you’ll be able to give a coherent argument when somebody tries to tell you making a profit is evil.
On assessing your aspirations and strategizing
10. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
It’s admirable and sensible: If you want to be good at something, observe experts or professionals in your aspirational field/skill/practice and do what they do.
But it doesn’t always work. Malcolm Gladwell argues that culture and environment actually affect our success much more than we’d like to believe. He also brings up the somewhat taboo subject of privilege and how we can help future generations live up to their potential.
Gladwell’s book has caught the attention of many types of people, including professor of mathematics Jason Brown at Dalhousie University in Halifax. “Does full understanding need to precede rote learning? I believe that the answer is “no” in basic mathematics. Students need to practise, practise, practise essential tasks; some understanding will develop only after the routines are memorized and well-rehearsed,” Brown said. “Command of an ability or talent requires repetitive work — no two ways about it.”
12. Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A. G Lafley and Roger L. Martin
As the CEO of Procter & Gamble, Lafley knows a thing or two about strategy (Martin is his strategy advisor and helped co-author this super-informative book.) The two main points that the powerful duo focuses on: Where to play and how to win.
Their five-point method for “winning” will help any manager or owner hone in on their organization’s strengths, challenges and opportunities for growth – and turn these qualities into a strategy that outsmarts the competition.
13. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins
Jim Collins and his team spent five years following 28 companies trying to identify what made a company ascend to greatness and sustain its success. This book details their findings — and the facts might be hard to swallow. But they’re completely game-changing.
Is your bookshelf big enough for these new additions? Get reading, and I bet you’ll find that your business savvy increases dramatically.
Thad Baker is an outdoor enthusiast, musician, writer and food junkie. He likes to write about many different topics, ranging from digital marketing to career advice and even men’s fashion. Follow him on Twitter @ThadBaker87.