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15 best books for entrepreneurs and creators

Before grabbing your next bestseller, get our list of 15 best books for entrepreneurs. These are timeless greats with golden nuggets for any aspiring entrepreneur.

October 9, 2020 by Cyn Meyer

We’ll cut to the chase: 

If you’re an entrepreneur or solopreneur with your own business and looking for the best business books to help you thrive, we’ve got your back.

While it’s no easy feat to list the best business books of all time, we bring you a list of 15 must-reads that stand the test of time for helping any small business owner flourish.

Let’s get straight into them, so you can order your next new book.

15 must-read business books for entrepreneurs

#1. Small Is the New Big, Seth Godin

It’s difficult to whittle down the best business books to include just one of Seth Godin’s works, but Small Is the New Big: and 183 Other Riffs, Rants, and Remarkable Business Ideas is ideal for getting your creative juices flowing and drumming up unconventional business ideas.

It’s a giant source of inspiration that’s got something for everyone. 

In Small Is the New Big, Seth collects his most thought-provoking pieces from his iconic blog, his most popular columns published in Fast Company, and his best punchy ebooks.

With so many short “riffs, rants, and remarkable ideas” neatly rolled into one volume, there’s bound to be an idea in here that will excite your next venture and idea.

This bestseller is an ideal way to access some of Seth’s brainpower. He is, after all, one of today’s (and yesterday’s) most influential and provocative business thinkers. 

#2. Company of One, Paul Jarvis

Contrary to what most successful entrepreneurs envision as their end goal, author Paul Jarvis pulls us in another direction toward staying small. 

In Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business, Paul rouses us to redefine a successful business as one that stays highly profitable and sustainable while being run by just one person. 

If you’re a solopreneur who’s dealing with the pressure of expanding your business, this one is gold for focusing on boosting the freedom in your life instead. 

From having more meaningful leisure time to living without the stressful responsibility of managing employees and urgent business growth, Paul’s work teaches you how to embrace the hustle-free life.

He explains how to plan your own path for reaching your desired revenue level while keeping your clients happy -- all on your own. 

If you want a streamlined path to happiness and success, you’ll want to grab a copy of Paul’s Company of One.

#3. The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau

Along the same lines of keeping things lean, Chris Guillebeau’s The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future teaches you how to fill your life with adventure, meaning, and purpose -- all while earning a decent income. 

How is Chris able to teach this life of freedom and fulfillment in his book?

He analyzed 1,500 case studies of people who built successful businesses from very modest investments ($100 or less) and found that 50 of the most intriguing cases were able to monetize their personal passions and restructure their lives for greater freedom and fulfillment. 

If you’re looking to skip over generalities (and an MBA and business plan) and dive into specific details on how to turn your passion into a meaningful life with financial freedom, Chris will show you the way in The $100 Startup.

Beyond structuring your ideal business and life, it’s also vital to attract people to you and your brand, which brings us to the next bestseller. 

#4. How to Win Friends & Influence People, Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People is a timeless hit among successful entrepreneurs, business owners, and people in general. Dale’s advice helps you thrive in both your career and personal life.  

With over 22,700 ratings above 4.5 stars on Amazon, Dale’s work has helped countless people win others over and influence change (sans the bitterness). 

Even though his work was published in 1998, the lessons are still relevant to the real world today.

For people who want to boost their likeability, influence, and even personal brand, consider Dale’s playbook for attracting friends and fans.  

Our next business book pick also helps you attract raving fans, but from a different angle. 

#5. Start With Why, Simon Sinek

Another timeless bestselling book is Simon Sinek’s Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Published in 2011, Simon’s work is based on his movement to help people not only become more inspired at work, but also inspire other team members and customers, too.

The concepts in Start With Why explain why successful businesses and people are more innovative, influential, and profitable than others. In other words, understanding the why behind everything. 

Simon’s “why” movement is so powerful that his TEDtalk, which explains these points from his book, sits third on the most popular talks of all time list.

Basically, if you want to expand your impact, deepen your understanding of your “why” by exploring Simon’s work. 

#6. Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell

If you’re looking for a secret ingredient to stand out from the rest, look to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success

After scoping out the best and brightest, Malcolm digs deep into what makes top performers and high-achievers different. 

His breakthrough? It’s all about their backgrounds and not what they’re like.

Malcolm attributes people’s success to where people are from -- their history, culture, family ties, generation, childhood, and first impressions of life. This is the golden thread that explains how star athletes, business billionaires, and rock legends reach their pinnacles.

For anyone who wants to leverage hard work over intelligence, Malcolm’s Outliers is a must-read. 

#7. Breakthrough Advertising, Eugene M. Schwartz

Eugene M. Schwartz’s Breakthrough Advertising is a classic worth ingesting if you’re someone who wants to pick the brain of an all-time advertising great.

Eugene dives deep into advanced copywriting and marketing concepts, providing insightful details and real-life examples of ads that stand the test of time.

While it’s not an easy play-by-play instructional book, Eugene’s explanation teaches you how to think like a master copywriter, and ultimately, become a successful entrepreneur.

Caveat: It’s a deep read that will take some time -- and maybe repeat reads -- to fully grasp all that Eugene has to offer. 

And the sticker price is high because it had an initial limited run back in 1966 and has since become a cult classic reprinting at the current higher-than-average market price (think $125-$349 range).

If you’re ready to commit to a dense read that levels up your copywriting and marketing chops, dive into the world of Breakthrough Advertising.  

#8. Influence, Robert B. Cialdini

Robert B. Cialdini’s national bestseller, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, is a must-read for anyone who wants to better understand the psychology of marketing. 

Now considered a classic business book on influence and persuasion, Robert’s work has been revised from its original 1984 version to share the psychology behind why people say “yes”.

Robert covers six universal principles of influence and teaches you how to use them to  (ethically) persuade people to take you up on your offers, be it converting on a landing page or agreeing to buy on a sales call.

If you’re wondering how credible Robert is, the answer is very. He’s got over 35 years of research, evidence, and a three-year field study to back up his claims.

So, to join other great businesses and successful people who apply Robert’s well-known concepts of persuasion, add this must-read to your list.

#9. The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss

For anyone looking to avoid entrepreneurial burnout, this is a top New York Times bestseller worth exploring. 

Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich was published over a decade ago and is still a winning must-read for small businesses and entrepreneurs. 

Tim’s work currently sits with over 9,100 Amazon reviews above 4.5-star ratings. It’s been such an all-time favorite, Tim went on to author four additional “The 4-Hour” books to join this first in the series.

The 4-Hour Workweek walks you through, step-by-step, how Tim went from earning $40,000 per year, working 80 hours weekly, to $40,000 per month, working 4 hours weekly. 

His tactics include outsourcing your life to overseas virtual assistants, eliminating half of your work in 48 hours, and focusing on small work bursts. 

While adopting Tim’s personal life is hardly the goal, the takeaways lie in becoming more efficient with your time and effort and avoiding time sinks, like checking your email or completing certain personal daily tasks. 

For creators who want to become location-independent, get your time management under control, and run a business hustle-free with smarter decision-making, this one is worth adding to your must-read list.

While we’re on the topic of productivity and keeping a lean business, check out the next best book for entrepreneurs. 

#10. Rework, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Co-founders of popular project management tool, Basecamp, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, wrote a series of books on productivity and running a lean small business. 

Rework is among their written business books, which, while published a decade ago, still works applicable practical advice into today’s market environment.

Jason and David teach entrepreneurs and small business owners to ignore traditional business school lessons (i.e., business plans and competitive analysis) and instead focus on working more productively using counter-intuitive principles.

In Rework, you won’t find a step-by-step process on how to build a business, but rather, you’ll encounter super unique principles that you can evaluate and mold to your own business. 

#11. The Lean Startup, Eric Ries

Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses is a solid book for entrepreneurs who want to survive the unknown.

The Lean Startup is about vetting your business ideas and products using counter-intuitive practices, so you can streamline your product development path and leverage your creativity more efficiently.

Contrary to the traditional business plan, Eric teaches you how to test your vision and innovate in a continuous cycle, so you’re always ready to adapt, even in extreme market circumstances.

And what business doesn’t want to be storm-proof? 

To hedge uncertainty and create a minimum viable product, check out Eric’s advice in The Lean Startup.

Speaking of uncertain markets, the next bestseller also shows you how to weather years of volatile market cycles.

#12. Good to Great, Jim Collins

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't reveals insights from a deep study of 28 companies over five years. Led by Jim Collins, his study uncovers the vital pieces that make companies “great” over “good”.

More specifically, the Good to Great study unveils winning management strategies and practices and how they use leadership types, technology, competence, discipline, and change.    

Some of the ideas in Jim’s work are applicable beyond business strategy and management and can help with general culture fit and even your personal life.

For a research-backed read that highlights the best ways to fit your business and team together, dive into Jim and his research team’s work.

But OK. That covers seamless ties between your business and team. Now for a holistic approach to harmonizing your personal and work life. 

#13. You Are a Badass, Jen Sincero

One of my personal favorites, Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life is a must-read if you’re in need of a motivational self-help book.

In You Are a Badass, Jen gives you permission and a how-to guide for understanding why and who you are, so you can be empowered to create and live a life you love.

It’s a quick, witty read that tells it to you straight. As in -- here’s how to change what you don’t love and love what you can’t change, and make some money while you’re doing it.

For inspirational and practical advice on how to become a successful entrepreneur holistically, give Jen’s bestseller a whirl.

And if, after reading Jen’s book, you’re pumped about starting a new small business venture, look to our next business book for myth-busting what it takes to start your own business. 

#14. The E-Myth Revisited, Michael E. Gerber

Michael E. Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It debunks the myths about starting your own business. 

Even if you’re not looking to franchise your business or grow it into an empire, there’s practical advice in Michael’s famous business book that can help. His book walks you through the entrepreneurial journey from infancy to maturity.

If you want to survive growing pains as your business grows, The E-Myth Revisited helps you do just that and more, like how to work on -- and not in -- your business. 

Working your way through Michael’s bestseller will shed light on how to overcome common assumptions and expectations, so you can focus on running your business successfully.  

Plus, it’s such a timeless business book that Michael revamped and updated the content from its original The E-Myth version, originally published in 1988.

Our final business book today is also a bestseller that warranted a two-decade refresh. 

#15. Rich Dad Poor Dad, Robert T. Kiyosaki

One of the top reads in personal finance, Robert T. Kiyosaki’s business book, Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!, which was first released in 1997, challenges society’s typical beliefs about assets and liabilities. 

Robert’s take on how you view money is still a winning philosophy for growing wealth in today’s economy and has proven to stand the test of time. 

Having his own thoughts about money shaped by two opposing father figures, Robert contrasts the two perspectives to explain the true difference between working for money and making your money work for you. 

Whether you’re an entrepreneur who’s just starting out or a seasoned business owner, Rich Dad Poor Dad is a must-read simply for the angle he shares on investments, which are not taught in traditional school systems.  

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Read (and then work) your way to the top

When it comes to growing your business, there’s nothing more powerful than taking practical advice from people who have been in your shoes. 

As an aspiring successful entrepreneur, consider these 15 best business books:

  • Small Is the New Big for key insights on why you should keep your business small.
  • Company of One for maintaining a solopreneur mentality while growing your company.
  • The $100 Startup if you want a meaningful life with financial freedom.
  • How to Win Friends & Influence People if you want to attract fans, friends, and clients.
  • Start With Why for understanding and highlighting the reason behind your business.
  • Outliers if you want to leverage hard work and your unique background.
  • Breakthrough Advertising for a deep dive into advanced copywriting and marketing.
  • Influence for research-backed insight into the six main principles of persuasion.
  • The 4-Hour Workweek for lessons on intense productivity and streamlining your work.
  • Rework if you want a different set of principles for building a lean business.
  • The Lean Startup to learn how to create a minimum viable product and innovate. 
  • Good to Great to better understand how successful businesses manage and strategize.
  • You Are a Badass for a motivational boost on creating a life and business that you love.
  • The E-Myth Revisited to avoid common pitfalls, assumptions, and expectations.
  • Rich Dad Poor Dad if you want a non-traditional perspective on assets and liabilities.

Here’s to expanding your mind and business.

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