“I read books.” - Elon Musk (when asked how he learned to build rockets)
From Bill Gates to Barack Obama, the most successful entrepreneurs, business experts, and thought leaders were readers, and it’s not just a coincidence.
With the internet taking over our lives and smartphones making us accessible 24/7, it’s easy to forget about the immense value that business books can provide. These powerful resources can help you strengthen your skills, overcome challenges in your professional life, and introduce you to new ideas and perspectives that can take your own business to the next level.
And if that's not enough, here are some statistics that might convince you to stop by your local bookstore.
10 Business Books To Add To Your Reading List
As a business owner, there are countless books that you can (and should!) read to further your knowledge, so while this list is by no means exhaustive, it's a good place to start.
The insights you can find in these business books are ones that have been used by (and often come from) some of the most successful CEOs, researchers, and business leaders of the last century.
Let’s dive in!
1. "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey
“To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions” - Stephen R.Covey
If you want to learn to take control of your life, Stephen R. Covey’s "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" is a must-read. In fact, if you read only one book from this list, let it be this one. Covey’s book looks at the average person's professional and personal habits and offers relatable and real-life examples of how our habits shape our world.
To name but a few, this book teaches:
- Insights into overcoming bad habits.
- Tips for strategic decision-making skills.
- Lessons for boosting productivity.
- Key steps for a healthy work-life balance.
Covey’s book effectively walks the line between self-help and business strategy advice. Unlike other books, Covey doesn’t focus on cutting out every bad habit. Instead, he asks the reader to identify characteristics that are standing in their way—ones you may not even be aware of—and offers practical advice for working around yourself.
2. "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success" by Carol S. Dweck
“No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.” - Carol S. Dweck
Inspiring, illustrative, and informative, Dweck’s book "Mindset" is a research-based instruction manual for achieving excellence. Parenting, business, school, relationships—Dweck addresses it all.
She touches on how you can fulfill your potential with your mindset and offers a detailed and tangible guide to adjusting your thought patterns.
You should read "Mindset" if you’re looking to:
- Develop a growth/champion mindset.
- Identify and adjust core belief systems for a more positive outlook.
- Set yourself up for success.
- Instill a growth-oriented mindset company-wide.
Dweck’s well-balanced combination of research and approachable anecdotes make this business book an easy read. If you’re looking to excel as a leader or entrepreneur, you need this on your shelf.
3. "Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World" by Cal Newport
“Two Core Abilities for Thriving in the New Economy
1. The ability to quickly master hard things.
2. The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.” - Cal Newport
There is a lot going on in today's world, especially for entrepreneurs and small business owners. The constant demands on our time and the endless pursuit of continuous innovation and business growth can leave us feeling, well, distracted.
Cal Newport’s book "Deep Work" offers thoughtful insights into developing your ability to focus deeply for greater business success. Newport’s book centers on the idea that focusing on a cognitively demanding task for a shorter period of time is more productive than shallowly focusing on the same task for an extended period of time.
Full of easy-to-follow guidelines for building more successful habits to maximize success, you should read Newport’s book if you’re looking to:
- Quickly master challenging skills or processes.
- Find ways to do more meaningful work in less time.
- Cultivate routines and rituals to stay focused.
4. "Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity" by Kim Scott
“Make sure that you are seeing each person on your team with fresh eyes every day. People evolve, and so your relationships must evolve with them. Care personally; don’t put people in boxes and leave them there” - Kim Scott
As a leader, chances are you’re constantly looking for ways to boost your leadership skills and enhance your company culture. From inspiring to firing, Kim Scott’s book "Radical Candor" is a crash course in leading with empathy. Scott draws on her years of experience as a CEO in Silicon Valley and offers real-world examples and solutions to common management problems.
"Radical Candor" is a tactical approach to managing in a way that motivates. Inside this business book, Scott gives guidance on:
- How to offer positive and negative feedback.
- Tactics for meeting employee and personal needs.
- Rapidly developing team trust.
- Managing team growth.
- Inspiring profound change from a team perspective.
"Radical Candor" is centered on the idea that building a workplace of trust allows for honest conversations to take place. From these honest conversations, teams are able to better problem-solve, work cohesively, and develop more successful solutions.
5. "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill
“The starting point of all achievement is DESIRE. Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desire brings weak results, just as a small fire makes a small amount of heat.” - Napoleon Hill
Written in 1937, "Think and Grow Rich" is still regularly gracing “Best Business Book” lists to this day, and is considered one of the most influential business books ever written. Penned by journalist and self-help author Napoleon Hill, it follows 40 successful people over 20 years to identify, essentially, the secret to their success.
Hill’s book centers around the drive of desire for success and cultivating that desire within our business and personal lives. His book is a guide to:
- Developing definitive goals.
- Building consistent habits that are conducive to lasting success.
- Leveraging self-awareness to foster personal and professional progression.
"Think and Grow Rich" uses anecdotes and observations to create an inspiring account about the power of dedication, and is a great read for anyone looking for tried-and-true ways to work smarter rather than harder.
6. "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance" by Angela Duckworth
“There are no shortcuts to excellence. Developing real expertise, and figuring out really hard problems, it all takes time―longer than most people imagine....Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you're willing to stay loyal to it” - Angela Duckworth
Award-winning psychologist Angela Duckworth’s book examines how talent is the lesser of several factors of success–one of them being "grit". She examines the value of consistent effort toward success.
If you’re looking for ways to do more with less, "Grit" teaches readers:
- The psychology of perseverance.
- The paragon of grit for success.
- Developing passion and perseverance to achieve long-term goals.
- Cultivating tenacity with limited resources.
For anyone who loves statistics, this is the book for you. Duckworth uses research to explain why perseverance and focus lead to greatness. She emphasizes the idea of incremental improvements over shortcuts. This book provides several practical lessons and actionable steps to cultivating "grit" within yourself and your small business.
7. "The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses" by Eric Ries
“If you cannot fail, you cannot learn.” - Eric Ries
Frequently touted as one of the best books for budding entrepreneurs, Eric Ries’s "The Lean Startup", is packed with tried-and-true advice from his experience working in the field of information architecture. Ries’s book touches on:
- Rapid experimentation and adaptation.
- Channeling creativity.
- Cutting away vanity metrics.
- Creating a customer-centric narrative.
As the founder of the "Lean Startup" theory, Ries’s work is aimed at optimizing marketing strategies and shortening product development. In his book, he explores the differentiating factors between startup success and failure. If you’re looking for a way to capitalize on a small number of resources, this book is an absolute must-read.
8. "The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence" by Josh Waitzkin
“Growth comes at the point of resistance. We learn by pushing ourselves and finding what really lies at the outer reaches of our abilities.” - Josh Waitzkin
Josh Waitzkin won his first National Chess Championship at the age of nine. Since then, he has continued to achieve at a high level across several disciplines. In his book, "The Art of Learning", Waitzkin examines the journey toward excellence. He explains:
- A principled approach to learning.
- Achievement as a lifestyle.
- Performance psychology.
- Capitalizing on the emotions of failure.
"The Art of Learning" is full of valuable life lessons, not just for the business world but for personal life, too. From overcoming obstacles to making mistakes work for you, Waitzkin’s book is a fascinating read for anyone at any stage of their entrepreneurial journey.
9. "Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action" by Simon Sinek
“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” - Simon Sinek
In his book, "Start with Why", motivational speaker Simon Sinek examines the commonalities between great leaders. From Martin Luther King to Steve Jobs, Sinek explains that the driving force behind these leaders was simply having a purpose.
Sinek talks about:
- Developing purpose.
- Inspirational strategy vs. manipulative strategy.
- The "Golden Circle" concept.
Sinek goes on to place his analysis against a business backdrop. He ties together the entire values chain from customers to workers to decision-makers. He examines the role of trust in building a culture of achievement and prosperity. He also considers the importance of establishing the “why” and “how” across an entire organization.
10. "Unapologetically Ambitious" by Shellye Archambeau
“This is how success begins: by setting a clear goal and committing to go after it, ambitiously, unapologetically, strategically.” - Shellye Archambeau
Written by former Silicon Valley CEO Shellye Archambeau, and named "Best Business Book" of 2020 by Fortune and Bloomberg, "Unapologetically Ambitious" is the story of how she managed to overcome the challenges she faced as a young black woman, wife, and mother, balancing her personal and professional responsibilities while steering her company to success.
In addition to her empowering success story, Archambeau offers a unique and actionable guide to:
- Developing financial literacy.
- Tackling imposter syndrome.
- Building discipline.
- Finding the elusive work-life balance.
What's The Bottom Line?
Entrepreneurs have the power to change the world—but only when they’re armed with the right tools. No matter what your goals are, dedication to constant learning and development is crucial to achieving your goals.
From forming effective habits to leading with empathy, these books will help you build the bigger, better, successful business you’ve been dreaming of.