business books you should read

Establishing a business is hard, but growing it is even more complicated. 

Nobody ever says their business is going to fail when it’s still an idea. But, if anybody who runs a business quickly succeeds, why are there only a few people signing up for it?

The answer is simple and obvious. Pursuing a business is not a walk in the park. It requires vision, determination, creativity, leadership, and perseverance. 

Preparing for the obstacles that might come your way is vital to stay relevant in your chosen profession. Reading business books is a good habit to have. Even experts highly recommend this exercise.

If you’re a startup CEO, business books can help you have foundational knowledge in running your business.

On the other hand, if you’re a long-time professional, you can reinvent your strategies from business books that talk about changing trends in your niche. 

All-time must-read business books

Every CEO is subject to struggles. Even industry giants, like Elon Musk, are not exempted from this. The world may have perceived Musk as an absolute genius with his foresight in innovative entrepreneurship. Still, the challenges he had to face are not a secret to the public. 

Here’s a list of business books we recommend you include on your shelves:

1. Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, 2018

“Leadership is not about titles or the corner office. It’s about the willingness to step up, put yourself out there, and lean into courage.”

Brene Brown is a four-time New York Times bestselling author who has spent years working with transformative leaders worldwide. In this business book, she says cultivating a culture encourages tough conversations where people can feel safe, heard, and respected.

2. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, 2011

Understanding your customers is the ingredient to your business’ success, and that’s what Eric Ries underscores in The Lean Startup. This business book is about knowing the needs and wants of your customers and addressing them as quickly as you can. 

“We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want.”

Ries believes that business people should continuously test the thought process of their customers and adapt to their demands. He utilized the Lean Startup principles to monetize his company, resulting in a $50 million annual turnover. 

3. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth, 2016

This New York Times bestseller is written by pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth. She believes that what’s essential to outstanding achievement is not only talent but a combination of passion and persistence she refers to as “grit.”

This business book features suggestions on how you can develop grit and argues the focus we give on talent. Duckworth asserts that talent could potentially distract us from cultivating our character strengths, like social intelligence and humility, which are crucial in business.

4. Radical Candor by Kim Scott, 2019

“People who are more concerned with getting to the right answer than with being right make the best bosses.” 

Kim Scott, a CEO coach at Dropbox and other tech companies before, wrote one of these gems from the book. This business book is widely received and featured in the HBO hit “Silicon Valley” which paved for more discussion online.

The New York Times best-selling book is reshaping modern management today without losing humanity. It is a must-have business book for those who want to be a kick-ass boss who makes a difference.

5. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, 2013

In this mega-bestseller, world-famous psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman introduces two groundbreaking systems influencing the way we think. The first system is fast, intuitive, and emotional, meanwhile, the other is slower, more deliberative, and logical. 

He reiterates the impact of overconfidence in plotting corporate strategies. He says that our cognitive biases affect our decisions whether on the stock market or personal affairs. Kahneman offers practical insights that could help us make more informed choices in our business and personal life.

“When forecasting the outcomes of risky projects, [executives]… overestimate benefits and underestimate costs. They spin scenarios of success while overlooking the potential for mistakes and miscalculations.”

6. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling, 2018

Bill Gates dubbed this body of work as one of the most important books he has ever read. This business book is an indispensable guide that could help everyone think clearly about the world. In Factfulness, international health professor Hans Rosling discusses the ten instincts that could change the way everyone views the world. 

Rosling supposes that humankind tends to divide the world in terms of how it consumes media and the way it sees progress. The book is packed with lively anecdotes and moving stories that empower people to be brave in facing opportunities. 

“There’s no room for facts when our minds are occupied by fear.”

7. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins, 2001

“Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.”

In this classic business book, Jim Collins ponders, “Can a company make the transition from good to great? If so, how? The result of his extensive research led to proven and timeless principles that helped companies outperform the market.

Collins, together with his research team, has a method of identifying great companies. They examined the performance of 1,436 good companies for the last 40 years and shortlisted 11 companies that transformed to greatness.

8. The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business by Clayton M. Christensen, 2011

Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen shares in this revolutionary bestseller that even great companies that do everything right are still subject to losing their market leadership, or worse, complete extinction.

To avoid firms from failing, he highlights two important management principles: listening to the needs of the clients and investing in innovations that have the potential for higher returns. 

Christensen explained the major difference between sustaining vs disruptive technologies and how these strategies make or break a company’s success.

“To succeed consistently, good managers need to be skilled not just in choosing, training, and motivating the right people for the right job, but in choosing, building, and preparing the right organization for the job as well.”

9. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, 2013

As an introvert, Susan Cain is very much aware of how undervalued introverts are most especially in leadership positions. She believes that extroverts are perceived as smarter, more interesting, and desirable, while introverts are regarded as second-class personality traits. 

In this book, Cain aims to dispel that said belief about introverts. She raises an argument emphasizing the role introverts play as leaders. One of the examples Cain pointed out is the practice Harvard Business School makes turning introverts into extroverts.  This is a book that would best fit introverts who want to become a leader. 

“We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.”

10. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel, 2014

Investor and legendary entrepreneur Peter Thiel writes about an optimistic view of America’s future and direction on innovation. In this New York Times bestseller, Thiel says progress is not limited to the technologies in Silicon Valley.

Learning to think for yourself is highlighted in this business book to encourage startups in making their businesses unique. He believes that the next Bill Gates or Sergey Brin knows how to do something new from 0 to 1. There is still a vast array of uncharted territories for innovation to take place.

Even Mark Zuckerberg himself, CEO of Facebook, says “This book delivers completely new and refreshing ideas on how to create value in the world.”

Best books for business success

Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs are business magnates who are also prolific readers. Like them, many executives recommend reading books such as The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (2010) and The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done (1966) by Peter F. Drucker.

One of the more powerful books in business in recent years is from Adam Grant entitled “Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know.” Learning from stories of failure and victories are a great way to determine the success of your own business. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant is another title worth checking.

Best business books for beginners

There are several business books available for novice business professionals. Learn the basic principles of starting a business or leading teams with these books.

Here are some of the best business books for beginners:

  • Think and Grow Rich! by Napoleon Hill, 2005
  • Start with Why by Simon Sinek, 2011
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 2004
  • Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry I Porras, 1994
  • The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America, Fourth Edition (edited by Lawrence A. Cunningham), 2019
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, 1998
  • Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins, 1994

Many successful business owners start their revolutionary ideas by studying how to win in life. For instance, you can get inspiration from these business books on how to transform people’s lives.

Reading business books as a habit

Buying business books doesn’t equate to success automatically. If you are not taking action from what you learned, it becomes a futile exercise.

You don’t need to consume countless information and buy every new business book that comes out. It’s useless if you let these books collect dust and not start implementing what you learn.

These business books can help widen your knowledge and sharpen your focus to have a competitive advantage. The rich and truly successful business owners are those who read to improve their skills every single day. 

Putting in the work is the best way to learn. Learning business skills is something that you have to experience and not just read about. Regardless, reading these recommended business books is a good start.


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