As an entrepreneur or an entrepreneur-to-be, you’ve probably approached the business section of the bookstore with a combination of curiosity and dread. Every cover is emblazoned with a bold promise: “#1 Business Book of the Year!” “The only startup book you’ll ever need!” “The one book that every entrepreneur MUST own.” It’s tough to sort through all the wild claims and separate the wheat from the chaff. Fortunately, we’ve taken a closer look at some of the options out there, from the freshest new insight to classics that have stood the test of time. Here are our unbiased recommendations for 5 life-changing books you really need to read.
1. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Chock-full of real world examples that make its sharp and world-wise principles come to life, The Lean Startup is the book every entrepreneur needs in today’s post-recession economy. Whether we’re on the Internet or bricks-and-mortar-based, the days of massive investor capital are mostly gone. But this isn’t the end of the line—it’s just a new beginning. The Lean Startup shows you how to work successfully and ingeniously within this new model. It will teach you how to start up on a smaller scale so that you can work more efficiently, adjusting to your market in real-time with the agility it takes to be a true success.
2. Rework by Jason Fried
This provocative manifesto will make you question everything you thought you knew…and that’s the point. By the cofounder and president of 37Signals, a company creating intentionally minimalist web-based tools, Rework will show you how to ditch the complex, overcomplicated long-term plans, meetings, and other complexity that’s just weighing you down, forcing you to overwork and run in circles. Rather than slavishly adhering to the same old tried MBA principles, Rework will challenge you to stay nimble, focus on your own product, and keep it all much simpler—to your company’s great benefit.
3. The $100 Startup by Chris Gillebeau
Okay, you’ve got a great idea, but no money. You can’t say no one else has ever been in your shoes before! In this unique and inspiring book, author Chris Guillebeau, who’s been to 175 countries but has never had a “real” job, brings you 50 case studies of “micro” companies grossing $50,000 or more per year who started with a tiny initial investment. While you might not find a step-by-step “how to” for your individual business here (that’s too specific for the scope), every entrepreneur who’s ever had a dream will find these stories an inspiration.
4. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel
By Peter Thiel, who started Paypal and was a key investor in numerous other major companies like Facebook and SpaceX, this book asks “seven big questions” of all entrepreneurs, intended to make you think hard about what you are creating and why. If it’s your intent to future-proof your business and you want to create something that won’t just “improve on what’s already here” but create a new solution—taking the world not from 1 to 2, but from 0 to 1—then this is a must-read.
5. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
You mean you haven’t read it already? Even if you have, it may be time for a review. Not every entrepreneur is a “people person,” and even those who are may not be skilled in the art of selling or management. It’s time to dust off this classic (since 1936, it’s sold more than 15 million copies) and learn how to befriend others, listen well, disagree productively, bring others around to your point of view, and, essentially, work productively and effectively with people. The simple genius of this book cannot be oversold.
While there are thousands of business and entrepreneurship books published every year, these 5 ought to make the shortlist of any entrepreneur who needs fresh ideas, innovation and inspiration—and that’s all of us. Grab your bookmarks and get started.