Finding inspiration in the wisdom of others is an integral part of being an entrepreneur. Whether it's general advice, mistakes to avoid, or success stories to motivate, there are a wealth of memoirs, analyses and 'how to's available through the written word.
To help narrow your reading list down to the essentials, we've compiled a list of what we think are the 13 top books for entrepreneurs.
Hopefully, you will find something meaningful within these diverse masterpieces, with a message that speaks to you wherever you are in your entrepreneurial journey.
1. 'The Personal MBA' (Josh Kaufman)
If you are considering furthering your business knowledge through a recognised institutional programme, then you may want to review Josh Kaufman's advocation for "real-life" education first.
Taking umbrage with the concept of paying out six-figure sums for no guaranteed return or advantage, The Personal MBA argues that aspiring entrepreneurs should instead focus their time and resources on obtaining a real-world business education - by jumping into business headfirst.
Kaufman is there to guide you through the ride, too, offering 248 vital tips to accelerate your learning and guarantee your business success.
2. 'Awaken the Giant Within' (Tony Robbins)
In Awaken the Giant Within, life coach Tony Robbins demands that readers take back the power they hold within themselves.
A renowned business writer and motivational speaker, Robbins claims that aspiring entrepreneurs can achieve this calling by applying the Law of Attraction, altering how they think, how they feel, and how they behave. By then using these techniques in business, you can set yourself ground rules for achievement and engagement with new events and opportunities.
From the very first page, this is a book that is about facing the world without fear - and embracing the experiences that fuel success.
3. 'The Founder’s Dilemmas' (Noam Wasserman)
Aimed at those who are contemplating the risks of starting a business, The Founder’s Dilemmas challenges you to break down your motives and acknowledge potential obstacles right from the start.
Author Noam Wasserman - a renowned business academic - goes on to elaborate on the crucial need for sound decision making and the ability to identify needs and relationships as they arise. Conveniently, he also offers situation-based advice throughout the book to help give context to the concepts being discussed.
The prominent takeaway here is that business success is about being honest with yourself, and using self-awareness to make the decisions that could make or break your company.
4. 'Rework' (Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson)
A renowned bestseller, Rework is designed for readers that are feeling overwhelmed by the resources required to launch a startup.
Throughout this compilation, authors Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson relay why (and how) starting a business requires far fewer resources than you think, and why excessive planning is actually harmful to a startup.
As Fried and Hansson conclude, keep your vision personal and straightforward with a minimal corporate aspect, and the rest will fall into place.
5. 'Losing My Virginity' (Richard Branson)
The autobiography of legendary entrepreneur Richard Branson, Losing My Virginity documents how being challenged at a young age fostered the Virgin founder's entrepreneurial spirit, and how he was able to turn that into a hugely diverse, multi-billion dollar empire.
One thing quickly becomes apparent, too. As Branson proves, nobody is "born" an entrepreneur; it takes courage, defiance, and many wrong turns before you will eventually get it right. It also espouses the importance of creative thinking, especially when resources are tight.
As one of the most successful business people in the world and a stakeholder in more than 400 companies, Branson’s memoirs are an invaluable insight for any budding entrepreneur.
6. 'The Psychology of Selling' (Brian Tracy)
In The Psychology of Selling, author Brian Tracy details the traits and practices that are required to be a successful salesperson. This doesn't just mean being able to sell your products, though; it also means being able to market yourself.
Tracy asserts that successful salespeople are proficient in ten key areas, including being persistent, knowing precisely what they want, and being able to manage their time effectively; indeed, there are plenty of essential insights into the world of sales that could prove invaluable in your long-term journey.
7. 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People' (Stephen Covey)
Entrepreneurship is not so much a profession as a state of mind; therefore, it's no surprise that the most successful business owners all share the same habits and behavioural dependencies.
These 7 Habits of Highly Effective People are identified in author Stephen Covey’s work, with a chapter dedicated to each habit; throughout, he explains how to optimally achieve and integrate each one into your day to day routine, creating a pattern of behaviour that will change the entire way you operate.
8. 'Purple Cow' (Seth Godin)
In Purple Cow, marketing guru Seth Godin focuses on the importance of risk-taking and standing out in business, or as he designates it, the concept of a “purple cow among brown cows”.
The former tech executive elaborates on this mantra of creating something remarkable, outlining how to market and, eventually, succeed in a continually evolving online marketplace.
According to Godin, the worst thing in business is to blend in – so find out how you can stand out.
9. 'The Go-Giver' (Bob Burg and John David Mann)
Adopting a slightly different approach to the rest of the titles on this list, The Go-Giver is a fictional story of a young businessman and how he propels his business vision to success through the use of an alternative set of business success principles: the 5 Laws of Stratospheric Success.
Authors Bob Burg and John David Mann present these principles, before expanding on how, unlike their fictional protagonist, they can be applied to achieve real-life business success.
10. 'Smarter Faster Better' (Charles Duhigg)
As any entrepreneur will likely attest, getting things done is one of the biggest challenges of running a business. Smarter Faster Better tackles the concept of productivity head-on and discusses how you can complete all your tasks without burning out.
According to author Charles Duhigg, productivity is a sink or swim phenomenon that is at its highest when you are forced into action, with the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist also arguing that motivation can be self-taught. Either way, there are strategies aplenty within these pages for maintaining your determination and, in turn, ensuring the success of your business.
11. 'The Four Steps to the Epiphany' (Steve Blank)
Aimed at providing an alternative method for product development within startups, Four Steps argues that, while a traditional product development model works well for established companies, it is not appropriate for those just starting.
As an alternative, author Steve Blank presents the Customer Development Model, which he believes is a far more effective process for new entrepreneurs and businesses. These titular four steps work as the basis for developing a company, with the opportunity to implement a product development model later on.
12. 'Lucky or Smart?' (Bo Peabody)
Written by serial entrepreneur Bo Peabody, Lucky or Smart? is the author's self-analysis of his life as an entrepreneur. The twist, though, is that Peabody is seeking to determine whether his success was the result of intelligence or mere luck.
While both inevitably play a part, the real crux here is in exploring what sets Peabody apart from his competitors. There are also plenty of actionable tips along the way, making Lucky or Smart? just as much a 'how-to' as a memoir.
13. 'Business Adventures' (John Brooks)
Endorsed by such business heavyweights as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, John Brooks' Business Adventures is a classic entrepreneurial masterpiece.
Divided into twelve chapters, the book details a series of business ventures in 1960s Wall Street, with each tale illustrating the entrepreneurial experience. Throughout, it challenges readers to derive their own meaning from the actions and consequences of these early pioneers.
While seemingly outdated, it still has plenty to say about entrepreneurship at the dawn of the digital revolution and, as an iconic era for the acceleration of innovation and entrepreneurship, you won’t want to miss the developmental details that flow through each of Brooks’ fables.
As you select your next stack of motivational reading materials, remember the importance of maintaining diversity in your entrepreneurial studies.
This means taking the initiative to expose yourself to a variety of experiences and outlooks, especially in the context of business. Doing so will broaden your horizons and your thinking processes, making you a more enlightened and informed entrepreneur in the long term.
What entrepreneurial reads would you recommend? Let us know in the comments below.