20 Books About Starting a Business You Can’t Afford Not to Read

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Meg Prater (she/her)
Meg Prater (she/her)



Think you don’t have time to read? Consider that Bill Gates reads 50 books every year, Mark Cuban reads for three hours each day, and Elon Musk -- when asked how he learned to build rockets -- said, “I read books.”


Reading is a crucial part of becoming an entrepreneur and building your first business. But knowing which books to start with can be overwhelming. So, I’ve pulled a list of today’s most inspiring and informative books about starting a business. Pick a few, or read them all, and take a giant step toward making your entrepreneurial dreams come true.

21 Books About Starting a Business

1. “The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup” by Noam Wasserman

Do you need co-founders? When should you hire your first employee? Should you have investors? Wasserman’s popular book examines which early decisions make or break your startup and how to anticipate, avoid, or recover from disastrous mistakes.

Review excerpt: “This book consolidates information backed by research, and provides a more comprehensive and unbiased picture on the subject than any resource you can find.”

2. “In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from Over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs” by Grace Bonney

Learn how 100 female business leaders embraced creativity, moved past their toughest days, and sparked a global movement. Need motivation to get through the sleepless nights and lonely days of starting your own business? Reach for this book.

Review excerpt: “Beautiful book that makes a great gift for the driven women in your life. Inspiring art and stories that should be propped up on display for all to read.”

3. “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek

Sinek’s book explores how the world’s most influential leaders think, act, and communicate similarly. He calls the idea, “The Golden Circle,” and shares this framework to build businesses, lead movements, and inspire.

Review excerpt: “I've read and studied a lot of material over the last two years to find answers for my life and business. What I didn't realize is that I was looking for this book.”

4. “The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage” by Daymond John

The Fubu Founder and “Shark Tank” star shares how he turned a $40 budget into a $6 billion-dollar global brand -- and how he couldn’t have done it without starting broke.

Review excerpt: “This book should be required reading in business schools as the first 43 pages alone blow away most business books out there.”

5. “The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google” by Scott Galloway

When building your own business, it’s probably a good idea to learn about the most successful companies in the world -- and how they climbed to the top. Whether you want to work with these companies or disrupt them, Galloway’s book gives you strategies to use immediately.

Review excerpt: “Excellent analysis on how each of these companies have grown so successfully, as well as commentary on their future staying power.”

6. “Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days” by Chris Guillebeau

Have you been daydreaming about quitting your job to start a business? Guillebeau outlines a roadmap for turning that dream into reality, starting with a viable side hustle. How? Generate income immediately, and give yourself the options you’ve always wanted.

Review excerpt: “Thoroughly enjoyed this clear, concise layout of the step-by-step process to find a side hustle, with plenty of examples of real people who've done it.”

7. “Crushing It! How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence -- and How You Can, Too” by Gary Vaynerchuk

Learn from the godfather of hustle, Gary Vee, about what it takes to create a vibrant personal brand -- and why it’s key to building a successful business.

Review excerpt: “Must-read for anyone aspiring to pursue their passions or use social media for business.”

8. “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses” by Eric Ries

Ries argues every company has a common mission: To chart a successful path to sustainable business. Learn to stop wasting time building elaborate business plans in favor of testing your vision continuously and adapting before it’s too late.

Review excerpt: “This is an amazing book on innovation and getting your ideas into an MVP quickly. It provides great insights into how to create innovative space within an organization while staying accountable to stakeholders.”

9. “Profit First: Transform Your Business From a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine” by Mike Michalowicz

Discover four principles for simplifying accounting and making it easier to manage a profitable business. Michalowicz touts the virtues of small-but-profitable businesses and their likelihood of achieving long-term growth.

Review excerpt: “This book is a must-read for anyone interested in starting a business. Heck, this book will help you even if you use it for your personal finances.”

10. “Passive Income Streams: How to Create and Profit from Passive Income Even If You’re Cash-Strapped and a Little Bit Lazy (But Motivated)” by Kristi Patrice Carter J.D.

Incorporate passive income streams into your livelihood, and break free of traditional work models while continuing to earn a healthy living. Carter’s book shows you how to make money in a way that suits your lifestyle -- without requiring 40 hours a week.

Review excerpt: “The author does an excellent job in simply pointing out some of the solid but underrated alternatives of making passive income instead of just working an office job.”

11. “Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company -- and Revolutionized an Industry” by Marc Benioff and Carlye Adler

Learn how salesforce.com grew from a startup in a rented apartment to the world’s fastest-growing software company in under 10 years. From surviving the dotcom implosion to becoming a standout entrepreneur -- Benioff shares his secrets to success in this bestselling book.

Review excerpt: “Highly recommended! An entrepreneur's journey from idea inception to implementation.”

12. “Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money” by Pat Flynn

Before you invest time and money into your idea, find out whether it has merit, if it can succeed, and whether it’s the right idea for you. This book is full of practical suggestions your business plan will benefit from today.

Review excerpt: “Highly recommended for anyone thinking about starting a business (especially an online business), or if you already have a business and want to make sure you're on the right track.”

13. “Lucky or Smart? Fifty Pages for the First-Time Entrepreneur” by Bo Peabody

Peabody became a multi-millionaire at 27. The co-founder of five companies, in a variety of industries, he shares his recipe for success by asking, “Is your work innovative?” “Is it morally compelling?” and, “Is it lucky or smart?

Review excerpt: “Bo Peabody is an extraordinary individual with a remarkable grasp on business startups and venture capital.”

14. “The Barefoot Executive: The Ultimate Guide for Being Your Own Boss and Achieving Financial Freedom” by Carrie Wilkerson

Should you monetize who you are and what you know? Wilkerson says, “Absolutely,” then shows you how. This book will help you discover what you already have to offer, who your audience should be, and how to accelerate your success.

Review excerpt: “If you’re a new business owner and want to have an online presence, Wilkerson will give you lots of tips -- and she really does a good job of simplifying the concepts without dumbing them down.”

15. “The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything” by Guy Kawasaki

Ever felt paralyzed by all the information available on starting your own business? Kawasaki thinks that’s no way to begin. In this book, he distills decades of experience into an essential guide for effectively deploying today’s newest business tools, from social media to building your infrastructure on the cloud.

Review excerpt: “If you are planning on starting your own business, you need to read this book. Extremely informative and very well written.”

16. “The E Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It” by Michael E. Gerber

Cut through the myths surrounding starting your own business. Gerber walks his readers through the steps of entrepreneurial infancy, through growing pains, and, finally, to becoming a mature, long-lasting business.

Review excerpt: “This book should be on everyone's list before starting a business.”

17. “Rework” by Jason Fried and David Hansson

This anti-establishment book explains why business plans are actually harmful, you don’t need outside investors, and it’s crucial to ignore your competition. If you’ve dreamed of owning your own business, “Rework” shares an unconventional roadmap to get there.

Review excerpt: “This book makes sure you’re grounded in the simplest but most effective principles. These do not only apply for starting a business but also in improving life in general.”

18. “Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur” by Pamela Slim

Slim shares everything you need to consider before making the decision to become self-employed. Explore the nuts-and-bolts of starting your own business and the surprisingly emotional decision to leave your traditional corporate job. Need a cheerleader as you take the leap? Slim’s book delivers.

Review excerpt: “Slim doesn't pull any punches about the good, the bad, and the ugly of making that leap of faith from a ‘secure job’ to life as an entrepreneur. As someone who has done both, I loved her candid approach.”

19. “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras

This book distills a six-year Stanford research project into a holistic look at 18 exceptional, long-lasting companies. Find out what each business struggled with -- from startup to corporation -- and build your own framework for success.

Review excerpt: “This is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. I teach these lessons to my business students. It really puts them a step ahead of other students who haven't read this book.”

20. “The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future” by Chris Guillebeau

Guillebeau lands a second spot on this list with “The $100 Startup,” a book that follows 1,500 business owners that invested $100 or less to start their businesses. The author pulls out the most pertinent lessons from each, including the importance of being a strong salesperson and why action is always better than planning.

Review excerpt: “This is a must-read book for every entrepreneur. He has such a great way of presenting ideas and systems. This book just makes you want to start something new today!”

Think you’re ready to take the plunge and start your own business? Reach for a few of these books, and learn from the people who have done it successfully.

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