Best Business Books Of All Time: Must-Read Books Before Starting A Business

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Starting a new business is no small task.  Even if you have a unique idea with loads of potential for success, you’ll still need the knowledge and know-how to get it off the ground.

Whether you’re searching for advice on how to create a compelling business plan, or how to plan for common pitfalls and overcome them, the chances are good that there are resources available to help.

In this list of the best business books for new entrepreneurs, we’ve included some favorites that give you everything from business development fundamentals to marketing strategies to help you understand every step in the process.  Knowledge is power, and reading the books on this list will give you the power to achieve success.

How We Chose Our Ratings

different business books

A quick search of business-related book titles yields thousands of results.  Whittling all of those options down to nine must-read books wasn’t easy.

We started by searching for options that were geared specifically towards entrepreneurs who are starting a business for the first time.  These volumes all use contemporary language that’s easy to understand and fun to read to explain the concepts, but many still go in-depth to educate you on even the most complicated facets of ownership.

We also included titles written by experts in the field or extraordinarily successful people who have adopted business practices that translate well to every industry.  Finally, we only selected books that have top ratings both from average Joe readers and other business experts and analysts who agree with the principles and practices advocated.  

Top 9 Best Business Books

Ready to read? Here are our top picks to help you get started.

Start Your Own Business: The Only Startup Book You'll Ever Need

Start Your Own Business: The Only Startup Book You'll Ever Need (Start...
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Entrepreneur Press (Publisher)

If you’re searching for an all in one how-to guide that examines every facet of what you need to know to launch a new start-up company, this book should be at the top of your list.  Written by the staff team at Entrepreneur Media, this sixth-edition volume takes over three decades of business experience and compiles it into one easy to navigate guide.

The authors recognize that it’s not just about getting your business off the ground, but also managing what happens next.  You’ll get tips on how to get the doors open, and then what to do over the next three years to ensure profitability and success.  

While some of the books on our list are narrative or theoretical, this option gives you a hands-on approach.  You’ll find a step by step guide for every aspect ranging from funding for a start-up, hiring and employee policies, tax implications and requirements, and using technology for effective marketing strategies.

It’s lengthy and might seem overwhelming before you crack the spine, but once you delve into the important concepts broken down into bite-sized pieces, you’ll be amazed how quickly your business plan and successful venture come together.

Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street

Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall...
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Open Road Media (Publisher)

When asked, both Bill Gates and Warren Buffet agree that Business Adventures by John Brooks is their all-time favorite business book.  That’s a pretty powerful testament for the types of advice and lessons this volume contains.

Although it doesn’t offer any concrete advice that new entrepreneurs can translate into a step by step guide, the stories within give valuable insight and perspective into how businesses evolve, overcome challenges, and thrive based on smart decisions.

A longtime writer for the New Yorker, Brooks takes his financial journalism style and applies it to these twelve case studies that look at the rise, and fall, of start-up companies through time.

If you’re looking for a good read that gives you a dose of drama with compelling history and business advice that is as well-written as you could hope for, this option is a must-read.

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary...
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Bard Press (Publisher)

Although we’ve included some common titles and business book bestsellers on this list, we didn’t want it bogged down with ones you’ve already heard of or already read.  That said, we would be remiss if we didn’t include this option by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan as it’s an excellent choice for entrepreneurs at every level of the game. 

The one thing that we universally feel that there is never enough of is time, and the sole focus of this work is on helping you find more of it. 

If you’re someone who feels like you’re always behind, has an endless to-do list, or will never get your dream off the ground because you can’t get organized, this book can help.

The practical tips will help you identify and eliminate distractions and be more productive and efficient with your time.  These strategies can apply to both your work and personal life, which can help you not only achieve your dreams but that elusive work/life balance that is so important as well.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are...
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Harper Business (Publisher)

Building a business from the ground up is hard work, and author Ben Horowitz doesn’t sugar coat it in this helpful guide.  A successful, respected, and experienced entrepreneur in the ultra-competitive Silicon Valley landscape, Horowitz draws on his personal experience to give you tools and tips to develop your new company.

We love his no-nonsense language and witty ways of explaining even the most complex business concepts.  He incorporates song lyrics where they are appropriate to drive home is meaning when he advises on an array of business issues ranging from decision making to hiring and firing practices.  

His narrative approach interweaves valuable advice and lessons into an easy to read book that focuses not just on the actual process, but also the psychological aspect of entrepreneurship as well.

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Little, Brown and Company (Publisher)

Today, there is no larger retail giant than Amazon, but that wasn’t always the case.  What started as an almost obscenely large dream of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has grown into a modern-day success story.

This book by Brad Stone chronicles that journey, and essentially gives you a step by step look at the origin story of how Amazon came to be.  An excellent narrative if you’re faced with obstacles you need to overcome and naysayers who don’t believe in your potential of success.

This title delves deep into strategic planning concepts and has a hefty dose of motivation interwoven in the story.  While there aren’t any worksheet or how-to pages like you would find in a typical business planning book, there are dozens of valuable lessons and takeaways that pertain to any new operation in any industry.

In addition, this work is an award-winner.  Among its recognition are the Goldman Sachs Award and the Financial Times Business Book for the Year award.  Notably, Brad Stone was a first-time author when he penned this work and had already made a name for himself in his field thanks to how well-written and popular it’s become.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don’t

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Harper Business (Publisher)

When a business book hits the bestseller list and goes on to sell over 3 million copies, people sit up and take notice.  This 2001 publication by author Jim Collins is nearly a household name among aspiring entrepreneurs and seasoned business owners, and for good reasons.

He’s compiled information gathered from over 6,000 separate business articles and vetting over 2,000 pages of transcribed interviews with leaders and successful owners over five years to bring you his findings.

The result is a well-written business book that presents you with compelling tips that apply to every area of ownership.  He gives his techniques and theories catchy names like “Level 5 Leadership” and “The Flywheel and the Doom Loop” and shares how to achieve, or avoid, these standards.

Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big

Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big,...
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Portfolio (Publisher)

Not every new business owner starts out wanting to create the next multi-national multi-million dollar company, and that’s okay.  In this interesting take on quality over quantity, veteran journalist Bo Burlingham delves deep into what makes fourteen privately held companies tick and shares their secrets to success with readers.

Although these companies, like the original microbrewery Anchor Brewing or organic energy and nutrition company Clif Bar & Co, may not be the largest in their respective niche, they receive constant accolades for being the best.

This book takes an inside look at how to do thing a little bit differently, and a little bit better than the competition to create memorable customer experiences and carve out your own definition of success.

80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More

80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and...
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Entrepreneur Press (Publisher)

If you’re looking for an easy read that you can consume in 5-minute increments and get lots of actionable advice, this book by Perry Marshall should be at the top of your list.

Nearly everyone has heard of the 80/20 rule, and in this volume helps you determine exactly how to grow and cultivate the 20% of your customers who will produce 80% of your business profits.

This is a particularly useful title if you have a business established, but are having trouble growing your client base and achieving your financial targets.  Readers say that they can use the advice to make small changes to their strategy that yield significant lucrative results.

If you’re someone who likes the idea of working smarter, not harder, this option gives you the tools to implement to get it right.

Think and Grow Rich

Think and Grow Rich (Think and Grow Rich Series)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • English (Publication Language)
  • TarcherPerigee (Publisher)

A business book classic, Think and Grow Rich was inspired by Andrew Carnegie and authored by Napoleon Hill in 1937.  Although the concepts are decades old, they are tried and true practices that haven’t lost their luster over time.

A focus on persistence, belief, and positive thinking combined with the author’s thirteen step philosophy can help every type of new business owner find the path to financial success. 

The steps aren’t process oriented, but instead, examine the psychological side of success.  If you are someone who is very money motivated, or who need a bit of a mental reset when it comes to your new business plan, this is a good starting point on your reading list.

Comparison Table

Buyer’s Guide

Any of the nine titles on our best business books list are an excellent place for any aspiring entrepreneur to start, but these shopping tips can help you narrow down which is the best for you.

Train Your Weakness

The chances are good that, if you’re considering opening a new business, you have a background that makes you qualified to do so for one reason or another.

You might have loads of knowledge about the business area, but not know much about leadership, staffing, tax implications, or funding.  You also might have a strong business background, but not have the insight on what’s required from the day to day operations standpoint.

It’s always a good idea to do additional research in areas where you might be lacking knowledge, and choosing a book that addresses one or more of those areas might be the perfect starting point.

Find Your Niche

books on a shelf

While all of the books on our list give advice that applies across a variety of industries and specialties, there may also be some value in looking for titles that are written specifically for your business niche.

Particularly if you are starting a company with a very specific and targeted market, or with unique needs that won’t otherwise be addressed, you’ll want to look for resources to help you get it right.

Read What You Love

The best books that dole out business advice are the ones that you will actually read and then apply the knowledge that you learn within their pages.

Take the time to read a few pages or download a sample from any book you’re considering to ensure that the author's tone and style resonate with you.  If you’re not likely to finish the title because it’s too dry, technical, or not engaging, then it’s not worth buying.

Author: Jon Stahl

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