The Best Books for Starting a Business: 24 Proven Guides

POSTED ON Nov 6, 2023

P.J McNulty

Written by P.J McNulty

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Starting a business isn't easy – but it offers a potential level of reward that's rarely matched.

There's a lot of logistical tasks to take care of, not to mention the mental barriers you'll need to overcome, and positive mindsets to focus on.

Yet, with the right resources, your founding process is a lot easier.


This curated list of the best books for starting a business offers practical advice and insights from industry experts. 

There are books that deal directly with the process of starting a business as well as those that will be essential once you've got things going.

No matter if it's your first business, or you're a serial founder, you're sure to find a useful concept or idea here!

1. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries (2011)

Best Books For Starting A Business: The Lean Startup By Eric Ries

The Lean Startup is a crisp guide for business novices. It sheds light on a new approach for business development and introduces the concept of “lean thinking”. The focus is on adapting product plans as quickly as possible and involves a systematic, scientific approach for creating and managing successful startups.

Entrepreneurs can harness this book to build a startup that is agile, adaptable, and efficient. It’s an optimal read for those keen on minimizing the risk of startup failure. If methodical and adaptive approaches resonate with you, this one’s a must-read.

2. Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters (2014)

Best Books For Starting A Business: Zero To One By Peter Thiel And Blake Masters

Zero to One presents a unique perspective on innovation and starting a business. It encourages readers to focus on creating something entirely new, instead of improving what already exists. It’s laced with intriguing insights into startups and emphasizes the importance of definitive and monopolistic businesses.

This book is a catalyst for those wanting to create breakthrough products or services. It’s suited for readers eager to develop unparalleled innovations and explore uncharted territories in business. If you’re aiming to redefine markets, this is your blueprint.

3. The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau (2012)

Best Books For Starting A Business: The $100 Startup By Chris Guillebeau

Chris Guillebeau gets straight to the point in The $100 Startup, emphasizing launching fast and spending minimal. The book presents various examples of successful businesses that started with very little capital, focusing on passion and good ideas over extensive financial investment.

It’s a practical guide for anyone wanting to start a business on a tight budget and is ideal for those with limited resources but unlimited ambition. If you believe in starting small but thinking big, The $100 Startup should be on your shelf.

4. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber (1995)

Best Books For Starting A Business: The E-Myth Revisited By Michael E. Gerber

The E-Myth Revisited is a groundbreaking book that explores why most small businesses fail and how to prevent it. Gerber debunks myths surrounding starting your own business and outlines the difference between working on your business and working in your business.

This book is essential for understanding the entrepreneurial mindset and implementing disciplined business systems. If you’re stuck in the technical aspects and want to grasp the broader picture, this one’s for you.

5. Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur (2010)

Best Books For Starting A Business: Business Model Generation By Alexander Osterwalder And Yves Pigneur

This is a visual and practical guide to developing a business model. It introduces powerful strategic management and innovation techniques to devise new business models or revamp existing ones. It’s insightful and hands-on, with a focus on dynamic business model design.

Entrepreneurs who are visual thinkers will find this book beneficial. It’s ideal for those looking to create sustainable business models and innovate their business strategies. If structuring your business visually makes sense to you, go for it.

6. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen (1997)

Best Books For Starting A Business: The Innovator’s Dilemma By Clayton Christensen

Christensen’s book is a profound exploration of why large companies can fail despite good management. It reveals how successful companies can do everything “right” but still lose market leadership and illustrates how to avoid such a fate by recognizing the disruptive technologies shaping the market.

This book is crucial for those in rapidly evolving industries, providing insights on sustaining innovations that can lead to business growth. If staying ahead of industry disruptions is your game, this one’s vital.

7. Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston (2007)

Best Books For Starting A Business: Founders At Work By Jessica Livingston

This book offers a collection of interviews with founders of famous technology companies about what happened in the earliest days. It provides insights into the challenges faced by startups and the perseverance required to overcome them.

It’s invaluable for aspiring entrepreneurs seeking inspiration and insights from industry pioneers. If you’re looking for diverse entrepreneurial stories to guide your journey, Livingston’s compilation is a treasure trove.

8. Good to Great by Jim Collins (2001)

Best Books For Starting A Business: Good To Great By Jim Collins

Jim Collins articulates what it takes for average companies to make the leap and attain greatness. Through extensive research, the book outlines the factors that are critical for transforming an organization from good to great.

If you’re managing a company and aiming for sustained, outstanding performance, this is your manual. It’s particularly relevant for those in leadership roles aspiring to elevate their organizations.

9. Crushing It! by Gary Vaynerchuk (2018)

Best Books For Starting A Business: Crushing It! By Gary Vaynerchuk

Vaynerchuk’s Crushing It! is a lively guide on how to utilize the power of the Internet to turn your interests into viable businesses. It’s packed with lessons, examples, and insights about creating a personal brand and earning income doing what you love.

If building a personal brand and leveraging social media for business is your goal, this book is a powerhouse of practical advice. It’s a fit for anyone looking to monetize their passion through the internet.

10. The Art of the Start 2.0 by Guy Kawasaki (2015)

Best Books For Starting A Business: The Art Of The Start 2.0 By Guy Kawasaki

This book is a practical guide for starting anything. It’s brimming with essential tips on everything from social media to crowdfunding. Guy’s insights on entrepreneurship are invaluable, encompassing both the tactical and the philosophical aspects of starting up.

If you’re in the brainstorming phase or already on the runway, this book is a goldmine. It’s apt for those who appreciate a comprehensive guide to the myriad components of starting a business.

11. Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman (2007)

Best Books For Starting A Business: Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business By Gino Wickman

Gino Wickman introduces the Entrepreneurial Operating System®, a comprehensive business system that provides a set of simple practical, immediately usable tools to help leaders get what they want from their businesses. It offers structured solutions to business problems.

If a well-organized, systematic approach to running your business resonates with you, Traction is your guide. Especially suited for those looking for practical solutions to entrepreneurial challenges.

12. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz (2014)

Best Books For Starting A Business: The Hard Thing About Hard Things By Ben Horowitz

This book is a brutally honest account of the tough decisions and lonely times all CEOs face, before showing the path to business success. It’s a deep dive into the realities of leading a tech company, offering insights from Ben Horowitz’s own journey.

If you’re in a leadership role, navigating through tough times, this book is your companion. It’s ideal for CEOs looking for unvarnished insights and hard-earned wisdom.

13. Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (2010)

Best Books For Starting A Business: Rework By Jason Fried And David Heinemeier Hansson

Rework is a revelation in the business book genre, dispensing with usual formalities and corporate jargons. It provides unconventional wisdom and straightforward advice about entrepreneurship, challenging the traditional norms of the business race.

If you’re tired of the same old entrepreneurial advice and are seeking a fresh perspective, Rework is a breath of fresh air. It’s suited for those looking to challenge the status quo and do business on their own terms.

14. Company of One by Paul Jarvis (2019)

Best Books For Starting A Business: Company Of One By Paul Jarvis

This book challenges the traditional business model, advocating for staying small and avoiding growth, focusing instead on working for yourself, and defining success on your own terms.

If you value independence and are more inclined towards building a high-profit, low-hassle business, this book is your guide. It’s particularly useful for freelancers and solo entrepreneurs aiming for a sustainable and profitable business without the desire for scaling up.

15. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss (2007)

Best Books For Starting A Business: The 4-Hour Workweek By Timothy Ferriss

Ferriss’ book is a paradigm-shifter, presenting strategies and tactics for escaping the 9-5 grind while having the mobility to work from anywhere. It’s filled with practical tips on automating your business and redesigning your life.

If breaking free from the conventional work life is what you seek, this book is your map. It’s an excellent fit for those wanting to create time and financial freedom through unconventional methods.

16. Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras (1994)

Best Books For Starting A Business: Built To Last By Jim Collins And Jerry I. Porras

Built to Last studies the habits of visionary companies and provides insightful observations on what it takes to run a successful company. It’s a thorough analysis of companies that have withstood the test of time and have maintained their leading positions.

If your ambition is to build a company with lasting impact, this book provides the blueprint. It’s essential for those aiming to establish enduring, great companies.

17. Start with Why by Simon Sinek (2009)

Best Books For Starting A Business: Start With Why By Simon Sinek

Sinek’s book articulates the importance of knowing your “why” before you think about your “how” or “what”. It presents the idea that successful companies are the ones that remain true to their ‘Why’.

This book is fundamental for entrepreneurs building a brand or a company. It’s suitable for anyone aiming to lead with purpose and inspire action by focusing on why they do what they do.

18. Contagious: How to Build Word of Mouth in the Digital Age by Jonah Berger (2013)

Best Books For Starting A Business: Contagious: How To Build Word Of Mouth In The Digital Age By Jonah Berger

Berger provides an engaging insight into why certain things go viral and how you can use these principles to have your product or idea catch on. It explores the science behind the spread of information and how it can be harnessed in marketing.

If you’re looking to master the art of viral marketing, this book is the manual. It’s a match for those aiming to make their ideas contagious and seeking to understand the science of word of mouth.

19. The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman (2010)

Best Books For Starting A Business: The Personal Mba: Master The Art Of Business By Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman provides a crash course on business mastery. He breaks down the essential business principles, concepts, and skills, offering a high-return investment for the time and money of readers.

If a traditional MBA isn’t on your agenda but mastering business is, this book is your syllabus. It’s optimal for self-learners wanting to understand the fundamentals of running a successful business.

20. Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss (2016)

Best Books For Starting A Business: Never Split The Difference By Chris Voss

Chris Voss brings negotiation techniques from international crisis situations to the business table. The book provides intricate, effective strategies to achieve better results in negotiations.

For anyone involved in high-stakes negotiations, this book is invaluable. It’s tailored for those looking to improve their negotiation skills in both business and personal life.

21. The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan (2012)

Best Books For Starting A Business: The One Thing By Gary Keller And Jay Papasan

This book articulates the benefits of focusing on the ‘ONE Thing’ that will make everything else easier or unnecessary. It provides insights on productivity and the secrets to achieving more by doing less.

If focusing and accomplishing more with less is your aim, this book lays out the pathway. It’s ideal for those seeking a more streamlined approach to success in business and life.

22. Measure What Matters by John Doerr (2017)

Best Books For Starting A Business: Measure What Matters By John Doerr

John Doerr presents the concept of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), a goal-setting system that drives companies to excel. It’s about setting clear, achievable objectives and using measurable key results to track progress.

If you’re managing a team or running a company, the principles in this book can align efforts and drive performance. It’s suitable for anyone aiming to implement structured goal-setting in their organization.

23. Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh (2018)

Best Books For Starting A Business: Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path To Building Massively Valuable Companies By Reid Hoffman And Chris Yeh

Blitzscaling is about prioritizing speed over efficiency in the face of uncertainty. It’s a tactical manual for scaling up companies in rapidly growing markets and seizing the leader advantage quickly.

If dominating your market by moving at lightning speed is your strategy, this book is the guide. It’s essential for those in high-growth industries where being first to scale is critical.

24. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne (2004)

Best Books For Starting A Business: Blue Ocean Strategy By W. Chan Kim And Renée Mauborgne

Blue Ocean Strategy presents a systematic approach to making the competition irrelevant and creating uncontested market space. It provides frameworks and tools to help companies break out of the saturated market and create new spaces, or “Blue Oceans”.

This book is crucial for those wanting to step out of the hyper-competitive market and create innovative solutions. It’s ideal for strategic thinkers aiming to transform industry boundaries.

Related:

Are you ready to start something special?

Embarking on the entrepreneurial journey is exciting but also incredibly testing.

Each book on this list offers distinct insights, tools, and strategies to navigate through the intricate world of startups and business management. The combination of knowledge available in these books is immense, covering everything from ideation to execution, strategy to leadership, and marketing to innovation.

It’s now your turn to take charge.

Here’s to building something extraordinary!


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