You want to read the best business books out there…but there are literally thousands of business books in print, and about a hundred of those are considered to be the “best business books of all time.”
No one has time for that – especially not busy entrepreneurs.
Which is exactly why we've narrowed down the list, and curated these top business books for you to start with, along with their actionable takeaways.
But choosing the right book at any given time depends on a couple of factors.
What’s your objective?
How actionable will the ideas in the book be for you?
Does the information apply to your particular business?
To make our list of best business books work as efficiently as possible for you, we’ve broken it down into four categories of business: Leadership, Interpersonal, Business Strategy/Growth, and Mindset. You can skip around to the categories that resonate with you most.
This blog covers:
The 20 best business books of all time
The best business books inspire, inform, and entertain in an unforgettable and highly valuable way.
These books over deliver on value, and are a low-cost option for business mentoring – not only for those looking to start a business of their own, but for those looking to improve their existing business.
For the price of a couple of coffees, you can access a distillation of the wisdom, experience, and advice of the greatest business leaders of all time.
Here are the top business books you should be reading right now:
The best business books on leadership
In this section, we’ll dive into the best business books on leadership first. These are essential books for scaling or starting a business, because leadership affects all aspects of business – no matter what stage you’re in.
Educating yourself on leadership fundamentals and best practices is the best way to avoid business pitfalls that will cost you time and money.
1. Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink
When it comes to the most inspiring examples of leadership out there, it’s difficult to look beyond Jocko Willink.
If you’re not familiar with Jocko, he’s a former Navy Seal who has since gone on to share his leadership principles and experiences with the wider business world.
You may have come across Jocko being interviewed by figures such as Tim Ferriss or Joe Rogan. However, if you want to make the most of the wisdom Jocko has to offer, you need to check out Extreme Ownership.
In this business book, Jocko shares stories from his epic military career and uses them to highlight the most important concepts for business leaders.
So what can we learn from this mighty military leader?
- The importance of belief. Without a belief in the underlying deeper purpose, or mission, it’s difficult to lead or perform.
- The buck stops with the leader. Rather than blaming team members, or throwing people under the bus, a leader is required to take responsibility for whatever happens under their watch.
- The need to prioritize and execute. To succeed, we must prioritize and execute effectively, even under chaotic conditions.
Both the leadership concepts found in Extreme Ownership, as well as the stories that illustrate them, make it a worthwhile read for leaders of all types.
2. Start With Why by Simon Sinek
Simon Sinek made it his mission to find out what made the world’s best leaders as effective as they are.
He didn't restrict his quest to the world of business alone, also studying leadership in the context of politics and social movements.
The key concept Sinek discovered was the importance of leading people by inspiring them. The proof of this concept, as well as the examples that led him to believe it, can be found in Start With Why, which earns it a spot on our list of best business books about leadership.
- The importance of why. Without having a deeper purpose for things, people are unlikely to buy in or feel an emotional connection to them.
- Never manipulate. To be an effective leader, you need to authentically inspire those you lead, rather than attempting to lead through manipulation.
- The knock-on effect. By inspiring the people that work for your business, they become happy, which in turn leads to happy customers, in turn leading to happy shareholders.
No matter which field you happen to be in, taking the time to focus on the deeper purpose of what you do is sure to benefit your work and life.
3. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell
If you’re looking for a leadership expert who has worked with not only top Fortune 500 companies, but also international political leaders and the U.S Military, look no further than John C. Maxwell.
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is one of Maxwell’s bestselling books, having sold well over a million copies. It's also one of the best business books on leadership.
The key concept of the book is distilling Maxwell's background in leadership (and observations he has made from the wider world) into a set of easy to follow principles. Maxwell promises that if you follow the principles in his work, people will, in turn, follow you.
- Get personal buy-in. If a leader wants people to buy into their vision, people must first buy into the leader.
- Empower those you lead. To be an effective leader, you must be willing to empower the people around you.
- Focus on the process. Just like Rome, Maxwell states that leaders are not built in a day, but must develop daily. Leadership is a journey rather than a destination.
Taking the time to understand Maxwell's laws gives each of us the chance to reflect upon different aspects of our leadership style, highlighting potential areas for growth.
4. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
7 Habits of Highly Effective People is one of the best business books for people looking to optimize the efficiency of their personal and professional spheres.
Covey's book equips entrepreneurs with principles that encompass leadership, productivity, and interpersonal skills – providing a solid foundation for navigating challenges, fostering innovation, and achieving sustainable success in the business world.
- Be proactive. Take control of actions and reactions, shaping outcomes through personal responsibility and initiative.
- Begin with the end in mind. Set clear goals and create a vision to guide your decisions.
- Put first things first. Prioritize tasks based on importance, aligning actions with goals while maintaining a balanced life.
5. The One Minute Manager by Kenneth H. Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
If you want to be the most efficient and effective leader possible, The One Minute Manager is one of the best business books for you. This book offers concise but impactful management techniques that can help you create success in the workplace.
Learning how to make the most of your leadership skills in a fast-paced workplace will create faster business growth, more respect from employees, and free up more time to do what matters most.
- Make one-minute goals. Define clear, achievable goals with performance standards – promoting accountability and clarity for both managers and employees.
- Give one-minute praise. Give immediate, specific, and sincere praise for accomplishments, fostering motivation and reinforcing positive behaviors.
- Give one-minute reprimands. Address mistakes promptly, providing constructive feedback while showing respect for the individual.
They say time is money, and if you want to get your ROI, then this is one of the best business books out there.
The best business books on interpersonal skills
This section focuses on the top business books that inspire and educate on how to deal with people and strengthen your interpersonal skills.
These perennial bestsellers are must-reads not only for those in business, but for helping anyone interact with people in their daily life.
6. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini
If you’re looking to learn about the topic of influence and getting people to behave in the way you want, author Dr. Cialdini is worth listening to.
Despite Cialdini’s academic credentials, Influence is a very readable book. It’s widely regarded as one of the best business books on the topic of persuasion.
Rather than just explaining how to influence people, Cialdini also illustrates his key concepts with interesting anecdotes from the real world, showing his principles in action.
Influence is genuinely one of the most entertaining business books of all time, and also gives a useful framework for us to consider the extent to which we are personally influential.
- The power of scarcity. When people perceive something as being scarce, they are often willing to pay a premium for it.
- Give to get. Reciprocation is a powerful and effective law. People are much more likely to do something for you if you’ve done something for them.
- Authority equals power. When people perceive someone or something as authoritative, they are more likely to comply.
7. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
For over 80 years, people have turned to Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People to learn interpersonal skills.
Almost every subsequent book on people skills is somewhat in debt to Carnegie’s work.
Even many decades down the line, it’s still widely regarded as one of the most effective guides to getting better results from the people around us, which makes it one of the best business books, too!
- Show interest. To form a connection with someone, show interest in them and what they care about, rather than expecting them to take an interest in you.
- Listen well. Listening carefully and attentively to someone is one of the best ways to create deep rapport.
- The importance of feeling good. When people feel good about what you want them to do, they are far more likely to do it well.
Although Carnegie may have been writing in a different era, his ideas and principles are as true today as they ever were. Use them to have a more powerful interpersonal effect on the people around you.
8. How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes
It’s hard to overstate the importance of being able to strike up a meaningful and effective conversation with people in different situations and coming from different backgrounds.
We never know when we will happen to come across someone who might be relevant to our personal or professional lives.
If you’re looking to improve your ability to make meaningful face-to-face connections, then Lowndes’ work is one of the best business books for you.
- More than words. When breaking the ice with someone, the tone of what you say and the body language you give are far more important than the words alone.
- Go further. Seek to go further than most people would. For example, while it’s common to thank someone, it’s less common to thank them for something specific and meaningful.
- Subliminal rapport. Use someone’s own choice of language when talking to them to create a deeper sense of connection and rapport.
Lowndes’ guide is very actionable and digestible, so it’s a good choice if you’re looking to start putting it to work in your life as soon as possible.
9. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Imagine you have two helpers in your brain. One makes fast (and not always so accurate) decisions, while the other is slow and careful. Thinking, Fast and Slow teaches us that the slow helper is best when making important business decisions.
It's one of the best business books because it helps us understand how people make choices, which is not only crucial for running your business well, but for understanding how your customers think, too.
- Think slowly for big choices. Sometimes, it's better to take your time and think carefully when making important business decisions.
- Be aware of your inner saboteur. It's important to understand loss aversion, overconfidence, and other tricks our brain employs that can trip us up in our decisions.
- Understand gains and losses. People feel differently about getting things and losing things. Understanding this can help you make choices that make customers and employees happy.
While Thinking, Fast and Slow is a psychology book at its core, you can use its actionable tips to make smarter business decisions and an informed strategy that will speak to your consumers.
10. The Art of Negotiation by Michael A. Wheeler
Michael A. Wheeler is a prominent figure in negotiation theory and practice. He's a professor at Harvard Business School and has taught negotiation to students, executives, and professionals worldwide. Wheeler's The Art of Negotiation is one of the best business books because it helps you get better at making business deals.
The Art of Negotiation shows you how to listen well and build relationships during negotiations. If you are able find solutions that work for everyone, you will reach more successful agreements in your business.
- Listen and understand. Pay attention to what others are saying and try to see things from their side. This helps you find solutions that work for everyone.
- Be creative. Think of new ideas and options during negotiations. Being flexible and open to different solutions can lead to better agreements.
- Build relationships. Focus on building good relationships, even if you're negotiating. When people trust you, they're more likely to work with you in the future.
11. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
Daniel H. Pink is a successful author and speaker on topics of motivation and psychology in business. He's written several books that explore how people can excel in their careers and personal lives. Pink combines research with real-world examples to offer insights that challenge traditional thinking and inspire positive change in how we approach work and motivation.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us is one of the best business books because it teaches you how to make your employees want to work for you. You will learn how to make your teams more happy and productive by understanding what truly motivates them.
- Give your employees freedom. Let your employees make some decisions and choose how they work. It will make them happier and more motivated.
- Help your team get better. Encourage your team to learn and improve their skills. When they see progress, they will feel more motivated.
- Connect to purpose. Show your employees why their work is important. When they understand why, they will feel more excited to do their jobs well.
The best business books on strategy/growth
Now let’s talk about the best business books every business owner should be reading on strategy, growth, and overall business development.
There are various niche topics within the strategy, growth, and development section, so these books are meant to give a “lay of the land” or general, yet comprehensive overview.
Related: Book Funnel Strategy to Grow Your Business
12. Scaling Up by Verne Harnish
While most people know that the majority of companies fail, it's less widely understood exactly why this happens.
In Scaling Up, Verne Harnish explores why some companies survive while others fail, but also why some are able to make the leap to massive growth and success while others stagnate. Understanding the difference can help you avoid being one of the businesses that fail – making this one of the best business books out there.
Fun fact: Scaling Up is actually a self-published book!
Every concept shared by Harnish is illustrated interestingly and effectively with fascinating examples from the entrepreneurial world.
- Combine goals and routines. It's not enough to have either vision or habits alone, they must exist in combination.
- Values should be lived. Too many organizations treat values as something abstract when in fact they should be something embodied in day-to-day life.
- Constant feedback. Organizations should have constant input and feedback from both internal members of the organization as well as external customers.
Scaling Up is one of the best business books for anyone who wants to know when or how to scale up their business.
13. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Eric Ries has given us one of the best business books of all time for entrepreneurs. The Lean Startup teaches you how to start and grow a business by trying things out and learning from them.
It's one of the best business books because it helps entrepreneurs avoid big mistakes. It shows how to build things that people actually want – and how to pivot and change your plans if they're not working well.
- Start small. Begin with a simple version of your idea. This helps you learn and improve without spending too much time or money upfront.
- Listen to customers. Show your idea to people and listen to what they say. Their feedback helps you make your product or service better.
- Be ready to change. If something isn't working, don't be afraid to change your plans. Flexibility and learning from mistakes are important for success.
The Lean Startup helps you learn to focus on agility, continuous learning, and customer-centricity to create a successful and sustainable business.
14. 80/20 Sales and Marketing by Perry Marshall
Although originating in the world of economics, the Pareto Principle has since gone on to have a huge impact on the business world.
Commonly referred to as The 80/20 Principle, the Pareto Principle states that the majority of results in any area come from the minority of actions. For example, roughly 80% of revenue will stem from roughly 20% of sources.
Perry Marshall took this concept and applied it to the business world, with a particular focus on digital marketing.
Related: How to Grow an Email List
80/20 Sales and Marketing is one of the best business books for those looking to become more efficient and effective in business.
- 80/20 is fractal. Even after identifying the key 20% in any given area, this can be further divided into the top 20% of the initial 20%.
- Testing and optimization. Finding out exactly what works, and why it works, is essential to get results. Split test and optimize relentlessly.
- Explore charging more. Every company with an established set of customers will be able to offer more value and charge higher prices to a percentage of them.
This business book is vital for any business owner looking to understand and optimize performance through proven principles.
15. The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack
Imagine being given the responsibility of leading an almost bankrupt division of a company, and having the responsibility of improving its fortunes, even when you lack the business knowledge to do so.
That’s the exact situation Jack Stack found himself in when taking over a division of International Harvester. Stack found that seeing business as akin to a sporting competition was one of the most helpful frames to take.
The concept of business as a game was more than just an abstract idea. Stack’s paradigm led to some influential concepts still in use until this day. No list of the best business books would be complete without The Great Game of Business!
- Open book management. Stack advocated giving the entire organization a full look at the financial aspects of a business, in contrast to accounting existing as an isolated silo.
- Give everyone a stake. By giving everyone a stake in the financial performance of an organization, performance improves.
- Be transparent. An effective leader should share good and bad news with the whole organization – things shouldn’t be sugar-coated or glossed over.
Although different businesses may wish to apply Stack’s concepts to a greater or lesser extent, they are a fascinating read for anyone in the business world.
16. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
Blue Ocean Strategy helps you discover how to make your own path in the business world. It encourages you to search for “Blue Oceans” as opposed to “Red Oceans” which are oversaturated and crowded with competition.
This is one of the best business books because it teaches you how to stand out and be successful by finding new waters of opportunity.
- Create something new. Instead of copying others, make something unique that nobody else has. This can attract more customers.
- Find untapped markets. Look for groups of people who aren't using similar products or services. If you can make something they want, you'll have less competition.
- Refuse to compete. Instead of fighting with others in crowded markets, create your own space where you're the only one. This helps you succeed without struggling against rivals.
17. Competitive Strategy by Michael E. Porter
If you want to play the game of business and come out on top, you need to read Michael Porter's Competitive Strategy. This is one of the best business books out there on strategy. It is your step-by-step guide on how to beat your competition – which is everything in marketing.
- Know your competitors. Look at what other companies are doing and find ways to be better or different.
- Save money or stand out. Either offer things at a lower cost than others or make your product really special to attract customers.
- Stay strong over time. Keep adjusting and improving so your business stays strong even when others try to compete with you.
The best business books on mindset/wellbeing
Leadership, relationship building, and business growth are all essential topics for you to read on, but let’s be real here…
Your mindset and well-being as a business owner is the center of your performance and function. This means it’s imperative that you read up on the best business books for improving your mindset, managing your expectations, and developing your perspective.
Here are some of the best business books to get you in a successful mindset:
18. The One Thing by Gary Keller
There are few things more detrimental to success in business than the feeling of overwhelm. We live in the age of distraction, where it’s arguably harder than ever before for people and companies to stay focused on one thing in particular.
Gary Keller’s key concept is that an absolute emphasis on focus is needed to regain a sense of control and make progress.
In Keller’s own words, the idea underpinning The One Thing is surprisingly simple, but it has immensely powerful results. Anyone drowning in distraction, or feeling unsure of what to focus on, is advised to read and apply The One Thing.
In a nutshell, to live by The One Thing, always think ‘what is the one thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary.’
- Don’t multitask. The ability to multitask is often worn as a badge of honor, but Kelly is insistent that multitasking is one of the worst ways to go about tasks.
- Block out time. Once you know what your one thing is, block out time for it, and guard this time at all costs.
- Domino effect. Success is sequential, rather than instant. Doing the right things in the right order will create a cumulative effect.
The tone of The One Thing is positive and supportive, making Keller almost a friend to lean on when things get overwhelming.
19. The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
Tim Ferriss is one of the newer voices in the world of success, having risen to prominence a lot more recently than many others in this article. Through his books, blog, and podcast, Ferriss has shared insights into peak performance, drawing upon the knowledge and experience of countless high-achievers.
The 4-Hour Work Week was the way that many people got acquainted with Tim Ferriss, and it remains one of his most popular products.
The book shares Ferriss’ own experience in escaping the endless grind of the company he created, instead opting for a life of freedom and adventure.
- Avoid reactivity. One of the main lessons in The 4 Hour Work Week is to avoid feeling like you have to always be responsive and reactive. Email is one of the main illustrations Tim Ferriss uses for this. Block out a particular time of day for responding to email, and ignore it the rest of the time.
- Delegate where possible. Ferriss advocates delegating tasks where possible, freeing up your time for the things that truly matter to you.
- Life won’t wait. Too many people wait until later in life to do the things that matter to them. We’re never guaranteed to make it that far, so instead find time for your passions at whatever age you happen to be.
The 4-Hour Work Week is one of the best business books for anyone looking to live life on their own terms and escape the 9 to 5 work schedule.
20. Awaken The Giant Within by Tony Robbins
Tony Robbins is one of the most iconic figures in the world of coaching and self-development.
A lot of people associate Robbins with the celebrity admirers he has, but he's worked with people and organizations of all types, including world leaders and the military.
Awaken The Giant Within is a mammoth book, promising to help people of all types unlock their potential and live a life of real meaning. It's written in a conversational and practical style, making it a pleasure to get to grips with despite its length.
So how can the ideas found in Awaken The Giant Within benefit people in every area of the business world?
- Consciously consider values. Take the time to consider your values, and which motivate you more than others. This is the best way to ensure your everyday activities are aligned with your core.
- Leverage pleasure and pain. By associating pleasure with the things you need to do, and pain with the things you need to avoid, you’re far more likely to succeed.
- CANI. Robbins emphasizes that to succeed, we must adopt a mindset of CANI, standing for ‘constant and never-ending improvement.’
Although Robbins' ideas have applications far beyond the world of business, the fact that they resonate so strongly with entrepreneurial high-performers is a testament to their effectiveness – and makes it one of the best business books out there.
Using the Best Business Books to Your Advantage
While there’s nothing wrong with reading solely for pleasure, doing so represents an opportunity cost.
You have a finite amount of time you can spend reading, so why not use it for something that will benefit your business most?
Seek out the best business books that speak to your situation, study them carefully, and take action on their contents. They might just be the best value investment you ever make.