Must-Read Books for Entrepreneurs

Being an entrepreneur can bring great risk, but even greater rewards. You’re putting your ideas out there in an effort to not only improve the world, but also to be successful in business on your own terms. That takes guts.

In an article for the Harvard Business Review, John Hagel III defines an entrepreneur as “Someone who sees an opportunity to create value and is willing to take a risk to capitalize on that opportunity.”

Whether this value is following your passion or making a difference, the wisdom in these books can help give you the perspective and information needed to chase your dream and leave your mark on the world.


  1. A Paperboy’s Fable: The 11 Principles of Success” by Deep Patel: Follow his father’s rise from paperboy to entrepreneur while gaining key insights distilled from this journey. This book includes interviews with a wide range of experts, including Gen. David Petraeus.

  1. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” by Adam Grant: How can you bring new ideas into a world with so many preset opinions? Consider this the guide to being the black sheep that delivers his three bags of wool and more.

  1. Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg: Explore the science of productivity as told by a New York Times investigative reporter through a range of topics, including Air France Flight 447, the Yom Kippur Wars, “Saturday Night Live” and “Frozen.”

  1. The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future” by Steve Case: What comes after the internet of things? American Online co-founder Steve Case shares his insights and predictions for the next wave of tech innovation that will involve real-world areas like education, transportation and energy.

  1. Killing Sacred Cows” by Garrett Gunderson and Stephen Palmer: If you pardon the bovine metaphor, you can learn to dispel the cultural myths that are preventing you from fulfilling your personal power, growth and destiny.

  1. Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki: A highly recognized bestseller, it’s pretty much the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” for personal finance that depicts how the wealthy handle their money.

  1. The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan: Break free of multitasking and learn to focus on the one thing you’d like to achieve. If your one thing is being an entrepreneur, this will certainly help.

  1. The Magic of Thinking Big” by David J. Schwartz: This bible of motivational thinking will help you find ways to unlock your greatness. Whether it’s having the right attitude or taking the right steps, this book will be your guide.

  1. The Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne: What is a blue ocean? It’s an untapped marketplace awaiting development and exploration. How do you get there? Read the book.

  1. Conscious Capitalism” by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia: Note how the title says conscious and not conspicuous? Co-written by one of the co-founders of Whole Foods Markets, this book demonstrates how morals can make a difference and still make a profit.

  1. Thrive” by Arianna Huffington: You may or may not have read about the co-founder of the Huffington Post’s collapse from exhaustion a few years ago. This is what she learned as she recovered.

  1. Contagious” by Jonah Berger: Ever wonder why some things go viral and others go nowhere? According to Berger, the answer isn’t advertising. In this book, he details six principles that cause information to spread like wildfire.

  1. Finding Your Way in a Wild New World” by Martha Beck: Discover your higher calling – the thing that will make you leap tall buildings in a single bound – with wisdom from one of the most well-respected life coaches in the United States.

  1. Enchantment” by Guy Kawasaki: You don’t just need to simply persuade people – instead, you need to win their hearts and minds as well. Learn how from one of the world’s leading business gurus.

  1. The Psychology of Selling” by Brian Tracy: This textbook on the art of salesmanship claims it will double or triple your sales in any market. Put it to the test.

  1. Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman: This international bestseller and winning book, written by a renowned psychologist and Nobel Prize winner, describes the way the two main systems in our brain really work.

  1. The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss: Learn how to rid yourself of half of your work in 48 hours and how to trade a long-haul career for a lifestyle of short engagements and mini-retirements.

  1. The $100 Startup” by Chris Gillebeau: The author has gathered 50 case studies that depict how people have built successful businesses by investing $100 or less. It’s likely worth a purchase, download or trip to the library.

  1. The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael E. Gerber: Are most people who start small businesses really entrepreneurs? The answers will surprise you and teach you a thing or two as well.

  1. The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries: Behold the power of the pivot in this book embraced by startup communities around the globe. It will also teach you how to leverage your creativity, be more nimble and avoid failure.

  1. Rework” by Jason Fried and David Hansson: If you’re not a fan of business plans, you’ll be a fan of this book. Find a better way through plain language and old-fashioned hard work.

  1. Business Model Generation” by Alexander Osterwalder: It’s the adult design book of business models, an infographic for the business-speak averse and a lot more fun than your average cut-and-dry version of this content.

  1. A More Beautiful Question” by Warren Berger: Never underestimate the power of an insightful question. Reclaim your passion and enthusiasm for asking why with this ode to investigation.

  1. Superforecasting” by Philip E Tetlock and Dan Gardner: A crystal ball, fortune teller or psychic? Nope. Delve into the definitive study on the power and science of prediction.

  1. Thinking in Systems: A Primer” by Donella E Meadow: By taking the concept of system-thinking from the programming world and applying it to the real world, Meadow demonstrates the ultimate in big-picture thinking.

  1. Thinkertoys” by Michael Michalko: Into mind games? Try these on for size and see how you can break out of the box and into the innovative mindset.

  1. Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill: A pioneering work on how to create a better mindset for success. Ironically, it was first published during the Great Depression.

  1. How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie: One of the first works that started the genre of business books. You’d be remiss if you didn’t know some of the references.


  1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey: Like “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” this book is a title you’ll hear of time and again. It’s sort of iconic that way.

Got your own list of essential reads for entrepreneurs? Please share your favorite titles in the comments below.


About the Author, Michelle Mire: Content guru and marketing co-conspirator at Wagepoint, Michelle is a professional writer with agency and corporate experience who is now diving into payroll. When away from the keyboard she spends time hiding chocolate from her children and attempting to escape for a morning run (to work off the chocolate).

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

8 Comments on 29 Must-Read Books for Entrepreneurs

  1. Jessica F. Walker \\ Millennial Life Skills Coach
    January 20, 2017 at 5:16 am (5 years ago)

    This is an excellent list. There are a lot of titles I haven’t heard of yet, and a lot that I’ve already read.

    I’m surprised there’s nothing by Seth Godin on here. Purple Cow, something about tribes (I can’t remember that title right now) and Linchpin are all exceptional books.

    • Sarah Landrum
      January 23, 2017 at 1:27 pm (5 years ago)

      Thanks, Jessica! Michelle did a great job on this list – I can’t take credit! I’ve heard a lot of great things about several Seth Godin books, but haven’t gotten the chance to try any yet! Definitely bumping them up on my list!

  2. Michelle
    February 1, 2017 at 6:09 pm (5 years ago)


    You’re right. Seth Godin should be on everyone’s list. I should have had him as one of the stalwarts. I was trying to have a range of expected and unexpected. I promise — it was not a deliberate snub. I even have a copy of Purple Cow on my bookshelf.


  3. Karen C
    February 7, 2017 at 5:57 pm (4 years ago)

    Happy I found this list of book recommendations. As a small business owner I am always looking for books that get me thinking about things in a new way. Smarter, Faster, Better sounds great. I thought I would recommend a book that helped me immensely this past year called “Think Wrong” ( This book is innovative and pushes you and your business to go against the “status quo” and try something different! It is essentially a field guide for using this highly effective problem-solving system for all challenges you and your business might face. There are helpful drills, case studies and even free online resources for you to use. I can’t recommend it enough. Would love to hear what you think and perhaps it will make it on a future list

    • Sarah Landrum
      February 8, 2017 at 6:42 pm (4 years ago)

      Thanks, Karen! I’m always looking for recommendations and this sounds awesome!

  4. wends
    February 27, 2017 at 5:03 pm (4 years ago)

    Nice list. I’ve read most of the books here already. I have my own list here that you might want to checkout

    You should read Growing Great Employees if you haven’t read that yet. It helped me a lot during my early years as an entrepreneur.

    • Sarah Landrum
      March 13, 2017 at 3:20 pm (4 years ago)

      Thanks for the recommendation! Adding that one to my list to read!


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