From timeless classics to contemporary masterpieces, our top books for entrepreneurs are sure to get on your ‘changed my life’ list! Let’s go!

1. The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

Art of the Start 2.0 hardcover book

Arguably the OG (originally great) book about startups and entrepreneurship, Kawasaki’s book is a treasure trove of actionable advice for a new entrepreneur. He breaks down, step-by-step, how to take an idea and build it into a business and if needed, raise money from investors. There are gems, like his 10-20-30 Rule of PowerPoint, that were embraced by the startup world and are considered the gold standard practice to this day. The book encourages a creative mindset in solving problems and having a clear vision and set of values to drive the business and the entrepreneur in times of adversity.

2. Lean Startup by Eric Ries

The Lean Startup Hardcover book

While he may not have invented it, Ries certainly is the biggest champion of the MVP or minimum viable product. In this seminal work on how to run a lean and mean startup, Ries encourages entrepreneurs to boldly hit the market with the tiniest, or simplest version of the eventual product, and then build off of the market’s feedback. He encourages entrepreneurs to get out of their own way, avoid analysis paralysis, and launch their products or services. He argues that instead of waiting to create a perfect product – which will never happen because perfection is a distant dream – take in feedback from first adopters and tweak the product accordingly.

3. Influence by Robert B Cialdini

Influence, the psychology of persuasion hardcover book

The book is a seminal work for anyone interested in developing the skill of selling. Every startup is in the business of selling something – a product or a service. As such, Cialdini’s work, written in the early 80’s holds weight even today. In the book, he talks about the seven principles of selling, and how anyone in the business of selling can use these principles to initiate and close a sale. The book explores the psychology of persuasion, and how selling is simply a mind game between two individuals with one winner – either the salesperson closing the sale, or the potential customer selling the salesperson on his/her reason for not buying.

4. Trust Me I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday

Trust me I'm lying hardcover book

Holiday, at 22, became one of the youngest Marketing Directors in the history of the apparel industry in America. This book is an expose on how the proliferation of social media led to the disruption of the mainstream news cycle as large media outlets began relying on smaller blogs for their news. He talks candidly about how he manipulated news cycles to his benefit by tapping into the influence a few small blogs had. While the book talks about blogs, a lot of the marketing tactics he references can be applied to modern-day social media tools and platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

5. Zero to One by Blake Masters

Zero to one hardcover book

Peter Thiel, who was a part of the “PayPal Mafia” – a group of successful individuals including Elon Musk, who all founded and exited PayPal – became famous with the movie The Social Network which shows his initial investment of US$500,000 into Facebook when it was still a tiny college social networking website. A few years later, Blake Masters, a student of Thiel’s business course at Stanford Law, had compiled notes from the class, and with Thiel’s blessings and guidance released the book Zero to One. In it, Thiel talks about how immeasurable wealth is as a result of true innovation, i.e. inventing something new from scratch, going from zero to one. He contends that improving on an existing product or service, while great, will never satisfy the true blue entrepreneurial spirit. Instead, he encourages entrepreneurs to find success by taking the path less travelled, and finding something that the world needs and wants, but does not yet have.

6. Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss

Never split the difference hardcover book

Chris Voss is considered by many to be one of the most successful FBI negotiators in the history of the agency, and someone who wrote some of the seminal work in hostage negotiation used the world over today. In this book, Voss draws parallels between his experience and the business world. He makes the case that the FBI’s negotiation skills are valuable in the world of business. He talks about how being a clear and concise communicator, having confidence, and building emotional intelligence are key to mastering the art of negotiation.

7. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

The hard thing about hard things hardcover book

As it goes, Ben Horowitz is considered by many to be the entrepreneur of entrepreneurs. Not only did he successfully build and exit businesses with billions, but he now actively invests in building the next generation of problem-solving companies through his firm A16Z. The book is filled with practical advice and a real-world understanding of how challenging yet rewarding entrepreneurship can be. It also gives great insight to new entrepreneurs on how Silicon Valley and, in general, the world of investing works. It gives clear and actionable advice on how to embrace the hardest parts of building a business.

8. The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley

The rational optimist hardcover book

In this book, considered by many to be his best work, Ridley makes the case that optimism, while welcome, should be tempered with a rational outlook, and vice versa, i.e. rationalism boosted with an optimistic outlook. Through a series of historical examples, the book lays out the case, that nearly everything around us presents an opportunity for growth and innovation, but only if we cooperate and allow for the free exchange of ideas, knowledge, goods, and information.

9. Tools of Titans by Timothy “Tim” Ferriss

Tools of titans hardcover book

Tools of Titans is a great compilation of individuals who have aced the game in their respective fields. It provides a short, yet insightful dive into the minds of world-class performers, be it in business or the arts. Lessons in mindset, process, and dealing with both adversity and success, pepper the book from cover to cover. It is a golden summary of several hundred hours of golden advice on Tim Ferriss’ podcast.

10. The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson

The almanack of Naval Ravikant hardcover book

Naval Ravikant, the highly successful entrepreneur and Silicon Valley investor credits his success to a set of basic first principles he developed from a young age. Naval has spoken about these principles in great detail in some long-form podcasts. Eric Jorgenson combs through these podcasts and distils all of Naval’s advice and perspective into a short book that can be started and stopped at any page. It gives you, the reader, an insight into the mind of a successful entrepreneur in simple actionable steps. The book reads like a conversation with Naval.

Honourable mentions:

  • The Art Of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie
  • Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
  • On Writing Well by Willam Zilsner
  • How Innovation Works by Matt Ridley
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  • The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries & Jack Trout
  • What They Do Not Teach You At Harvard Business School by Mark McCormack

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