I admit it, I’m a total business book nerd and I’ve read hundreds of books in my entrepreneurial career. I thought it would be fun to compile a list of timeless business books that I would recommend to new entrepreneurs as well as employees and seasoned business owners alike.
There will be a mix of classics and new-to-you books that are sure to add depth and joy to your life. One thing to keep in mind is that I’ve personally read all of these books, and I’m not just pulling a list of books from a best sellers’ list.
Each one of the ideas in these books has the potential to change your life and your business for the better.
Before we get started, please note that these links are Amazon affiliate links so if you end up purchasing a book we’ll earn a commission.
You could also get these books from your local library for free, cause you know, librarians are sexy! Let’s go!
Table of Contents
- Habits of Success
- Pricing, Sales, Planning Your Brand
- Timeless Business Books for Your Spiritual Side
- Membership, Recurring Revenue, Online Courses
- Money and Finance
- Good Business Advice For Scaling Up
- Team, Coaching and Communication
- Writing and Copywriting
- Personal Development
Habits of Success
Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, and having strong habits can help you stay on track. In fact, there’s nothing more timeless than learning how you can be your best self. Enjoy these picks, and watch your success habits take shape!
This was a surprisingly applicable book for me, because I realized that some of my best results in business have happened when I was in flow and getting stuff done. But if you don’t build in the habits to support this state of creative productivity, it’ll be a rare occurrence. I loved the stories and examples, as well as the practical science-based advice in this one.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: I think this book is ideal for anyone who wants to get anything done and feel accomplished when their head hits the pillow at night. I recommend pushing it to the top of your reading list if you’re in need of some habit smackdowns.
This is an older book, but all of the ideas are just as applicable today as they were when this was first published. It’s also not just about being an executive in a big firm, but it does distinguish between the types of activities that you might be doing if you’re in business and you want to achieve big goals. Lots of fresh perspective, and interesting stories, too.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: This is a classic that should eventually make it onto your must-read list. I would recommend picking it up if you’re feeling uninspired about your work, and trying to make stuff happen.
This is a simple “instant classic” that can help you re-orient your focus toward a lifetime of growth. It’s an easy read, and it can help give you that bigger picture view that we sometimes lose as entrepreneurs focused on specific goals. It’s not super specific for any type of business, more for your overall approach to life.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: I think this makes a great re-reading book, for when you get lost in the weeds of your business or you lose sight of where you’re headed.
I believe this book should be required reading for all parents, and for all students, too. It’s life-altering research into what separates those that are successful, from those that struggle.
The basic premise is that there are two different mindsets that people adopt: that their abilities are “fixed” or that they can continue to improve over time. Each outlook dictates the results, so it’s worth finding out which of the two you are and making a change if it’s not working!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Sneak this one in before you coach a team member, talk to your kids, or revs yourself up for a new type of task or challenge. You can do it!
Ahhh… One of the most profound books on creative work and entrepreneurial endeavors. It’s great for kicking through procrastination and the resistance that comes with great ideas and perfectionism. This book is short and easy to read, and will probably make you want to work on your writing, creative projects, or business… stat!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Whenever you feel like procrastination is getting the better of you. (Maybe right now?!)
This book is a little more philosophical, and might not seem to be as directly related to business… but it has really influenced my way of thinking. Especially the idea that there is no “done” but that the journey is all about mastery, and constantly improving yourself along the way. It ties in beautifully with that long term approach that makes it all doable.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone who is feeling antsy or wondering why it’s taking so long to achieve results or goals. Also, all martial artists will love this one!
I read this book a long time ago, so my memory of it is a bit fuzzy by this point. But I remember feeling ready to take on the world in a big way. I think this is a great book to read whether you’re an employee or a business owner, so it would make a great book to do a company book club on.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Early in your career or business, and again as a re-read as you start to hire and become more of a manager. In fact, it’s going back on my list to re-read now!
This is a short and powerful book by Seth Godin (or as the library calls him – God… because they abbreviate last names, of course!)… And I’m so grateful that I read it early on in my business pursuits, because it’s all about overcoming the chasm that separates people who are “trying” and people who succeed.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: If you’re experiencing any challenges or doubting yourself or your business, pick this one up. It’s like a shot of “go get ‘em” when you most need it!
One of my biggest realizations in recent years is that there will always be obstacles and things that we consider to be negative in our lives and businesses. But it’s how we deal with them that helps us move on, and even thrive. This book does an amazing job explaining what the Stoics knew about life: that the obstacles are unavoidable, and also lead to the best outcomes.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: I wish this mindset was instilled in my at an earlier age, because my whole childhood would have had a different tone. But barring that, I think it’s a great read at any point in your business, especially if you’re feeling frustrated in any way.
If you want to get more done, and you need help estimating project timelines and how long it takes you to do tasks… Then this book is one of my absolute favorites. It’s based on software programming projects and companies, but it can apply to any type of business. I felt like a new part of my brain opened up when I read it, and we try to organize our development and features into 2-week sprints and apply a lot of these techniques to get lots done.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone with a team especially will benefit. I think if you’re collaborating or needing to plan projects and you can’t seem to get things done quickly, then this is the primer.
Scrum might be great for getting a lot done as a team, but The Power of Full Engagement is ideal for every person on the team (or you as a solo business owner) to read. I read this book before my business really took off, and it taught me some important strategies for being focused and giving myself the right amount of downtime so that when my business really took off, I was ready.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: If you’re feeling scattered, tired, and like you can’t think straight… This is the book you need to prioritize. It’s powerful and engaging.
They say that knowing yourself is half the battle… and I would have to agree. There’s a lot of focus in many of the business and marketing books on tactics and strategies, but if you apply “a good” strategy to the wrong person… it’s going to fall flat. I love this book more and more now that I have a team, so I can better understand both my strengths and everyone else’s strengths, too!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: This is such a quick read and it comes with a digital test to tell you the top 5 strengths that you operate on. So I would say it’s a must, and highly worth doing early!
This is another Steven Pressfield classic, that can be re-read anytime you need a refresher on why you get stuck procrastinating. I absolutely love this book because it’s short, but packs a punch. It’s amazing for writers but applies to any business endeavor, too. We all get stuck in resistance sometimes!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone, anytime you feel stuck or have not touched your creative projects in awhile.
This book helped me to really absorb how powerful writing your goals down can be. You hear it a lot, but when you read this book you realize why it’s crucial to think through and write down what you want to create in your life in vivid detail. This makes a great gift for people that you might be mentoring or coaching, too.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: If you’re ever feeling unclear about your future or how you’ll accomplish your goals, then this book can help set you on the right path!
Pricing, Sales, Planning Your Brand
These are the timeless business books that I believe any entrepreneur will benefit from… Because we all need to price our offerings, sell them confidently, and brand the business in a recognizable way.
Setting prices in your business is one of the key strategic decisions you need to make, that dictate your ability to profit and outmaneuver competition. This book is an older classic that has a ton of great examples from all kinds of industries, to help you come up with a pricing approach that will work for you.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: CEOs, Founders, and anyone in marketing who has influence over the pricing structure of the business.
Continuing the numbers and pricing focus, this book helps you look at the important data sets in your business. The 80/20 concept is popular, but in this book Perry Marshall makes a great case for applying it in a practical way to your business and pricing decisions. This was a game changer for my business, personally.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Any time you are setting prices, introducing a new product, evaluating performance of your offerings or team.
This classic marketing book talks about the unwritten ways in which we operate as human beings… and how these can be used to influence behavior. It’s great for understanding how people tick, and using this psychology to create better outcomes for your business. When I first read it, I felt some of the ideas could be dangerous in the wrong hands, so if you’ve got good intentions – please read this book so we can use these concepts for good!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Any business owner or marketer that needs to sell, enlist the help of anyone, or just do business in the modern age.
Another great Seth Godin think piece: I read this one before I had a functioning business and it helped shape some of my thoughts about branding. It’s a quick read and can help you break free of the “same old, same old” thinking and marketing that you might be up against and emulating in your industry.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Beginner marketers or business owners who need a refresher about what it takes to stand out.
I’ve seen Sally Hogshead speak, and she’s a force of nature – I love her ability to infuse personality into everything she does. And that’s exactly what she teaches in this book and accompanying assessment: how you fascinate based on your own unique personal traits. Quite a few of my business and branding decisions have been informed by this book’s work, and I can’t recommend it enough!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Any new business owner trying to figure out what makes them unique in the marketplace, and seasoned entrepreneurs who want to remember why people are fascinated with their brand.
Another great branding book by Julie Cottineau, who headed branding for some of Richard Branson’s Virgin companies. One thing that I really appreciate about Twist is the exercises to help you break out of the industry that you’re in and think differently about your brand. Brand can be a buzzword today, but Julie is a master at helping you see what it means in a practical application, so it helps your business’ bottom line.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Branding experts who want to hone their skills, marketers, and business owners who aren’t sure what their brand really stands for. (It’s not just about colors and fonts!)
I read this book in my earlier business years, and it helped kick-start my ability to get clients in a repeatable way. There may be some ideas and marketing concepts that you’re familiar with in this book, but I think it’s the way that everything is organized into a system that makes this one so powerful and effective. Michael Port also has some great follow-up books, and these are also worth a read!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: I highly recommend it for anyone who has a service based business, or who needs to figure out how to market themselves better.
This is the business planning book I wish I had when my business was just starting out. It covers so much of the creative business planning necessary to design your business model, decide what direction to take your skills, and so much more. But the part that I love the most about this book is how Natalie MacNeil explains the nitty gritty of business finance, so this isn’t just a pretty “dreaming” book… it’s extremely practical!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: New business owners, or those who might not feel like they’ve figured out their business entirely yet.
If you’ve got a little rebel inside you like I do, then you’ll love UnMarketing. What I appreciate the most about Scott and Alison Stratten is that they walk the walk when it comes to social media and building a business in the digital age. I’ve met both of them many times, and they are in tune with the social media age and how to make it work for your business.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Those wondering how to use social media to help grow their business, without losing their soul or their connection.
Funny story: this book almost convinced me to change my name! It’s chock full of data about standing out and being remembered in the marketplace, including statistics about people with memorable names who get ahead faster. In the end, I decided to keep my name and apply the other ideas in the book to my business, and I’m happy with the results.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: To me this is a primer on how people perceive businesses and people, so it’s a must for startups and business owners.
Whether you’re feeling lost and starting to question your business and all the work involved… or you’re bringing on a team to help you make your business better, knowing and being able to articulate why you do it is key. Simon Sinek has an amazing TED talk on this topic, and he’s certainly inspiring to watch – but if you want to absorb it and mull over your “Why”, then this book will help.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: At any point in your business career, it’s never too late or too early to figure out and communicate your why.
Timeless Business Books for Your Spiritual Side
I believe that business is an incredible way of tapping into your spiritual side, and these books will help you balance all of the sometimes hectic business building with the soul satisfying deep inner work that’s necessary.
When I first read this book, I never thought it could relate to business. Yet, it helped shape how I coach and mentor those around me, and heal some of my own inner blocks. It holds insights that are so clear and piercing that it almost feels like it’s the missing manual to a lot of life. I only later found out that the author is an amazingly accomplished business owner, and now this book makes even more sense!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Now. Do not delay on this one, if you’re unhappy or at all feeling triggered by events or people in your life… you need to read this one.
Reading this book gave me chills: it helped cut through some of the distorted interpretations that we take in about what success means. It’s so easy to look at what success is supposed to be based on the outside world’s definition of it… Well Barbara Stanny does an excellent job bringing it back to the sacred and focusing on what makes us truly happy.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Whether you’ve achieved some success and you’re not feeling any happier, or you’re still striving for it… this book will help.
If you’ve ever heard the term “upper limit” before, then chances are it’s a reference to this book, which popularized the concept… but what you might not realize is that this book shares tips for overcoming these upper limits in life (for happiness, wealth, success, and more). It also has some fascinating chapters about our relationship to time, and focusing on the work that’s truly in our zone of genius.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: This is a must read, especially if you feel stuck or you seem to get ahead only to fall back in some areas of life.
If there’s one book that helped shape my career and connect more with the people in my life… it’s this one. After seeing Brene Brown speak, I felt the power of vulnerability and decided to dive into this book. The results were pretty spectacular for me, from organizing my first 100-person live event, to doing a dance choreography on stage, and selling out several high level programs… the book spoke to me in a way I had never seen before.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone who needs to communicate, do something courageous in their life or business, and lead a team.
I admit that the title of this book drew me in, because of my homebody personality… but Laura Day herself has shared such amazing exercises for connecting to your intuition (including in her Practical Intuition classic). In this book she takes it further with in-depth and practical spiritual and intuitive tools to help you make decisions, see the future and so much more. I feel like it’s the intuitive business guidebook.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: When you need to peer into the future, understand your business or ideal customers better, or just take a step back from your “logical brain” to use your intuition more.
This fable might not seem like a business book at all, but the message that it’s all a journey and that you don’t quite know what you expect when you embark is very helpful. At the end of this short read, you can’t help but feel more powerful and as if life is on your side… it’s truly motivating, and humbling at the same time. I think this is one of those books that are worth re-reading when life seems to be getting away from you.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: This is a more relaxing read, that will tap into your imagination and inspire you to keep taking another step.
In this old-timey classic, Florence Scovel Shinn takes us through some practical law of attraction concepts, in a poetic prose format. I love keeping this book handy whenever things seem to be extra tough, because it’s got such a positive outlook on life. I find that the wisdom in these pages is just as applicable today as when it was written, and that in itself tells me how right the author was when describing the game of life.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: It’s such a quick read, I think it’s worth having close at hand in tough times, but even more powerful if things are already great and you want to know why.
Ahh, Danielle LaPorte is such an incredibly lucid writer who can help anyone cut to the heart of what they want to feel and experience in life. I love this book because it talks about desire in a positive light, and uses how you feel as a guidepost for what you should do with your life and business. The exercises and accompanying planner and workbook are amazing.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Especially female entrepreneurs or career women who are feeling tapped out, confused about their direction, and a little lost. The Desire Map will recalibrate you and set you in the right direction, for yourself.
This book pulls from the wisdom of ancient Mexican peoples (the Toltecs) and each paragraph is dense with meaning… despite being written in very simple language. It took me awhile to fully absorb the depth of this book, even though it focuses on just 4 main ways of operating in the world that can change your life. I feel like this is one of those powerful tomes, that if you ignored all of the other books on this list and just followed these 4 agreements… your life and business would be better off for it!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: If you’re experiencing drama, friction against the world’s expectations, and not feeling like you’re living up to your best… read this book, and implement it.
Membership, Recurring Revenue, Online Courses
If I had to pick a category with my favorite section of books for online business owners, this would be the one. These timeless business books offer lots of modern ideas and suggestions that have been around for awhile, but are now adapted for any business owner with a laptop to use!
When you combine the mindset training and strategies from these books with a tool like AccessAlly, you’ll be well on your way to building a recurring revenue business.
This is a must read for anyone who wants to add recurring revenue to their business, and wants to do it in a classy and sustainable way. I love how this book dives into real world subscription and membership style business examples and how it pulls out the applicable steps. It’s extremely timely, and I think it makes amazing points about the power of belonging and being a “member” in a world where everything is about transactions and sales.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone who has or wants to start a membership site, or recurring business model. Stat.
Another amazing read in the subscription or membership style business model. This is a book I wish I had read when I was just starting my business – not because I was really ready to start offering a monthly or recurring product, but because of the mindset of thinking long term. It’s easy to get caught up in getting a sale or doing a launch, but if you think about creating “automatic customers” that are with you for the long term, it’s way more powerful.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone who wants to start or run a membership site, but also those who might be in the service business and who wants to add recurring offerings.
Ahh online learning, we all do it every day and some of us offer it as part of our business, too. But do you know what makes learning easier for students? Sure, you could look at academia and also use your own experience to design your online courses… But this book really breaks down exactly what it takes to teach and to learn, from a holistic perspective. I took a lot of the concepts from this book into my teaching, and I think it has made me a better teacher.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone who wants to teach online courses, and who wants to do it in a way that leads to better learning and less dissatisfaction… because tools like AccessAlly only work when you can present your content in a way that will benefit your clients.
If you want to create individual follow ups and really understand your audience better, then this is the book for you. In Ask, Ryan Levesque shares some cutting edge ways in which businesses can use surveys and questions to better serve their customers… and increase their business results, too. I think it’s a must for modern day marketers, especially with tools like AccessAlly Pro that make it easier than ever.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone who wants to sell well, understand their market, and create customized follow ups, too.
Jeff Walker is the grand daddy of launching in the information marketing place, and this book is his launch primer. I highly recommend this one for anyone who wants to get a better idea about launching: what it is, how to do it well, and why you want to add this marketing concept to your business. Jeff shares great insights from his years of online launches, along with those of his students.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone who wants to up their “launch game” and better understand what makes launches work well.
I got this book as a gift, and ever since then I’ve been playing with the concepts in my own business and helping clients design their business models with it, too. It’s a great coffee table book, or one that you’ll want to pick up anytime you’re feeling like something isn’t clicking in your business. The visuals and exercises are great, and it’s chock full of thought provoking ideas to make your business more strategic and successful.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Makes a great gift for a newer business owner, but it’s also great for yourself to refine your business model too!
I’m a huge fan of everything the team at Digital Marketer does, so it’s no surprise that this book by Ryan Deiss would be great, too. I love all things email marketing, and this is a great “next step” or clear plan for anyone who wants to improve their email marketing efforts. We’ve implemented many of these concepts in our business over the years with great results, and this book walks you through the why and the how for creating great evergreen email campaigns.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: If you have a product or and email list, you need to read this and implement the ideas too.
Money and Finance
I’ve found that most of the advice we get as entrepreneurs is focused on making the money… but not so much on how to save, re-invest, and pay out the income you generate. This section is crucial for business owners who want to be in business for the long term, and have impeccable money management skills, too!
If you have a business and you’re confused about how to balance your personal and business finances to grow… this is the book for you. It talks you through how to manage and plan for profit in your business, including advice for how much to pay yourself and how much to re-invest for growth. What I love the most about this book is that it’s not full of accounting jargon, and it applies no matter how profitable your business is today. I wish everyone had this knowledge at the start of their businesses!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone who runs a business but is living “paycheck to paycheck” in their business, or who gets surprised at tax time.
This is the book that convinced me to start paying myself a regular salary. Before reading this book, I essentially assumed that my business income was my income and that I could take some when I needed it. It was stressful managing the ups and downs of launch-based marketing, and I never knew how much to re-invest in the business to make it grow. This book was written from an accountant’s perspective, but in layman’s terms… and I think it’s a must for scaling businesses.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Any business owner who wants to better understand their book keeping, as well as make better decisions about their business revenues.
I read this book in the early days of my business, when the idea of a six-figure income still felt so hard to achieve. I think the most important part of this book for me, was realizing that there are some common things that high income earners do… and that at the same time, they’re just women like all others.
It may seem counterintuitive, but I believe that with the right focused actions and circumstances, reaching six-figures in income is absolutely doable. I also found that the setbacks and downsides that these women faced were very relatable and useful, too.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Women young and old who want to reach that six figure mark, and see how these ladies before them have achieved it.
This is a powerful book, whether the title speaks to you or not. Denise Duffield-Thomas is the expert when it comes to helping women break through their money blocks, and upgrade their lives no matter their current income level.
She has a really entertaining writing style that pulls you in with personal stories and examples, and helps you see some of the left over money thoughts that you might have picked up along the way… that are no longer serving you. She’s helped thousands of women around the world to change their relationship to money and I’m a huge supporter of her work.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Any women who are ready to live the good life, and stop worrying about money.
This is a classic book that involved an in-depth interview series with the richest men at the time this book was written in 1937. In it you will find explained many concepts that are now popular and mainstream… like the idea of holding a mastermind group to bring together ideas, people, and resources to succeed. There are also some great law of attraction concepts that can transform your thinking about wealth and success.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: This would be a good one to pick up if you want to retool your thinking around achieving your goals.
There are some stories and suggestions in this book that I do not agree with at all… and I’m still recommending it because of the concept of the Cashflow Quadrant. In this book, you’ll see that there are different ways to have money entering your life, and that not all of the ways need to be tied to doing active work. That was a big game changer for me in my early 20s, and that’s why I think it’s worth reading.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone who wants to see the difference between being a business owner, investor, and employee.
We hear so much about earning big bucks and becoming millionaires… that it can paint an interesting picture of someone who lives a lavish lifestyle. This book does a lot to dispel that myth, and shows how average people can become millionaires (not by spending money but by saving it!). I think this book should be a must-read in schools, because it instills a more long term view of money and wealth accumulation, that many of us don’t have as young adults.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone who wants to stop worrying about money, and is ready to save and invest it and live a happy life.
This is another one of those books that I feel all young people should read… if only to know what’s possible when you recognize that money is not the goal of life, but rather something we use in our modern society. The examples and financial advice in this book have been updated for modern investing changes, but even if you decide to invest in different ways… the ideas in this book can change how you feel about work and money forever.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: If you veer into overspending and find yourself stuck in a hamster wheel of “more, more, more” then this book can reset your expectations!
This book is a fictional story, that’s not a “how to” book in the style of the others listed here… but I’m including it because it speaks to the passing down of wealth in a very poignant way. It’s the story of a family in rural China and all of the ups and downs that they experience on their way to success. It’s an incredibly grounding story (pun intended with the earth theme!) and whenever I feel like I’m losing my way, it reminds me of what’s most important in life.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: This makes a great “time off” read, when you need a break from thinking about your business!
Amanda Steinberg shares her story along with the most concise and entertaining call to financial literacy for women that I’ve read in a long time. This is a must read for anyone who feels like they’ve been hustling to bring in more money, but wondering what to do with it to build lasting investments and wealth for the long term. I love Worth It’s approach to building the right strategy for you based on your own goals, too.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Any man or woman who wants to better understand the way to long term investments and growth, beyond the next launch.
Good Business Advice For Scaling Up
Many of us start out as solopreneurs and small business owners, and then we realize that we want to grow this thing… With this collection of timeless business books for scaling up, you’ll see that you don’t have to figure it out on your own. There are lots of great business books that walk you through examples and advice to make it past your current growth plateau.
If I had to pick a “bible” for growing a business in a systematic way that works… It would be Scaling Up. Verne Harnish and his team have thought through the major blocks to business growth, and outlined how any small business can grow sustainably past the usual breaking point. Reading this book can definitely feel like drinking from the firehose of information, but if you apply just one chapter every month and really implement these ideas, you’ll be amazed at the results.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Those businesses that want to grow in team, income, and strategic initiatives. Not for the faint of heart!
If I had to pick just ONE book that every single service based business owner should read, it would be this one. I read it at a time where I was transitioning from web design to consulting, and it helped me go from low six figures to multiple six figures in income (with any of these income claims, there’s always a lot involved and I’m not promising that reading this book will get you the same results!).
I love how simple to understand this book is, and how applicable the advice is to so many different businesses.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Any business owner who needs help focusing on profitable activities to really grow successfully.
This book is ideal for information based businesses, because it allows you to pivot and do lots of experimentation before going all in on an idea. It’s a book that’s chockfull of examples and specific strategies for growing a business online (though it is based on traditional direct marketing). I believe this book really helped me to understand the goals of a startup business in many ways.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Infopreneurs who want to “hit on” their best ideas and make sure they work before going all in.
This is another must-read for service based business owners, especially web designers and agencies. You may be tempted to skip this one because you don’t want to sell your business, but I promise that this story or “business fable” will not only entertain you but also motivate you to improve your processes enough that you can step away from your business. It’s a quick read, that will make you think and reconsider how you run your company – and where it’s all going.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Especially service based business owners, and anyone who works with clients one-on-one will benefit greatly, whether you want to sell your business or not!
Now we’re really getting into the fine distinctions between running the business and owning the business. If you’ve heard the terms “working on your business” and “in your business”, this book explains the difference using a great real business as an analogy. It’s such a must-read that I recommend it to anyone who goes into business thinking that it will give them the freedom they keep hearing about.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Any and all business owners, especially those who are feeling burned out or confused about the lack of freedom they’ve created for themselves.
Once you know you need to systematize your business (from some of the other books in this category), then you might be left scratching your head and wondering… well HOW do you create systems, anyway? This is the book that I recommend to explain what systems really are, and how you can implement and document them in your business. It’s a huge eye opener, and has lots of great examples to keep you motivated to get systematized in your company… woohoo!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Systems geeks will love it, but I mostly recommend it for business owners who aren’t motivated to get processes in place because it’s not high priority enough right now.
I love the team at 37Signals, who are responsible for creating Basecamp – an amazing piece of software that helps teams collaborate and work with clients. I think this book is an easy and quick read that is steeped in unconventional wisdom for the digital age. I highly recommend it for teams and solo businesses, because it will help you re-think how you see your work and output. Would make a great “team book club” pick, too!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone who wants to be more efficient and smart about their business and the work they create.
This is a business classic that holds some powerful insights and that has influenced how we make decisions in my business. It’s a simple and easy to understand book, but that has the potential to really increase revenues and help you market and sell better, too. I feel like this should be a must-read for any new business owner, and even established ones too. You’ll really “get” why Jay Abraham is considered a master at business after reading this.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone who knows they have a lot more untapped potential in their business, new business owners or more experienced ones.
One of my biggest take aways from this book is the need for key performance indicators in your business, and the difference between having a creative idea-person and an execution focused integrator. I think this book offers a great step by step plan for helping you find the holes in your business and making it work in a much more cohesive way. I think it’s great to read before you “need it” but also makes a great re-read option, too.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone who is starting to feel like the wheels are falling off in their business, this will get you back on track.
Planning to hire in the next year? You need to read this book. I read it and also took their online program, and it has transformed how we prospect, interview, and hire. This book is a bit dense, because the Topgrading method is pretty in-depth and designed for bigger companies… but even if you just use the ideas to model and create your own hiring processes, it can transform the usual “but what if I can’t find anyone good?” to “holy smokes, I can’t believe we’ve got this amazing team helping us grow!”.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Any business owner wanting to hire better and understand what it takes to get the best talent.
Team, Coaching and Communication
Once your business starts to grow, you’ll need to communicate with others and form a team (whether they’re full time hires or contractors and colleagues)… So it helps to understand how you can better coach, communicate, and collaborate with the other amazing people you choose to work with.
I almost cried while reading this book, because it’s THAT good. Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert and conversations have always felt overwhelming for me… but the frameworks, examples, and stories from this book are truly transformational for business owners and teams. I wish I had read this as a teenager, if even just to know that truly transformative conversations are possible and that they don’t have to be scary.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone. Like seriously, read it and share it wide!
This is a business fable that talks about what can happen when a team grows and changes, and things start to degrade in terms of communication and collaboration. The story itself speaks to business owners as well as managers about the pitfalls of team building… from hiring, firing, and everything in between. I love how realistic it is even though it’s written as fiction, and the take aways at the end of the book are spot on, too.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Any team, manager, or business owner who feels like communication and trust could be improved.
We often hear that business is the most challenging personal development exercise ever… and I believe that coaching team members and giving them the environment to grow and develop is the next step as a business grows. I love this book by Michael Bungay Stanier because he shares how coaching is different from the other ways of managing and leading, and how to powerfully apply to your business and life.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone who interacts with team members in a management or leadership role.
This is the original “how to be a coach” book that started much of today’s life and business coaching boom. If you’ve ever wondered “what is coaching and how do I do it?” then this book explains some of the core methodologies and takes you through the step to becoming a coach yourself. I highly recommend it if you’re a coach or want to be one, because it will give you the framework and mindset for coaching that may not have been “built in” for you.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Coaches and those who want to become better coaches, too.
This is a quick read that’s full of examples and stories to illustrate the “hands off” management style that has made the authors successful. I found it to be refreshing and to be a great read for inspiration across different industries. There aren’t a ton of practical and actionable items, but the mindset shifts are on every page. I feel like there aren’t enough team building books with this kind of growth oriented attitudes to go around!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Any business owner or manager who wants to lead and coach, but without micromanaging.
Here’s another classic that I believe everyone should read, whether they’re in business or not. I read this one as an intern in college, and I believe it really helped me to do better in interviews and to bond with coworkers, too. Even though this book was written back in 1936, the advice and stories are still relevant today in the timeless way that human beings tend to be. In fact, it’s probably more important to know these tips today because of our over-dependence on social media for communication.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone who wants to be a better friend, employee, boss, co-worker, parent, sales person, and human being.
Writing and Copywriting
If I had to pick a skill that has been key in my success in business online, it would be writing… specially learning how to write in a way that sells. These books have helped me to hone my writing skills, and will do the same for yours!
Even though this is a list of business books and you may not expect The Artist’s Way, this is my best recommendation for anyone who wants to tap into their creativity… and we all know that creativity is key in today’s crowded business space. I love the exercises Julia Cameron recommends, including the daily writing pages (even though I’m not the most consistent in this practice!) because it really primes the pump for your best ideas and creativity. I especially love the practices for improving mental clarity and also connecting to yourself in a deeper way.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Creatives and non-creatives who want to be better writers, and clearer thinkers.
I’ve never read another book like this one… you might think that reading about writing is procrastinating on your own writing, but this would be the exception. Bird by bird is like a warm hug that gently prods you along to true writing. Drawing from a background in writing fiction, this book applies to any type of writing and really complements The Artist’s Way in terms of writing often and letting yourself free-form.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Writers will feel at home while reading this book and feel encouraged and also guided toward new practices to improve and continue honing their craft.
Switching gears from the more creative and artistic writing styles: this book is all about writing sales letters. I read this book before writing my first successful sales page, and I highly recommend it to copywriters and those who plan to do-it-themselves. It’s chockfull of examples of sales pages, headlines, and formulas for writing direct sales long-form sales pages. Read it and take what speaks to you, then watch what happens to your sales pages!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Copywriters, business owners, infopreneurs, and especially right before you sit down to write a sales page.
If you’re looking for a book to pick up and get inspired by for your next marketing campaign… This is it. It doesn’t talk about one big topic or overarching strategy, but rather it’s a compilation of many little tactics and ideas that can add up to a much better sales and advertising approach. I wouldn’t recommend reading it from front to back, but rather leafing through it when you want a little extra something-something for your next marketing email, ad, or campaign.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Business owners, marketing teams, and advertising pros who want a new take and some interesting ideas to test in their marketing.
This is a recent read that I now recommend to anyone who writes any type of sales copy… because it explains the different types of “leads” that you might start an email, sales page, or blog post with. It’s full of examples, sample sales pages, and all of the theories and setups you could use to begin your next written project with. I wish I had this overview of writing leads (not to be confused with opt-in or subscriber leads!) back in my early days in business, it would have shortcuts my learning process a lot.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Writers, copywriters, marketers, and business owners who want to hook people with their writing right from the get-go and sell more too!
I consider this book to be a must-have reference book that you can just pull out whenever you’re stumped writing anything. But especially things that are meant to sell. (And let’s face it, you need to sell even free things these days too!) This book is organized by types of marketing, from different words to describe discounts or luxury items, and everything in between. It’s also good to leaf through when you want a good marketing angle too!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Copywriters, writers, and business owners who need to say it and sell it well!
This book is less sales-focused and more internet-writing focused, and I can’t recommend it enough! It’s essentially a primer on web writing, from social media, blog posts, emails, and everything in between. I love Ann Handley’s personality and writing style, so it just makes sense to learn from her as a long time editor. It’s a combination of specific writing tips (like grammar and words to avoid) and also content marketing advice to make every piece of writing worth reading.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Especially great for anyone who doesn’t feel like a writer, and who needs to write online. I think it would make a great “whole team” read for a digital company, too.
This book is not specifically about writing, but it is written by one of the great minds in modern advertising and it’s a classic. Some of my big takeaways from this book are actually about the design aspects of marketing (it’s not just about the words you use!). I found this to be a fun read, full of examples and the explanations for why they worked. If you need to look outside of your industry for inspiration for your next marketing campaign, this could be the ticket!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Marketers and business owners who need a better vantage point for advertising en masse.
There are a lot of different formats for writing, and this list wouldn’t be complete without a guide to writing… a screenplay?! Okay, so this might not feel like a business read, but if you plan to use storytelling in any of your marketing or teaching, then it helps to understand the structures of story. This is the best book I’ve found on what makes stories sticky, and how to craft them so they’re compelling and pull you in. Plus, it’s nice to see behind the scenes of movies, too!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Writers and storytellers who need to build stories that communicate on a deep human level, and even sell.
You might be surprised to see this on a list of recommended business books, but it’s worth reading if you write anything for your business. Whether you like reading Stephen King novels or not, this book will likely change the way you think about writing forever. I especially love how real and raw Stephen gets about his trials with putting so much pressure on himself to write, and how it led to substance abuse issues… and what he did to overcome these problems. He also shares some pearls of wisdom that will help you in your business endeavors and creative pursuits across the board.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Both fiction and non-fiction writers who want to write for the long haul, and keep going when things are going well and when they’re not.
This book is focused on storytelling in the digital social media age, and it delivers! Even if you were to read this book while having no social media experience, you could get up to speed and design an amazing communication strategy with the ideas in here. I think it’s a must for all social media pros and business owners or marketers who will need to do their own social profiles and posts. It’s full of examples and ways to stand out in the crowd and noise today.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Business owner, social media managers, and anyone who needs to be heard online through a social network… (and isn’t that most of us?)
This is a book about writing and crafting speeches and presentations, so it takes all of the other writing know-how and makes it work on the stage or the webinar. Nancy Duarte is like a detective of talks and presentations, and she’s pulled together an amazing amount of data on what works and what doesn’t. I loved how she broke down specific historical speeches and explained exactly what each piece of the talk was communicating. I highly recommend this book for anyone who needs to present (both online and off) compellingly.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Any business owner or person wanting to give speeches and presentations that resonate and make people take action.
There are only so many “how to” timeless business books you can read before you realize that it’s all in the execution of ideas… And how you deal with the challenges that crop up along the way. That’s exactly what these biographies can help you understand, so you can go with the flow in your own life and business.
I read this one with no expectations, and I was pleasantly surprised about the story of Walt Disney and how he had a single-minded focus on his goals. This book goes into the early years in as much detail as is available, which is always fun for entrepreneurs to see how others got started. From there, the story unfolds and we get a glimpse into the different keys that helped the small company become a global powerhouse. It was both entertaining and educational, whether you’re a Disney fan or not.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: When you want a break from the business-as-usual books and could enjoy a ride through time to see how a man made his vision a reality.
This is a great auto-biography for any business owner, but women especially will relate with what Shark Tank star Barbara Corcoran has to share. I love the specific stories and real-world actionable advice that each page holds. It’s also great that Barbara pulls from her past and her more recent successes in business to show how you can get ahead even when it feels like you’re starting from a disadvantaged position. It’s an easy and fun read, that might spark some new ways of operating in your business too!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: If you have any interest in real estate or just want to read how a successful woman made it in the New York City market.
This book started off feeling a little too “woo-woo” spiritual for me in the first few chapters… but once Michael A. Singer gets going, his story unfolds in the most magical and inspiring way. This auto-biography walks us through his unplanned and yet perfectly laid out life and business path… from starting a community of spiritual seekers in the woods, to building a massive software company.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Overthinkers, planners, and type A personalities who want to make it big in business without burning out.
This book is so good that it was made into a movie, and although both are great – I still prefer the book for those nuances and quotes that go straight to the heart. It’s part autobiography and part fiction, and it’s not about business at all… but it brings in a lot of personal development lessons and ideas that can go a long way in helping you live your life to the fullest. I especially like the reliability of the characters, and how easy of a read it is!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Whenever you feel tired, lonely, or like life isn’t going to plan… this book can change your outlook dramatically.
Richard Branson is one of those iconic entrepreneurs that has a lot of wisdom to share because he’s truly “done it his way”. I loved learning about his early years in business (especially about how he was not a good student) because he shared what he had to do to get his first business off the ground. He’s got the whole brand building and publicity concept locked down, and this book shares several examples of his gumption as a business founder.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: If you like the Virgin brand and you want to know how it all started, or you’re looking for a fun business success story to read.
Tony Hsieh and the Zappos story are such an amazing example of what happens when you take one of the biggest pain points of an industry… and flip it into your biggest strength. I highly recommend this book for anyone in a customer success or support role, and also business owners who think that “support” is not a core part of their business’ profit center. It’s a fun read, full of actionable takeaways, and lots of inspiring examples to pull from for your own business.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Customer support teams, marketing teams, and business owners… so everyone will be on the same page about the power of treated people like humans!
I’ve often felt like there weren’t many women owner autobiographies, and this book was refreshing. It covers the story of a recent innovation in the way people shop online and the two women who teamed up to make it happen. I loved the nitty-gritty of seeing Alexis and Alexandra figure out the logistics (shipping, fulfillment, warehouses – oh my!) and the digital marketing aspects of getting their business to take off. I also loved how much they knew that a team was key, and they surrounded themselves with amazing people.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Especially women entrepreneurs or those who want to market to women, because it shares lots of great details about the fashion space.
This is a really interesting read, especially in light of the founder and author of this book stepping down as CEO of her company and having Nasty Gal file for bankruptcy. I think it’s clear that Sophia prioritized her own brand, making a Netflix show based on the book, and touring over her business. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see where it all started and what she’s learned along the way. I’m more curious to watch the real-life story unfold now that I’ve read the book!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: I would recommend this for younger female entrepreneurs more than anyone else.
Whether you’re a fan of Starbucks or not, you can’t deny that this company has done an amazing job at building a brand and expanding sustainably across the world. It’s incredibly interesting to look at their growth trajectory and realize that Starbucks didn’t hit their “exponential growth” stride until their 25th year or so in business. I love the insights and wisdom shared about building a business “one cup at a time” in this book, too.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone who wants to scale their business, but may not quite see the path to it yet.
I’m a huge fan of Erika Lyremark and her sassy no-nonsense style of coaching and communication, and her book is a condensed version of her years of business wisdom. Although you might be thrown off by the title of the book, Erika shares how different experiences as a stripper led her to increase her income, reduce her stress levels, and do business her way. This book is full of exercises, thought-provoking questions, and actionable items that can change how you operate your business, for the better!
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Any woman who feels like they could use an extra dose of confidence, focus, and increased profits.
Finally, no list of books for entrepreneurs would be complete if we didn’t look at the whole person. These book recommendations are a little more personal, and will help you round out your life… so you’re not “all business, all the time”. Enjoy!
If you’ve ever felt like you didn’t belong, weren’t good enough, or were somehow “missing something” to succeed… Then you need to read this book. I love how Tara Mohr takes a very data-driven approach to women and leadership, and brings in the personal development and coaching insights to make real lasting change. I wish I had read this book in high school or college since it spoke too much of what I experienced as a young woman.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Any woman who wants to play bigger, and stop feeling like she’s missing out on the secret rules that everyone seems to have mastered already.
There are very few people who write such beautiful and life-changing prose as Martha Beck. If you’re feeling lost or like you’re living life for other people and what they think of you… This book could change it all and help you tap into what your true calling or North Star really is. It’s a beautiful book that makes you think and takes you out of the every day and into the life, you are meant to live. (Which is different from what others might be meant to live!)
Who It’s For and When To Read It: One of my favorite business books, it’s for anyone who feels like they’re wandering through life aimlessly and wondering what their purpose is.
With a provocative name like Pussy, Regena Thomashauer is making a statement for and by all women… to own their whole bodies and their ability to experience pleasure. I’m a big fan of Regena’s writing, so don’t let the title or the topic of this book throw you for a loop: it’s full of actionable advice and stories of women who have reclaimed their birthright to experience life fully. There are exercises and ideas here for any woman who feels disconnected to her power, and who is ready to think differently about the world and herself.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Any woman who wants more out of life: more sisterhood, more love, more success, more pleasure.
If you’re a multi-passionate entrepreneur, or you seem to get interested in new endeavors and hobbies all the time: this is the book for you! Barbara Sher has some incredible excursuses to help you design the life that includes all of your passions, whether you turn them into businesses or not. It’s a great read with lots of examples of unconventional people living a full life, without denying themselves of the different things they’re excited about.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Multi-passionate entrepreneurs and individuals who know there must be a way to “have your cake and eat it too” when it comes to interests.
You know how there are organizations “for the members, by the members”? Well, this is a book written for introverts, by an introvert… who also happens to have figured out how to rock an online business, her way. Kristen Kalp is a dynamo with a huge heart who can help fellow introverts really be themselves in their businesses, and be successful financially doing it. It’s not about loud marketing tactics, but rather about calling in the right people with your authenticity.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: If you’re an introvert running a business online, this book is for you.
Okay, you might be wondering why I’m listing a book talking about 70-year-old women staying fit, in a list of entrepreneurial books to read… Well, it’s because at the end of the day (or your career) – what is it all for if you don’t have your health? If you’re working crazy hours in front of your computer and not moving, it’s going to have an effect on your health and ability to age well. I love this book because it shows that it’s never too late to “reverse aging” and get moving again, and why not start early if you can?
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Any human who spends too much time sitting down… the whole “sitting is the new smoking” analogy should ring a bell here.
This is another book on moving and health, by Katy Bowman. I have to admit that many of Katy’s ideas feel like a jolt when you first read or hear them, but they make a lot of sense. We’ve essentially built lives and environments for ourselves that are super convenient, but that don’t give us the movement “nutrients” that we need to be truly healthy. This isn’t about food, but rather about having a variety of different movements (and not just 30 minutes or 1 hour of exercise) throughout the day.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: This is a must for anyone who lives in a house or apartment, works in an office, and spends most of their time inside.
Speaking of spending time outdoors… This book may just change how you walk around the world. It introduces a gardening paradigm that has been forgotten in our quest to maximize and optimize production of a few select crops, at the expense of the diversity nature thrives on.
You’ll learn about permaculture (permanent agriculture) and how you can add more edible plants, beneficial insect attracting plants, fruit trees, and more to your yard or neighborhood. It was a real eye-opener for me, and it talks a lot about the living microorganisms that are key to life on this planet.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Anyone who has a bit of lawn or space to garden (including pots on the windowsill) who wants to better understand the relationships between plants, humans, and animals.
I’ve personally been on a long food journey, and I think Michael Pollan does an amazing job at explaining why we’re so confused about what’s healthy and how to eat… This book is again in the category of “you’ll be happy you figured this out” whether you’re an entrepreneur or not. But I especially feel like we need to fuel ourselves well as type A people, so we can have the energy and the vitality we need to reach the goals we set out to achieve.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: If you’re scratching your head and wondering why dietary recommendations keep changing, and how you might better eat… this might help shed some light!
Finally, I’m wrapping up this epic reading list by focusing on what matters most… and that’s the people who choose to spend our time with. If you want to have incredible relationships that last and are fulfilling, then you need to understand how you can communicate the love you feel. Not everyone receives love the same way, and this best-selling book is useful for both your intimate relationships and your business colleagues. Once you understand how to show you care, everything else can flow from there.
Who It’s For and When To Read It: Any person who wants to improve their relationships and show their love for the people in their lives.
Never Stop Growing!
There’s no end to the wisdom that you can pick up from other amazing minds in this world. The challenge is to take the guidance they offer and apply it to your own life and business.
But you’re up for this challenge.
I believe in you!
I would be remiss to keep the “Membership sites that sell themselves” digital guide off of this list. It’s a 100 page guide chock full of case studies, checklists, and ideas to help you build your course or membership program right from the start.
I’m excited to see what you do after you read my favorite business books and put them into action!