25 Entrepreneurs List Their Favorite Inspirational Business Books

As musician Frank Zappa once said, “So many books, so little time.” For a business owner or budding entrepreneur, books can be a life preserver. Of course valuable lessons often come from doing. Business lessons can be learned by trial and error and putting yourself out on the line. But the same lessons can also be had from a book. Reading about the errors and triumphs of other business leaders can prevent you from making mistakes and push you in the direction of success. Beyond lessons, a good business book can inspire you to lift your business to an even higher level. Below are a selection of business books chosen as favorites by entrepreneurs and business owners.

#1-This is Marketing, Seth Godin

Photo Credit: Ross Culliton

There are lots of books and resources with tactics on “how to” market and advertise.  This book is different – it’s an insightful look at what modern marketing is and how entrepreneurs need to design and build businesses that will make an impact.  For business owners with fast-growing businesses or those just getting started, this book will help you reflect on what you’re creating and who you’re creating it for – once you’re clear on that, the marketing becomes much easier.  Highly recommended.

Thanks to Ross Culliton, Roody Originals!

#2-The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Photo Credit: Rory Crawford

I think it provides a very thought-provoking perspective on the importance and benefit of mindfulness that can help everybody. Especially in today’s climate of external pressures dictating personal happiness and satisfaction, I think the book provides a very powerful perspective and forces the reader to look at their life and their happiness in a different way.

Thanks to Rory Crawford, Bevspot!

#3- Profit First

Photo Credit: Ruthie Bowles

When I'm speaking to other business owners, my top recommended business book is Profit First, by Mike Michalowicz. I read the book, implemented the system, and changed my understanding of my business' financial standing overnight. My favorite attribute of this book is that you don't have to be an accountant to understand it. When you plan for business profit, then you'll have a business profit. If you can't afford to have profit, then you need to take a look at where your business is hemorrhaging money. It's a great book, and will change how you view your business.

Thanks to Ruthie Bowles, Defy The Status Quo!

#4-The 33 Strategies of War

Photo Credit: Brandon Webb

One of the best business books I’ve come across is Robert Greene’s ‘The 33 Strategies of War.’ Unlike many other business books, it gives actionable knowledge and strategies that can be applied to every day life. It reveals how some of the world’s greatest leaders, generals, and thinkers have used these various strategies to gain an upper hand over the rest.

Thanks to Brandon Webb,  Hypluxe!


Photo Credit: Kate Gorman

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink. Daniel Pink does a fantastic job of breaking down motivation and guides readers into how to create environments to motivate yourself and others around you – through 3 principles: Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose. This paradigm resonates deeply with me on how I am motivated, and has guided my management style and company culture creation at Fort Mason Games.

Thanks to Kate Gorman, Fort Mason Games!

#6- How to Win Friends & Influence People

Photo Credit: Dylan Schwartz

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie is my favorite business book; It teaches you how to get what you want and has helped me better understand, what true character is. I think about everything differently now. This book will change your life!

Thanks to Dylan Schwartz, Dylan Universe Comics!

#7- Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Photo Credit: David Gasparyan

Steve Jobs is a tremendous business book because it not only gives you an intense look at one of the most successful companies in the world, but it also stands as a portrait of the man who made it so. Covering Jobs' youth, his early visions of what technology could do for people, his rise and fall and comeback at Apple, and reaching up to his final days, this book is the definitive biography on Mr. Jobs. The author gives readers a fascinating look into the qualities that can create a titan of industry: creativity, perseverance, combativeness, empathy, and work ethic. While Jobs was no saint, the results of his intense and sometimes belligerent management style produced undeniably world-changing results. When I read this book, I try to follow his best instincts and practices while avoiding some of his more harmful or destructive tendencies. I would recommend that other business leaders would be wise to do the same.

Thanks to David Gasparyan, Phonexa!

#8- Play by Stuart Brown

Photo Credit: Karen Hough

I recommend the book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, by Stuart Brown, M.D. Finally a book that clearly outlines why we all need to play, how it affected our evolution, and why it's the critical difference in our success. Packed with research and stories, it fuels this improviser's heart and confirms my beliefs in the power of playfulness.

Thanks to Karen Hough, ImprovEdge, LLC!

#9- The Power of Habit

Photo Credit: Adam Greenbaum

Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. It's helped tremendously both personally and professionally as I've dealt with anger and procrastination issues in the past. For some odd reason, reading this book a few times helping me recognize triggers, and creates a habit of catching these behaviors as they happen and how to combat them. Why does anyone do anything? We've been creating habits for everything we do since we were born. It takes a serious effort to reverse some of our worst habits.

Thanks to Adam Greenbaum, WhiskerCloud!

#10-Grow! Inbound Marketing System by Donnie Shelton

Photo Credit: Eric Hoffer

An easy to read and actionable book covering inbound marketing for local, small business owners in the home service industry. Digital and inbound marketing can be complicated concepts, but this book explains it in a way that's both easy to understand and easy to implement. The author breaks down each step with action items and includes free resources to help. For my company, I found the chapter reviewing how to create a marketing plan particularly helpful, allowing us to better work with our marketing company to make strategies that align with our goals. If you are a local business owner, there is something for you in this book.

Thanks to Eric Hoffer, Hoffer Pest Solutions!

#11-The Great Game of Business

Photo Credit: Simon Chatfield

My favorite business book is The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack. It covers the concept of bringing your employees and teams in on the key drivers that they can do to directly impact the business. This enables the business and everyone in it to take ownership. In many ways business is a game and at OptimumHQ we like to have fun, but if you don’t know what the score is how do you know if you’re winning or not?

Thanks to Simon Chatfield, OptimumHQ!

#12-Think And Grow Rich

Photo Credit: Jon Rhodes

My favourite business book is Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. He spent over 25 years following elite business minds such as Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and the Rockefeller's. He saw similarities in how they thought and acted. His 25 years of research and observations are boiled down and easily accessible in this one book. In a nutshell it shows you how to think like a successful person. This can be applied to business, or any other endeavour. Former boxer Ken Norton was known to have read this book before beating heavyweight kind Muhammed Ali.

Thanks to Jon Rhodes, HypnoBusters!

#13-The Effective Executive

Photo Credit: Michael Brand

Even 10 years after his death, Peter Drucker continues to have an outsized impact on my approach to leadership. His book, The Effective Executive, has been within arms reach since I first read it 25-30 years ago. The book is even more salient now with the waves of information flowing over the CEO's office that it requires enormous discipline to: set the right priorities, play to one's strengths, and manage time. It is so easyy to get distracted that many leaders never notice how far off track they've wandered. Drucker keeps me focused on what is necessary top be effective.

Thanks to Michael Brand, Oregon City!

#14-Contagious: How Things Catch On

Photo Credit: Vanky Kenny Kataria

My favourite business book is ‘Contagious: How Things Catch On' by Jonah Berger, Wharton Marketing Professor who underlines the importance of word of good mouth in this book. He believes that word of mouth is 10 times more effective than advertising and that people care more about what others are using rather than wondering if the product is the best or not. That's what Mr.Berger said in an interview to ‘Business News Daily'. I had to read his book. His book highlights the 6 most important parameters of going viral viz. STEPPS that is Stories, Triggers, Emotion, Practical Value, Public (that is if it's visible to other people are not), Social Currency. In today's world of e-commerce and digital selling, Learning to reach to a large number of people is more than essential and the famous quote of Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd couldn't have been more fitting! We live in a world where we see reviews, reccomendations and trust products that our friends or family refer us. This underlines the importance of word of mouth publicity in today's world and Jonah Berger couldn't have put forward it more simply. It's a must read for businesses who believe in the traditional mouth to mouth publicity in today's world where sharing the word and sharing that you love with your friend couldn't have been more easier.

Thanks to Vanky Kenny Kataria

#15-Make Big Happen

Photo Credit: Ross Vierra

Having read countless business books across a spectrum of industry and topics my current favorite is “Make Big Happen” by Mark Moses of CEO Coaching International and fellow YPO member. This first-hand account of real-world struggles, failures, and successes in both business and personal life serve as an inspirational message on how to drive through any obstacle and create thinking and a life that is larger than you might believe you can obtain. Restructuring and building the right team to support this vision and having the relationships and a strategy for success are what this book provides in a common sense real-world application. We learn best at times from failures and we gain confidence when we know we are not alone in the entrepreneurial battle to create an amazing business and life. Mark Moses shares his story with fellow entrepreneurs and it has made a difference in my world.

Thanks to Ross Vierra, Axis Global Enterprises!

#16-Start With Why

Photo Credit: Paige Arnof-Fenn

There are a lot of great business books out there but one I highly recommend is Start With Why by Simon Sinek. He shows how successful leaders throughout history have been able to inspire their organizations to achieve greatness by identifying the underlying motivation. It is a compelling book to show how great leaders become influential when they can answer why they do what they do and connect with people on an emotional level.

Thanks to Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls!

#17-The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson

Photo Credit: Ian McClarty

If you are looking for a book to engage your entrepreneurial spirit, this is it. The book is written in an engaging manner that is easy to read over a weekend. Jeff Olson talks about how he started to change his life, little by little, by merely engaging in slight behavioral changes regularly. This resonated with me, small moves, not the typical business book suggesting sweeping actions. He dives into the two sides of the success path that humans tend to fall off: Not doing anything at all and planning too much for their day. He talks about how the tiny habits you incorporate into your life build on each other and create a powerful compounding effect, but the habits have to be small enough to accomplish on a daily basis. They have to be so small that you consider it almost ridiculous to even do them. Then, you just have to make sure that you do them every day, rather than putting them off.

Thanks to Ian McClarty, PhoenixNAP Global IT Services!

#18-Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson

Photo Credit: Rune Sovndahl

The allegory behind the title reveals a thought-provoking story about how different people face and handle change in their personal and business lives. Johnson’s book has helped me to get better at keeping my cool when facing a crisis at work, and be faster in problem resolution, much like the characters in the book.

Thanks to Rune Sovndahl, Fantastic Services!

#19-Profit First

Photo Credit: Mallory Ottariano

Profit First has revolutionized my real-time budgeting, by enabling me to truly see where my money is going and giving me control over distributing it. It proposes an amazingly intuitive system of setting aside percentages of each deposit for Profit, Owners Comp, Taxes, and Operating Expenses. As a young entrepreneur who is used to bootstrapping my young company, it’s given me financial freedom by making sure I pay myself first. As a creative female entrepreneur, In the Company of Women, is incredibly inspiring to me. It’s a collection of other creative female entrepreneurs’ interview-style answers to big picture questions. I’ve learned so much from the experiences of others, and watching how they’ve navigated the ups and downs of starting and growing businesses.

Thanks to Mallory Ottariano, Kind Apparel!

#20-Leading by Alex Ferguson

Photo Credit: John P. Farrell, Esq.

As the owner of a small law firm, I’m always looking for books that educate and inspire and Leading by Alex Ferguson accomplishes both. If you are the CEO or owner of a small business, Leading is a must-read. It takes incredible leadership skills to go from managing a sports team to becoming a Fellow at Harvard Business School. In Leading, Sir Alex Ferguson explains how to lead a team to sustained world-class success and his insights give readers a framework for leading all kinds of teams. With chapters on assembling the team, setting standards, and business development, the book offers a case study on leadership. “Never give in,” he says. “If you give in once, you’ll give in twice.” Perhaps that is why he was so adept at winning in the last moments of a game. So much so that they renamed the end of a game to “Fergie time” because he won so many games by leading his team to victory.

Thanks to John P. Farrell, Esq.,The Farrell Law Firm, PC!


Photo Credit: Julie Schoerke

Bryan E. Robinson, Ph.D., is the author of the new book #CHILL: TURN OFF YOUR JOB AND TURN ON YOUR LIFE, licensed psychotherapist and professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina and author of Psychology Today's Right Mindset. It's time to stop cheating on your life is the premise of the book. Finding work/life balance is key for those of us who have become addicted to work for the sake of work. I find reasons to bury myself in work when I really should be closing my computer and walking out of the office. Mindfulness and quiet actually make us more productive when we take the time to turn off. This book provides a month-by-month manifesto to zero in on the workaholic behaviors that squelch the rest of life. I feel healthier and more well-balanced since following the steps.

Thanks to Julie Schoerke, JKS Communications!

#22-What Got You Here Won't Get You There

Photo Credit: Ted Draper

With advanced degrees in business and theology, I have read my share of business books. My bookshelf reflects this statement. While there are a lot of really great leadership books out on business, leadership and management, my favorite did not come from a class or a podcast. It was given to me by a CEO, mentor and friend … as he stepped into the CEO role, he passed along What Got You Here Won't Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith. When I read this book, it pokes me in my good eye. As leaders, we rely upon habits and instincts which have helped us rise through the ranks. Goldsmith gives amazing gems of practical leadership advice on many topics including asking for forgiveness, providing gratitude and feedback, to apologizing. The book is both principle-based and story-driven, making it a comfortable read that I reference over and over again as I work to break dysfunctional elements of my leadership and grow
to be a better leader.

Thanks to Ted Draper, ORPHANetwork!

#23-The 4-Hour Workweek

Photo Credit: Austin Lawson

There are many great books on the market today, but there are few that flip your world upside down and give your mindset the beating it really needs. The one book that I continuously go back to and have read seven times to date is the 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. While this book does provide much pertinent business information, it’s everything else that draws me back in. This book taught me that I can’t do everything all by myself, that my time is valuable and sometimes I’m the thing that’s holding my business back. Reading this book encouraged me to take a step back, allow others to take responsibility and make decisions. By taking myself out of the picture on many minor issues, my businesses are lean, agile and can act quickly in many areas. I guess you can say that I’m more of a growth and big picture kind of guy now.

Thanks to Austin Lawson, The Combat Entrepreneur Flyer Jobs!

#24- How to Get Sh*t Done

Photo Credit: Nikki James Zellner

For women entrepreneurs – specifically those who are wives, mothers, and business owners – look no farther than How to Get Sh*t Done by Erin Falconer. From the moment I picked up the book, I felt the author was in my room, speaking directly to each of my work-life related hang-ups. It's a book for women who need to stop doing everything, so that they can achieve anything – and I literally tell everyone in my sphere of influence about it anytime someone asks me for a reading recommendation. It blends no-nonsense coaching with brilliant, relatable storytelling – and helps you move from A to Z in your business and personal life. I went from dreaming of a business to actually owning one thanks to some of the techniques I learned in this book. It really helped to reframe not only priorities, but productivity.

Thanks to Nikki James Zellner, Where Content Connects™!

#24-Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Photo Credit: Brandon Renfro

It isn’t a typical business book. It goes in-depth on human psychology and describes the way people, and therefore customers or clients, make decisions. If you properly understand the way people think you can communicate with them much more effectively. The ideas in this book can help you shape the way you market your services too.

Thanks to Brandon Renfro

#25-Business Adventures by John Brooks

Photo Credit: Nate Masterson

This book is one of my favorites because it talks about companies’ failures. Not just your average companies, *big *companies. These failures were defining moments in the companies’ careers. All of these accounts are relevant to understanding the intricacies of the corporate world. Just as relevant today as when the events happened. Bill Gates has even said that this is his favorite business book he’s ever read.

Thanks to Nate Masterson, Maple Holistics!

What’s your favorite inspirational business book? Tell us in the comments below. Don’t forget to join our #IamCEO Community.

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