The best must-read business books of all time…
What if a single lesson in a book could change the course of your life?
It’s happened for thousands of people: they’ve become wealthy, supercharged their business, or completely changed the course of their purpose in life.
Having read 100+ books in the last year, I want to give you a top ten list of the business books. This knowledge comes from a variety of sources, not just the books I have read, but also the thousands of podcasts, videos, and articles I’ve consumed over the years. I always keep my ears open for good book recommendations from super successful people because I know the value of a good book.
A good book is not just “text.” It is the secrets, instructions, and results of sometimes decades of testing, experimentation, mistakes, and experiences. You are literally shaving years off your learning curve with a good book.
When I look at other generic business book recommendation lists, I realize that they lack a higher level of understanding of book selection and how books work. Slapping a list together of the top 10 or top 50 or top 100 business books is rather misguided, in my opinion.
When I first started looking for book recommendations, I didn’t know any better myself.
But here’s what I think:
A good book is found by further breaking down specifically what you’re after.
For instance, rather than look at the hundreds of ‘top 200 business book’ viral lists out there, you want to search for the specific thing you need help with in the near future and go there. So if you need help with hiring for sales, you would look sales books or hiring books and find a great book that does just that, like The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes.
Let’s say you really need help with getting new customers and leads. Then, you would look for marketing books and find something like Jay Abraham’s Sticking Point Solution.
In addition to finding recommendations, you have to be able to discern whether it’s good or bad advice. Many people have been burned in the past for listening to horrible advice. Yet it’s rather unfortunate how little time people take in deciding whether a book should be read in the first place.
Yes, I understand that reading puts you ahead of those who don’t. But there is an opportunity cost of time.
You don’t want to be one of those people who waste half a year of their life on books that are useless to you. You only have a few decades of life and there’s hundreds of thousands of business books alone to choose from. And that number is growing every day.
Now, my entire website is dedicated to books and topics such as these, so I can’t go into detail in this post. But as a general rule of thumb, look at the credibility of the author or the information.
If this author has made a lot of money for a business, that’s a good sign. Other good signs include: the information has a lot of scientific evidence to back it up, there are tons of wealthy people recommending the book, there are successful people in the niche/area covered in the book recommending it, or the book has tons of testimonials of success stories (Think and Grow Rich pretty much has all of these things).
Here’s the bigger reason behind this:
Business has many components to it.
After diving deeply into the realm of business books out there, I realize that there are many components of a business that you can improve to increase your success.
These are just a sampling of the things you can do better: hiring, marketing, company culture, fostering creativity, more efficiency, human psychology, employee motivation, profits, leadership, business economics (why great businesses succeed), and so on.
And there are absolute ROCKSTARS in each of these categories that have some ground-breaking stuff to share with you on each of these things if you would let them. Creating Magic by Lee Cockerell is one of the best leadership books I have ever come across. I was blown away by how Mr. Cockerell managed the Orlanda Disney Resort that had tens of thousands of employees.
Now maybe these categories seem irrelevant or overwhelming to you.
First off, it’s not irrelevant. Each of these things can help add to the long-term profits, branding, impact, influence, and the longevity of a company far beyond what you can measure tangibly.
Second, don’t get overwhelmed. Because most people have mediocre businesses and are mediocre in most of these categories.
They haven’t read a single book in any of these categories. Many people just wing it. No one’s explained to them the value of the right $10 book. They don’t understand that the right book can make you hundreds of thousands of dollars, like it did for Ramit Sethi.
If someone has, as I’ve tried to do in the past to some people, they didn’t believe it.
Or maybe it’s because the market these days is flooded with unhelpful books since anyone can write a book these days.
Most people get through their whole life without reading more than a handful of books.
Heck, even a decent amount of millionaires have gotten there without reading more than a dozen business books, which include the titles everyone knows about, like Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. They read their books on generalized lists and recommendations.
And I guess there’s nothing wrong with that.
But it’s no coincidence that the top 100 most successful people I have come across studying all read constantly.
Have you seen the full recommended reading lists for Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Charlie Munger? All of them are very different and yet very, very long. (100+ books each)
Anyhow, the point of today’s article is to give you a top ten list of generalized business books.
With that whole speech, you may be asking WHY?
Well, people want to know, people search for business books, and don’t realize what I just told you.
And it’s still good to have a list of business books in general for people to get started.
Let me define specifically what this is and is not:
This is specifically on:
- specific business strategy
- books anyone in business should read before they die. Period. The earlier, the better.
- books that will literally save you a ton of time, effort, tears, and money if you implement what you hear early on.
This is not:
- generalized wealth accumulation books. Maybe that’s a list for another day.
- Law of attraction or general stuff. I’ve seen people frustrated with that because it’s too vague and they’re left with no direction after years of reading books like that.
As an important note:
- Make sure you implement what you learn. Don’t just read.
- I believe that depth is more important than frequency. Some books are so good they are worth reading ten times. It may be better to keep these around and consult them constantly rather than cranking out 3 new books a day.
Ten Best Business Books of All Time
Note: I will get a small commission if you buy from the links in this article at no extra cost to you. I recommend them because they are useful, not for the commission.
1. Made in America by Sam Walton
A timeless classic on many components of a good, lasting, growing business. A lot of the directions and secrets are verbatim. He tells you straight forward what you should do. Although there is a bit of reading in between the lines to find advice since it is telling his own story, this one is gold. You should keep this with you to consult constantly and come back to. That’s exactly what Amazon found Jeff Bezos does. If you adjust for inflation, some people argue he’s made more money than any human to ever exist.
A lot of successful businessmen have recommended this book. They say that it would have saved them years of time if they had read this earlier. I’m constantly looking for phrases like this and my ears perked up immediately, especially after it was said so many times. You will learn: about many components of being a success in business: productivity, hiring, decisions, management, etc. Sam Walton’s book was more of a timeless, golden, classic. This one is more on modern day strategy, referencing emails, text messages, and so on.
3. Good to Great
One of my favorites. This is one I consult with regularly. I love it because of the science. There’s a ton of experimentation to the results they have found. And what they find is so shocking. You will learn: surprising common themes of the most profitable businesses in history that are quite counter-intuitive.
4. Laws of Success
Napoleon Hill spend 20+ years studying the most wealthy people in the world. He wrote a book. This one. Not Think and Grow Rich. That was made as a mini-version because this was too thick and expensive for people to buy. Although it is much less well known, this is what you should read. This is his true flagship book. You will learn: psychology, mindset, biology, habits, social skills, exercises, and habits that are truly timeless to creating wealth.
5. The Lean Start-Up
One main theme of this is that business schools have taught quite differently from what successful businesses actually do. This book has set out to change that. Written by someone who has years of experience in the real world and success to back it up, it’s a great book for anyone getting started with not a lot of cash. You will learn: strategies for starting a business that actually work
6. Influence by Cialdini
I first heard about this because it was recommended to me by billionaire Charlie Munger. It’s rather unfortunate because people have been mis-using this to manipulate people into making money. I don’t think they understand the full power of this book either. Munger talks about the Lollapalooza effect, where if you use many psychological biases at once, humans do very irrational, crazy things. I think the best use of this book is to use this ethically to protect yourself and for your success, as Munger would have wanted. I truly think that’s the best way anyhow. It’s much better in the long run for a lot of reasons to actually be of value. No risk of incarceration, loss of reputation, and always having to trick others. You will learn: how humans are flawed due to many faulty psychological biases that helped us in our pre-historic past.
7. Built to Last
By the same author of Good to Great. Not as good, in my opinion, but still worthy to be read at least once. You will learn a lot of strategies on long-term foundation and longevity of a business. People under-emphasize the importance of this. They don’t realize how competitive the business world is. 90% of the companies on the Dow Jones Industrial Average from 50 years ago are bankrupt or gone to put things in perspective.
8. Business Adventures
This is the #1 favorite business book of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. I hadn’t heard of it when it was first mentioned. It was apparently out of print. I jumped at this when I heard about it. It wasn’t exactly my favorite book because the chapters were simply stories without clear, distinct lessons. There’s a lot of reading in between the lines to figure out the lessons being taught, more so than most books I have read. Some things I only understood because I used to be in the value investing niche. If you like anything by Michael Lewis, you’ll love this. It’s a very similar way of writing. You will learn: why a business with one of the biggest budgets in the world can fail, why seemingly clear communication can come across unclear and bring ruin to a company like GE, the volatility and nature of the stock market, global economics, and frenzied human herd mentality.
9. Creating Magic
I mentioned this book earlier. You will learn: incredible insights and perspectives on leadership and managing people, how to create lasting company culture, and lasting impressions. And much, much more.
10. E-Myth Revisited
I found this book very helpful for people transitioning from employee to business owner. There are quite a few mindset shifts you have to make that will get you far. Having said that, I would put this on the bottom of my list in terms of priority to read.
Note: links used for books in this post are affiliate links. I will get a small commission if you purchase through my link.
Other than these top 10, here are some honorable mentions:
I have catered this list to what I think is digestable and targeted for people who are interested in business books in general. I have left out material that is much more dense or specific to certain goals.
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – actionable, specific advice on general efficiency
- Greatest Salesman of all time – very well known book. Surprisingly, it is not about selling that much. It’s about law of attraction stuff and general success habits, perspectives, and mindsets.
- How to Win friends and Influence People – See Never Eat Alone.
- Never Eat Alone – People call this the modern day “How to Win friends and Influence People.” I wouldn’t say so. HTWFAIP is a timeless classic with advice that will always work, which is not exclusive to business. Never Eat Alone is much more practical and applicable information on networking, connecting, and reaching out to people in the modern day business world with modern day technology.
- Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell – He’s well known for a reason. Good analytical and statistical analysis of success.
- The One Thing by Gary Keller – Not one of my favorites, but a TON of other people love it. It has decent information so it’s worth putting on here. You will learn about time management and productivity
- 4 Hour Work Week – Tim Ferriss‘s book on productivity, life hacking, outsourcing, and travel hacking. Tim takes a very life hacker approach to everything, which is different from me. I’m more of a “learn working principles from successful businesses and individuals based off science and results.” He’s more of a productivity hacker.
This article is constantly being tweaked and edited. Books will be removed and added.
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