Best Business Startup Books for Founders
As an entrepreneur, one of the best ways to learn from others' mistakes, challenges, and experiences is to grab a good book or two and get reading!
Books are a treasure trove of knowledge and will let you into the minds of great business owners, founders, and inventors throughout history. If you could sit down and get some of the best bits of wisdom from the great minds of the last century, wouldn’t you do so?
Books can help you stay motivated, learn from leaders, and even help you get funding for your startup if you’re in the beginning stages of growth and product development.
So, grab your reading glasses — we’ve compiled a list of the best startup books for founders and aspiring entrepreneurs. Whether you’re looking for strategies, inspiration, or advice for launching your startup — you’re in the right place.
We also asked a variety of founders to recommend their favorite books on entrepreneurship. Check out the video below!
1. ‘The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses’ by Eric Ries
Considered by many to be an essential read for entrepreneurs, “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries details the author’s approach to building a successful startup that is financially efficient and allows for optimal innovation and creativity.
The tactic itself is based on lean manufacturing practices that encourage quick learning, adaptability, and shorter production cycles while still emphasizing the importance of customer feedback.
Discover more of the best lean startup books.
2. ‘Zero to One’ by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters
Next on our list of the best startup books is “Zero to One.” The foundational argument of “Zero to One” is that not only is technological innovation stagnant but that it can be developed beyond computers and Silicon Valley.
The crucial lesson and Thiel’s solution for his proposed problem is that entrepreneurs and founders must learn to think for themselves to create something truly impactful. A positive nod to the future, “Zero to One” offers an outline to becoming a true innovator in the startup world and beyond.
3. ‘Steve Jobs’ by Walter Isaacson
This startup book was written by Walter Isaacson at the request of Steve Jobs himself, in an attempt to capture his entire life’s story and journey while he built up Apple as a co-founder. If you want to know how one of the greatest companies in the world was built and the struggles Steve Jobs faced to get there, this biography is an excellent addition to your startup books collection.
Explore more business biographies for entrepreneurs.
4. ‘Purple Cow’ by Seth Godin
A "Purple Cow" is something that is unbelievable, counterintuitive, or phenomenal about a product or service, something that Seth Godin argues should be in everything a startup founder puts out into the marketplace. Learn about how to distinguish your products and services from the competition by adding an element that most don’t have.
Check out our interview with Seth Godin!
5. ‘Start With Why’ by Simon Sinek
“Start With Why” begins by doing exactly what the name suggests, starting with why some startups and founders are more successful than others and what they have in common. Sinek argues, the fundamental trait influential people share is that they start with asking “why” to better understand the problem, the ones experiencing it, and the correct solution.
6. ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ by Timothy Ferriss
Most of us can say we have daydreamed about ditching the nine to five while still making money. Timothy Ferriss, however, made that a reality. In his book “The 4-Hour Workweek,” Ferriss details his journey from making $40,000 in a year to $40,000 in a day and working only 4 hours a week.
In addition, the book, now updated and extended, provides helpful insights and real tools that entrepreneurs can use to build their dream startup life.
Explore more top productivity books for entrepreneurs.
7. ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is one of the best business books out there. If you believe that operating a successful startup starts with building strong personal and professional habits, this may be the perfect book to support your entrepreneurial journey.
A holistic approach to developing strong personal and professional skills, this book outlines the ways anyone can become more effective at instigating change through fairness, humanity, and integrity.
8. ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’ by Ben Horowitz
Many know Ben Horowitz as cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and as an entrepreneurial icon. His book, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things,” provides readers with an inside look into the successful entrepreneur’s tricks of the trade, making it one of the best startup business books out there. Written with honesty and humor, this book provides insight into everything from navigating competition to building a CEO mindset.
Discover more of the best leadership books for entrepreneurs.
9. ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins
“Good to Great” details an extensive study of companies that are either doing poorly, simply mediocre, or without a solid foundation. Collins covers the ones that achieve greatness and the ones that don’t. Then, the book dives into what makes each company different and what business owners can learn about taking a company from good to great, no matter what state the business is in.
Looking for more book recommendations? We asked startup founders to share their favorite books on entrepreneurship, and here's what they said.
10. ‘Rework’ by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
“Rework” isn’t your typical startup book. Authors Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson challenge the status quo of what is expected from entrepreneurs starting a business. From scrapping your business plan to forgoing investors — forget what you know about starting a company the traditional way. “Rework” will show you how to do it differently and, potentially, better than before.
11. ‘Creativity, Inc.’ by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
"Creativity, Inc." was written to describe the business decisions and journey Pixar and Disney took to dominate the animation industry and creative industries simultaneously. If you want to learn how some of the biggest animation studios grew their brands, this may be a great read for you.
12. ‘Founders at Work’ by Jessica Livingston
"Founders at Work" is a book that looks at the beginning days of 30 influential startups in the United States and the journeys they took to succeed. If you want to read about the twists and turns of entrepreneurship and how famous founders navigated the ups and downs, there can be an educational nugget of wisdom in this book just for you.
13. ‘The Startup Owner’s Manual’ by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf
A step-by-step guide to everything entrepreneurs need to know about launching, managing, and growing a startup — according to authors Steve Blank and Bob Dorf. From identifying your target market (and how to reach them) to creating a scalable startup model that is poised for rapid growth.
“The Startup Owner’s Manual” provides insight into each step of startup ownership and is used by entrepreneurs and universities across the country, solidifying its spot as one of the best startup books to add to your shelf.
14. ‘The $100 Startup’ by Chris Guillebeau
Chris Guillebeau, author of “The $100 Startup,” was still in his early thirties when he completed a tour of every country in the world — without ever having worked a “real job.” This book is a look into several cases researched by Guillebeau of entrepreneurs who built a successful business with a modest investment, typically less than $100.
An easy-to-read guide to building a startup out of nothing, “The $100 Startup” is a testament to the power of a great idea and the willingness to just go for it.
15. ‘Mastering the VC Game’ by Jeff Bussgang
In "Mastering the VC Game," Jeff Bussgang dives into the secrets of the venture capital world and how you can create the perfect pitch, get noticed, and negotiate a deal or partnership that makes you and the venture capitalists happy.
Explore more venture capital books for startup founders.
16. ‘The Mom Test’ by Rob Fitzpatrick
"The Mom Test" is a book that identifies several simple rules for asking good questions – questions that even your mom wouldn’t be able to lie to you about! When you ask good questions, you’ll be able to learn more about your customers and, in turn, grow your business.
Discover more of the best books on startup ideas.
17. ‘Leading at the Speed of Growth’ by Katherine Catlin and Jana Matthews
“Leading at the Speed of Growth” is another one of the best entrepreneur books to add to your reading list. Developed by the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, “Leading at the Speed of Growth” is a collection of over 500 impactful stories from successful entrepreneurs.
The focus of this book is to give entrepreneurs a deeper understanding of how to grow and scale their startup through insights on everything from spotting red flags to being an effective leader during critical stages of startup ownership. This is an excellent startup book to learn from actual entrepreneurs the necessary tactics for rapid growth.
18. ‘How to Win Friends & Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie
"How to Win Friends and Influence People" is a book about networking your way to success and getting along with others in your personal and professional relationships. You’ll learn about how to become friends with anyone and everyone and how to change other people’s behavior by first changing your own.
19. ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill
One of the most invaluable startup books, "Think and Grow Rich" was book published in 1937 and written by Napoleon Hill about the power of the brain and our thoughts. Whatever we think on a consistent basis is what we end up creating in our own lives, and examining our thought process in order to further grow your business is an interesting prospect.
20. ‘Radical Candor’ by Kim Scott
"Radical Candor" is a book dedicated to helping people become great managers, bosses, and leaders as a whole. As a company founder, you’ll be in charge of other employees and frequently deal with business partners. This means that your leadership skills should be on point, which is what this book aims to help with.
21. ‘Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fast-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success’ by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown
“Hacking Growth” is next on our curated list of the best startup books to read. For many founders, building a growth-oriented startup is at the core of their business planning. For many founders, building a growth-oriented startup is at the core of their business planning.
“Hacking Growth” helps readers understand the elements to drive growth using real-life examples of companies that have experienced success of this kind. Additionally, the authors walk you through a hypothetical scenario of the results of their growth strategy to provide a clear example of the process from start to finish.
22. ‘Startupland’ by Mikkel Svane
From the founder of Zendesk, Mikkel Svane’s helpful startup guide “Startupland” walks the reader through his experience as founder and CEO of a successful startup, providing beneficial insights along the way. Startupland is a great resource for entrepreneurs from all walks of life to learn how to hire the right team and launch a thriving company despite potential risks.
23. ‘Unapologetically Ambitious’ by Shellye Archambeau
"Unapologetically Ambitious" is a story about an African American female CEO who was able to rise to the top in Silicon Valley. If you want to learn about the journey, valuable lessons, strategies, and other techniques that she used to achieve her goals, this book is for you.
Listen to our interview with Shellye Archambeau below!
24. ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg and Nell Scovell
"Lean In" is a book written for women as an encouragement to assert themselves in their professional lives and at home. If you’re a female entrepreneur who wants to be a leader and take control of your own life to push yourself towards success, this is a great read.
Discover more inspiring books for women entrepreneurs.
25. ‘Building an Elite Organization’ by Don Wenner
"Building an Elite Organization" is a book that’s all about scaling high-profit, high-growth companies successfully. You’ll learn all about the Elite Execution System Wenner’s companies use in order to drive growth and increase their profitability.
26. ‘Who’ by Geoff Smart and Randy Street
"Who," written by Geoff Smart, is a book about hiring. If you work in a startup, especially in a leadership role, you’ll likely be tasked with finding and interviewing candidates to fill positions within your company. This book provides a four-step approach that lets you hire top talent for all levels of your organization.
27. ‘Why Startups Fail’ by Tom Eisenmann
You’ve often heard that a large percentage of startups fail within just the first few years of their operation but have you ever wondered why? “Why Startups Fail” is a book that identifies six distinct failure patterns in startups and helps you avoid making the same mistakes in your own company.
Check out our interview with Tom Eisenmann!
28. ‘Thrive’ by Arianna Huffington
If you’re driven and willing to do what it takes to succeed in the startup world, perhaps you’re missing a key ingredient in your perception of what true success looks like. In "Thrive," Arianna Huffington attempts to shine a light on what’s missing in our modern definitions of success and how you can implement the missing ingredient into your life in order to avoid burnout and unhappiness.
29. ‘Start Something That Matters’ by Blake Mycoskie
"Start Something That Matters" is a book written about TOMS which is considered to be one of the fastest-growing shoe companies worldwide. Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS, tells the story of how he started the company and the challenges he faced along the way.
30. ‘The Startup Checklist’ by David S. Rose
"The Startup Checklist" is a simple book that’s meant to be a step-by-step plan for starting a successful business. In this book, David Rose describes how you can develop a lean startup plan and begin creating value and solving problems in the world.
What to Look for in Startup Books
When looking at books, you can read to help you build your startup from the ground up, there are several helpful aspects found in great startup books that you should be on the lookout for.
Author Experience and Expertise
Every book you read about entrepreneurship, business, and getting funding and capital for your startup should be written by an author who has experienced what they teach in their own lives. If you aren’t sure, take a moment to research the author and make sure they have the experience required to be an expert on the topic.
Nuggets of Wisdom
While reading, be on the lookout for nuggets of wisdom that you should write down and reread every once in a while. When you read a book initially, you’ll likely forget a big chunk of the book’s content immediately after you put it down. To mitigate this, take notes and keep track of those nuggets of wisdom in order to keep them fresh in your mind.
A New Perspective
Be on the lookout for new perspectives and ways to look at business and entrepreneurship. You have your own life experiences, and the authors you’re learning from will have their own. It’s important to reflect on how these authors interpret and react to different aspects of life and business and see if you can adopt their best perspectives to your own day-to-day life.
What's your favorite startup book? Let us know in the comments!