The 38 Best Startup Books Every Founder Should Read in 2022

Young man sipping coffee and reading a book.

Some of the most impactful insight for entrepreneurs is found in the pages of a well-written business book. But, as an aspiring or existing founder, you might not have the time to find the most valuable entrepreneur books for your startup goals. We are here to help with this guide to the best startup books every founder should read in 2022, as well as who each book is best suited to.

Also Recommended: Startup Founders Share Their Favorite Books on Entrepreneurship

Best Business Startup Books for Entrepreneurs

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 business 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 startup founders to recommend their favorite books on entrepreneurship. Check out the video below!

1. ‘The Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries

About

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.

Best For:

  • Early-stage startups
  • Startup management

2. ‘Zero to One’ by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters

About

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 space and beyond. 

Best For:

  • Entrepreneurs developing new startup ideas
  • Founders creating new ideas

3. ‘Steve Jobs’ by Walter Isaacson

About:

This 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 starting point. 

Best For:

  • Entrepreneurs looking to go big
  • Startup founders who want to learn from historical visionaries

4. ‘Purple Cow’ by Seth Godin

About:

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 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. 

Best For:

  • Learning how to stand out in the marketplace
  • Lessons on creative advertising

Check out our interview with Seth Godin!

5. ‘Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action’ by Simon Sinek

About

“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. 

Best For:

  • Founders developing startup ideas
  • Startup leadership and management

6. ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ by Timothy Ferriss

About

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 life. 

Best For:

  • Aspiring entrepreneurs
  • Founders seeking motivation and inspiration

7. ‘Crushing It!’ by Gary Vaynerchuk

About:

"Crushing It" details Gary Vaynerchuk’s story and how he built his personal brand from start to finish. These days, building a personal brand can open up opportunities and allow you to expand into a wide ocean of possibilities in your own personal and professional life. If you’re interested in personal branding and how to reach success, consider reading Vaynerchuk’s take on the process. 

Best For:

  • Individuals who want to create a personal brand
  • Principles of social media and making yourself known

8. ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey

About

“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. 

Best For:

  • Social entrepreneurs
  • Startup management

9. ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’ by Ben Horowitz

About

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. 

Best For:

  • Growth-stage startups 
  • New startup founders

10. ‘Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't’ by Jim Collins

About

“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. 

Best For:

  • Established startup founders and entrepreneurs
  • Startup leadership

Looking for more book recommendations? We asked startup founders to share their favorite books on entrepreneurship, and here's what they said.

11. ‘Rework’ by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

About

“Rework” isn’t your typical business 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 business the traditional way. “Rework” will show you how to do it differently and, potentially, better than before. 

Best For:

  • Entrepreneurs developing new startup ideas
  • Founders creating new ideas

12. ‘Creativity, Inc.’ by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

About:

"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. 

Best For:

  • Creative individuals looking to grow their brands
  • Anyone interested in the history of Disney and Pixar

13. ‘Founders at Work’ by Jessica Livingston

About:

"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.

Best For:

  • Entrepreneurs who are struggling with their startup and need encouragement
  • Individuals interested in learning about the journey of entrepreneurship

14. ‘The Startup Owner’s Manual’ by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf

About

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.

Best For:

  • Early-stage startup founders
  • Aspiring entrepreneurs

15. ‘The $100 Startup’ by Chris Guillebeau

About

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. 

Best For:

  • Aspiring entrepreneurs
  • Founders looking for startup inspiration

16. ‘Mastering the VC Game’ by Jeff Bussgang

About:

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 everyone happy. 

Best For:

  • Founders looking for funding or startup capital
  • Anyone who wants to deal with a venture capital firm

17. ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter

About:

"Rich Dad Poor Dad" is a financial education book that walks through the stories of two dads, one who was the superintendent of a school and ended up poor, and another who was wealthy and had a different perspective on life. If you want to be financially savvy and learn about the mindsets of the wealthy, this book is a great place to start.

Best For:

  • Anyone seeking a financial education
  • Individuals who want to learn about the mindset of the wealthy vs. the mindset of the poor

18. ‘The Mom Test’ by Rob Fitzpatrick

About:

"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. 

Best For:

  • Entrepreneurs and founders who want to do better customer research
  • Anyone who wants to learn how to ask better questions

19. ‘Leading at the Speed of Growth’ by Katherine Catlin and Jana Matthews

About

“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 book to learn from actual entrepreneurs the necessary tactics for sustainable startup growth. 

Best For:

  • Startup management and leadership
  • Growth-oriented startup founders

20. ‘How to Win Friends & Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie

About:

"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. 

Best For:

  • Anyone who wants to improve their networking skills
  • Founders who want to improve their communication skills and negotiation skills

21. ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill

About:

"Think and Grow Rich" is an older 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. 

Best For:

  • Startup founders and entrepreneurs who want to improve their mindset
  • Anyone lacking motivation, vision, or willpower who wants to leverage the power of thought to succeed

22. ‘Radical Candor’ by Kim Scott

About:

"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. 

Best For:

  • Founders who want to improve their leadership skills
  • Anyone who manages or leads others in an organization or business

23. ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’ by Clayton Christensen

About

A Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and New York Times Business bestseller, “The Innovator’s Dilemma” is considered by many to be a must-read for entrepreneurs and CEOs. The concept of this highly-praised book is that startups can do everything right and still fail, which Christensen provides evidence to support. The Innovator’s Dilemma then provides crucial information for startup leadership to avoid making mistakes that could potentially result in failure. 

Best For:

  • Founders, CEOs, and startup leadership 
  • Growth-oriented startups

24. 'The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable’ by Patrick Lencioni

About

“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” is largely considered a must-read for entrepreneurs and anyone building a team. A practical guide to identifying the five typical dysfunctions of any team as well as methods to cure and grow from them. This business book provides valuable insight into management, hiring, and interpersonal communication in the workplace. 

Best For:

  • Early-stage startups 
  • Founders before the hiring process

25. ‘Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fast-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success’ by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown

About

“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. 

Best For:

  • Growth-stage startups
  • Tech startup founders 
  • Marketing directors or growth marketers

26. ‘Startupland’ by Mikkel Svane

About

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 successful startup despite potential risks. Perhaps most importantly, this book breaks down common myths of the startup sphere by arguing that startups do not need to be formed in Silicon Valley and can be wildly successful despite having a simple idea. 

Best For:

  • Entrepreneurs of all types
  • Unlikely entrepreneurs

27. ‘The Startup Playbook’ by David Kidder

About:

In "The Startup Playbook," you’ll learn from five founders of very successful companies and how they were able to grow their businesses from small startups into majorly successful enterprises. To learn what it takes to succeed in the business world, this is the perfect learning resource.

Best For:

  • Founders who want to grow their businesses and succeed
  • Individuals who want to learn about successful startups and their history

28. ‘Unapologetically Ambitious’ by Shellye Archambeau

About:

"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.

Best For:

  • Anyone who needs the motivation to succeed, no matter their race, color, or origin
  • Founders who want to learn about the journey of an African American female CEO who made it

29. ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell

About:

"Outliers" is a fascinating book written by Malcolm Gladwell that dives into what it takes to be successful. Throughout the book, Gladwell illustrates situations of successful people and what it took for them to reach their ultimate pinnacle of success. 

Best For:

  • Anyone interested in personal development and studying success
  • Founders who want to learn how the “greats” succeeded

30. ‘No Rules Rules’ by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer

About:

"No Rules Rules" is a book about Netflix and how the company culture and business grew into what it is today. If you want to learn about the culture of the company and how Netflix was run in an innovative way, this is a great read.

Best For:

  • Anyone who has watched or used Netflix and wonders how they did it
  • Founders who want to grow their business and learn from a successful company

31. ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg and Nell Scovell

About:

"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. 

Best For:

  • Female entrepreneurs who want to succeed
  • Learning how to overcome obstacles and operate in a workforce where gender inequality still exists

32. ‘Building an Elite Organization’ by Don Wenner

About:

"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. 

Best For:

  • Entrepreneurs looking to grow their business
  • Anyone looking for advice from someone who knows how to scale companies rapidly

33. ‘Who’ by Geoff Smart and Randy Street

About:

"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. 

Best For:

  • Hiring managers, executives, or anyone in charge of hiring
  • Individuals who want to know what goes into finding, hiring, and retaining top talent

34. ‘Why Startups Fail’ by Tom Eisenmann

About:

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. 

Best For:

  • Startup founders who want to build a successful business
  • Anyone interested in what makes startups fail and what makes them successful

Check out our interview with Tom Eisenmann!

35. ‘Thrive’ by Arianna Huffington

About:

If you’re driven and willing to do what it takes to succeed in business and life, 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. 

Best For:

  • Driven entrepreneurs or founders looking to build a successful business and life
  • Anyone interested in Arianna Huffington’s journey and learning about her “secret ingredient” to success

36. ‘The Innovation Stack’ by Jim McKelvey

About:

Written by the co-founder of payments company Square, "The Innovation Stack" dives into a first-person experience of entrepreneurship. If you want to solve problems and build a thriving business, Jim will walk you through the process and encourage you to take action every single day. 

Best For:

  • Entrepreneurs seeking motivation and help on their journey
  • Individuals interested in the journey of entrepreneurs and the challenges they face

Check out our interview with Jim McKelvey!

37. ‘Start Something That Matters’ by Blake Mycoskie

About:

"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.

Best For:

  • Founders looking to learn more about the journey of entrepreneurship
  • Anyone looking for information on the history of TOMS and how it grew into the company it is today

38. ‘The Startup Checklist’ by David S. Rose

About:

"The Startup Checklist" is a simple book that’s meant to be a step-by-step plan for starting a successful startup company. In this book, David Rose describes how you can develop a lean business plan and begin creating value and solving problems in the world. 

Best For:

  • Founders who like checking boxes and want to make sure they’re on the right track
  • Individuals who are interested in starting a company but don’t know where to begin

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 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!

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