20 of the Best Business Books You Should Start Reading Today

business books

By Tricia McKinnon

Warren Buffet has said many times that one of the keys to his success is reading.  At the beginning of his investing career he would read 600 to 1000 pages each day.  Now he still devotes 80% of his day to reading.  A piece of advice he gave to students in a Columbia University investing class was: “read 500 pages like this every day, [while reaching toward a stack of manuals and papers.]” “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”  

Do you have a love for reading?  I do. I don’t read hundreds of pages every day but I have read over 200 books over the past few years.  If you are looking for a recommendation for a a good business book to read or are searching for a book to give to a friend, here are some of the best business books I have read.  The books cover a variety of topics from how to develop a more positive mindset to sales and marketing to human nature.  Why is a book on human nature on the list?  If you have ever had a bad boss then Robert Greene’s The Laws of Human Nature can help you to figure out how to navigate the situation more effectively.  I hope you love my top recommendations!

1.  Mindset, The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

Mindset, The New Psychology of success

Dweck writes about the two types of mindsets that exist within people: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe that if they have failed at something (i.e. a project at work or they didn’t get a job that they wanted) they will never achieve their goals. With a growth mindset failure doesn’t define you. It’s a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from. If you are struggling to achieve a personal or professional goal or learn something new this book can get you moving in the right direction.
 
One of my favourite quotes from the book is: "in the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail – or if you’re not the best – it’s all been wasted. The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome. They’re tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues." Buy it here.

2. Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Leadership in Turbulent Times

This book traces the life stories of four former US Presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson.  The book starts in their childhood and discusses all of their major life events including how and when they became President.  It discusses the adversity each President faced on their path to success. For example, Franklin D. Roosevelt suffered from polio but that did not stop him from pursuing his dream of becoming President.  I found their stories inspiring and a reminder of what is possible with some faith, hard work and resilience.  
 
One of my favourite quotes from this book is:  "[Theodore Roosevelt] questioned if leadership success could be obtained by attaching oneself to a series of titled positions.  If a person focused too much on a future that could not be controlled, he would become, Roosevelt acknowledged, too ‘careful, calculating, cautious in word and act'.  Thereafter, [Roosevelt] would jettison long-term career calculations and focus simply on whatever job opportunity came his way.” Buy it here.

3. Never Lose a Customer Again by Joey Coleman

Never Lose a Customer Again

This book outlines what companies should do within the first 100 days of a new customer relationship to create long lasting loyalty.  The author advocates that most companies lose customers because the customer feels neglected after the sale is made.   One of the best practices he provides comes from Apple which has skillfully focused on the importance of immediate gratification after a product is sold.   Coleman writes that back in 2001 the introduction of the iPod was a revolutionary moment in the world of tech and music.  Steve Jobs noticed that almost every new product at that time needed to be charged before you could use it.  This was a customer pain point and after realizing this Jobs demanded that Apple ship the iPod pre-charged so the customer could immediately experience it.   Today many products that are battery operated come pre-charged but at the time Apple’s focus on creating a great experience even after the sale was complete shows that it is important to remove any barriers to your customer's experience of a product immediately upon receipt no matter how small they seem.
 
One of my favourite quotes in the book is when the author says that: “the typical business does a great job of getting the attention of the customer and persuading them to buy but then does very little to create meaningful or remarkable experiences after the sale”. Buy it here. 

4. The Everything Store, Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone

The Everything Store, Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

This book provides an in-depth look at Amazon's growth.  The book starts off with how Jeff Bezos came up with the idea to initially build the world’s largest bookstore.   It covers the framework that Bezos used to decide if he should leave a comfortable and well-paying job on Wall Street to start an entrepreneurial venture.  Bezos thought that when he was eighty he would not look back and regret leaving a stable job but would regret not participating in the internet revolution. 
 
One of my favourite quotes from the book is a reference to a popular strategy book called the Innovator’s Dilemma by Harvard professor Clayton Christensen.  “Christensen wrote that great companies fail not because they want to avoid disruptive change but because they are reluctant to embrace promising new markets that might undermine their traditional businesses and that do not appear to satisfy their short-term growth requirements.” Buy it here.

5.  Shoe Dog, A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Knight 

Shoe Dog, A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE

This book chronicles how Knight started what we know today as the Nike empire by borrowing $50 from his dad.  The mission of his company when it launched in 1964 was to: import high-quality, low-cost running shoes from Japan. Knight believed that Japanese shoe brands could penetrate the US market and be priced to undercut Adidas resulting in a profitable venture.  Knight began by selling Japanese branded shoes from the trunk of his car. In the first year of his business he made $8,000.  That pales in comparison to the more than $35 billion in annual sales that Nike now generates.  The book is an inspiring story of how to turn a great idea into a global business.  
 
One of my favourite quotes in this book is from Knight who said: "the world is made up of crazy ideas.  History is one long processional of crazy ideas.  The things I loved most – books, sports, democracy, free enterprise -started as crazy ideas" . Buy it here

6.  The Laws of Human Nature by Robert by Greene

The Laws of Human Nature

This book provides deep insight into what motivates the actions of the people around us.  Since business is really about people this book can provide you with more insight into the why behind the actions of your colleagues, customers and even yourself. It’s a great book to read if you are interested in getting better at managing and dealing with people. Instead of approaching challenging situations in the same old ways read this book and you will be surprised by how much you learn about human nature and how you can turn that knowledge into more successful relationships.
 
One of my favourite quotes in this book is: “the greatest danger you face is your general assumption that you really understand people and that you can quickly judge and categorize them. Instead, you must begin with the assumption that you are ignorant and that you have natural biases that will make you judge people incorrectly.” Buy it here. 

7.  Originals, How Non-Conformists Move the World Forward by Adam Grant

Originals, How Non-Conformists Move the World Forward

This book is about how we can all become more original. Originals, according to the author, are people who take the initiative to make their visions a reality.  Some of the originals the author profiles in the book are the founder(s) of Warby Parker, Google and Nike. The author’s goal is to help people develop the courage and strategies to pursue originality.  He does this by debunking many myths about originality including that it requires extreme risk taking.  For example, according to research entrepreneurs who kept their day jobs when starting out had 33% lower odds of failure than those that quit. The book also provides readers with ideas about how to create cultures of originality in their teams and organizations.
 
One of my favourite quotes in this book is: “the most successful originals are not the daredevils who leap before they look.  They are the ones who reluctantly tiptoe to the edge of a cliff, calculate the rate of descent, triple-check their parachutes, and set up a safety net at the bottom just in case”. Buy it here

8.  Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion

This another book human behaviour.  It discusses six principles that provide great insight into what motivates us to make the decisions that we make on a daily basis.  One of the six principles he discusses is the principle of liking.  Not surprisingly we prefer to say yes to requests from people we know and like.

One of my favourite quotes from this book is when the author says: “the strength of..[the] social bond is twice as likely to determine product purchase as is preference for the product itself”.  The author provides this insight as he discusses the success of Tupperware parties.  Tupperware parties became extremely successful by arranging for a friend to introduce the product to potential customers rather than using an unknown salesperson.  Buy it here

9.  Contagious, Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

Contagious, Why Things Catch On

This book about why things catch on. While advertising is still beneficial strong word of mouth is often the key to success.  One of the reasons strong word of mouth about a product or service is so effective is that it is often directed to people that are most likely to be interested in the product or service.  You are not going to recommend a product to your best friend that you do not think he or she is likely to use.  After analyzing hundreds of contagious products the author outlines six principles that cause products and services to be talked about, shared and initiated.  One of those principles is using stories in your marketing messages.  People tend to tell stories instead of sharing facts and figures.  Therefore it is important to embed products and ideas in stories that people want to tell.
 
One of my favourite quotes from this book is: "word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20% to 50% of all purchasing decisions."  Buy it here

10. Perennial Seller, The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts by Ryan Holiday

Perennial Seller

This book is about how to create perennial sellers – products and services that last forever.  The book provides a frank look into the creative process and what it really takes to create a hit. According to Holiday great creative insight does not appear like a lightning bolt, instead the creative process is non-linear with many detours along the way. One of the key pieces of advice Holiday offers for marketing a product in way that will guarantee its success is to invest in building an email list.  According to Holiday, what if suddenly you had no access to social media, publishers, retailers, investors or distributors.  If this were to happen the only way to survive would be to go directly to your customers.  To do this you need an email list. Holiday also provides lots of great strategies for how to build a large email list and how to successfully launch a new product or service.

My favourite quote in the book is: “building an email list is a move toward self-sufficiency for any creator.  By forming a direct and regular line of communication with your supporters, you avoid ever being disintermediated.”  Buy it here

11.  Grit, The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

Grit ,  The Power of Passion and Perseverance

This book is about the secret to outstanding achievement.  The secret is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence which Duckworth calls “grit”.  The people that are most successful are unusually resilient and hardworking. Even if they have to do things that are boring, frustrating, or even painful, they would never dream of giving up, their passion is enduring.  The book provides many strategies for achieving enduring success and contains a grit scale which you can use to measure your or your team's grittiness.
 
One of my favourite quotes from this book is: “someone twice as talented but half as hardworking as another person might reach the same level of skill but still produce dramatically less over time…the striver who equals the person who is a natural in skill by working harder will, in the long run, accomplish more.”  Buy it here.

12.  Eat that Frog! by by Brian Tracy

Eat that Frog!

This book can help you to be more productive. The premise of the book is that you should to do your hardest and most important task at the beginning of the day.  Tracy writes that Mark Twain said: “eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day”. By doing this you ensure that your most important tasks are done right away, and you will also alleviate the stress that is associated with thinking about an important task but not taking action.
 
One of my favourite quotes from this book is: “one of the best ways to overcome procrastination is for you to get your mind off the huge task in front of you and focus on a single action that you can take”.  Buy it here.

13.  Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown

Hacking Growth

This book has powerful insights on how to drive growth. It contains examples of the growth strategies employed by Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp, Costco, Paypal and many more organizations. Highlights include insights into how Dropbox’s referral program which offered customers free storage space for referrals, resulted in an immediate 60% increase in referral traffic. It also discusses how Facebook accelerated its growth by embedding functionality into its app that encouraged users to invite more friends to the platform. 

One of my favourite quotes from the book is"often people think there's a silver bullet to getting traffic and going viral.  What we’ve learned is that there are times when you can get some spikes in virility, but if you really want that long-term major user growth its got to start with a good product." Buy it here.

14.  The Go-Giver by John David Mann and Bob Burg

The Go-Giver

This book is about the 5 key laws for success and its my favourite book on the list. My favourite law discussed in the book is the Law of Compensation which states that you are compensated in life based on the number of people that you impact. This is one of the reasons companies like Facebook are so successful, it has a reach of over 2 billion people. It’s a short book, I read it in only two hours but it has had a lasting impact on me.

One of my favourite quotes from the book is: "if you want more success, find a way to serve more people."  Buy it here.

15. Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson

Steve Jobs  by Walter Issacson

Looking for a good biography to read? If you haven’t read this book it is definitely worth the read.  This book is a fascinating account of how Jobs built Apple into the company that it is today.  It discusses Jobs’ and Apple’s highs and lows.  After returning to Apple after being fired Jobs conducted a product review which revealed how unfocused Apple had become.  Apple had too many products and most of them were not very good.  Apple was also less than 90 days from being insolvent when Jobs returned. Jobs turned the company around by cutting 70% of Apple’s products and focusing on only four.  The ability to focus is what saved Apple. 

One of my favourite quotes from this book is from Jobs’ himself: “deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do that’s true for companies and it’s true for products”. Buy it here.

16.  Blue Ocean Shift by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

Blue Ocean Shift

This is one of the best strategy books I have read.  It is the follow up book to their widely popular book Blue Ocean Strategy. The book provides useful insight into how organizations have created new markets even when the opportunities were not readily apparent. For example, the authors recommend targeting "non customers". These are customers that your organization turns away for a variety of reasons (i.e they are too expensive to serve). Square, which was founded by Jack Dorsey is a company that is profiled in this book.  Before Square there was an entire market of small businesses and entrepreneurs that did not allow customers to pay by debit or credit card. Square comes along and starts offering an inexpensive way for individuals, small businesses and even large organizations to accept credit and debit card payments on their iPhones, Androids, or iPads simply by adding a Square reader.  

One of my favourite quotes from the book is: a “blue ocean shift is a systematic process to move your organization from cutthroat markets with bloody competition…red oceans full of sharks – to wide open blue oceans, or new markets devoid of competition”. Buy it here.

17. Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness

Peak Performance

In a society that is always on, this book provides evidence on how important rest is to achieving peak performance.  By studying world class athletes, high performing executives and well-known artists the authors have found that stress + rest = growth.  One of the simple analogies the authors use in the book is if you workout intensely without rest in between you will not achieve your fitness goals. Sounds simple but in reality most of us find it difficult to take breaks and at times we even feel guilty when doing so.  This book provides many practical tips for incorporating more rest into your life.  Some of these include: practicing mindful meditation, stepping away from really draining tasks until the next morning and taking walks to increase creativity and decrease the ill effects of sitting. It also covers the habits and routines of many high performing individuals.
 
One of my favourite quotes in this book is: “the best athletes also prioritize recovery, time on the couch and in bed, just as much as they prioritize time on the track or in the gym.” Buy it here.

18.  The Upstarts by Brad Stone

The Upstarts

This book provides deep insight into how two of the most well-known brands in the world, Airbnb and Uber came to be.  It discusses how the founders came up with the business concept and it covers the strategies the companies employed to drive growth in the early years.  One of the main catalysts for Airbnb’s growth came in 2010 when it created a technical solution that allowed a person who was listing their property on Craigslist to cross post their listing on Airbnb’s website with just a click of a button.  This essentially allowed Airbnb to access a much larger market of property hosts and potential customers before it developed its own brand name into what it is today. Eventually Craigslist caught on to the practice and sent Airbnb a cease and desist letter in 2012.  By then it was too late.
 
One of my favourite quotes from this book is: “on the west coast in start-up world, if you want to give back, you help young founders.  This is a game where karma matters”.  Buy it here.

 

19.  Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson

Who Moved My Cheese

This book is a classic.  It offers simple advice on how to quickly move on after a setback such as losing your job. The book features an engaging story about four characters who look for “cheese” in a maze.   The word cheese is simply a metaphor for what we want in life which depending on our desires could be a job, a relationship, money, a big house etc.  The book’s engaging story provides great perspective on how to move on when you fall short of achieving what you want. 

One of my favourite quotes in this book is: “whenever he started to get discouraged he reminded himself that what he was doing, as uncomfortable as it was at the moment, was in reality much better than staying in the [previous] situation”. Buy it here.

 

20. 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management by Kevin Kruse

15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management

This book is a comprehensive guide to managing your time better. It covers many areas including how to efficiently manage your inbox, reduce time in meetings and how to create a morning routine that will help you to get a great start to a more productive day.
 
Some of Kruse's email best practices involve setting up a few times during the day when you process email and those are the only times during the  day when you attend to email.  He is also an advocate for turning off all email notifications and sending less email if you want to receive less email. 

One of my favourite quotes from this book is: “if a task can be done in five minutes do it immediately”.  You lose a lot of time if you return to the same item (i.e. an email) over and over without taking action. Buy it here.



 

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