Business Startup

20 Best Startup Books: Great Business Reads For Founders

Books for start ups

Starting up your own business is no mean feat. It requires time, money, patience and more-than-a-little knowhow. More than anything it requires love, as you’re going to be pouring your heart and soul into this thing. But love alone will not suffice. You need books. In fact, you need the best startup books money can buy.

According to, 90 percent of startup businesses fail. That’s quite a depressing statistic. To be in with a chance of joining the 10 percent that succeed, you’ve really got to do your homework. This isn’t school anymore – there are no excuses. What follows is a compiled list of some of the most highly rated books on starting a business, which is sure to help you start off on the right foot. But don’t stop here: read all that apply, and keep on reading.

1. Online Business Startup: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Launching a Fast, Lean and Profitable Online Venture by Robin Waite

This book is heralded as an easy read for the online novice, designed to stop you from wasting money on strategies that just won’t work. It goes into depth on the importance of working with a digital agency that you trust, the top methods for optimising your website and how to create a solid social media marketing plan. This is a book you will want to make notes from as you read through it, refreshingly lacking in the usual waffle and buzzwords that are commonly found in business guides.

2. Will It Fly? by Thomas K. McKnight

n summary: ‘How to Know If Your New Business Idea Has Wings…Before You Take the Leap’. No sensible person should fly a plane across the ocean before it’s been tested, and the same applies to your business idea. ‘Will It Fly?’ is written to help you assess and refine your ideas to improve your odds of success before you take that journey.

3. The Industries of the Future, by Alec Ross

The digital revolution has changed, is changing, and will change everything. Jobs and industries that exist now may become obsolete, and new ones will form, thanks to technology and the internet. ‘The Industries of the Future’ looks at what will come next, what businesses should expect and how we can be prepared.

4. The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries

This best-selling book examines a new approach to business based on constant innovation. It is realistic about the fact that – as previously mentioned – most businesses fail, but it claims that most of these failures are preventable. ‘The Lean Startup’ encourages you to shift your focus of attention to the customer and looks at how you can consistently improve your approach to solving their problems.

5. , by Walter Isaacson

It’s important to learn from the trials and experiences of others. Whether it’s a prominent figure like Steve Jobs or someone closer to your chosen industry, find out what worked for them. Learn the lessons they learned along the way. This book is the result of more than 40 interviews with Steve Jobs and his peers, documenting his extraordinary professional life.

6. Think Big, Act Small, by Jason Jennings

>This book is the result of research conducted across 100,000 companies to determine the factors that made them successful, or not. Of all those involved, there were 9 who continued to enjoy success, year after year. Their secret? They were highly ambitious, but they never lost the fundamental roots and values established when they started out.

7. Entrepreneur Revolution: How to Develop Your Entrepreneurial Mindset and Start a Business That Works by Daniel Priestley

Daniel Priestley believes that now is the age of the entrepreneur. If you don’t want to get left behind, you have to embrace a new mindset – one that breaks away from the limiting theories of the industrial age and seizes the advantages of innovation. This straight-talking book offers some simple and rejuvenating home truths about how business models need to change, and how you can adapt your approach.

8. The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

This book describes itself as ‘The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything’. Frankly, we all need one of these from time to time. This bestselling guide is all about getting started and making your new product, service or idea as successful and viable as possible. Kawasaki claims that business is now as much an art as a science, and shares his insights into getting your ideas off the ground in today’s modern marketplace.

9. Originals, by Adam Grant

How nonconformists change the world. This is the focus of ‘Originals’, a highly analytical read that examines the creativity and psychology behind some of our greatest artists and inventors. Grants asks how can we improve the world with our own originality, with an optimism about humankind and our potential that makes for a very inspiring page turner.

10. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal

Written based on years of research, consulting, and practical experience, ‘Hooked’ examines why some products capture our attention and become household names, while others simply fade away. The reason? Habit. Eyal believes there is an underlying pattern to the way in which technology has the potential to shape consumer behaviour, and offers a four-step practical process for embedding this psychology into the creation of your own products.

11. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ is widely regarded as a business book classic, with the bold tagline ‘the only book you need to lead you to success’. Dale Carnegie’s book looks at the psychology and mindset behind being successful, and the importance of using your social skills to help you climb the ladder of success. An important read for anyone starting up their own business, improving/maintaining your relationships with people around you.

12. The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz

While most business help books focus on the positives of startups and dreaming big, Ben Horowitz has a refreshing approach to the difficult aspects of starting up and running a business. Based on his popular blog, ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’ is honest about the trials and tribulations that you will face as a new business owner. With its harsh truths, it may not make for the easiest read, but it’s definitely worth a read to learn from one of Silicon Valley’s greatest entrepreneurs and co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz.

13. Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!: 4 Keys to Unlock Your Business Potential, by Greg Crabtree

Crabtree’s book focuses on the finances behind starting up your own business. If you’re worried about the accounting side of your business, look no further – this book is full of useful advice and real-life examples to help you on your way to becoming a business finance pro.

14. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, by Gary Vaynerchuk

These days, successfully starting up your own business is intrinsically linked with utilizing social media platforms to your advantage. In ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook’, ‘Gary Vee’ – digital marketing expert, internet personality and entrepreneur – offers advice on marketing strategies and effectively engaging with your audience on social media platforms. Vaynerchuk provides useful examples of the ‘good, bad and ugly’ to highlight the importance of context and tailoring high-quality content to each social media platform.

15. Setting The Table, by Danny Meyer

Part personal memoir and part lessons on management and hospitality, Danny Meyer writes about his experience of becoming an award-winning restauranteur in the New York food scene. Meyer’s success centers around his philosophy of ‘enlightened hospitality’ – putting people first, both in terms of customer service and employees, whilst delivering a strong product. Don’t discount this motivational book as only for foodies and restaurant owners – Meyer’s insights into the importance of customer experience and building relationships transcend the hospitality industry and can be applied to any business.

16. Rework, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Fried and Hansson’s straight-talking, easy-reading book is the antithesis of many business books on the shelf. The authors shun the traditional ‘how to’ step-by-step instructions on how to start up your own business and provide an unconventional alternative that challenges mainstream business culture and standards.

17. The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future, by Chris Guillebeau

As someone who has always shunned the idea of a regular paycheck and a 9-5 office job, Chris Guillebeau is an advocate of doing what you love – monetizing your passions and enabling yourself to live with more freedom and fulfillment. In ‘The $100 Startup’, Guillebeau focusses on 50 case studies of individuals who also shunned traditional employment and managed to start up their own business on a shoestring budget – in many cases, less than $100. He provides financial details and analysis of their early days, as well as successes and mistakes along the way – inspiration to start your own business adventure.

18. The Startup Owner’s Manual, by Steve Blank

This encyclopedia-like 608-page how-to guide is used by anyone and everyone want to start up their own business. It contains useful customer development information and proven business models as well as some incredibly valuable checklists – a fantastic resource for anyone wanting to launch their own start-up.

19. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, by Peter Thiel

Heralded as a must-read by Mark Zuckerburg and Elon Musk, ‘Zero to One’ focuses on creating innovative and unique new businesses rather than building on something that someone else has already created. This unconventional approach to building a business is fascinating for those wishing to be more than just a copycat.

20. Start Something That Matters, by Blake Mycoskie

In 2006, Blake Mycoskie founded TOMS shoes with the simple but worthy premise of ‘One for One’: with every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS would give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. Blake’s unique business model thrived, and these days TOMS is a multi-million dollar business which has also helped millions of children around the globe. This is an inspiring read, particularly for those wanting to give back, and have a positive impact on the world.

If you’re about to embark on your own startup journey, take heed and learn everything you can from these incredible, inspirational authors. Be like a sponge – take notes, absorb their messages and give yourself the best possible advantage in an evolving, noisy and competitive landscape.

What books would you add to this list? Let us know and provide a link in the comments.

About the author

Kayleigh Alexandra

A writer and small business owner, Kayleigh is an expert in all things content, freelance, marketing, and commercial strategy.

Favourite charity? All things microfinance appeal to me.

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