From Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” to Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” these books will teach you how to think — no matter if you’re a serial entrepreneur or are just starting a business. Let us know what books have influenced your career in the comments.
Here is the list:
“The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand
Charlie O’Donnell: “I don’t know any book that sums up the entrepreneurial passion and spirit better than The Fountainheadby Ayn Rand: ‘The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.'”Charlie is a principal at First Round Capital.
“Out of the Crisis” by W. Edwards Deming
Roger Ehrenberg: “Big or small, this book focuses the entrepreneur/manager on respecting employees, focusing on process, and insisting on the collection and analysis of data. The development of metrics to manage the business is critical for the start-up founder.”Roger is managing partner of IA Ventures.
“Extreme Programming Explained” by Kent Beck
Babak Nivi: “Revelatory. Develop your product like this book tells you to, unless you know better (e.g. you have experience building operating systems, space shuttles, Googles.) Buy the first edition.”Nivi is a founder of Venture Hacks.
“The Four Steps to the Epiphany” by Steven Gary Blank
Babak Nivi: “The closest thing to a manual for building a startup. Marc Andreessen calls it ‘a roadmap for how to get to Product/Market Fit.'”
“Reality Check” by Guy Kawasaki
Penelope Trunk: “I love flipping through the chapters. Each one is like a blog post, so you learn something on every page. And each chapter reminds me to be a little bit better at something I’m doing already.”Penelope is a founder of Brazen Careerist.
“Peak” by Chip Conley
Fred Destin: “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs adapted to the business world. Not that well written (sorry Chip) but sound advice on achieving ‘sustainable outperformance’ and leveraging crises for the better.”Fred is a Partner in the technology group at Atlas Venture.
“The Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt
Fred Destin: “Not a business book, but if you assume self-awareness and knowing what you are really good at are key to success in business (and life in general), this is the best attempt I have read at deriving ‘meaning’ from the joyous mess of life.”
“Against The Odds” by James Dyson
Jason Fried: “One of the best books about design, business, invention, and entrepreneurship I’ve ever read. Highly recommended. It’s really inspirational. His persistence is otherworldly. You won’t believe what he went through to get this product to market.”Jason is co-founder and President of 37signals.
“How To Get Rich” by Felix Dennis
Greg Galant: “The self-made billionaire founder of Maxim Magazine and The Week titles this book as though it’s a snake oil self-help book. It’s really a great entrepreneurial memoir with British wit at its finest.”Greg is a founder of Sawhorse Media, as well as the creator and host of Venture Voice, a podcast for and about entrepreneurs.
“Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor” by Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, and James O’Toole
Nilofer Merchant: “The future is invented not in the easy conversations but in the hard ones. We’ve got to know how to have and manage those conversations that lend light and transparency to WHY we are doing what we are doing. This book emphasizes how leaders create a culture of candor that can allow them to grow beyond the first idea.”Nilofer founded Rubicon Consulting.
“The Future Arrived Yesterday” by Michael S. Malone
Nilofer Merchant: “The next type of company is going to have to grow in a very different way than companies in even in the last 10 years. Mike Malone who wrote about virtual corporations 25 years ago has now written about “the protean corporation” which is a way to say organizations will organize to be more fluid, nimble, and shape shifters. He’s onto the new model and entrepreneurs should know about it so they are not surprised by the growth stages needed. ”
“Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Sean Ellis: “[The book’s] key message is to double down on things that are working.”Sean is founder and CEO of CatchFree. He also founded 12in6.
“The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Business Law” by Constance Bagley and Craig Dauchy
Chris Dixon: “[This one might be a] bit painful if you aren’t into legal details (I’m not), but perhaps the most useful business book you can ever read.”Chris Dixon is co-founder of Hunch.
“Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey A. Moore
Chris Dixon: “Although a bit too enterprise- (vs. consumer-) focused for my taste, this is an extremely intelligent and useful book.You’ve probably heard about the central thesis (lots of startups get stuck in the “chasm”, in between early adopter and mainstream customers) but there are tons of other interesting anecdotes and ideas in the book. I’ve reread this one a couple of times.”
“Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War” by Robert Coram
Steve Blank: “Observe, Orient, Decide and Act – The cornerstone of Customer Development and the Lean Startup was first invented by a fighter pilot. Read his story.”Steve is a former serial entrepreneur who now teaches at U.C. Berkeley, Stanford University and the Columbia University/Berkeley Joint Executive MBA program. He is the author of Four Steps to the Epiphany.
“The Innovator’s Dilemma” and “The Innovator’s Solution” by Clayton Christensen
Steve Blank: “Why do large companies seem and act like dinosaurs? Christensen finally was able to diagnose why and propose solutions. Entrepreneurs should read these books as ‘how to books’ to beat large companies in their own markets.”Also recommended by Chris Dixon: “The Innovator’s Dilemma popularized the (often misused) phrase ‘disruptive technology’; But there’s a lot more than that one big idea. Great insights into the ‘dynamics’ (changes over time) of markets.”
“Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini
David Heinemeier Hansson: “Influence teaches you how to sell and deal with customers by treating them as humans. Great stuff.”David is a partner in 37signals.
“Maverick!: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace” by Ricardo Semler
David Heinemeier Hansson: “Maverick tells the story about how you can make radical change [even at] a very old-world company of 8,000 people producing industrial pumps.”
“Lucky or Smart? Secrets to an Entrepreneurial Life”, by Bo Peabody
Mark Peter Davis: “Insight into some of the unique trials entrepreneurs face.”Mark is a co-founder and CEO of Kohort, who previously worked as a VC at DFJ Gotham Ventures.
“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig
Brad Feld: “Anyone who is creating anything should read this book, slowly, and savor it.”Brad Feld has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur for over 20 years and is the co-founder of Foundry Group.
Also recommended by Fred Wilson: “There is way more insight to be gained from stories than from business books. And these are some amazing stories.”
“Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell
Paul Jozefak: “Some great advice on how decisions are made.”Paul is a Managing Partner at Neuhaus Partners.