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A List of Must-Read Books for Startups and Entrepreneurs

Posted on Monday, June 18th 2012. Written by Michal Ugor
I am entrepreneur who occasionaly blogs on this website. I am a founder of Freddy Bayne a London based startup. You can follow my updates at @MichalUgor
"Life is too short to read bad books" - There are many crappy books out there that claim to tell you "the secrets of running a successful  startup"  I got personally fooled by some of the self-proclaimed expert authors and catchy titles in past. 

Since then I became extremely picky about what I chose to read. To find the books, I've spent days scouring sites like Quora for recommendations from top tech entrepreneurs and investors as well as personal blogs of entrepreneurs like Marc Andreessen to find out what what he reads and recommends the most. 

And we've collated the list of some of the top books you simply have to read if you are into startups and care about your education and skills.

On startups and startup methodology 

1. The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank

The essential book for anyone bringing a product to market, writing a business plan, marketing plan or sales plan. Step-by-step strategy of how to successfully organize sales, marketing and business development for a new product or company.

2. Rework
by Jason Fried

Rework shows you a better, faster, easier way to succeed in business. Read it and you'll know why plans are actually harmful, why you don't need outside investors, and why you're better off ignoring the competition. The truth is, you need less than you think.

3. Lean Startup
by Eric Ries

Most startups fail. But many of those failures are preventable. The Lean Startup is a new approach being adopted across the globe, changing the way companies are built and new products are launched.

4. The Art of the Start
by Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki explains how to transform ideas into action, offering a step-by-step approach to launching great products, services, and companies and demonstrating how managers can unleash a creative approach to business at established companies.

5. Hackers & Painters:
Big Ideas from the Computer Age by Paul Graham

Paul Graham on importance of beauty in software design, how to make wealth, heresy and free speech, the programming language renaissance, the open-source movement, digital design, internet startups, and more.

6. Information Rules:
A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy by Carl Shapiro and Hal Varian

Durable economic principles can guide you in today's frenetic business environment. Technology changes. Economic laws do not.

7. Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup by Brad Feld and David Cohen

Collection of advice that comes from individuals who have passed through, or are part of, Techstars accelerator.

8. The Thank You Economy
by Gary Vaynerchuk

We are living in the ‘Thank You Economy’ thanks to social media and other forms of instant communication. This book is about building loyalty, trust, and repeatable business.

9. The Innovator's Dilemma
 by Clay Christensen

Disruptive vs. Sustaining Technologies. Professor Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School describes a theory about how large, outstanding firms can fail "by doing everything right."

10. The Entrepreneurial Guide to Customer Development
by Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits

Customer Development is a four-step framework for helping startups discover and validate their customers, product, and go-to-market strategy, developed by Steve Blank and an integral part of Eric Ries' Lean Startup methodology.

11. Venture Deals:
Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson

An engaging guide to excelling in today's venture capital arena by managing directors at Foundry Group.

12. The Monk and the Riddle 
by Randy Komisar

If you can't see yourself doing this business for the rest of your life, don't start it. In other words, angel investor Randy Komisar wants to see passion and purpose in business, not just spreadsheets and a by-the-numbers business model.

13. Delivering Happiness
by Tony Hsieh

CEO of Zappos explains how he created a corporate culture with a commitment to service that aims to improve the lives of its employees, customers, vendors, and backers.

Business / Leadership 

 1. Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute

Leaders often fall into "endless self-justification" This book shows us the way out while focusing on five specific areas: hiring, team-building, conflict resolution, accountability, and personal growth and development.

2. The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman shares the essentials of entrepreneurship, marketing, sales, negotiation, operations, productivity, systems design, and much more, in one comprehensive volume.

3. Winning by Jack Welch

The gold standard in business by ex- Chairman and CEO of General Electric. Jack Welch made GE the world's leading company.


 1. Good Strategy Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt

Worlds leader on corporate strategy defines a clear way to create and implement a powerful action-oriented strategy for the real world.

2. Thinking Strategically:
The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics, and Everyday

Required reading at the best business schools. This book is an excellent introduction to game theory.

3. Art of War
by Sun Tzu

Timeless piece written by ancient Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher.


 1. Purple Cow by Seth Godin

On being remarkable - a classic by godfather of modern marketing.

2. Web Analytics 2.0 by Avinash Kaushik

Digital Marketing Evangelist for Google and the co-Founder of Market Motive on creating an actionable strategy, applying analytical techniques correctly, measuring social media and multi channel campaigns, leveraging experimentation and more.

3. The Tipping Point
by Malcolm Gladwell

The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.

4. Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers by G. Moore

The bible for bringing disruptive products to larger markets.

5. Permission Marketing
by Seth Godin

The groundbreaking concept that enables marketers to shape their message so that consumers will willingly accept it.


 1. Getting Things Done by David Allen

Arguably the most popular productivity system used by many tech entrepreneurs. David Allen gives you a framework that you can easily customize to your own needs on how you get things done.

2. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

The leading choreographer of her generation, Tharp will lead you from scratching for ideas, finding the spine of your work to building a highly productive habits.

3. The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris

A book full of great tips on how you can work from anywhere you want and achieve more in less time.

4. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephe Covey

A classic personal productivity piece on balance of personal and professional effectiveness.

5. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

In psychology “flow” is a mental state in which a person is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.

6. Drive:
The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Dan Pink

Pink examines the elements of true motivation - autonomy, mastery, and purpose--and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action in a unique book that will change how we think and transform how we live.

7. The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance by T. Gallway

The Inner Game of Tennis is a revolutionary program for overcoming the self-doubt, nervousness, and lapses of concentration that can keep a player from winning. 

8. Lifehacker: The Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, and Better

Lifehacker’s guide to being more efficient and productive. There is a strong focus on use of technology and it’s a great book if you like how-to books.

9. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

A classic piece in the self-help industry. Napoleon Hill shares his years of studying of successful people on underlying principles of how they got wealthy.

10. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

"It changed my life" Warren Buffett


 1. Losing my Virginity by Richard Branson

This book is just fascinating as is the entrepreneurial life of Richard Branson. From starting a record label that backed bands such as Sex Pistols or Rolling Stones, ballooning around the world, to building the first space travel company. Do we need to say any more?

2. The Alchemist
by Paulo Coelho

A short but very powerful metaphoric tale about getting where you want to go in life, your story in life, your path, your mission, your purpose.

3. How to Get Rich
by Felix Dennis

Despite the lame title this book is just a must-read. Very funny, straightforward distillation of Felix Dennis’s business wisdom. (Dennis is a British self made billionaire)

4. Art of the Deal - Donald Trump

Donald Trump is the top real estate developer in NYC, famous entrepreneur and probably the World's #1 self-promoter. Art of the deal is considered a business classic. This book is super inspirational and a great insight in what makes him one of the best deal makers out there. While you can skip all of his other books this one is a must.

5. Steve Jobs - Biography by Walter Isaacson

Biography of Steve Jobs period.

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