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Entrepreneurs Reveal Their 10 Favorite Business Books

Marisa Sanfilippo
Marisa Sanfilippo

If you're busy running your own business or laying the groundwork to launch a startup, it can be impossible to find the time to read the wide assortment of books published each year on business and leadership. But, by not reading, you could be missing out on so much valuable insight that could help your business succeed.

To help all the literary-minded entrepreneurs out there narrow down their immense reading lists, we asked entrepreneurs to submit their favorite business books that were published within the past three years, along with what they love about the books. Here are just a handful of responses we received, in alphabetical order.

"#AskGaryVee" by Gary Vaynerchuk

"Gary definitely brings some current and practical advice to the table, and there's some value there for sure. He's out there grinding, and some of his takes are making me rethink a few of my habits.

Gary is an entrepreneur who had the foresight to go beyond traditional methods and use social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to reach an untapped audience that continues to grow. The book showcases the most useful and interesting questions that he has addressed on his podcast show. It's interesting and fun to read [and has] plenty of real-life scenarios that can be followed. His practical advice is both useful and possible to implement in my own business." – Brian Lim, founder and CEO of iHeartRaves and INTO THE AM

"Deep Work" by Cal Newport

"As entrepreneurs, we can feel like we're pulled in dozens of different directions at any one time. While 'multitasking' can seem appealing, it's rarely efficient. Cal Newport proposes a way of working that is focused on intense concentration on a single task for a set amount of time. While this may sound simple, most of most of us – used to the constant ping of emails and texts, social media popups, and other distractions – have lost the skill of focusing on just one thing.

This book made me realize just how unfamiliar focusing intensely feels at first, yet, much like riding a bike, it came back to me within a matter of weeks through Cal's thoughtful guidance. The differences have been positively life-changing. Activities that require concentration – like learning, creating and writing – not only flow better and are easier and faster to complete but are also of better quality." – Jane Sagalovich, founder of Scale Your Genius

"Humble Consulting" by Edward Schein

"Edward Schein's 'Humble Consulting' helped me get over the concern that my business didn't have the same years of experience or the clientele of those I was competing with for projects. Before reading the book, I felt that, to be successful, I had to walk into a meeting as a solutions provider with magic at my fingertips and know everything about the business. Now, I admit it right away when I don't understand the industry.

I tell potential clients that I'm there to ask questions, learn about the business and the culture, and understand how much a client truly feels comfortable taking on in a first iteration. Instead of sliding a slick solution across the conference table, I propose job shadowing, discovery sessions, and open-ended conversations so that I can learn about the issues firsthand. I draw on my technical knowledge to put together a plan of action based on what comes out of that work. The principles in the book work for me, and clients find it refreshing. I get some odd looks here and there for the first few minutes of that first meeting, but it doesn't take long for clients to see the merits of this approach." Rob Zimmerman, founder and owner of Agile Consulting

"Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior" by Jonah Berger

"Jonah Berger has a way of presenting ideas in a novel and engaging style. His new book, 'Invisible Influence,' was a New York Times Bestseller, and for good reason. This book delves into the hidden factors that shape our behavior and decisions.

As a marketing professor at Wharton and the University of Pennsylvania, Berger is able to provide research from psychology, business, and behavioral economics to explain how the processes of decision-making are influenced by the outside world. This book is great for anyone who wants to influence others, make smarter decisions, or just generally better understand human behavior, and I sure am glad I read it." – Kelly Belknap, co-founder and CEO of Adventurist Backpack Co.

"Lost and Founder" by Rand Fishkin

"Rand Fishkin, the founder of Moz, shares his real-world experience of trying to live out this dream and how bad it can turn out. He helps entrepreneurs reset what creating a great business actually means – hint: doing something really, really well and being profitable are two of those things – and why the common 'wisdom' from Silicon Valley is just for the edge cases, not for the majority.

It's a book I wish I had three years ago. It would have drastically changed how we went about the formation of our company. We found our way, but wasted a lot of time, energy and emotion getting to where we should have been after year one. If you're looking to become an entrepreneur, especially in the tech field, Lost and Founder is a must-read." Brandon Andersen, co-founder of Ceralytics

"Principles: Life and Work" by Ray Dalio

"This book touches on every important facet of an entrepreneurial journey. Ray Dalio is an extremely high-functioning OCD and organized genius. There is not one common issue entrepreneurs struggle with that cannot be solved from Ray's Principles. This book shares his experiences and how he found ways around all of the obstacles he encountered. [It's] the perfect book for entrepreneurs of all levels." Steven Dudley, owner and founder of Acts of Evolution

"Rise Up: How to Build a Socially Conscious Business" by Russ Stoddard

"Filled with real-life anecdotes and easy-to-implement advice, I recommend this book for fellow entrepreneurs who are interested in building a business that can make a positive impact in the world. Author Russ Stoddard has more than 25 years of experience building social enterprises and has inspired me to take LunchboxWax's social impact to the next level. It also inspired our company to choose to partner with his creative agency, Oliver Russell.

Consumers increasingly care about spending money with businesses that share their values. To be relevant, business owners and entrepreneurs need to understand why the triple bottom line of financial, environmental and social impact matters and can actually translate into higher profits that are more sustainable over time. Russ does a great job of making the case for conscious capitalism and the ability of businesses to make a positive difference in the world." – Debi Lane, founder and CEO of LunchboxWax

"Shoe Dog" by Phil Knight

"I liked 'Shoe Dog' ... because it starts from the very beginning of [Nike founder] Phil Knight's entrepreneurship. It talks about how he graduated out of college with a scrappy, half-baked shoe-retailing business plan, and flew to Japan to try and become a reseller for Tiger Sneakers. I loved his obsession and ironclad focus in making his business work. One of the funnier details is when it came time to choose the name of the company, everyone just settled for Nike because it was the best alternative. They were all apathetic about it, not realizing it would turn into one of the most recognized brands in the world." – Jeff Neal, The Critter Depot  

"Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work" by Steven Kotler

"Kotler's book underscored my experiential discovery that my own mindfulness and dreamwork practice are truly essential to my business success. And it's another resource I can give to my coaching clients seeking to fulfill their own potential. While I can teach how to meditate, or work with your dreams, or clarify your intentions, sometimes clients find it difficult to motivate themselves to actually create new habits. The diverse real-life stories provide exactly the inspiration someone needs for embracing their own 'inner journey for outer success.'" – Donna Woodwell, founder of Donna Philosophica, Life Coaching with a Touch of Magic

"Tools of Titans" by Timothy Ferriss

"The biggest thing I learned isn't necessarily from the content of Tim Ferriss' 'Tools of Titans' – it's from the attitude and mindset of the people he interviewed. I was inspired by their focus, passion, discipline, and also the authentic and out-of-the-box thinking exhibited by each one. I was further inspired by the way the author puts his entire heart and soul into his creations and how he manages to create a unique reflection of himself in all he does.

As we embark on writing our own book and launching a new podcast, I was able to clearly see the level of commitment required to create excellence in all we do. It has inspired me to take my commitment to the company and our audience to the next level." – Amanda 'Pua' Walsh, CEO and co-founder of Astrology Hub

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Marisa Sanfilippo
Marisa Sanfilippo
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Marisa is an award-winning marketing professional and contributing writer. She has worked with businesses large and small to help them drive revenue through integrated marketing campaigns and enjoys sharing her expertise with our audience.