Entrepreneurial Must-Reads: The Best Books for Starting a Business

Our picks of the top 10 best books for starting a business to add to your reading list.


Starting a business is a journey. And as a budding entrepreneur, you want to learn as much as you can to help support you on that journey. The best books for starting a business can be an invaluable resource.

The right ones can act as a map when you’re just starting out. Because they’ll give you the insights you need to get from where you are to where you want to go. Plus, they’ll help you build a thriving business along the way.

But with so many books and so little time, where should you start?

Here are our picks for the top 10 best books for starting a business—books you’ll want to move to the top of your reading list, stat:

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

“Spend as little money as possible and make as much money as you can.”
― Chris Guillebeau, The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love and Create a New Future

Many people hold off on starting a business because they don’t think they have enough money. They think they need hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their business off the ground.

But according to author Chris Guillebeau—and the entrepreneurs featured in this must-read—that’s just not the case.

In The $100 Startup, Guillebeau shares 50 case studies of entrepreneurs who launched successful businesses on a shoestring budget. Often, as the name implies, for $100 dollars or less. Through exploring their stories, Guillebeau shows that with a little passion and perseverance, anyone can leverage their skills and expertise. Even if you don’t have a ton of funds to get things off the ground, you can build a business and turn a profit.

If you’re holding off on starting your business because you don’t think you have enough capital to make it happen, you’re definitely going to want to read this book.

The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday

“The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.”
― Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

Obstacles are par for the course when you’re an entrepreneur. No matter who you are, what industry you’re in or what kind of business you’re launching, you’re going to run into setbacks, challenges and difficulties on your journey.

But according to well-known entrepreneur, marketer and author Ryan Holiday, obstacles aren’t just speed bumps on the road to success. They’re actually the key to success. So entrepreneurs need to embrace them as the opportunities they are in order to succeed.

In The Obstacle Is the Way, Holiday leverages principles of stoicism. An ancient Greek philosophy, the concept illustrates the importance of embracing challenges and using them as springboards for growth. Packed with stories about how some of the world’s most successful people used stoicism to overcome challenges, Holiday makes a powerful argument for the importance of obstacles because of the essential role they play in success.

If you’ve found yourself facing what feels like an insurmountable challenge in building your business (or think you might at some point in the future), this book can help change your relationship to obstacles. It can also help you leverage them to grow as an entrepreneur and a person.

Atomic Habits by James Clear

“Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.”
― James Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

If you want to build a successful business, you need to lay the foundation for success. And a huge part of that foundation lies in your habits.

In Atomic Habits, habits and productivity expert James Clear gives actionable tips and strategies for breaking the bad habits that are holding you back. In doing so, you can focus on establishing new, better habits that set you up for success instead. Clear makes habit formation accessible by breaking down the science into small, manageable changes you can implement at work and in life. He also gives real-world examples of how a variety of successful people (including business leaders and Olympic athletes) have used the science of habit formation to lay the groundwork for their success.

If you want to establish successful habits and get your business off on the right foot, consider this book a must-read.



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

“Every business starts with a seed of an idea, but only a few entrepreneurs can visualize the field all the way through harvest, much less through many successive seasons. By seeing beyond the numbers, I have laid out the basic principles that can help entrepreneurs create a realistic vision of their business from the beginning through many bountiful harvests.”
— Greg Crabtree, Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!: 4 Keys to Unlock Your Business Potential

For many new entrepreneurs, the financial side of starting a new business can feel overwhelming. How do you get profitable? What numbers and metrics are important? What financial mistakes are important to avoid?

In Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!, accountant, small business advisor and author Greg Crabtree breaks down how to build a profitable, financially successful business in a step-by-step formula. By “looking beyond the numbers” and using key financial indicators to drive your business strategy and decisions, Crabtree lays out the path. You’ll develop not only a better understanding of your business financials, but be able to leverage that understanding to drive revenue growth and profitability.

If you’re looking for an easy-to-follow guide that will give you a financial blueprint for your business, definitely add this to your reading list.

Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days by Jessica Livingston

“I’d say determination is the single most important quality in a startup founder. If the founders I spoke with were superhuman in any way, it was in their perseverance.”
― Jessica Livingston, Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days

The best thing you can do when launching a new business? Learn from the business owners who came before you.

In Founders at Work, author Jessica Livingston interviews founders of some of the world’s largest and most successful tech companies (including Apple and PayPal) about their businesses’ early days. Through their insights, you get an inside view of all the elements of launching a business. From coming up with a great idea to finding investors and mastering productivity, Livingston covers the entire journey. The founders also share the problems and mistakes they encountered while building their startups. As a result, new entrepreneurs can build off their experience and avoid some of the challenges they faced along the way.

This book is a treasure trove of insights from some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the tech game. And all of those insights will be extremely helpful for anyone starting a new business.

The Portable MBA in Entrepreneurship by William D. Bygrave and Andrew Zacharakis

“An entrepreneur is someone who perceives an opportunity and creates an organization to pursue it. The entrepreneurial process involves all the functions, activities and actions associated with perceiving opportunities.”
— William D. Bygrave and Andrew Zacharakis, The Portable MBA in Entrepreneurship

Business school is a serious investment of time, energy and financial resources. And not everyone who is starting a business has that kind of time, energy or money to invest.

But you don’t have to go to business school in order to get the “MBA in entrepreneurship” experience. You can get the knowledge, insights and MBA experience within the pages of this book.

The Portable MBA in Entrepreneurship takes from the core curriculum of top business schools to present a comprehensive tome on all-things entrepreneurship. With in-depth information on everything from idea generation to market research, business planning to marketing, finance and legal issues (and just about everything in between!), this book covers everything you need to know about launching a business from the ground up.

If you’re looking for an in-depth, business school-quality education on entrepreneurship, this is the book for you.

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The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Reis

“The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.”
― Eric Ries, The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

No matter what industry you’re in, chances are, the market is oversaturated and full of competitors. If you want your business to thrive in today’s hyper-competitive market, constant innovation is a must.

In The Lean Startup, author Eric Ries takes inspiration from lean business practices to give entrepreneurs a blueprint. With this game plan, you’ll be able to swiftly and efficiently test your ideas, adjust your strategy and continually innovate. This process for innovation won’t only help you be more creative in your business. It can also help you get a competitive edge in your market. The result is an ability to build a more sustainable, profitable business.

Things move fast in today’s business world. And The Lean Startup will help you set up the systems and processes you need to keep up.

The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup by Noam Wasserman

“Founding a startup is akin to a wedding, a declaration of mutual devotion. It seems inappropriate and even counterproductive to plan for a breakup, yet in entrepreneurship, failing to make the prenup part of the wedding vows, so to speak, can prove disastrous.”
― Noam Wasserman, The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup

There are so many mistakes you can make while starting a business. But the good news? There are already plenty of entrepreneurs that have made those mistakes. And if you can learn from them, there’s no need to make those same mistakes yourself.

In The Founder’s Dilemmas, author Noam Wasserman examines some of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make when launching a business. And, more importantly, how to avoid them. Wasserman offers a comprehensive view on where things have the potential to go wrong when launching a business. For example, the risks of launching a business with a family member or friend, or navigating the equity split between founding partners. He also covers how new business owners can avoid those pitfalls and lay the foundation for a successful business.

Making a few mistakes when starting a business is inevitable. But by reading this book, you can get a heads-up on some of the most serious and common missteps entrepreneurs make when building their businesses. So you can learn from and avoid them in your own business.

The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki

“Good enough is good enough. There is time for refinement later. It’s not how great you start—it’s how great you end up.”
― Guy Kawasaki, The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything

Sometimes, the hardest part of starting a business? The actual “starting” part.

In The Art of the Start 2.0, Guy Kawasaki has created a comprehensive guide that outlines all the steps you need to take when starting a new venture. Think of this as a foundational book. It helps you understand the things you need to do at the start to set your business up for success down the line.

If you’re feeling paralyzed by everything that goes into building a business, this book is a great place to start.

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

“The incredible brand awareness and bottom-line profits achievable through social media marketing require hustle, heart, sincerity, constant engagement, long-term commitment and most of all, artful and strategic storytelling.”
― Gary Vaynerchuk, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World

No matter what kind of business you’re starting, if you want to be successful in today’s market, you’re going to need a solid social media strategy. And this book will help you develop it.

In Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, famed social media expert Gary Vaynerchuck (better known as “Gary Vee”) shares key insights into how to leverage social media to build your brand. He includes the importance of the right content in the right context, and how to break through the clutter and connect with your ideal customers in the social space.

If you don’t know where or how to build an authentic social media presence—and use that presence to build your business—this book is for you.

Grow Your Reading List, Grow Your Business

Learning is an essential part of building a successful business. And with the right reading list, you can learn everything you need to know to start, build, launch and grow a successful business.

Happy reading!

This post was updated in April, 2020.



about the author

Freelance Contributor Deanna deBara is an entrepreneur, speaker, and freelance writer who specializes in business and productivity topics. When she's not busy writing, she enjoys exploring the Pacific Northwest with her husband and dog. See more of her work and learn more about her services at deannadebara.com.