The best books on the transformational impact of entrepreneurship on society

Why am I passionate about this?

As an entrepreneur and a professional business valuation specialist, I have a passion for understanding entrepreneurship and its often-transformational impact on society/civilization. Having worked with many business owners and inventors over the years, I've noticed that money is not always the primary motivating factor for entrepreneurs. In many instances, the benefits their products and services are intended to provide—and, in some instances, the wider social implications of those benefits—are what animates these business adventurers the most. So, these days when the work of NewSpace entrepreneurs like Musk, Bezos, and Branson are likely leading humankind to a multiplanetary future, it's an opportune time to explore the impact of entrepreneurship on society. 


I wrote...

A Brief History of Entrepreneurship: The Pioneers, Profiteers, and Racketeers Who Shaped Our World

By Joe Carlen,

Book cover of A Brief History of Entrepreneurship: The Pioneers, Profiteers, and Racketeers Who Shaped Our World

What is my book about?

A Brief History of Entrepreneurship charts how entrepreneurship has been a prime mover in revolutionizing civilization. Entrepreneurs often butt up against processes, technologies, social conventions, and even laws. As such, they circumvent, innovate, and, in some instances, violate to obtain what they want. This creative destruction has brought about overland and overseas trade, colonization, and a host of other phenomena that have transformed society.

Consulting rich archival sources, including some that, heretofore, have never been translated, Carlen maps the course of human history through nine episodes when entrepreneurship reshaped our world. Highlighting the most colorful characters of each era, he traces this phenomenon from Mesopotamian merchants' creation of the urban market economy to the current "flattening" of the world's economic playing field.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Joe Carlen Why did I love this book?

Although Peter Drucker is best remembered as a management guru, he also produced some seminal work on the topic of entrepreneurship, of which Innovation and Entrepreneurship is the most comprehensive. The book explores the close relationship between creative problem-solving (or “innovation”) and successful/socially impactful entrepreneurship. In his lively prose, the fondly remembered business writer provides a rigorous review of the opportunities for entrepreneurship. 

For example, he discusses how “changes in perception” such as changes in how women see themselves in modern society, create opportunities for savvy entrepreneurs. Dr. Drucker also provides excellent insights regarding different forms of entrepreneurship. Perhaps most relevantly, he also explains the ways in which entrepreneurship impacts society and, in his view, makes the United States and some other developed countries more economically resilient. 

By Peter F. Drucker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Innovation and Entrepreneurship as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How can management be developed to create the greatest wealth for society as a whole? This is the question Peter Drucker sets out to answer in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. A brilliant, mould-breaking attack on management orthodoxy it is one of Drucker's most important books, offering an excellent overview of some of his main ideas. He argues that what defines an entrepreneur is their attitude to change: 'the entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it and exploits it as an opportunity'. To exploit change, according to Drucker, is to innovate. Stressing the importance of low-tech entrepreneurship, the challenge of balancing…


Book cover of Business Cycles: A Theoretical, Historical, and Statistical Analysis of the Capitalist Process

Joe Carlen Why did I love this book?

More so than almost any other economist of his stature, Joseph Schumpeter appreciated the central importance of entrepreneurship to any proper understanding of economics. After all, Schumpeter was the academic who popularized (but did not actually coin) the term “creative destruction,” now synonymous with the disruptive but ultimately beneficial process of innovative entrepreneurship.  

In Business Cycles, among other topics, the Austrian-born economist explains how the entrepreneur, defined as an “individual who carries out innovations,” interacts with the capitalist, defined as “the one who bears the [financial] risk.” Their collaborative work lies at the core of what Schumpeter describes as economic “evolution,” impacting the business cycle and the lives of everyone in a capitalist society. First published in 1939, Schumpeter’s observations still resonate over 80 years later.

By Joseph A. Schumpeter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Business Cycles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2017 Reprint of 1939 First Edition.  Volume One Only.  Volume Two published separately by Martino Fine Books ISBN 978-1-68422-065-6.  Full facsimile of the original edition, not reproduced with Optical Recognition Software. Schumpeter is without doubt one of the most influential economists of the 20th century.  “Business Cycles” [1939] is considered his great work. We reprint the first edition published in 1939 in two volumes. In "Business Cycles" Schumpeter focuses powerfully on the historical role of technological innovation in accounting for the high degree of instability in capitalists societies. He aims to analyze empirically the actual process of economic development using…


Book cover of The Entrepreneurial Society

Joe Carlen Why did I love this book?

The impact of entrepreneurship on society is clearly of great interest to the author, an economist at Indiana University. Often contrasting Europe, where Dr. Audretsch has spent a considerable amount of time, with his native United States, the author explores the socioeconomic implications of America’s transition from a job-for-life society to The Entrepreneurial Society

For example, he explains that the entrepreneurial thrust in American business and academia in the late 20th century/early 21st century have generated an impressive job-creating engine, especially in contrast to the relatively stagnant job growth in most of Europe. The Entrepreneurial Society stands as an important discussion about the impact of entrepreneurship on 21st-century society and the book’s transatlantic scope makes it particularly interesting. 

By David B. Audretsch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Entrepreneurial Society as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Your father most likely enjoyed the security of life-time employment with a major corporation. No more. While the previous generation had an average of four employers over the course of their lifetimes, the current generation will hold four different jobs by the time they reach 30. One of their employers will be either someone they know or themselves. If you're not an agent of change by contributing to innovation and doing something different and better today than
yesterday, don't expect your job to be around for much longer. Over two-thirds of college students will be their own boss at some…


Book cover of Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works

Joe Carlen Why did I love this book?

One of the more readable books on the topic of social entrepreneurship, Getting Beyond Better clarifies the mission of the modern social entrepreneur. Like many governments, the social entrepreneur is seeking to provide goods and services to fellow citizens but, unlike most governments, this do-gooder also must contend with the imperative to turn a profit, albeit not to the same extent as most “regular” entrepreneurs. 

Within this distinctive paradigm, social entrepreneurs may be empowered to tackle social problems in ways that are more sustainable, equitable, and benevolent than purely profit-driven entrepreneurship is capable of. For those eager to “do well” for themselves while “doing good” for society, Getting Beyond Better offers a compelling blueprint.

By Roger L. Martin, Sally Osberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Getting Beyond Better as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Who drives transformation in society? How do they do it? In this compelling book, strategy guru Roger L. Martin and Skoll Foundation President and CEO Sally R. Osberg describe how social entrepreneurs target systems that exist in a stable but unjust equilibrium and transform them into entirely new, superior, and sustainable equilibria. All of these leaders--call them disrupters, visionaries, or changemakers--develop, build, and scale their solutions in ways that bring about the truly revolutionary change that makes the world a fairer and better place. The book begins with a probing and useful theory of social entrepreneurship, moving through history to…


Book cover of Bill Gates Speaks: Insight from the World's Greatest Entrepreneur

Joe Carlen Why did I love this book?

Bill Gates Speaks is a collection and analysis of some of the Microsoft mega-entrepreneur’s most intriguing quotes. Gates’ reflections on business, technology, social improvement (e.g., “I have no doubt that computers can help kids develop more of their mental potential”) and even government provide tremendous insight into the nexus of entrepreneurship and society. Especially considering his remarkable philanthropy in recent years, few people understand that relationship in the firsthand manner that Bill Gates does. 

By Janet Lowe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bill Gates Speaks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Love him or hate him, Bill Gates has single-handedly shaped the technological future of the twenty-first century. Created through the independent research of bestselling author Janet Lowe, Bill Gates Speaks documents the life and ambitions of one of the world's most unique business and cultural leaders. The only book to compile Gates' actual words-culled from articles, newscasts, and interviews-this profile reveals what Gates has to say on everything from financing a start-up to running a conglomerate, developing technology, to raising a family.


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Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

Book cover of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

Gabrielle Robinson Author Of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Retired english professor

Gabrielle's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Gabrielle found her grandfather’s diaries after her mother’s death, only to discover that he had been a Nazi. Born in Berlin in 1942, she and her mother fled the city in 1945, but Api, the one surviving male member of her family, stayed behind to work as a doctor in a city 90% destroyed.

Gabrielle retraces Api’s steps in the Berlin of the 21st century, torn between her love for the man who gave her the happiest years of her childhood and trying to come to terms with his Nazi membership, German guilt, and political responsibility.

Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

What is this book about?

"This is not a book I will forget any time soon."
Story Circle Book Reviews

Moving and provocative, Api's Berlin Diaries offers a personal perspective on the fall of Berlin 1945 and the far-reaching aftershocks of the Third Reich.

After her mother's death, Robinson was thrilled to find her beloved grandfather's war diaries-only to discover that he had been a Nazi.

The award-winning memoir shows Api, a doctor in Berlin, desperately trying to help the wounded in cellars without water or light. He himself was reduced to anxiety and despair, the daily diary his main refuge. As Robinson retraces Api's…


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