The best books to inspire you to get off your butt and start a business

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a real passion for entrepreneurship, so much so that I married an entrepreneur and produced two children who became entrepreneurs. During my 25 years as a professor in the Greif Entrepreneurship Center at the University of Southern California, one of the top programs in the U.S., I had the privilege of inspiring and mentoring hundreds of new entrepreneurs. I found my passion in technology businesses. I had the business skills needed to help scientists and engineers raise funding, bring their inventions to market, and build their companies. I managed to start and run four ventures of my own as well as write several books about entrepreneurship.

I wrote...

Entrepreneurship For Dummies

By Kathleen Allen,

Book cover of Entrepreneurship For Dummies

What is my book about?

Is it possible for just about anyone to start and run a successful business? Absolutely! Entrepreneurship for Dummies will show you why that’s true. It gives you tips for creating a new business opportunity or taking advantage of an unexpected opportunity that comes your way. And you don’t have to be a “dummy” to appreciate the step-by-step approach with examples that help you think like an entrepreneur. By the end of the book, I’m confident you will have the courage and the tools to come up with a business idea and do the work to make it happen.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Monk and the Riddle: The Education of a Silicon Valley Entrepreneur

Kathleen Allen Why did I love this book?

I absolutely love this book! It’s an easy read, reads like a novel, but it’s packed with very valuable lessons on entrepreneurship, venture capital, and leadership.

The story is told through a conversation between a venture capitalist (Komisar) and two young entrepreneurs who are planning to start a business for all the wrong reasons. It’s humorous, touching, and very entertaining. I laughed a lot.

In the end, you learn that a business needs much more than nuts and bolts. It needs heart and soul.

Equally as important as what you learn about startups, the story will teach you how to avoid the Deferred Life Plan, putting off what you want to do, and instead live your life with passion.

By Randy Komisar, Kent Lineback,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book describes how one Silicon Valley insider has blazed a path of professional - and personal - success playing the game by his own rules. Silicon Valley is filled with garage-to-riches stories and hot young entrepreneurs with big ideas. Yet even in this place where the exceptional is common, Randy Komisar is a breed apart. Currently a "Virtual CEO" who provides "leadership on demand" for several renowned companies, Komisar was recently described by the "Washington Post" as a "combined professional mentor, minister without portfolio, in-your-face investor, trouble-shooter and door opener." But even more interesting than what he does is…

Book cover of Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

Kathleen Allen Why did I love this book?

I’ve always believed that the most successful entrepreneurs don’t do what everyone else has done. They carve new paths.

Peter Thiel was the co-founder of Paypal, Palantir, and several other very successful ventures.

In each case, he created something completely new; he went from zero to one. Later he became a venture capitalist investing in unique ventures.

Blake Masters was his student at Stanford and the notes he took in class became an Internet sensation. According to Thiel, there is no formula for success because a great innovation is by definition new and unique.

The best new companies are the result of new thinking.

Thiel encourages entrepreneur wannabes to think for themselves and to not be afraid of creating a monopoly like Google and Amazon did by developing a product that didn’t exist in the market and from which multiple additional products and applications could be spun off to serve a variety of smaller markets.

According to Thiel, all happy companies are monopolies that solved a unique problem. All failed companies are those that could not escape competition.

By Peter Thiel, Blake Masters,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Zero to One as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What Valuable Company Is Nobody Building? The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won't make a search engine. If you are copying these guys, you aren't learning from them. It's easier to copy a model than to make something new: doing what we already know how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. Every new creation goes from 0 to 1. This book is about how to get there. "Peter Thiel has built multiple breakthrough companies, and Zero to One shows how". (Elon…

Book cover of Not Your Job: Discover the surprising way to save time, avoid burnout, and do what you love forever

Kathleen Allen Why did I love this book?

I like this book because it’s very complementary to Peter Thiel’s book.

It emphasizes how to make yourself the focus of your “zero to one” effort.

Too many entrepreneurs burn out before they go the distance, usually because they’re exhausted and frustrated trying to manage their employees and all the tasks associated with the business.

Brantley, a successful entrepreneur, proposes a new approach that gets entrepreneurs out of micromanaging (which they tend to do) by leveraging the time and talent of their best people.

I tend to get myself into the weeds on things that are important to me (like a business), and this book helped me see what I was doing before I did any real damage.

I think you’ll feel like he wrote the book for you. No fluff, just great advice and tools you can actually use.

Book cover of The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage

Kathleen Allen Why did I love this book?

I enjoyed this book a lot because it’s full of so much actionable information.

A best-selling author and speaker, Robbins’ enthusiasm is contagious and if anything will get you off your butt and moving toward your goals, the five-second rule will do it.

It also works when you find yourself in situations that require some courage – like meeting a venture capitalist for the first time to pitch your business? Don’t let fear or lack of self-esteem keep you from doing what you know you want to do.

The secret is The 5 Second Rule, and this is the book that shares that secret.

By Mel Robbins,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The 5 Second Rule as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

National Bestseller!

As seen on The Today Show!

How to enrich your life and destroy doubt in 5 seconds.

Throughout your life, you've had parents, coaches, teachers, friends and mentors who have pushed you to be better than your excuses and bigger than your fears. What if the secret to having the confidence and courage to enrich your life and work is simply knowing how to push yourself?

Using the science of habits, riveting stories and surprising facts from some of the most famous moments in history, art and business, Mel Robbins will explain the power of a "push moment."…

Book cover of The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup

Kathleen Allen Why did I love this book?

For a couple years, Noam Wasserman was an entrepreneurship colleague of mine at the University of Southern California.

Founders Dilemmas is the first book to focus on the critical decisions founders of new ventures must make starting on day one. Wasserman studied nearly 10,000 founders including Tim Westergren of Pandora and Evan Williams of Twitter.

It should be no surprise that he found that people are the leading cause of startup failures. The best recommendation I can give is to tell you that Wasserman offers solutions that I have personally used and passed along to hundreds of founders, because they work.

This is not a fluffy book. It’s a serious book that is well worth your time to read. If you’re going to start a business, it’s required reading! And take notes!

Not only will it help you decide if you have what it takes, it will help you learn what you’ll face during the launch of your new business.

By Noam Wasserman,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Founder's Dilemmas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Often downplayed in the excitement of starting up a new business venture is one of the most important decisions entrepreneurs will face: should they go it alone, or bring in cofounders, hires, and investors to help build the business? More than just financial rewards are at stake. Friendships and relationships can suffer. Bad decisions at the inception of a promising venture lay the foundations for its eventual ruin. The Founder's Dilemmas is the first book to examine the early decisions by entrepreneurs that can make or break a startup and its team. Drawing on a decade of research, Noam Wasserman…

You might also like...

American Flygirl

By Susan Tate Ankeny,

Book cover of American Flygirl

Susan Tate Ankeny Author Of The Girl and the Bombardier: A True Story of Resistance and Rescue in Nazi-Occupied France

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Susan Tate Ankeny left a career in teaching to write the story of her father’s escape from Nazi-occupied France. In 2011, after being led on his path through France by the same Resistance fighters who guided him in 1944, she felt inspired to tell the story of these brave French patriots, especially the 17-year-old- girl who risked her own life to save her father’s. Susan is a member of the 8th Air Force Historical Society, the Air Force Escape and Evasion Society, and the Association des Sauveteurs d’Aviateurs Alliés. 

Susan's book list on women during WW2

What is my book about?

The first and only full-length biography of Hazel Ying Lee, an unrecognized pioneer and unsung World War II hero who fought for a country that actively discriminated against her gender, race, and ambition.

This unique hidden figure defied countless stereotypes to become the first Asian American woman in United States history to earn a pilot's license, and the first female Asian American pilot to fly for the military.

Her achievements, passionate drive, and resistance in the face of oppression as a daughter of Chinese immigrants and a female aviator changed the course of history. Now the remarkable story of a fearless underdog finally surfaces to inspire anyone to reach toward the sky.

American Flygirl

By Susan Tate Ankeny,

What is this book about?

One of WWII’s most uniquely hidden figures, Hazel Ying Lee was the first Asian American woman to earn a pilot’s license, join the WASPs, and fly for the United States military amid widespread anti-Asian sentiment and policies.

Her singular story of patriotism, barrier breaking, and fearless sacrifice is told for the first time in full for readers of The Women with Silver Wings by Katherine Sharp Landdeck, A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell, The Last Boat Out of Shanghai by Helen Zia, Facing the Mountain by Daniel James Brown and all Asian American, women’s and WWII history books.…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in entrepreneurs, self esteem, and burnout?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about entrepreneurs, self esteem, and burnout.

Entrepreneurs Explore 289 books about entrepreneurs
Self Esteem Explore 100 books about self esteem
Burnout Explore 24 books about burnout