The best business leaders books

12 authors have picked their favorite books about business leaders and why they recommend each book.

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Sam Walton, Made in America

By Sam Walton, John Huey,

Book cover of Sam Walton, Made in America: My Story

Sam Walton didn’t have a side hustle, but he was certainly a hustler. He fell in love with retail outsmarted his competition. It’s a fascinating read and takes the story of Walmart, one of America’s most successful companies and largest employers, all the way down to a competition between five and dime shops across the street from each other in a small town in Arkansas. If you think of each store as a stand-alone business (as Sam did), then Sam Walton was perhaps the most successful parallel entrepreneur in history.

Who am I?

I studied economics and environmental policy but landed in entrepreneurship. I wrote The Parallel Entrepreneur after I sold my first company and continued to work on Rbucks, my blog, after I joined the next company. Outside of work I volunteer frequently in my community. I’m an Associate Professor in the Business Department at Diablo Valley College, where I teach marketing and sit on the advisory boards for both the Business and Computer Science departments. I also lead the Diablo Valley Tech Initiative (DVTI), an economic development organization incubated at DVC. Related to DVTI, I run Lamorinda Entrepreneurs, a community group that promotes and supports local entrepreneurship. I have a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School and a MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

I wrote...

The Parallel Entrepreneur: How to start and run B2B businesses while keeping your day job

By Ryan Buckley,

Book cover of The Parallel Entrepreneur: How to start and run B2B businesses while keeping your day job

What is my book about?

Building a product on the internet is relatively easy these days. It's the making money part that's hard. I wrote this book to help you become a parallel entrepreneur faster than I did, and to encourage you to do so while you have the safety net of a day job.

I've divided this book into two parts: Theory and Tactics. The Theory section will cover all sides of parallel entrepreneurship and lean on both my experiences and those of others who have also ventured into parallel entrepreneurship. The Tactics section covers everything you need to know in order to plan, build, and run a business on the internet -- all while keeping your day job.

I Shouldn't Be Telling You This

By Kate White,

Book cover of I Shouldn't Be Telling You This: How to Ask for the Money, Snag the Promotion, and Create the Career You Deserve

A spunky and accomplished businesswoman and author, Kate White carved her own highly successful career and provides a practical and proven how-to for women to follow. Women wear many hats simultaneously (Think Seuss’ Ten Apples Up On Top) and Kate gives witty, wise, straight-talk for moms on how to balance parenting and craft a career you enjoy. You have talents and potential, I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This is step-by-step guidance to hone your abilities and navigate challenges. These are essential tips from the gutsy innovator who helped increase Cosmopolitan Magazine's circulation by half a million copies per month.

Who am I?

“Eminently quotable, PeggySue Wells is a tonic — warm like your favorite blanket, bracing like a stiff drink.”

History buff and tropical island votary, PeggySue parasails, skydives, scuba dives, and has taken (but not passed) pilot training. The bestselling author of 30 books including the What To Do series, The Slave Across the Street, Bonding With Your Child Through Boundaries, Homeless for the Holidays, Chasing Sunrise, and The Ten Best Decisions A Single Mom Can Make, PeggySue’s most challenging and rewarding adventure was solo parenting seven children. With one in four homes single mom-led, PeggySue teamed with Pam Farrel to offer practical help and tangible tips to moms navigating parenting solo.

I wrote...

The 10 Best Decisions a Single Mom Can Make: A Biblical Guide for Navigating Family Life on Your Own

By Pam Farrel, PeggySue Wells,

Book cover of The 10 Best Decisions a Single Mom Can Make: A Biblical Guide for Navigating Family Life on Your Own

What is my book about?

No matter how you became a single mom, you share the same challenges and fears all parents have. You may feel stretched to the limit. You may suspect your children need more than you're able to give. How are you going to do this on your own?

With humor, Scripture, and sage advice, Pam Farrel (child of a single mother) and PeggySue Wells (single parent of 7 children) show you how to be decisive, create a nurturing home, be proactive, date wisely, pray for your child, embrace your happily-ever-after, and more. You are capable of parenting your children with courage, confidence, and clarity. This loving, practical guide shows you how.

Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass

By Vice Admiral Sandra Stosz,

Book cover of Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass: Leading in Uncharted Waters

Vice Admiral Stosz’s extraordinary career as a US Coast Guard leader culminated in her being the first (and so far only) woman to head a major service academy. I came away from her memoir hugely inspired by her honesty and courage. I also loved her vivid descriptions of long stints on the icebreakers that ply Arctic and Antarctic waters in order to prepare the way for scientific teams, often as the only woman. Her grace and goodwill in those adventure-filled situations come shining through– and sea narratives by women are very rare.

Who am I?

I have spent the last 32 years of my life working with women leaders and aspiring women leaders all over the world and helping organizations to create more inclusive cultures. As a result, I’ve been exposed to extraordinary leaders and to terrible leaders and have seen up close the impact they have on people’s lives. This has inspired me to write 7 books and thousands of articles exploring different aspects of the leader’s journey and to deliver leadership workshops in 32 countries. What do I love? Sharing the stories that inspire me.

I wrote...

How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job

By Sally Helgesen, Marshall Goldsmith,

Book cover of How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job

What is my book about?

How Women Rise is about the habits and behaviors most likely to get in the way of successful women as they seek to move to the next level and assume roles with more authority and scope. These are habits that often serve women well at the early or middle stages of their careers but can undermine them as they move into leadership roles. Habits include: Reluctance to Claim Your Achievements, Expecting Others to Notice and Value Your Contributions, Building Rather Than Leveraging Relationships, Putting Your Job Before Your Career, The Perfection Trap, The Disease to Please, and Ruminating.

Shoe Dog

By Phil Knight,

Book cover of Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

I’m not a runner, but I like to listen to books as I “power walk.” (The faster you walk, apparently, the longer you live.) This was a GREAT listen. Because at the end of the day, the really exciting investing isn’t betting on which stock may go up or down but funding an actual start-up to try to build something great. Few succeed – and few tell a more exciting story than Knight.

Who am I?

My dad gave me $5 when I turned five, $6 when I turned six... and, well, the rest is history. (Of the most minor sort.) I was treasurer of my high school class each year; treasurer of the Democratic Party for 18; and lucked into launching the first widely used personal finance software at more or less the dawn of personal computers. Money. What can I tell you? I like the stuff.

I wrote...

The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need

By Andrew Tobias,

Book cover of The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need

What is my book about?

“Lives up to its brash title.”Los Angeles Times 

“This is the only investment book I have read that truly made sense.”  — Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban


By Neil Gaiman,

Book cover of Neverwhere

How can one not like this book? It sucks you in without you realizing what life’s moral story it is based on. There is no preaching or in your face. Just excitement and entertainment. In the end when you realize the story is about homeless people who are totally ignored in everyday life you say “Wow” and realize the moral of the story. And it hits many of us one way or another and how we look at those less fortunate. What a master Neil is, to entertain and teach

Who am I?

I am a 68-year-old Emergency Room Physician who deals with life and death and tremendous stress every hour at work. When I read, I want to relax and be entertained I personally like YA fantasy books. I do not want to read adult fictionized stories about the life I live every day. I want to be taken off to a new world. Emersed in it. And made to believe the unbelievable. 

I wrote...

Ignatius and the Swords of Nostaw

By David Mucci,

Book cover of Ignatius and the Swords of Nostaw

What is my book about?

Fifteen-year-old Iggy is prepared to face his first days of high school...but is he ready to face mythical creatures, black magic wizards, and sword fights where people get killed?

Iggy’s never thought of himself as a fighter. But as he learns more about the strange place he’s landed, one thing becomes abundantly clear, I the World of Skye needs a hero. And Iggy just might be the one they’re looking for, even if he’s not so sure.

Can You Keep a Secret?

By Sophie Kinsella,

Book cover of Can You Keep a Secret?

This was the book that inspired me to write chick lit and romance novels. After reading Can You Keep a Secret?, I went on to read every book Kinsella wrote. Timeless. But there’s something about this one that is special. A touch of excitement us romance readers love when a bigshot highflyer falls in love with the normal girl on the street. Classic.

Who am I?

Romance and chick-lit books hooked me as a young adult. It was this genre that inspired me to write. Since publishing my first book Gut Feeling in 2012 I’ve since written three chick-lit novels and a holiday rom-com screenplay. The fiction world of perfectly unperfect romance never fails.   

I wrote...

Gut Feeling

By Victoria Browne,

Book cover of Gut Feeling

What is my book about?

Ashleigh Lands has given up the chance for a new life in America with her family to stay in London with her boyfriend, Lee Preston. When Lee cheats on her and quickly becomes an ex-boyfriend, Ashleigh loses herself in work and alcohol. Five months later, she’s ready for change and decides to reach for a new, empowered self.

When window glazier Dave Croft shows up for a job where Ashleigh works, the two hit it off immediately. Lee has been harassing her to get her back, but the more she falls for Dave, the more she leaves Lee in her past. Reports of an encounter Dave had while she's on a trip in Ibiza makes her question his integrity—and her life choices. Can she trust her gut feeling?

Girls Who Run the World

By Diana Kapp, Bijou Karman (illustrator),

Book cover of Girls Who Run the World: 31 CEOs Who Mean Business

This beautifully designed compilation of for-profit business entrepreneurs is engaging and engrossing from start to finish. I loved how each profile was eased into with several, fun, first-person trivia bits (like, “A Weird Thing You’ll Find on (or In) My Desk” and “On My Bucket List”) and continues on with the highs and lows of starting and running a business. Girls Who Run the World is as informative as it is inspiring. And that’s all before you reach the copious back matter that includes a financial case study for starting a business – a great real-world example of one start-up's costs and accounting. I found this to be a fabulous peek into some highly successful companies and the founders/CEOs who run them...all who happen to be women.

Who am I?

I’m someone who believes the accomplishments of women have been glossed over for far too long. I'm passionate about sharing the stories of women and girls that the world at large still tends to ignore. It’s critical to share these stores and to give face and voice to women. Social entrepreneurship, the topic of my recent book Girls Solve Everything, has fascinated me for some time:  creative problem solving, tackling problems in our communities and the world, creating a business to find and facilitate the solution. Representation matters. I’m determined to write about and share the stories of strong, innovative, creative women and girls. Our future depends on them.

I wrote...

Girls Solve Everything: Stories of Women Entrepreneurs Building a Better World

By Catherine Thimmesh, Melissa Sweet (illustrator),

Book cover of Girls Solve Everything: Stories of Women Entrepreneurs Building a Better World

What is my book about?

Women all over the globe are asking questions about problems that affect lives -- and then creating businesses that aim to solve those problems. For instance, can we keep premature babies warm when they're born far from the hospital? Or, can the elderly stay in their homes and eat a balanced diet? Women are tackling these issues and solving them with their ingenuity and business acumen.

This inspiring companion book to the best-selling Girls Think of Everything encourages today's kids to learn from these innovative social entrepreneurs and take on some of the world's biggest problems -- one solution at a time.

Think Like a Breadwinner

By Jennifer Barrett,

Book cover of Think Like a Breadwinner: A Wealth-Building Manifesto for Women Who Want to Earn More (and Worry Less)

Essential Skill #1 for Creatives: the breadwinner mindset

Creative professionals tend to be number-phobes and therefore believe they are doomed to be “starving artists.” That’s why, when I heard the title of Jennifer Barrett’s book, I knew I had to invite her to be a guest on my podcast. She writes clearly and simply about the “breadwinner” mindset. Plus, we share the belief that there is nothing more empowering than having in place the mindset, the money, and the marketing so you are free to walk away from any situation or client that isn’t a good fit. That’s the only way to bring your dream business to life.

Who am I?

I have made it my business to teach basic business skills to creative professionals who should have learned them in school but, alas, did not because it’s not taught in school. This has for years perpetuated a “starving artist” mentality amongst creative professionals, who are naturally talented and could easily bring their creativity to the business side of their business, if only they knew how. That’s the mission I’m on with all of my work through

I wrote...

The Creative Professional's Guide to Money: How to Think About It, How to Talk About it, How to Manage It

By Ilise Benun,

Book cover of The Creative Professional's Guide to Money: How to Think About It, How to Talk About it, How to Manage It

What is my book about?

Creatives are great at their work, but when it comes to running the financial side of their business, most would rather not talk about it. This book focuses on proven techniques and resources used by a wide range of successful professionals to manage their business finances. Readers will learn the essential mindset for profitable pricing, how to avoid the common financial mistakes creative professionals often make, and simple techniques for leading the money conversation so you can command the fees you deserve. 

The New New Thing

By Michael Lewis,

Book cover of The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story

It is easier to say what the ‘new, new thing’ is not than to say what it is. It is not necessarily a new invention. It is not necessarily a new idea – most everything has been considered by someone, at some point. The author explains that the new, new thing is a notion, poised to be taken seriously in the marketplace. It is an item that is a tiny push away from general acceptance and when it gets that push, will change the world.

In 1921, Thorsted Veblen predicted that engineers would one day rule the U.S. economy. He argued that the economy was premised on technology and that engineers (in today’s terms, ‘computer science majors’) were the only ones who understood how technology worked. So, inevitably they would use their superior knowledge to seize power from the financiers, captains of industry, and other business elites.

New growth theory…

Who am I?

I am the recognized expert on work-life balance, harmony, and integrative issues, and since 2009, hold the registered trademark from the USPTO as the “Work-Life Balance Expert®." My books have been featured in 68 of the top 75 American newspapers and, in two instances, advertised in Time Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. In all, 16 of my books are published in Chinese, among them Simpler Living, appearing as a 3-volume set, Everyday Project Management, The 60 Second Innovator, The 60 Second Organizer, The 60 Second Self-Starter, Ten Minute Guide to Time Management, and Ten Minute Guide to Project Management. I also have 13 books published in Arabic.

I wrote...

The 60 Second Innovator

By Jeff Davidson,

Book cover of The 60 Second Innovator

What is my book about?

The 60 Second Innovator asserts that nearly everyone would want to be an innovator if they could. Only a fraction of professionals within an organization, however, prove to be innovators. Unfortunately, most people in the working world head into their jobs the same as they always have; they approach their tasks much the same, attempt to stay within their comfort zones all day long, depart, and return the next day to repeat the process.  

If you work for a company that encourages innovation, lucky you!  If not, that doesn't mean you're up the creek in the day-to-day execution of your job. You can adopt the mindset of an innovator right where you are, with what you have and The 60 Second Innovator will serve as your handy guide.


By Michael Frayn,

Book cover of Skios

On the Greek island of Skios, the philantropic foundation Fred Toppler brings together once a year the scientifical elite. But this summer, nothing works as planned following a suitcase mix-up at the airport. The misunderstandings follow one another, leading the characters to connect with people of other social backgrounds. The pompous and eminent academic Norman Wilfred finds himself trapped in a remote house with Georgie, a nice but limited young woman, when Oliver Fox, a good-looking playboy, deliberately takes Norman’s place at the Toppler foundation, to the delight of the guests. I enjoyed very much the social satire and the brilliant dialogues of Skios. This funny and acidulous book is perfect for reading at the beach. 

Who am I?

I am a french writer, I like to write satires and tongue-in-cheek books about society. Work, children, France, social classes... When you find the right angle almost everything can be funny. With my writing I want to entertain, but give the reader something to think about. I hope this list will make you laugh as much I did. 

I wrote...

The Conquest of the Red Man

By Corinne Maier,

Book cover of The Conquest of the Red Man

What is my book about?

It is a satirical political tale about social classes and about the French obsession with food. My leading character, Corinne Zed, a French bourgeois snob, decides one day to add piquant to her life—rich people are so boring. Nothing could be more exciting than trying to seduce Marco, a leftist who, in a previous life, planted bombs. Not easy to change political tack: Corinne loves pleasures of the palate and why starting a revolution precisely when it is time to drink champagne or eat in a new restaurant (preferably referenced in Michelin)? With the help of her best friend, a trendy and decadent gallery owner, she chases Marco in a mock-heroic adventure. 

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