The best entrepreneur books

16 authors have picked their favorite books about entrepreneurs and why they recommend each book.

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Creativity, Inc.

By Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace,

Book cover of Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Ed Catmull, together with his partner, George Lucas, completely changed the nature of animation with the founding of Pixar Animation Studios. This book outlines the philosophy and management practices that allowed Pixar to achieve unprecedented levels of success with its productions by shaking up traditional norms in the movie business. Sterling bits of advice include: It’s not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It’s the manager’s job to make it safe for others to take them; the cost of preventing errors is often far greater than the cost of fixing them; and a company’s communication structure should not mirror its organizational structure. Everybody should be able to talk to anybody.

Who am I?

When I first started in the field of strategy, all the cool kids were doing industry-level analysis. Order of entry, strategic groups, R&D intensity…anything you could get sufficient data about to run complex models was the order of the day. Those of us studying the ‘insides’ of corporations, particularly the process of innovation, were kind of huddled together for warmth! Today, strategy and innovation have come together in a remarkable way, but I find that most people still don’t understand the processes. One of my goals is to de-mystify the innovation process – these books will give you a great start in understanding the practices that are too bewildering for too many people.  


I wrote...

Discovery-Driven Growth: A Breakthrough Process to Reduce Risk and Seize Opportunity

By Rita Gunther McGrath, Ian C. Macmillan,

Book cover of Discovery-Driven Growth: A Breakthrough Process to Reduce Risk and Seize Opportunity

What is my book about?

It’s a secret hiding in plain sight! There is a predictable, repeatable path to creating growth in high uncertainty situations, but most leaders don’t know about it. This book unlocks the mystery for you.  

In Discovery-Driven Growth, we show how companies can plan and pursue an aggressive growth agenda with confidence. By carefully framing their strategic growth opportunities, testing each project assumption against a series of checkpoints, and creating a culture that acts on evidence and learning instead of blind stumbling, companies can better control their costs, minimize surprises, and know when to disengage from questionable projects—before it's too late.

The Entrepreneur's Guide to Keeping Your Sh*t Together

By Sherry Walling, Rob Walling,

Book cover of The Entrepreneur's Guide to Keeping Your Sh*t Together: How to Run Your Business Without Letting it Run You

The mental game is perhaps the most important part of being a successful founder while also living a sane and happy life. Sherry Walling is an entrepreneur with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and helps us understand how to properly equip ourselves for the startup journey. For full disclosure, I am married to Dr. Walling and credited as a contributing author since we collaborated on several of the ideas that served as the basis for this book. But this book is recommended far and wide by those who read it and understand the need to be aware of how difficult this journey can be.

Who am I?

I’m a serial entrepreneur who’s built and sold several startups. I’ve been helping non-venture-backed startup founders since 2005 and now I run the first startup accelerator for bootstrappers, called TinySeed. I’ve invested in 57 startups, but I don’t believe the only way to start a SaaS company is to raise money. I host the most popular podcast for bootstrappers, called Startups for the Rest of Us. I also run the most well-known conference and online community for non-venture-track SaaS founders, called MicroConf.


I wrote...

Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer's Guide to Launching a Startup

By Rob Walling,

Book cover of Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer's Guide to Launching a Startup

What is my book about?

Start Small, Stay Small is a step-by-step guide to launching a self-funded startup. If you're a developer, this book is your blueprint to getting your startup off the ground with no outside investment.

This book intentionally avoids topics restricted to venture-backed startups such as: honing your investment pitch, securing funding, and figuring out how to use the piles of cash investors keep placing in your lap. There's nothing wrong with pursuing venture funding and attempting to grow fast like Amazon, Google, Twitter, and Facebook. It just so happened that most people are not in a place to do this.

On Entrepreneurship and Impact

By Desh Deshpande,

Book cover of On Entrepreneurship and Impact

I love this book because it nails the essentials of entrepreneurship. The author is a serial entrepreneur, venture investor and philanthropist who has set up and scaled up enterprises in Silicon Valley and India. He presents a set of principles, values and strategies to help entrepreneurs gain a lasting advantage – as opposed to a temporary one. He writes in simple English without resorting to jargon. The fact that he delivers his wisdom in nuggets makes it engaging and useful for the reader. At a time when most of the world merely skims the surface of anything, Desh Deshpande advocates depth — a philosophy I follow, too.


Who am I?

I left the corporate pigeonhole in 2015 and flew out into the Great Expanse. Ever since, I have been a catalyst for people’s self-expression across different media and formats. My work is a direct consequence of this motivation. I am a person branding coach, writer, editor & book coach and voiceover artist. I prefer depth over width, silence over noise, calm over chaos. My thinking is a blend of structure and free flow. My work is more than just work to me: it is a core part of my being. Being of a contemplative nature, I often ask myself big questions about value- creation, impact, empathy, collaboration, etc. I live in the Indian city of Bangalore (Bengaluru) with my family.


I wrote...

The Underage CEOs: Fascinating Stories of Young Indians Who Became CEOs in Their Twenties

By Ganesh Vancheeswaran,

Book cover of The Underage CEOs: Fascinating Stories of Young Indians Who Became CEOs in Their Twenties

What is my book about?

The Underage CEOs tells the stories of eleven youngsters in India who became entrepreneurs right after college/university, thereby becoming CEOs in their twenties itself! They rejected conventional career paths, fought off pressure from society, peers and parents, and took charge of their destinies. They have changed the lives of several people through their ventures. What's more, they are having a lot of fun!

These young men and women are not exceptions. Today, the business climate in India offers multiple opportunities to those with good ideas. If you have a strong vision, drive and patience, you can make a difference in your chosen field. The Underage CEOs is a call to action to take a leap of faith and rewrite your destiny at a young age!

Sticky Wisdom

By Dave Allan, Matt Kingdon, Kris Murrin, Daz Rudkin

Book cover of Sticky Wisdom: How to Start a Creative Revolution at Work

My favorite business school professor gave me this book on a whim that I might be interested in the work of What If? I took it home and devoured it in a matter of hours. It’s captivating in its accessibility to normal people and probably more relevant today than it was twenty years when it was published as creative catalysts and design thinkers refocus on behaviors over process and habits over tools. By adopting the six creative behaviors outlined in the book: freshness, greenhousing, realness, momentum, signalling, and courage, innovators can increase their creative capacity and even more importantly, their creative confidence. 


Who am I?

Inspired by the brilliant Silicon Valley technologists that I worked with in the early 90s and the pioneering design work of my husband’s grandfather, Leroy Grumman, I believe that design thinking is one of the most important reasons to believe that teams can achieve extraordinary results. It increases the likelihood of implementation of ideas by enhancing any companies’ abilities to align, learn, and change together. I have made it my mission to build creative capacity in individuals, organizations, and cities using the language of design thinking so that everyone can make positive change within their sphere of influence.


I wrote...

Experiencing Design: The Innovator's Journey

By Jeanne Liedtka, Karen Hold, Jessica Eldridge

Book cover of Experiencing Design: The Innovator's Journey

What is my book about?

In daylong hackathons, design thinking seems deceptively easy. On the surface, it involves a set of seemingly simple activities such as gathering data, identifying insights, generating ideas, prototyping, and experimentation. But practiced at a superficial level, even great design tools don’t go deep enough to create the shifts in mindset and skillset that are required to achieve transformational impact. Going deep with design involves creating the conditions that shape who we become. Innovators become design thinkers by experiencing design.

Our book is a guide for how to create these deep experiences whether for you, your team, or your organization. Ultimately, we need to be someone new to create something new. This book shows you how to use design thinking to make this happen.

Creativity in Business

By Michael Ray, Rochelle Myers,

Book cover of Creativity in Business: Based on the Famed Stanford University Course That Has Revolutionized the Art of Success

Creativity in Business was the book that started it all for me in terms of creativity in business. I had just graduated from The Wharton School with my MBA, and I had no idea that business creativity was even a thing. Or even a possibility. I thought they were entirely different worlds, and never the twain shall meet. In this book, authors Michael Ray and Rochelle Myers made me want to go take their course at Stanford. As soon as they started talking about business as art and silencing the “voice of judgment,” I was hooked.


Who am I?

For as long I can remember, I’ve been an ideas guy. I even like the idea of ideas…I guess that makes me a meta-idea guy. But not just any ideas. Ideas that achieve the maximum impact with the minimum means. Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote, “I wouldn’t give a fig for simplicity on this side of complexity, but I’d give my life for simplicity on the other side of complexity.” Creative ideas are the main event of the imagination, and the simpler the better. I've written and published several books, hundreds of articles and blogs, and even had dozens of songs published. But by far my favorite creative accomplishment is winning the New Yorker cartoon caption contest in 2008.


I wrote...

Winning the Brain Game: Fixing the 7 Fatal Flaws of Thinking

By Matthew E. May,

Book cover of Winning the Brain Game: Fixing the 7 Fatal Flaws of Thinking

What is my book about?

Science confirms the distinction between the biological brain and the conscious mind. Each day, a game of mind versus matter plays out on a field defined by the problems we must solve. Most are routine, and don’t demand a more mindful approach. It’s when we’re faced with more difficult challenges that our thinking becomes vulnerable to brain patterns that can lead us astray.

In Winning the Brain Game, author and creative strategist Matthew E. May explains several “fatal flaws” of thinking. Calling on modern neuroscience and psychology to help explain these flaws, he blends in a field-tested set of “fixes” proven through hundreds of creative sessions to raise our thinking game to a more mindful level.

What Does It Mean to Be an Entrepreneur?

By Rana Diorio, Emma D. Dryden, Ken Min (illustrator)

Book cover of What Does It Mean to Be an Entrepreneur?

This book introduces the concept of entrepreneurship by encouraging kids to act as creative problem-solvers. Rae is inspired to invent a dog cleaning techno-solution after witnessing a sticky spill. Simple text with a story told in pictures, this is an upbeat resource for the youngest Shark Tank fans, focusing on the curiosity, courage, and risk-taking components necessary for a new business to succeed.

Who am I?

I have never picked a peck of pickles, but I have been a crossing guard, pet-sitter, and professional gift-wrapper. I’ve worked in department stores, banks, libraries, colleges, and even a middle school cafeteria. Every job has taught me about the value of hard work, allowed me to pursue a passion, and inspired me to connect with all kinds of people. My current job - picture book author - is my favorite! I write to empower and inspire readers with new ideas and encourage them, like my characters, to succeed by maintaining a positive attitude and a growth mindset!


I wrote...

Sloth and Squirrel in a Pickle

By Cathy Ballou Mealey, Kelly Collier (illustrator),

Book cover of Sloth and Squirrel in a Pickle

What is my book about?

Slow, sleepy Sloth and speedy, spunky Squirrel want to buy a tandem bicycle so they can go fast on fun adventures together. But the fancy bike is expensive! The two loveable, unlikely friends get jobs to earn bike money, but find they need lots of pickle packing practice. Sloth and Squirrel in a Pickle celebrates teamwork and ingenuity, offering many opportunities to discuss perseverance and growth mindset with humor and heart.

A More Beautiful Question

By Warren Berger,

Book cover of A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas

Due to a mania for metrics, in recent years educators have been pressured to focus on answers rather than exploring the significance of questions. This imbalance can be very damaging. Students who are only motivated by the questions their teachers pose never become intellectually independent and are unable to fully cultivate their creativity.

A More Beautiful Question tackles this problem head-on and offers an informative and engaging analysis of different types of questions and their uses. I was surprised to find gems in every chapter, even those directed at businesspeople. I often recommend this book to other college professors and those who have read it have found it transformative.


Who am I?

Trained as an artist, through my work as a college professor I became committed to helping others cultivate and expand their creativity. It has always been heartbreaking to hear friends and acquaintances bemoan their lack of creativity simply because they hadn't developed drawing skills. Creativity is a human characteristic that can be developed in any discipline and with practice and encouragement, is available to anyone. In my reading and my writing, I seek a combination of accessibility and substance. If a book is engaging enough to read at the beach yet substantial enough to provide fuel for thought long afterward, it is a winner!


I wrote...

Creative Inquiry: From Ideation to Implementation

By Mary Stewart,

Book cover of Creative Inquiry: From Ideation to Implementation

What is my book about?

Creative Inquiry introduces students and general readers to the exploratory mindset and hands-on skills necessary for the cultivation and implementation of new ideas. Using active learning, this book combines concise explanations and real-world examples with engaging exercises for readers to complete. 

At the end of major sections, brief self-reflection papers are provided to help readers assess their progress and revise their work. A section on internships connects coursework to careers, while an appendix provides a lively and practical “Top Ten List” of writing strategies for readers who need extra advice. Throughout, the writing style is conversational, yet substantial, and the examples given reflect a wide range of disciplines, from early aeronautics and linguistics to zoology.

Creating and Growing Real Estate Wealth

By William J. Poorvu,

Book cover of Creating and Growing Real Estate Wealth: The 4 Stages to a Lifetime of Success

Out of sheer modesty, I almost didn’t include my other trade-oriented real estate book, but I haven’t come across any other books that talk about building real estate wealth over a lifetime, and over generations. I write about the four stages that successful real estate investors and developers typically go through—starting out, scaling up, hedging your bets, and taking stock—and also focus on building wealth over generations, in the context of a family enterprise. As with my book, I try to ground my prescriptions in real-world stories, presented in user-friendly language.


Who am I?

Bill Poorvu is a successful real estate investor and developer who for 35 years headed the real estate program at Harvard Business School, where he taught several generations of students, many of whom went on to become industry leaders. He is also one of the founders of the Baupost Group, a Boston-based investment firm that is considered one of the savviest hedge funds in the world, with some $30 billion in assets under management.


I wrote...

The Real Estate Game: The Intelligent Guide to Decisionmaking and Investment

By William J. Poorvu, Jeffrey L. Cruikshank,

Book cover of The Real Estate Game: The Intelligent Guide to Decisionmaking and Investment

What is my book about?

My book offers an insider’s perspective on how to make smart decisions about real estate. The “game” involves interactions among four variables: players, properties, capital markets, and the external environment. How does a real estate professional participate in this game and win? I walk the reader through the key “periods of play” in the real estate game—concept, commitment, development, operation, reward, and reinvestment.

Let me surprise you by saying this book is not for everybody. It focuses on commercial real estate, and on deals above a certain threshold scale, so small-scale residential developers and house flippers may be disappointed. I offer real-world war stories and some very practical advice to the thoughtful investor, including a powerful “back of the envelope” technique for analyzing the financial implications of a potential deal. 

Loonshots

By Safi Bahcall,

Book cover of Loonshots: Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries

This book tackles a core paradox of breakthrough innovations – that they often start in the mind of an ignored, discredited, and dismissed person. That person needs just enough resources to tinker with the idea for long enough that its potential can be realized. But to have a truly transformational impact, the idea has to go beyond just one person’s or a small team’s understanding to be embraced by a large number of champions and users. The book is an utterly delightful read, with innovations as varied as the steam engine and advanced biotech receiving Safi’s witty and knowledgeable touch.  


Who am I?

When I first started in the field of strategy, all the cool kids were doing industry-level analysis. Order of entry, strategic groups, R&D intensity…anything you could get sufficient data about to run complex models was the order of the day. Those of us studying the ‘insides’ of corporations, particularly the process of innovation, were kind of huddled together for warmth! Today, strategy and innovation have come together in a remarkable way, but I find that most people still don’t understand the processes. One of my goals is to de-mystify the innovation process – these books will give you a great start in understanding the practices that are too bewildering for too many people.  


I wrote...

Discovery-Driven Growth: A Breakthrough Process to Reduce Risk and Seize Opportunity

By Rita Gunther McGrath, Ian C. Macmillan,

Book cover of Discovery-Driven Growth: A Breakthrough Process to Reduce Risk and Seize Opportunity

What is my book about?

It’s a secret hiding in plain sight! There is a predictable, repeatable path to creating growth in high uncertainty situations, but most leaders don’t know about it. This book unlocks the mystery for you.  

In Discovery-Driven Growth, we show how companies can plan and pursue an aggressive growth agenda with confidence. By carefully framing their strategic growth opportunities, testing each project assumption against a series of checkpoints, and creating a culture that acts on evidence and learning instead of blind stumbling, companies can better control their costs, minimize surprises, and know when to disengage from questionable projects—before it's too late.

Your Next Five Moves

By Patrick Bet-David,

Book cover of Your Next Five Moves: Master the Art of Business Strategy

In this great read, Patrick bet David opens the opportunity to strategize on planning ahead. In this book, there is the opportunity to clarify where you want to be in life and how you plan to get there. The path begins with understanding how you personally identify yourself, to how you plan to take action on it. After gaining clarity on who you are as a person, you then are able to enhance your strategy as a leader. This book gave great insight to people who feel that they are stuck in a limited place or position, exposing them to their full potential and endless possibilities. 


Who am I?

When writing about the everyday challenges that women face within the workplace, I aim to express the events that occur before, during, and after the experience. Unpopular belief, life doesn’t go back to normal for most of us, as getting back to normal from any traumatic experience will leave you shielded. I found my voice through writing about my passion for enabling female empowerment. My path as a woman in leadership came from understanding the lack of consistent supportive resources, encouragement, and validation, amongst women in the workplace. Through my writing, I aim to creatively empower and encourage my readers to find their voice. 


I wrote...

Jaded Choyce

By Shaynuh Sloane,

Book cover of Jaded Choyce

What is my book about?

30 year old urban professional, Chloe choice, has a plan to start a better life for her and her family, starting with her federal career. As she transitions from one organization to another, she hopes to make a positive difference on the road to achieving her professional goals. The situation reaches a head when Chloe discovers that her work environment is far from what it appears to be. As she learns along the way, she faces challenges from her unsupportive employer, leading her to fend for herself while trying to escape the career she once thought she wanted.

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