MBA students looking to stray outside of their required course material may find that the list of suggested reads never seems to end. Truthfully, you can never read too many good tips about business — but to help get you started, we’ve compiled a list of 25 of the best business books recommended by entrepreneurs, business owners, and grad students. Some are classics, dating back almost 80 years, while others add fresh insight into the most recent trends in marketing, social media, and more. Check out the 25 recommended books below and see why these successful business folk are singing their praises.
1. How to Win Friends & Influence People – Dale Carnegie
Considered “the grandfather of all people-skills books”, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People was initially published in 1937 and has since sold over 30 million copies worldwide. Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of the marketing consulting firm Mavens & Moguls, says it tops her list of business must-reads: “It is a classic with timeless advice on manners, people, and human nature.”
2. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference – Malcolm Gladwell
In his bestselling book, Malcolm Gladwell explores what he describes as the tipping point — “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point” — and how it affects social epidemics ranging from fashion trends to crime rate. “[Gladwell] really understands what makes people tick,” Arnof-Fenn says.
3. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In – Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, Bruce Patton
Originally published in 1981, this book exploring the psychology of negotiation was named one of the longest-running bestsellers among paperback business books by BusinessWeek magazine. “I took [Fisher’s] negotiation class in business school and this reminds me of what he taught us — we are constantly negotiating in business and you have to always keep in mind what your best alternatives are and be ready to walk away,” says Arnof-Fenn.
4. Think Rich and Grow – Napoleon Hill
Think and Grow Rich was published in 1937 during the Great Depression, but its philosophies remain relevant to this day; by 2015, the book had sold over 100 million copies globally. Bryan Clayton, CEO of the lawncare company GreenPal, named this book (and only this book) on his list of must-read business literature.
“The book’s thesis is about self-improvement and mastering your thoughts to help one lead a successful life,” Clayton says. “[Hill] says the most important quality for personal development is a ‘single chief aim’ in your career or business objectives. There needs to be one big goal that you can focus all of your intensity on. It could be to dominate your market niche or to become CEO of the company. Whatever it is, you have to have a challenging chief aim in life to keep you motivated and propelling your career forward.”
5. Me, Inc. – Gene Simmons
Me, Inc. tops the list of recommendations by Leticia Mooney, a strategy consultant and self-described serial entrepreneur based out Australia. “Gene is the bass player of KISS, a branding genius (he branded IndyCar racing in the USA), and a business god. His book shows you why you are your first business,” says Mooney.
6. The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life – Alice Schroeder
There’s no question as to why the biography of one of America’s most influential businessmen makes this list. “This is a gigantic tome (959 pages), but if you’re reading it with a business mind, it is overflowing with instruction on how to create incredible businesses that have integrity,” says Mooney.
Nicole Ouellette, owner of Breaking Even Communications and Anchorspace, said she never attended business school and learned everything she knows through other people, her own experiences, and books. Lessons of a Lipstick Queen is one of them. “Mainly a memoir, this book is about a young woman running a business. In a lot of ways I saw myself and in a lot of ways I didn’t, but she has a lot of great one-liners and her candidness is appreciated because so many people aren’t,” says Ouelllette.
8. Jab Jab Jab Right Hook: How to Sell Your Story in a Noisy Social World – Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary Vaynerchuk, who penned the bestselling business novels Crush It! and The Thank You Economy, shares invaluable insight into social media marketing strategies in this 2013 book, which was also recommended by Ouellette. “The hundreds (literally) of social media case studies are great for showing and not telling. Also a great overview of each social network, its strengths, and its weaknesses,” she says. “Whether you are just starting with social media or have been doing it for awhile, this will get you thinking. Content is king but context is God indeed!”
In his book The $100 Startup, entrepreneur, blogger, and speaker Chris Guillebeau points to 50 case studies involving individuals who’ve built thriving businesses from small investments — often times $100 or less. “It’s always great to think in the bootstrapping mindset because at the beginning, you want to spend time and money on everything but can’t. His ‘launch’ checklist alone is worth the price of admission but it is available on his website too,” says Ouellette.
10. The E-Myth Revisited – Michael E. Gerber
Author Michael Gerber has been dubbed “The World’s #1 Small Business Guru”, and his book about growing a business is considered one of the best on the subject. Candice Rafferty, founder of the Tasmanian food, beauty, wellness, lifestyle, and gift store Tassie Pure, says it’s a must-read for all entrepreneurs. “This book is pretty much the benchmark of small business. It should be mandatory reading for anyone starting up their own endeavor; it’s clear, concise, and practical.”
11. The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working – Tony Schwartz
“This one is for a more corporate audience, but there are key insights that can be adapted to the startup world too. He has great wisdom on better utilizing energy, focus, creativity, and passion,” Rafferty explains.
Eric Ries’ bestselling book draws from his own experiences (and failures) at a number of Silicon Valley startups. Since the book’s release in 2011, The Lean Startup approach has been used by both budding and established companies across the globe. Rafferty also named it on her list of go-tos for entrepreneurial insight: “This is another very popular book, for good reason,” she says. “Ries is a fine writer and provides a good roadmap for getting a business from the ‘idea’ stage, through development, launch, and beyond.”
13. Mastery – Robert Greene
“This book examines the lives of great historical and contemporary figures, such as Charles Darwin, Mozart, Henry Ford, and Freddie Roach; ultimately analyzing the traits, habits, practices, and motivation that made them masters,” says Rafferty.
14. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose – Tony Hsieh
“I’ve read just about every business book imaginable and no book had more of a positive impact on my career than Delivering Happiness
15. Getting More: How you Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life – Stuart Diamond
Stuart Diamond is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, attorney, entrepreneur, and the author of Getting More. His model of negotiation has been the subject of business classes at the University of Pennsylvania for over 20 years and is used to train new employees at Google. Pritesh Mittal, who runs the startup NearFox out of Mumbai, credits the book for helping him getting his business started. “This book is very important to those who want to learn how to deal with people/situations in a much better way,” he says. “This has changed my life!”
Seth Godin’s 76-page book The Dip debunks the old saying that “Quitters never win and winners never quit”. Despite its modest page count, this little book is jam-packed with helpful insight — which explains why it sold more than 100,000 copies in just a month. “[This is a] very inspiring book,” says Mittal. “[It shows] you how a temporary setback can be overcome with persistence.”
17. Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator – Ryan Holiday
Danny Garcia, a marketing operations manager at the startup Stacklist.com, says he’s been going through up to two books a week to learn more about business, marketing, and tips to help with his own professional development. One of his favorites includes Ryan Holiday’s Trust Me, I’m Lying. “This is a really fun read while also being very informative,” he says of the book. “It’s about manipulating the media and getting free coverage. I’ve tried out some of the things in this book and have already been quoted in Forbes, Glamour, and a couple of other blogs.”
18. Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley – Antonia Garcia Martinez
“While this isn’t a ‘business book’ per say, it is about [Martinez’] experience — how he worked on Wall Street, worked at a startup in the Valley, got into YC, sold out to Twitter, went to work for Facebook, and then went back to work at Twitter,” says Garcia, adding that it’s an “insane story.”
19. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action – Simon Sinek
Simon Sinek’s Start With Why is described as “A manifesto for those who want to inspire others and for those who want to find someone to inspire them.” It also tops executive coach Susan Gilell-Stuy’s list of picks for best business reads. “There is a difference between being happy and being fulfilled,” she says. “This book is a great starting point for leaders and people beginning to figure out their purpose — why they do what they do. It is always on my recommended list for new leaders.”
20. Everybody Writes: Your Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content – Ann Handley
The premise of this bestselling book is pretty much summed up in the title: everyone can write great content. “[This is] my go-to book for leaders, coaches, and entrepreneurs struggling with communicating through their writing,” says Gilell-Stuy. “It gives them a deeper understanding of the craft of great storytelling, the practical skills they need to write well, and [it] transforms writing from a chore to something they enjoy.”
21. Talking Crazy: How to Deal With the Crazy and Irrational People in Your Life – Mark Goulston
Psychiatrist Mark Goulston draws on past interactions in his professional and personal life when sharing his approach to empathizing with irrational people. “We all encounter irrational people. What we know is that logic and reasoning doesn’t work with them,” Gilell-Stuy says. “In this book, Goulston shares what he’s learned about how to handle and deal with the irrational people we come across every day. His ideas are a bit counter-intuitive but they really do shift the dynamic and help people diffuse and disarm the irrational person leading to more positive outcomes.”
22. Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity – Edward Slingerland
“This is one of my go-to recommendations when I have a client who is just trying too hard to make change happen,” says Gilell-Stuy. “It shines a light on the truth that sometimes we all get caught up in trying too hard to make things happen. Knowing sometimes trying too hard is overrated is the first step in relinquishing control and embracing spontaneity on the path to realizing our goals.”
Anne Corall, who analyzes statistics at the Cleveland-based recruiting firm Alliance Solutions Group, puts Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass on the top of her list of list of go-to business books. “This book is reminiscent of [comedian] Mindy Kaling’s writing style,” she says. “[Sincero] hilariously explains why you should be your own number one fan instead of your worst critic. It’s a good ‘if I could give my 20-year-old-professional-self advice’ type of book.”
24. Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time – Keith Ferrazzi
“We have all of the resources in the world at our fingertips with social media. In this book, [Ferrazzi] talks about strategically networking with a purpose,” says Corall. “He gives the best networking tips in all kinds of scenarios; conferences, happy hours, business meetings, and even working out at the gym. There is something we can gain from every situation.”
Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz, imparts some cool wisdom about launching and managing a startup in his widely acclaimed book The Hard Thing About Hard Things. “[Horowitz] is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who starts each chapter with rap quotes that have inspired him the most,” explains Corall. “He teaches us how to approach difficult situations in the workplace when there is no playbook.”