7 Books Every Startup Should Read

1. Good to Great – Jim Collins

‘Good to Great’ contains some evergreen lessons about how to do things right in business. All firms should aim to be remarkable, rather than settling for being good, according to the author.

Based on case studies of successful companies, Jim Collins’ book picks out strategies that can take an average business into the realms of greatness. Collins, a business consultant and lecturer, also investigates the qualities that make up great leaders and fantastic teams.

One of the book’s many takeaways is to begin your startup with a stellar, self-motivating team. Too much time and energy is wasted on trying to build the skills of mediocre players. Start with an excellent workforce, and you’ll save yourself no end of hassle.

Other suggestions include growing your business by making many small changes at useful times. Each little improvement should push your company forward, until it gains a momentum of its own. Collins adds that clever use of technology can help to speed up growth.

2. The Lean Startup – Eric Ries

If there is one book you should read to to improve the likelihood of your startup being a success, this is probably it. Not only will Ries’ advice save you money, but you’re more likely to create a product or service that consumers rave about.

‘The Lean Startup’ teaches businesses how to change the scope of what they’re doing in order to meet consumer needs. The strategies mentioned in the book are employed by many of the world’s leading brands, such as Google and Facebook.

Ries says a lean startup should avoid assuming what the market might want. Instead businesses should focus on modifying a product or service at each stage — to fit with evidence from consumer testing.

3. Influence – Robert Cialdini

A gem for marketers and advertisers, ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’ is a great book for learning about consumer behavior. Written by Robert Cialdini, a Professor of Psychology and Marketing, the book will teach you principles from behavioral psychology that you can use in your business.

Wouldn’t it be helpful to know the one word that can increase your powers of persuasion by more than half? Or one simple tactic that can create a rush for your product or service? Cialdini’s book can teach you all that and more.

You can use this knowledge to help your startup with advertising copy and negotiations. When you understand how humans think and react, you will have a powerful long-term resource for your business.

4. See You at the Top – Zig Ziglar

Motivational genius Zig Ziglar wrote a brilliant book in the 1970s that has sold millions of copies across the world. ‘See You at the Top’ is a classic book is about effective goal-setting. The lessons within it are about how to structure your thinking to achieve success.

Ziglar starts by showing you how to build a healthy self-image and a good attitude. He goes on to emphasize how vital it is to display integrity and strength of character. The book teaches that cooperation and helping others are key factors in achieving success. By helping other people to achieve their aims and goals, you will be more certain of success, too.

‘See You at the Top’ is essential reading for any startup, with step-by-step instructions on how to set goals. Track down an older edition if you can, which has a list of further reading at the end of each chapter — a useful resource sadly not found in the newer volumes.

5. The E-Myth Revisited – Michael Gerber

This the perfect book for any startup which aims to grow into a big business. The book explains the difference between having a business that you run, and a business that you work in.

Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of setting up their business and working within it on a daily basis. But for successful businesses to flourish, the founders need to be working on how their business functions and grows in the long-term.

The art of business, Gerber argues, is to be able to strategize, rather than performing the functions of the business yourself. You should be free to manage the overall systems of the business, rather than getting caught up in the technical work.

Startups should read this book as early on as possible, to ensure a productive path is set for the future.

6. The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell

Any of Malcolm Gladwell’s books are worth reading, but ‘The Tipping Point’ is particularly interesting for startups. The books goes into what makes brands, products and businesses become phenomenally successful.

What seems like a mystery, or perhaps luck, turns out to be the result of a series of connections. Certain types of people are vital in helping an idea or product to “go viral.” Gladwell identifies that people with large social networks, information specialists, and persuasive salesmen are needed to make a trend grow.

One lesson contained in the book is that taking the right action may not have any impact unless it is done at exactly the right time. For startups to be successful, they should heed the environment they are in. Businesses should aim to strike a chord with what is going on in wider society.

7. Autobiography of a Yogi – Paramahansa Yogananda

Apple founder Steve Jobs loved this book so much that he arranged for copies of it to be given away at his funeral. It’s not a book about business, per se, but a story of self-realization.

In order to succeed at business, you must start with your own mindset — and nurture your growth as an individual. It is people who run businesses, after all.

Jobs’ passion for this book began when he was a teenager, and the spiritual qualities he developed through reading it, helped him to be successful. Jobs knew the value of trusting your creativity and intuition — and following your dreams.

The book charts Yogananda’s unique life journey as a Yogi and is packed with wise words about attitude, achievement, fulfilment, and purpose. Best-selling author Jack Canfield is also a fan of the book.



  1. Amy Knight

    06/06/2014 at 11:37 pm

    Thank you for these. A couple of those sound really interesting so I will be looking out for those. If I could add any book to that list from this years pick, it would have to be One Dot, Two Dots, Get Some New Dots from David Silverstein. I highly recommend checking out the website and looking through some review on amazon. It’s a really great read and for such a small book it really packs in a lot of advice with examples.

    • Beth Burgess

      07/06/2014 at 7:42 am

      Thanks Amy – I will be sure to check it out.

  2. Bianca S.

    25/06/2014 at 11:42 pm

    “Influence” sounds fantastic! As a small business owner and psychology major I would love to read how the author integrated the power of persuasion and behavioral psychology into the business world! Sounds like a winning combination. I recently read a book called “Conversations That Sell” by Nancy Bleeke, the president and founder of a successful sales training and HR firm; she has had over 25 years coaching, training, and hiring many thousands of salespeople ( I am recommending this book because as someone who does a lot of research into business and sales strategies, this book really helped me understand that I don’t have to be a born salesperson to be a successful salesperson. No more “pitching;” the book focuses on the specifics of person to person sales, the preparation involved, knowing the type of people your working with and how to sell specifically to their needs. It is a must read for anyone involved in the sales industry and for business professionals in general. This book includes all the tips you could ever need; I highly recommend it!

  3. Beth Burgess

    26/06/2014 at 11:22 am

    Thanks Bianca. Cialdini’s book is a really good read, I promise!

  4. Zohaib Akhlaq

    13/07/2014 at 8:52 am

    Thanks! for putting all the great books about start-up/entrepreneurship here. I have read couple of them, will read others soon. Thanks for pointing me in another direction.
    You can download couple of them from here :

  5. Test Drive

    13/08/2015 at 9:03 pm

    I love your choice, but Four Steps to the Epiphany should be on the first place, here is another one that includes technical and practical stuff

  6. Mitch Hills

    20/11/2015 at 3:36 pm

    Great list – top 2 are my fav :) Tweeted!

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