Top 21 Books Every Startup Entrepreneur Should Read

Written By:
April 15, 2022

All entrepreneurs have one thing in common: A zeal to read.

You can indeed become a successful entrepreneur without reading any book, but at what cost? If you plan to do everything from scratch, your time, energy, and resources are at stake. Reading good books can save you from rediscovering and revisiting the routes that don’t work, and at the same time—guide you to ones that do.

Though reading alone does not make anyone successful, it instils the passion for being!

In this article, we will share a list of books that are going to act as a gateway to great knowledge, insights, and perspective that every startup entrepreneur will benefit from.

Books on Negotiation

Good negotiation skill is one of the most important skills all successful entrepreneurs have in common. Business or personal—all life transactions are merely negotiations. Here is a list of our top picks:

Getting to a Yes: Negotiating an Agreement Without Giving in by Roger Fisher & William Ury

Getting to a yes is a book that has helped millions of people in mastering their negotiation skills. It offers an in-depth, no-nonsense approach towards carrying out negotiations in volatile business culture. The book is based on the work of the Harvard Negotiation Project, which offers a proven, step-by-step strategy for reaching mutually acceptable agreements during conflicts. Many negotiations do not occur because participants fail to see the bigger picture and do not realise that there is often more at stake than personal gains.

Ratings: 4.5 on Amazon and 3.93 on Goodreads

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It by Chris Voss

An exceptional book on negotiation written by Chriss Voss, an ex-FBI agent and the founder of a consulting firm—The Black Swan Group. The major takeaway from the book is that human beings are emotional and irrational, so at the end of the day, decision making always takes place on an emotional level.

As opposed to what “Getting to a Yes” is about, Never Split the Difference offers an alternate perspective on negotiation that not every negotiation can be mutually beneficial, hence the title! The book will give you an immense perspective on emotional intelligence and verbal and non-verbal communication tactics in having the upper hand.

Ratings: 4.6 on Amazon and 4.36 on Goodreads

Influence- The psychology of persuasion by Robert Cialdini

In this book, Robert Cialdini, an expert in the field of influence and persuasion, talks about psychology very practically. You will uncover that each concept which is covered in the book is backed by data and experiments. This book is the outcome of meticulous, evidence-heavy research, and a three-year program of study on what drives people to change their behavior. The six universal principles you will come across in this book will help you in your journey to becoming a skilled persuader.

Ratings: 4.4 on Amazon and 4.18 on Goodreads

Books on Self Help

The thing about self-help books is that there is a self-help book on everything. So if there is anything you wish to learn or improve, you can easily pick the one you like. But for honing entrepreneurship skills, we are sharing our top picks with you:

Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

In this book, Ben Horowitz discusses the difficulties he has faced throughout his career and shares his wisdom on how to build a successful high tech startup. The book is the story of Horowitz’ business venture Loud Cloud, how he rebranded it to Opsware during difficult times, and the challenges he had to face throughout as a CEO.

The book covers the struggles startup founders have to face on a daily basis, how hard it gets to run a startup when things go wrong and stressful situations arise. At various stages when things get tough, CEOs have to choose between a bad decision and a terrible decision, how nerve-wracking it is for them to make that choice, and how not to surrender under such circumstances. The book contains all kinds of practical knowledge on how to run a startup without giving up and is a must-read for technical entrepreneurs.

Ratings: 4.6 on Amazon and 4.23 on Goodreads

Atomic Habits by James Clear

“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.” The book is about the power of building good habits and overcoming bad ones. It talks about how small habits and changes can build into life-altering outcomes over time. Since we all want the life-altering outcomes to be good, and in our favour, it is essential that we break bad habits, which will only happen consciously and with continuous efforts, and the sooner we can, we will have a grip on preventing future downfalls.

Ratings: 4.6 on Amazon and 4.37 on Goodreads

Zero to One by Peter Thiel

If you want to know how a startup should function, you really cannot skip this one. In his book, Zero to One, PayPal co-founder, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist Peter Thiel talks about building from nothing, efficient startups for a better future. Thiel covers the significance of market knowledge, building a solid foundation before starting and encourages monopoly. The book wonderfully captures the vision required for entrepreneurship.

Ratings: 4.5 On Amazon and 4.17 on Goodreads

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

A surgeon, writer and public health researcher, Atul Gawande in his book, beautifully describes the vast usage of ordinary checklists in everyday complex situations. A mantra that he himself follows that keeps him efficient in all his daily tasks and does not miss the crucial ones. With this book, the author introduces a structure that guarantees that you can follow even the most critical tasks with its implementation.

Ratings: 4.4 on Amazon and 4.02 on Goodreads

The 4-Hour Work Week Book on Productivity by Timothy Ferriss

Please do not take the title of the book too seriously. It is indeed a great book on productivity! American entrepreneur, investor, author, podcaster, and lifestyle guru, Timothy Ferriss, in his book embraces a different angle on entrepreneurship.

The book will act as a guide to simplify life, automate work, effectively manage emails, decrease interruptions and make use of the time you have to explore more meaningful things. The book will guide you through the process of managing a business in a completely innovative way by using Ferris’s D-E-A-L Method.

Ratings: 4.4 on Amazon and 3.91 on Goodreads

Books on Marketing

Marketing is an essential part of any business; it is an essential process that introduces your customers to your products and services. You must be well aware of what marketing trends are, what will work for you, and how to keep yourself up-to-date with the ever-changing marketing trends, to achieve your targeted sales goal.

All Marketers are Liars by Seth Godin

“Every marketer tells a story. And if they do it right, we believe them.” Entrepreneur, best-selling author and speaker Seth Godin, in his book, proposes that marketers approach storytelling in a unique way. Godin emphasizes the fact that marketers should focus on telling real stories. Using various narratives, Godin explains why some marketing campaigns are successful and why others fail.

Marketing concepts described in the book are immensely applicable in the present time. The book will help you understand your consumer’s mind and how you can make your sale. This book tops our list and without a doubt is a must-read for startup entrepreneurs.

Ratings: 4.4 on Amazon and 3.87 on Goodreads

Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why we Buy by Martin Lindstrom

“If marketers could uncover what is going on in our brains that makes us choose one brand over another—what information passes through our brain’s filter and what information doesn’t—well that would be the key to truly building brands of the future.” Martin Lindstrom

Buyology will take you to the depths of a consumer's brain and help you understand what makes them want to buy something. The book is a result of Lindstrom’s 3-year neuro-marketing study, where the volunteers were exposed to different scenarios and how they influenced their buying decisions. The book shares some basic principles that you can apply in your business to make marketing work for you.

Ratings: 4.5 on Amazon and 3.8 on Goodreads

Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi, the founder of Content Marketing Institute, explains that business is about effective communication, and for any business to make an impact, quality content is essential for creating brand awareness, engaging with the audience and generating quality leads. The book explores the depth of content marketing. For every startup entrepreneur wondering how important content is for their website or launching a content marketing plan, this is the book to read!

Ratings: 4.5 on Amazon and 3.9 on Goodreads

Books on Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking involves a series of decisions about the actions to be taken. Strategic thinking is the most valued skill in leaders. The books will help you sharpen your strategic thinking skills and help you not just to cope but shine.

Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio

In this book, Dalio uncovers the principles that have helped him succeed in his career and in building his Empire: Bridgewater Associates. The book covers a wide range of topics, like planning a company, its management, organization and control aspects. The main concepts of the book are idea meritocracy, radical truth, and radical transparency. A book by a billionaire himself that you just cannot miss.

Ratings: 4.6 on Amazon and 4.08 on Goodreads.

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Book for those who want to understand how the mind works, how it makes decisions and errors. It will take you through cognitive biases—the errors in thinking that influence one's decisions and judgments—and heuristics—a method of learning or solving problems allowing people to discover things on their own and learn from their own experiences.

The book may get technical at times, but is a great work on understanding the mechanics of the human mind. The book will expose you to two systems that influence the way we think and uncovers the impact of intuitions on our view and conduct.

Ratings: 4.5 on Amazon and 4.16 on Goodreads

Books on Product Development

Product development is crucial for any business. Product development involves either improving an existing product or developing a new one. In the competitive environment today, where it is easy for anyone to launch a new business/product, startups cannot survive if their product is weak. With that in mind, sharing our great finds with you.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal

Healthy customer engagement is essential for many businesses, like those that offer consumable products and subscription-based services. To grab customers' attention and reach the target audience, businesses usually rely on expensive marketing campaigns to push sales.

These marketing campaigns influence profits negatively. Hooked offers an alternative perspective on maximizing customer engagement and re-engagement with your products and services, without relying on expensive campaigns.

Ratings: 4.6 on Amazon and 4.1 on Goodreads

Friction- The Untapped force that can be your Most Useful Advantage by Roger Dooley

If your product confuses customers, they will not use it. The book will help you understand the practical aspects of improving an overall customer experience. The book explains how friction is the main reason behind bad customer experience in their journey of buying and using your product or service and eliminating those errors that make your product difficult to use.

Ratings: 4.8 on Amazon and 4.1 on Goodreads

Start at the end: How to Build Products That Create Change by Matt Wallaert

Products come and go. Some create value, while others fail. The book will help you understand how to develop products and services that people will use and keep using. The book explains that the end goal is to influence consumer behavior by designing better products and improving existing products with changing consumer behavior.

Ratings: 4.2 on Amazon and 3.8 on Goodreads

Books on Building Culture

The human resources department plays a critical role in ensuring employees are fully engaged and performing to the best of their abilities. When most startups are small, they do not consider hiring an HR professional responsible for managing the complete employee life cycle, taking care of the conduct and well-being of employees, and rolling out policies whenever necessary.

In the absence of one, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the founders themselves and people at higher levels, making it essential for them to learn how to manage and keep their talent. Sharing our top picks with you:

Belonging at Work: Everyday Actions You Can Take to Cultivate an Inclusive Organization by Rhodes Perry

Humans have an innate need to be accepted, to belong and to contribute. These are the biggest motivational factors to outperform any task they are given. Employees’ performance is at best when they are free to be themselves. Belonging inculcates in them a deep sense of responsibility, thus making them more productive.

This is why it is important for people at higher positions in an organization to foster a system of inclusivity. In this book, Perry talks about the importance of inclusion in the workplace, making it a must-read for every entrepreneur.

Ratings: 4.6 on Amazon and 4.01 on Goodreads

Strategic Human Resource Management: An HR Professional’s Toolkit by Karen Beaven

How employees work in an organization affects the growth of an organization. Companies are more likely to succeed when all the teams of a company work efficiently towards attaining the same goal. Strategic HR, through thorough research and analysis, examines the actions required to increase the value of their employees in the company. The book covers a vast range of topics on talent management, talent management, technology and workforce planning- essential in effectively managing people in your startup.

Ratings: 4.3 on Amazon and 4 on Goodreads

Books on Fundraising and VCs

One cannot stress enough the importance of financial literacy for business people. It helps you make sound decisions, effectively manage your capital, regulate your expenses and reach your desired financial goals. Here are our top picks on finance:

Funding your Startup and Other Nightmares by Dhruv Nath and Sushanto Mitra

The book is a practical manual on developing a strong business plan, transitioning from merely an idea to an investment-grade company by applying the “PERSISTENT framework,” which the author says is a prerequisite to angel investing. It also covers information on when not to seek funding as well as common risks that founders often encounter while raising funds.

The book also talks about startups that worked and startups that didn’t work, as well as the reasons behind their success and failure. The book is really helpful in understanding how to effectively communicate with investors, how they make their decisions and how founders can raise funds

Ratings: 4.6 on Amazon and 4.19 on Goodreads

Venture Deals by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson

Venture Deals is about how to deal with venture capitalists and investment bankers as startup entrepreneurs. The book very well explains how venture capitalists and entrepreneurs both have to deal with limited partners (LPs) in closing the deals.

Venture Deals deciphers the economic and control words which are typically found in term sheets and is really helpful in learning the incentive system of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and lawyers and their roles in a term sheet. It explains the process of negotiating a term sheet and subsequent final agreement in the fundraising process. The book also covers fundraising options like equity financing, crowdfunding, venture debt and convertible note.

Ratings: 4.7 on Amazon and 4.08 on Goodreads

From Startup To Exit by Shirish Nadkarni

Anecdotes from the author's own entrepreneurial successes, as well as those of other successful entrepreneurs, are woven thoroughly into the book. Starting with how to determine whether or not a startup concept is viable, the book goes on to cover the details of company creation, fundraising, and other aspects of running a business successfully.

The book covers the entire process of starting a company, from its conception to exit. The book not only answers a large number of questions that an entrepreneur may have but also serves as a reference throughout the various phases of a startup. A must-read for budding entrepreneurs and anyone who is interested in learning about the complexities of launching and growing a tech startup.

Ratings: 5 on Amazon and 4.18 on Goodreads


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