The world is full of great business books by awesome authors. I want to specifically look at the bookshelf of someone who’s involved in marketing and business and recommend the best-ever books they could put on their shelves.
I’ll admit to not reading each of these cover-to-cover (yet they are all on my must-read list), BUT I know plenty who have benefitted from reading them, and recommended them; plus, I am familiar with each of the authors . I hope you find this book list helpful!
Get Ready To Change Your Life With These 20 Business Books
Many entrepreneurs and captains of industry started off as regular people, but the books they consume changed who they are at a fundamental level so that they were able to make the decisions that put them into the positions they are today.
And, a book is like an insight into another person’s mind. People inspire people. Want to be inspired by someone? Read what they write and understand where they’re coming from. Business coaches, self-starters and entrepreneurs all write books detailing their thinking and the model of their success. By reading their books, you can pattern your thinking around theirs and reap similar results. Here’s a list of the twenty most influential business books I’ve come across that are very likely to change your future.
1. See You at the Top – Zig Ziglar: Originally rejected by over thirty publishers, this particular book is one of Zig’s greatest works. Although it’s a bit dated (it was published in 1974) a lot of the principles it teaches regarding your own personal motivations and how you get what you want are still relevant. Through a series of steps based around your own, honest self-evaluation, he develops a method for changing your outlook on life and your aims of accomplishing what you believe needs to be done. It’s not new information, but it’s a brand new way of looking at yourself.
2. So You Think You Can Write? – Julia McCoy: Authored by yours truly, this is a summary of all the lessons I’ve learned on how to craft successful, winning online copy after 5+ years in the field learning it on my own. I left nursing school and built a multi-million dollar company around online writing. Now, I’m sharing all the lessons I know so you can change your life by a) writing winning online copy for your brand that gains you rankings and reads or b) make a career out of online copy. It’s on Amazon as print and Kindle.
3. Maximum Achievement – Brian Tracy: As far as motivational manuals go, this one is among the best available. Brian Tracy is a self-made-man. He outlines his tactics in Maximum Achievement and creates a roadmap for all of his readers towards success. Although the things that Tracy propounds should be obvious to anyone, the way in which he presents them makes you think critically about your goals and your results. It delves into the idea of result-oriented tactics. Even if you don’t follow what he says, his writing will forever change the way you look at a task.
4. The Art of SEO – Rand Fishkin: This book is a must-read for marketing professionals, simply because of how well laid out it is. Fishkin and company outline and define the important aspects of SEO, ranging from the basics to the extremely advanced approaches. And when I say it covers everything, I do mean everything. Anyone, at any level of SEO knowledge can pick up this book and learn something from it. It’s obvious that as time goes on, SEO will be even more relevant to everyday life, which is what makes this book an investment in understanding the future.
5. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen. R. Covey: You’d be hard pressed to find someone in business and industry who hasn’t read this book. It belongs on the shelves of everyone because it helps you to get your mind focused on your tasks at hand. Covey developed a methodology for personal effectiveness that is as important today as it was the day it was published. Another oldie (this one was also published in the 70’s), the book goes back to the roots of what drives success and makes you think about your character first and your personality second, something that many books of the period seem to do in reverse. It’s definitely one of those business books that will affect the way you look at life.
6. Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki: Kiyosaki, a self-made multi-millionaire, explored the differences in conditioning between a rich parent and a poor parent and explores the differences between the thought processed between the two social classes. It’s semi-autobiographical and reads extremely easily. By applying Kiyosaki’s lessons to your own financial situation and change the way you perceive value. That’s a lesson that tends to follow you all the years of your life.
7. Ogilvy on Advertising – David Ogilvy: This particular book has helped many entrepreneurs figure themselves out. Ogilvy focuses on big-picture thinking, proposing that your most important ideas are the ones that are huge. Those ideas are the ones that drive your success. He also writes about dealing with negativity and always having your facts to hand, two things that serve you very well in day to day life. Although the book is mostly aimed at advertising professionals, everyone can glean some form of inspiration or insight from it.
8. The Magic of Thinking Big – David Schwartz: Schwartz deals with the mind-over-matter phenomenon. It’s a book that has changed the lives of many people by teaching them a time-honored lesson: “don’t sweat the small stuff”. It’s mostly self-motivational in content, but it does help you to overcome hurdles that your own mind erects for you. Most importantly, it has something for everyone, no matter what level of business you find yourself at. From employee to owner, everyone can benefit from reading this book.
9. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard – Chip Heath and Dan Heath: Everyone knows change is hard, but it’s also necessary. People are usually afraid of change because it means something different from the ordinary and would require people to leave their comfort zones to deal with it. Chip and Dan make a compelling argument for helping someone deal with change, whether it’s in the workplace or in life, by breaking it down and understanding change to make it less scary. It’s a very well-thought-out book that combines the psychological stimulus of fear with the physical and logical reasoning needed to overcome it. This book helps you master your fear of the unknown.
10. The 4 Hour Work Week – Timothy Ferriss: I acquired this book in my early twenties and it has been a source of constant motivation for me. Ferriss breaks down the modern view of success and replaces it with a simple philosophy, then gives you the tools you need in order to achieve this philosophy. When I got this book, I was skeptical about its claims but it does work. And what’s more, it gives you a different look at life in general. It makes you reconsider what you think of as “success”. Whether your treat it as an instruction manual or a motivational tool, it’s definitely something that’ll change your future.
11. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? – Seth Godin: This book is based on the idea of leadership and potential. It helps you to marshal your resources and become indispensable to a company or organization. In a job market such as this no one is one hundred percent assured of their place in an organization. Overnight changes could render your position redundant. By becoming a linchpin you add value to yourself and if it’s one things companies love, it’s value. Godin teaches us to be the linchpin that holds organizations together by simply doing what we do to benefit the right people.
12. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho: The only fictional entry on this list is here for a very specific reason. Coelho is noted for the way he explores the lives and personalities of his characters in his work. The Alchemist does that to an extent that most of his other works abandon in favor of the narrative. Although the premise seems to be that the universe will conspire to make things happen to people, the deeper meaning is that success comes to those who work for it. Through all the struggles of the protagonist we see a very human figure surpassing almost insurmountable obstacles in his quest. As an analogy for life, you can’t get any more accurate than that.
13. The Lean Startup – Eric Ries: When you have limited resources, how do you function? You get more creative and efficient to deal with those reduced resources. Ries has developed a different sort of mindset from what we are used to when it comes to putting together a startup business. In the 90’s startups were abundant because capital and speculation in the “electronic age” was high. With the eventual collapse of the startup market, it has become increasingly difficult to present and expand on a good idea because there were so many bad ideas. Ries gives you a whole new way to think about business that will definitely shape your future.
14. Maverick – Ricardo Semler: Most people have never heard of Semco, a Brazilian business that has a very unorthodox work ethic. Due to its unique business structure, it has managed to weather and even better a Brazilian recession and perform vastly better than its nearest competitors, both in production and worker satisfaction. Semler explores what makes Semco such a good place to work for his employees. It’s one of those books that leave you considering that worker happiness can actually lead to a more productive company in the long run.
15. The Score Takes Care of Itself – Bill Walsh: Starting with the randomness that pervades all success, Walsh takes a look at the things that are out of our control and then goes on to tell us that we should deal with the things within our control. As a former football coach, he was well positioned to know this. The advice he gives is simple and although we do this daily with a number of things, we never apply it consciously to our own life decisions. Walsh’s philosophy of leadership is the kind of thing that gives you hope for the future in a rational way.
16. Rework – Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson: Efficiency is the name of the game. At its core, Rework is a business manual, but it’s so much more than your run-of-the-mill step-by-step to success. Fried and Hansson give you ideas about how to circumvent the traditional method of developing a successful business with the same end result. The most important thing that you learn from this book is that success comes from doing, not talking. It’s a lesson that you should apply to both your personal AND your business life.
17. Traction – Gabriel Weinberg: Traction gives startup owners insight into previous startups that have managed to succeed over the years. By utilizing such well-known names as Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), Alex Pachikov (Evernote) and Alexis Ohanian (Reddit), we get to see how these masters of business think and what got them to where they are today. Marketing professionals should definitely follow what he has to say since his statements are based around finding the right channels of communication for a particular business.
18. Seneca: Letters from a Stoic – Lucius Annaeus Seneca: For a book to survive over two thousand years, it has to be a pretty good book, right? Letters from a Stoic touches on the simple dictum, “actions speak louder than words”. As a life changing manual it can be pretty dry, especially when compared to the other business books that I’ve mentioned. Seneca’s letters have survived the test of time because these speak to a certain part of us and inspire us in ways modern works can’t. It gives us a sense of perspective that is lacking in many modern methods of motivation and inspiration, something that lingers with us forever.
19. The Intelligent Investor – Benjamin Graham: The newest installment of this book with added commentary by financial journalist Jason Zweig underlines the importance to investors of knowing the value of the product or company they’re investing in. Even if you’re not in investor, this book teaches some important lessons on financial risk management that are likely to benefit everyone to an extent.
20. The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz: In any business, there will be hard situations to deal with. Horowitz explores in-depth the sorts of uncomfortable situations CEO’s and managers tend to find themselves in. As a semi-autobiographical writing on Horowitz’s life, we get to see how the upper echelons of a company deals with the hard decisions that they may have to make. It’s a very good manual for those aspiring to be the leaders of a group.
BONUS, # 21: Zag: The Number One Strategy of High Performance Brands – Marty Neumeier: This book is a treasure-trove of information for the marketing professional and entrepreneur alike. The book focuses on understanding why certain brans are good at what they do and why some fade out of existence a couple months after hitting the shelves. It gives you insight into customers, audiences and understanding their unspoken signals. Neumeier says, “When everybody zigs, zag.” I could not have said it better myself.
For You: What to Read?
Understandably, not all of these books would fit into any specific category for any type of individual. Investors would have a different set of books that change their lives compared to marketing professionals and entrepreneurs. The books you read are usually reflected in the decisions you make and the steps you take to secure and promote your business. A couple of these books promote the idea of not having a business or profession run your life and to me that’s as important to your future as is dealing with your current position in life. These business books all have something to teach you, regardless of your field or position.
Reading these books (and starting with which one feels most relevant to you right now) would be among the best things you can do to enrich your life in the long haul. Grab a cup of coffee (or tea) and get started! And, let us know in the comments which book YOU love to read!