14 Must-Read Books If You Want to Manage a Successful Business

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If you haven’t yet built out your list of books to read this year, congratulations! The waiting has paid off because we’ve done it for you.

Below, you will find the books we’ve read, that have come highly recommended by Amazon reviewers and Young Entrepreneur Council members alike, and even by our own employees. We finish up the list with six just-published and yet-to-be published books that you should definitely keep an eye out for.

If you think we’ve missed something you thought was a great read, or essential to managing a business well, let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter.

Originals

Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World

by Adam Grant

Why you should read it: “Originals” is a guide for leaders, individuals, employees, and teachers.

If you’ve ever been frustrated by not being able to see your original idea through to fruition, this book will help you figure out how to do it.

It will also give you the tools you need to nurture originality in those around you as well as teach you how to champion new ideas, encourage original thinking, stand up against outdated traditions, policies, and practices, speak up in defense of your ideas, build allies, and pitch an idea “startup style” (and see it through to creation).

All of this—without risking everything.

Pair this with: “Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It,” and “Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.”

The industries of the future

The Industries of the Future

by Alec Ross

Why you should read it: Have you ever wanted to know what the future holds?

From challenges to opportunities, Alec Ross—former Senior Advisor for Innovation to the Secretary of State—reveals what might be in store. In “The Industries of the Future,” Ross examines those fields that are most likely to shape our future, including robotics, big data, cybersecurity, genomics, and digital technology, revealing how changes in these areas will affect the markets, and our economy.

If you’re keen to get a jumpstart on understanding how we’re going to adapt to the world as it changes, as well as the questions these changes pose, you’ll have an entertaining, philosophical, and scientifically-informed companion.

Alongside his own insights, Ross incorporates insights from leaders, scientists, and other experts, to bring you a book that is aimed at giving you an understanding of how the world works now, and how it may work in the future.

Pair this with: “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” and “The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies,” and “Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future.”

How to have a good dayHow to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life

by Caroline Webb

Why you should read it:  New and recent findings in behavioral economics, psychology, and neuroscience can help us understand how to take control of our days at work.

The science-based techniques and practices discussed in this book have helped hundreds of organizations and people improve their performance, and enjoy their working life. The book is centered around seven key practices that are essential to having a good day, including: prioritizing the rights tasks; using time productively; having effective conversations; doing your best work; making a great, personal impact; resilience in the face of setbacks; and sustaining energy through it all.

Drawing on real stories, the latest research, and her own insights, Webb will teach you how to handle co-worker conflicts, deadlines, and other workplace challenges so that you can really get down to the business of enjoying your day!

Pair this with: “Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill,” and “The Success Principles(™): How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.”

ContagiousContagious: Why Things Catch On

by Jonah Berger

Recommended by Thomas Smale, a YEC entrepreneur and co-founder of FE International.

Why you should read it:  If you’re interested in understanding the science behind why things go viral, and why some things are more popular than others, you won’t want to miss this book.

A marketing professor at the Wharton school, Jonah Berger has spent many years studying marketing and asking why some things take off and others don’t.

Why do we talk more about certain ideas or products? What makes a blog or video go viral? Why are some stories or rumors more contagious than others?

In this book, you’ll get a crash-course on techniques you can harness to help you spread information fast. This should help you design better advertisements, craft more powerful messages, avoid making detrimental blunders, like inventing boring products, and show you how to get your idea or product to catch on.

Pair this with: “Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter: How Today’s Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves,” and “Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products.”

The Entrepreneur MindThe Entrepreneur Mind: 100 Essential Beliefs, Characteristics, and Habits of Elite Entrepreneurs

by Kevin D. Johnson

Why you should read it:  You might be an entrepreneur, but do you really know how to think like one?

If you’re keen on joining household names like Mark Zuckerberg, you have to change the way you think. And how better to do this than by gaining an understanding of the essential beliefs, characteristics, and habits of the best known entrepreneurs?

In “The Entrepreneur Mind,” Johnson identifies one hundred lessons every entrepreneur must learn if they’re going to succeed. He focuses on seven key areas: leadership, motivation, strategy, education, people, finance, marketing, and sales.

Through these lessons, you’ll gain insight into seemingly complex topics and develop the tools you need in order to get started running a successful business, or take things to the next level.

Pair this with: “How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life.” And then take it directly from the experts: Richard Branson’s “Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School”; Blake Mycoskie’s “Start Something That Matters”; and Adam Braun’s “The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change.”

The personal MBAThe Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business

by Josh Kauffman

Why you should read it: Most of us know, deep down, that being a successful entrepreneur is not about whether or not you went to business school.

That said, you might still be looking longingly into getting an MBA, thinking it will give you the skills you need in order to run a business, and put you on a fast-track to starting a world-famous company.

The reality is that many of these programs—even those run by elite schools like Harvard and Wharton—offer an outdated curriculum better suited to understanding the academic side of business models, than actually running a business.

In “The Personal MBA,” Josh Kauffman argues that you can save thousands of dollar by skipping business school and learning everything you need to know yourself. He gets right down to business, teaching you the things that do actually matter, from marketing and sales through negotiation, operations management, systems design, and much more. In a single reading, you’ll learn what most entrepreneurs take a lifetime to learn through trial and error.

Pair this with: “Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.”

Deep WorkDeep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

by Cal Newport  

Why you should read it: In a world of constant distractions, the ability to focus on a demanding task is becoming increasingly rare.

If you can do it, you know how to do “deep work.” If you can’t do it, you’re a part of the struggling masses, and you’re holding yourself back from doing your best work yet.

In “Deep Work,” author and professor Cal Newport explains the benefits of being able to work in a highly focused manner, and then provides you with all of the necessary tools to be able to transform your mind and habits so you too can develop this skill.

Pair this with: “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t,” “Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…And Why the Rest Don’t,” and “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.”

PresencePresence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges

by Amy Cuddy

Recommended by Faithe Parker, a YEC entrepreneur, and owner of Marbaloo Marketing.

Why you should read it: If you’ve ever wished you could have dealt with a challenging situation differently, you may be suffering from a lack of “presence.”

To achieve presence, you need to learn to access your personal power, leave anxiety behind, and face every difficult situation with confidence.

Amy Cuddy, best known for her viral TED talk about “power poses,” presents us with techniques that will help us learn to approach each situation with confidence instead of dread and fear. She also teaches us how to leave each situation with satisfaction instead of regret.

Pair this with: “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent & Lead,” and “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.”

Lean Business PlanningLean Business Planning: Get What You Want From Your Business

by Tim Berry

Why you should read it: Do you want to get focused, grow faster, and better adjust to change?

If so, you might be interested in “lean business planning,” a simple but powerful way to align your business strategy, tactics, milestones, and assumptions.

Instead of keeping your focus on a lengthy old-school business plan that really doesn’t help you manage your existing business, you’ll learn how to quickly write a business plan document you can review and adjust on a monthly basis, to reflect your ever-changing business, and to help you make better, more informed decisions.

Leading business plan expert Tim Berry teaches you how to summarize your strategy and tactics, set review schedules, track and measure your performance, and much more. If you’re familiar with Guy Kawasaki’s “The Art of the Start,” this is a great companion piece that will teach you when to stick with the plan and when to ditch it, how to stay laser-focused on results, and how to set priorities for both the long and short-term.

Pair this with: “The Lean Entrepreneur: How Visionaries Create Products, Innovate with New Ventures, and Disrupt Markets,” and “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.”

Financial intelligenceFinancial Intelligence: A Manager’s Guide to Knowing What the Numbers Really Mean

by Karen Berman

Why you should read it: You know you need to look to your business numbers in order to make informed decisions, but do you really know what the numbers mean?

“Financial Intelligence” is a book for nonfinancial managers. It aims to bring the numbers to life with entertaining stories from real companies, and without the complex jargon you’re used to seeing whenever you deal with financial topics.

Not only will it teach you to use your financial data in order to grow your business, but it will give you the confidence you need to really understand what the numbers mean.

Pair this with: “Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction,” and “The Tax and Legal Playbook: Game-changing Solutions to Your Small Business Questions.”

Thinking Fast and slowThinking, Fast and Slow

by Daniel Kahneman

A Palo Alto Software Book Club book

Why you should read it: If you want to understand how your mind works—as much as is possible—there isn’t a better guide to walk you through the process than Daniel Kahneman, a renowned psychologist and the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics.

In “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” you’ll learn about the two systems that drive the way we think: the fast intuitive and emotional system, and the slower, more deliberate and more logical system. Kahneman also explains why we can’t trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of “slow thinking.”

You’ll learn new techniques to minimize such problems, and gain a much better understanding of how these two different systems shape the way we understand the world around us, as well as the decisions we make. If you want to master your mind, read this!

Pair this with: “Black Box Thinking: Why Some People Never Learn From Their Mistakes—But Others Do.”

essentialismEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

by Greg McKeown

A Palo Alto Software Book Club book

Why you should read it: Do you often feel overwhelmed by the amount of work on your plate? Busy but not productive? Controlled by the things others want done?

Well, you’re not alone and you may need to learn about essentialism so that you can take back control and get the things done that really matter. This book isn’t a treatise on time management or productivity. Rather, it’s an explanation of a discipline that you can learn in order to eliminate the inessential tasks in your life, and focus on the absolutely essential ones.

In “Essentialism,” you’ll learn the importance of, and how to apply more selective criteria for what needs to get done. Read this book if you’re a business owner, a leader, a manager, or even just someone who want to learn to do less better.

Pair this with: “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” and “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.” And, if you’re interested in creativity and simplicity: “The Storm of Creativity.” Also, check out “Busy: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much,” a recommendation from one of our readers!

Leaders eat lastLeaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

by Simon Sinek

Why you should read it: Some teams work together, others don’t. But, do you know why?

If you’re struggling to get your team to “pull together,” you may need to go right back to basic human biology; you may need to establish a Circle of Safety. In “Leaders Eat Last,” Simon Sinek, uncovers the startling truth behind why some teams trust each other so deeply they’re willing to put their lives on the line, and why others are doomed to infighting, failure, and fragmentation.

Simply put, a great leader will sacrifice her own comfort for the good (and even survival) of those in her care. Drawing on examples from industries around the globe, as well as innate human biology, Sinek explains that if you want your employees to work together, to feel valued, and to be loyal, you need to put their best interests first. You need to work for them. You need to eat last.

Pair this with: “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action,” and “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.”

The first time managerThe First Time Manager

by Loren B. Balker

Why you should read it: If you’ve never managed a team or owned a business before, you may be worrying that you’ll do all your learning through trial and error.

The problem is, that’s a costly approach, and a dangerous one as by the time you’ve learned everything you need to know, you may well be out of business.

In “The First Time Manager,” Loren Balker explains how to manage a team of people, going into detail on a wide range of topics, including hiring and firing, motivation, time management, and much more. If you’re looking for the ultimate beginner’s guide on management, this book is a great candidate.

Pair this with: “The 27 Challenges Managers Face: Step by Step Solution to (Nearly) All of Your Management Problems,” and the age old classic “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.”

Other books to look out for in 2016:

Look out for these just published or as of yet unpublished books. Perfect for business owners and managers like you!

Books to read in 2016

The Right Kind of Crazy: A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership, and High-Stakes 

by Adam Steltzner and William Patrick

Published January 12, 2016

The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley 

by Eric Weiner

Published January 5, 2016

Inventology: How We Dream Up Things That Change the World 

by Pagan Kennedy

Published January 26, 2016

Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business 

by Charles Duhigg

COMING SOON: March 8, 2016

Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days 

by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, Braden Kowitz

COMING SOON: March 18, 2016

The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future 

by Steve Case

COMING SOON: April 5, 2016

Look to yourself in 2016:

Your Book Title (1)If you’ve been running a business for a while, and have stories and techniques to share—perhaps even a philosophy on how to run a successful business, or manage employees, or understand your financials—why not consider writing a book of your own?

I highly recommend reading Nina Amir’s “How to Blog a Book,” if writing your own book sounds like a good idea.

Posted in Management
  • Mel

    That looks a pretty good selection and demonstrates how many good business books are out there. It also reiterates the importance of continual learning. Well, we can all improve our skills, and aptitude in the workplace, right? Personally, I keep meaning to get hold of Kahnemann’s book.

    • Candice Landau

      Mel, thanks for reading! It was hard to come up with a list as short as this as there are so many other great books out there. I think you have the right idea about continual learning – it’s what makes the difference between those that succeed and those that don’t! Best of luck with the reading – Kahneman’s book was great, highly recommended!

  • Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World sounds like an interesting book. Tim Berry’s new book, I have to go get! 😉

    • Candice Landau

      Originals is my first pick on this list for a reason Martin 🙂 Also, yes, let us know what you think of Tim’s book when you’re done!

  • Michael Gusky

    I think there is one book missing in this list. Busy; How To Thrive In A World Of Too Much by Tony Crabbe. Nearly all these books will tell you the same things but Tony did a phenomenal job of laying out everything we already KNOW but don’t DO to compel you to make changes in the way you work and play.

    • Candice Landau

      Michael, thanks so much for the recommendation. It looks like an interesting book, and it’s certainly on a very relevant topic. I’m always trying to figure out how to be “less busy.” I’ve added it to our related recommendations below the “Essentialism” book. Thanks for contributing!

      • Michael Gusky

        Perfect Place for it. I read Essentialism a while back and Busy is very similar but less “textbooky” if that’s a word. 🙂