7 Books Every Entrepreneur Must Read

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: November 20, 2013

Are You Prepared to Take the Leap?

Starting a company is not for the risk averse or financially challenged. It can be an incredible drain on personal, financial and emotional resources -- not just yours, but anyone you take along with you for the ride. Ask whether you (and they) have the stamina for the years of sleepless nights, occasionally contentious board meetings, demanding clients, and fickle employees.

What’s your motivation to start a business? Want to make the world a better place, or are you suffering from an ego-driven need to compete with a college rival? Is launching a company really the only way to impress your self-made father-in-law? Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into, and why. You’ll need this insight later on as your driving motivation when the going gets tough. And just like having your first child, make peace with the fact your life is no longer your own -- this is your baby now.

Those who truly understand the false starts, sprints, and marathons of entrepreneurship have said it best. While experience is the greatest teacher, this is one of those times you may want to sit up and listen to sage advice before investing too much in the grand pursuit of self-employment. With that in mind, here are seven of the most valuable books on entrepreneurship.

7. The Business Model Generation

The Business Model Generation
by Alexander Osterwalder

“Business Model Generation” is a great handbook for first-time and serial entrepreneurs, seeking practical insight on crafing a new business model, or improving an existing one. Osterwalder provides powerful, simple, and time-tested tools for designing, re-working, and implementing business models. The book offers a great breakdown on the Business Model Canvas, a strategic and visual management tool allowing organizations to describe, design, challenge, invent, and pivot their business models. Technical enough to appeal to the pragmatic entrepreneur, and comprehensive enough for immediate application by the most inexperienced founder.

6. Finding Your Way in a Wild New World

Find Your Way in a Wild New World
by Martha Beck

If you grew up knowing you were called to do something fulfilling and profoundly significant, but can’t get out of your own way, you are not alone. If you suffer from self-sabotage and unproductive cycles, then this book was written with you in mind. Find the path that will lead you to unleash your incredible creative energy, and fulfill your life’s purpose despite the personal roadblocks currently standing in your way. With her innate ability to translate inner life into accessible, witty, sparkling prose, Martha Beck uses ancient wisdom and modern science to help readers consciously embrace their skills and create the life they really want.

5. For Better or For Work

For Better or For Work
by Meg Cadoux Hirshberg

Do you live with an entrepreneur? Are you an entrepreneur living with the daily pressures of managing a business and a family. Do you sometimes wonder how anyone does this and maintains their sanity? This question summarizes the constant struggle for balance faced by company founders and their families. Author Meg Cadoux Hirshberg examines the impact of entrepreneurial businesses—for better or worse—on families and relationships, and vice versa.

Practically, this is a critical guide to navigating the emotional and logistical waters of business-building while simultaneously enjoying a fulfilling family life. From the trials of co-habiting with a home-as-business scenario, to the queasy process of borrowing/re-paying money lent by family and friends, and the complexities of handing the reins to the next generation. A must-read for the entrepreneur and partner alike. A thorough, witty and engaging read.

4. Outliers: The Story of Success

Outliers: The Story of Success
by Malcolm Gladwell

In his compelling new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes readers on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers"--the best and brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks and answers the question: what makes high-achievers different?

Simply put, we pay too much attention to what successful people are like in terms of their behaviors, and too little attention to where they are from, their culture, the family structure and relative values, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Gladwell goes on to explain the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band in the world.

3. Raising Eyebrows: A Failed Entrepreneur Gets It Right

Raising Eyebrows: A Failed Entrepreneur Gets It Right
by Dal LaMagna

By the time LaMagna graduated from the Harvard Business School, his entrepreneurial activities had landed him in $150K of debt. These early ventures included operating discotheques in drive-in theaters, promoting the 1960s musical teen sensation the Cowsills, and opening an ice cream parlor on the Venice Beach boardwalk in California.

Raising Eyebrows tells the story of how LaMagna finally succeeded. He packs business lessons, financial plans, and practical advice into Raising Eyebrows. But it is equally full of inspiration, conscience, and good ideas for entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs everywhere.

2. The Fire Starter Sessions

The Fire Starter Sessions
by Danielle LaPorte

In her book, The Fire Starter Sessions, LaPorte asserts that “life balance” is a myth, and the pursuit of it is causing us more stress then the craving for balance itself. She continues to challenge the modern idea of well-roundedness as an over-rated and unnecessary investment of your time and focus. When you work on developing your true strengths, you enter your personal “mastery zone.”

Screw your principles (they may be holding you back). LaPorte makes the case that most of us have ambition backwards. How you want to feel in your life and work is more important than goal-setting. It is the most potent form of clarity that you can have, and leads to true fulfillment. This is the perfect read for the spiritually inclined entrepreneur needing guidance to offset the misguided attitude that personal compromise and success go hand-in-hand.

1. Top Dog: The Science of Winning & Losing

Top Dog: The Science of Winning & Losing
by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Just how competitive are you, and why? Were you born to win, or raised by a family that values teamwork above leadership? This book offers insights to your true nature by helping you understand what influences your perception of risk/reward, the ability to execute in the face of adversity, and how you grapple with decision-making.

Women and men will benefit from the author’s dismantling of stereotypes, particularly relative to women in competition. Find out why the surprising reasons why they often have the advantage.