What are the most important books for startup founders to read?
There are two parts to this answer, just like I believe there are two parts to the knowledge that everyone should accumulate:
- Specific — This knowledge relates to whatever industry or subject you work in. We call this deep domain expertise. Because I don’t know what area you work in, I can list these. Fortunately, the standard, specific books are usually easy to find in a quick search.
- General — This knowledge relates to everything else. We call this broad base knowledge. This is what most people lack, because our education system makes it easy to become an expert in one subject, but, let’s face it, the whole “gen ed” thing kinda failed.
My short list is below. If you haven’t read any of these yet… do it now! Once you’ve done that, though… find a longer list with. He reads a book a day, so he’s more of an authority than I. Not to mention he’s a successful entrepreneur who I’ve learned a ton from.
Also, I make what I call “book learning” videos at my YouTube channel. So, if this is your kind of thing… see links to the ones that I’ve already done below, and
- Self-Improvement —
- The subtitle says it all: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical, and Financial Destiny! Except, it’s not an impossible promise… Tony delivers. He shows you how your brain works, why it works against you sometimes, and how to correct that. From understanding your real values to changing habits through reprogramming your brain, read this book, and take control of your life.
- Psychology —
- Schools should take notes from Charlie on how to make a text book fun. Mr. Munger is billionaire partner of Warren Buffet, and he is arguable one of the smartest men alive. There is a ton of great stuff in this book (I haven’t even finished it!), but for starters, go to the back and read about the 25 cognitive biases that explain why people behave the way they do in certain situations… read this book, and be master of your and others’ brains.
- Inspiration — Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger
- The complete lack of of understanding of who this man is amazes me. This is his autobiography, and, simple put, this man knew how to 1) decide what he wanted, 2) learn how to get it, and 3) do whatever it took to succeed and be the best. From Mr. Olympia to the highest-paid action star in Hollywood to a real estate investor to governor of California… read this book, be inspired, and ask yourself “why not me?”
- Happiness —
- This book is a big-picture look at our lives. But, it also gives specific examples of how we can better apply ourselves. My big take-away from it was this: How long your life is depends on how much of it is your own. Read this book, be honest with yourself, and don’t let your life slip away from you.
- History — The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time by Will Durant
- Mr. Durant is my favorite history writer, and this is (clearly) a summary book. He even gives a list of other great books to read. No matter what business you’re in, we can all gain perspective from history. What does history do? It repeats itself… so, read this book, and comprehend the big-picture that most people miss.
- Finance —
- Written in 1997, Mr. Kiyosaki made bold claims like “your house is not an asset.” Since then… we’ve learned the wisdom behind his words. He wrote a follow-up book in 2015 ( ) that kind of said “is anyone listening yet?” This book should be required elementary school reading. If you haven’t, read this book, and learn what the rich teach their kids about money that the poor and middle class do not!
- Communication —
- I guess Mr. Carnegie knew how catchy those “how to” titles were before most of us… In this book, he teaches 6 specific, tangible things you can do to have an easier time with people. My favorite of them is to be genuine. So many people try to hard to make friends instead of just being one… so read this book.
- Focus —
- If Seneca convinced you to use your time wisely, then Mr. Keller will show you how to prioritize it by asking one question: What is the ONE thing I can do that will make everything else easier or unnecessary? Read this book, gain focus, and create a domino effect in your life.
As much as I love books—the cheapest way to change your life for the better—part of me hates writing these lists, because of the books that always get left out. Just know that this list is one person, one day, in a certain mood, and there are countless other great ones out there. It’s a great place to start, though…
Also, I don’t DARE add this to the list, but I wrote a best-selling book as well, and my business teaches people how to leap from employee to entrepreneur. This is a business planning book, and then we have courses and products that teach you how to build an online business around your area of passion. This book falls more in the specific knowledge category =)