24 business books to read for business owners

business books for business owners

A good book can change your perspective, polish your skills, or completely alter the way you approach life. If it’s really good, you’ll be better because of it. Reading helps us sharpen our minds and is a great way to keep learning and expanding our creative capabilities even after traditional education ends.

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Check out Brad + Jill’s top 5 inspirational books on the Breaking Down Your Business Podcast!

For business owners, each day is a learning experience. Business books are a form of their continuing education that can take all the learned experience and advice from other successful leaders, and put it in one engaging piece. It’s like being able to take your favorite business expert and juicing all of the good information out of him or her, all while applying their examples to your own real-life experiences.

So what are business owners reading this year that is making them better leaders, entrepreneurs, and more creative thinkers? We’ve compiled a list of suggestions from business owners in a variety of industries and hope this list will provide you with some quality reading suggestions.


Good to Great1. Good to Great by Jim Collins

This book identifies and examines the factors that contribute to an organization’s ability to make the transition from good to great. Success stories and research support his findings on what makes certain companies qualify as “great.”

“One [favorite] is the classic, Jim Collins’ Good to Great, because he acknowledges that the results of his research were unexpected, even the discovery that what made the difference to the winning companies was, surprise, surprise, leadership. And the leaders he describes here are not the ones we hear about in the media, nor are their qualities what we normally associate with leadership.” –Carol Shumate, Co-Editor, Personality Type in Dept


Built to Last2. Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras

Collins and Porras use six years of research and eighteen case studies to explore what makes for a long-lasting and successful business in this business book.

heart of leadership3. The Heart of Leadership by Mark Miller

Miller explores five key qualities to a successful leader and explains how to develop such qualities of your own.

“Mark writes honestly and engagingly in narrative form, which is not normally my cup of tea. He manages to clearly show us how to lead and work effectively with people without all the weight of the more academically oriented titles.” –John E. Smith, Coach/Writer/Teacher, Strategic Learner


4. Leadership and Self Deception by The Arbinger Institute

Being blind to parts of a leadership role can negatively affect many aspects of one’s life. This business book discusses how to be more aware of self-deception and improve quality of life.

5. The Servant as Leader by Robert Greenleaf

This short book takes a philosophical approach to leadership and uses famous leaders and their tactics as examples to model strong leadership after.

6. How Winning Works by Robyn Benincasa

In this business book, Benincasa incorporates her professional and athletic expertise into the eight key elements of teamwork that can be applied for success.

7. The Synergist by Les McKeown

McKeown explains how in every team, there is a Synergist who can help make work more successful by identifying three types of team members and making them work together seamlessly.

Sharpen Your Skills

8. Power Sales Writing by Sue Hershkowitz-Coore

This book outlines how to master sales writing on a variety of digital communication platforms with tips and examples for reference.

“In an age of email communication, Sue teaches us how to write concisely with the correct information and showing how the person you are writing to is the important person, not the writer. It is a book for those in sales and customer service, but everyone in the professional world should read as well.” —Melissa Giannola, Director, Market Development at HealthEdge


 9. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steve Covey

Covey’s famous book outlines the seven habits that can help individuals lead happier, more effective lives both personally and professionally.

10. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Released in 1936, this age-old classic gives tips on how to be successful, make connections, and be a powerful leader.

11. Start with Why by Simon Sinek.

This one’s a classic. If you haven’t read this one yet, it’s a must-read for leaders trying to get people to align with their vision and follow their ideas.

“I love Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why”. It has really helped me create simple models that I can use to illustrate the importance of communication of the bigger purpose and vision for your market. His stories are beautifully written and the science behind it is both fascinating and practical. Highly recommend it.” — Sophie Bennett, author


12. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

With research and interviews collected from 40 millionaires, Hill examines what qualities make for a successful businessperson.


13. Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

While IQ measures one form of intelligence, Goleman covers the five skills that make up emotional intelligence and explains them this book through examples.

14. The 5th Discipline by Peter Senge

Ridding the mind of productivity distractions and using tactics of learning organizations are what Senge explains as the “5th Discipline” in this book.

Understanding Your Team


5 dysfunctions of a team15. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Lenconi outlines the five downfalls of even the most cohesive team and offers strategies and tactics to make your team stronger than ever.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team has had a huge impact on me and my team over the past several years. I am also very fond of a couple of classics including: Think and Grow Rich, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I can recommend all of them without reservation.” –David Languilli, Fundraiser/Coach/Author


16. Y-Size Your Business by Jason Dorsey

Gen Y employees can be better understood, utilized, and motivated with Dorsey’s tips for working alongside younger counterparts.


17. Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace by Ricardo Semler

This book outlines how Semler gave democracy to employees, got rid of red tape, and revolutionized his family business.

“Semler details his not-so-easy steps in the metamorphosis: abolishing dress codes and regulations; decentralizing plants; getting rid of paperwork and titles (hence, his appellation as counselor, not CEO); and creating a consultative democracy in which employees set their own salaries and work hours and vote on managerial candidates, among other responsibilities.” –Cheryl Gregory, Managing Director, The Customer’s Shoes


18. Stop Workplace Drama by Marlene Chism

Although the title is pretty self-explanatory, Chism also outlines methods and training to help encourage team cohesiveness…and minimize unnecessary conflict at work.

Think Differently


19. Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson

This classic book discusses how to cope with change and lead others through it, too.


20. Linchpin: Are You Indispensible? By Seth Godin

Linchpin covers the genre of people who are passionate and dedicated to their tasks—and make for excellent, unforgettable leaders.

blink21. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Inside this book, you’ll learn more about snap judgments, perception, and how we think about daily life through case studies and experiments.

22. Integrity is Everything by John Lavenia

With an approach influenced by spiritual guidance and moral integrity, Lavenia offers methods to approach a successful life.


23. ReWork by Jason Fried and David Hannemeier Hansson

Not your typical business book, this quick read outlines how to be more productive and cut out the useless parts of business we’ve all been taught.

“I like Rework from the founders of 37 Signals. It’s like a no nonsense MBA. A condensed MBA course in one book.” –Anthony Miranda, Founder, Nouvelle Ere Designs

24. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith

You’ll find behavioral tactic do’s and don’ts for getting ahead in this self-help-esque book about moving up the ladder in the professional world.

“…Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There pulls these precepts out of thousands of hours of executive coaching. Again, there are surprises here, e.g., what he calls “goal obsessiveness”. He explains how goal-oriented execs get successful because of their goal orientation, but then that orientation becomes an obstacle and they plateau out.” –Carol Shumate, Co-Editor, Personality Type in Depth

If you’re looking for some new perspective, a book is a good place to start. We hope this list and the personal recommendations will help you discover some ground-breaking methods or fresh insight to fuel the ideal wheel and make your business more successful and efficient. What are some of your favorite business books? What would you add to this list? 

Photo credit: ginnerobot (Flickr)

Devan Perine

Devan Perine works with small business owners on their marketing and multimedia efforts. She's passionate about helping businesses build their presence online, and giving Gen Y a voice in the workplace. When she's not working, she loves to make a mess in the kitchen, and play with her band around Chicago. She loves to chat! Give her a shout on Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn.


  1. Nice list. Several on there I’ve read. I also like this one, The Magic Of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz.

  2. Devan, Thanks for the compiling the list. Have you nominated books for the Small Business Book Awards? #BizBookAwards

  3. Thank you for the list. I’ve read a few of them so far, and will be sure to look into reading the others. I would suggest three more –
    , Going beyond a Positive Mental Attitude by Rich Wilkins;
    Swim with the sharks by Harvey Mackay; and

    Think like a Billionaire,become a billionaire by Scot Anderson

  4. Sophie Bennett says:

    Fun to be part of this Devan. Great compilation, thanks for compiling!

  5. Marlene Chism says:

    Thank you for including Stop Workplace Drama on the list!

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