What Are Some of the Best Books on Entrepreneurship?

If you’re like me, whenever it’s time to solve a problem you’re unfamiliar with you reach for a book. One such problem is “how do I become a successful entrepreneur”.

What Not To Read

Browsing thorugh lists of books about entrepreneurship you’ll find people recommending titles such as Zero To One, which starts with:

Zero to One is about how to build companies that create new things. It draws on everything I’ve learned directly as a co-founder of PayPal and Palantir and then an investor in hundreds of startups, including Facebook and SpaceX. But while I have noticed many patterns, and I relate them here, this book offers no formula for success. The paradox of teaching entrepreneurship is that such a formula necessarily cannot exist; because every innovation is new and unique, no authority can prescribe in concrete terms how to be innovative. Indeed, the single most powerful pattern I have noticed is that successful people find value in unexpected places, and they do this by thinking about business from first principles instead of formulas.

Or The Lean Startup that says:

A startup is a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

You’ll read them and feel good about yourself because of how much insightful knowledge you have gained. You’re learning!

But only after a couple of those will you realise you’re learning the wrong things. You might as well read a history book or a biography. Does it matter that now you know how people “created new things” under “extreme uncentainty” if your goal is to run a business and you’re yet to make your first sale?

Check the reviews on Goodreads, a community of bookworms. You have an effectively infinite list of titles to choose from, but in your lifetime you’ll read maybe a thousand. The difficulty is not finding ones worth reading but rather discerning which ones to avoid.

Always consider how a book will affect your actions. If it won’t then it’s a waste of time.

The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.

Herbert Spencer

Books You Should Read

Running a business requires you to acquire a set of different skills, and it’s books about those skills that you should study.

The Books

The biggest obstacle in running your business is you. It’s you who has to do the work. The boring, uncomfortable, difficult work.

These books will teach you how to work and fight off procrastination:

These books will teach you what marketing is, why it’s the toughest part, and how to do it right:

How to design your product or service:

How to talk to your users:

Ready to start your blog? Learn how to write first:

The more specific the book the better. So if you’re a programmer writing copy for your website start by reading:

How (And When) To Read Books

Goodreads runs a yearly reading challenge. In 2019 4,342,122 people have pledged to read an average of 64 books. The reason it’s a challenge is that, well, it’s challenging. Books, especially non-fiction, take time to complete. They need to be studied, understood, and applied to your everyday life.

The influence a book will have on you depends on your life experience and your current situation. Don’t rush the process. It’s not meant to be rushed. If you feel you wish for a book to be over then it’s a sign that it’s not worth finishing. If you feel you have to force yourself through something that everybody else loved, then perhaps you’re at a stage in life where that particular book has little value. You will only be enthusiastic reading about marketing when you have a product that needs to be marketed.

And how do you make time for books? I use Google Play Books and read a few pages on my phone every time I have a few minutes to spare. This allowed me to finish roughly 30 books in 2019. Given a goal of 24 books per year and an average size of 300 pages per book you only need to cover 20 pages per day. The app is mobile friendly and it’s easy to take notes with.

For more on this topic see Ryan Holiday’s blog: The Notecard System, How To Read More, and Reading Isn’t A Race.

To Sum It Up

Don’t substitute practical guides with entertainment. Unless you want to.

Bonus

A few of the most important books I’ve read came from Derek Sivers’ collection.