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Hi! I’m Michal. I’ve been programming and running UNIX servers my whole life. Now I’m trying to run a business. I’m the maker behind Syften and Code Dog.

What Are Some of the Best Books on Entrepreneurship?

Posted at — Nov 19, 2019

If you’re anything like me you reach for a book whenever it’s time to solve a problem you’re unfamiliar with. 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” when your goal is to run a business and you’re yet to make your first sale?

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 be reading.

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:

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

And of course all the auxillary books that you’ll need to read to learn the necessary skills as they become required, like On Writing Well by William Zinsser when it’s time for you to start blogging.

To Sum It Up

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

As a bonus I’d like to recommend the book list at https://sivers.org/book.