The Best Business Books Of All Time

The Best Business Books Of All Time: The Complete List

In the 21st century, if you’re not thinking about starting a business, then… well, you’re missing out big times. While the net is flooded with tips, advice, and quick get-rich-super-fast schemes, the best way to start a business is by learning from people who already started such. And how can you do that? That’s right, by reading business books. The best business books.

My main goal in this post is simple: To showcase the best business books of all time.

I’ve scoured the entire net to make this booklist behemoth available for everyone looking to start their own business – or upgrade their current one. Not a single average, or kind of OK book made it here. Nope. The titles you’ll see below are carefully selected – or should I mention handpicked after countless searches online and conversations with business owners – and only the best of the best books made it inside.

So, if you need advice on how to start a business. Looking for ways to grow your current business. Wondering what are the best ways to increase your sales. You want to advance in your career as a salesperson. Or, you’re simply looking for your next read in the business category, this list is for you.

Some of the books are well-known.

Others are quite ancient and rarely mentioned.

But they’re all here. Waiting for you to read them.

This list should be your go-to resource when you want to improve your business skills.

Ready?

Let’s dive right in.

The Best Business Books of All Time:

1. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson book cover

What’s the book about?

An iconic person deserves an iconic book. And Walter Isaacson, the author, delivers.

The biography of Steve Jobs is a must-read for everyone thinking about creating something. You get a front seat and watch how Steve Jobs revolutionized technology and how Apple was founded. Along with that, you get to understand both sides of Job’s persona: 1) a control freak who was not really interested in others; 2) a genius innovator who believed that technology should act as an extension of our bodies.

There’s a lot you can learn business-wise from this book and the number of sold copies and reviews are clearly reinforcing this opinion.

Why it can help?

This book is for everyone interested in tapping into the brain of a modern genius. The story of Steve Jobs explores his life in-depth and presents how he thought, what he did, and why he did it. And how he did all of these things, is exactly what you need if you’re interested in creating a long-term business that is trying to win the hearts and the minds of the people you’re aiming to serve.

Thought-provoking quote:

“If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away. The more the outside world tries to reinforce an image of you, the harder it is to continue to be an artist, which is why a lot of times, artists have to say, “Bye. I have to go. I’m going crazy and I’m getting out of here.” And they go and hibernate somewhere. Maybe later they re-emerge a little differently.” Steve Jobs

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2. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

Freakonomics book

What’s the book about?

Steve and Stephen explain what economics really is – in essence, people getting what they want when there are other’s who want the same thing. Sounds confusing. I know. But the authors have a tendency to confuse people. If you don’t like a lot of data and a lot of scattered information, this book is not for you. However, if you can skip through all the statistics and what to learn about the hidden side of… well, everything – how gangs operate, the truth about real-estate agents, and how we can reduce crime, you can learn a lot from this business book.

Why it can help?

If you’re new to the business world and you want to learn the basics of economics and microeconomics then this book should probably be your starting point. You’ll learn how to look at stats and trends and compare different – seemingly isolated events – in a way to find correlations between them.

Thought-provoking quote:

“Morality, it could be argued, represents the way that people would like the world to work, wheareas economics represents how it actually does work.” Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

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3. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point book

What’s the book about?

You don’t know how to come up with a trendy product? Probably you need to read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

In this business book, Mr. Gladwell analyzes the trends that hit the US market like a storm in the past couple of years. He searches for clues in the past to help you come up with future infectious ideas so you can build your own cult-like product. Along with that, he explains what are the three laws that will ensure that your product will go viral: the law of the few, the stickiness factor, the power of context.

Why it can help?

The book will teach you a lot of useful tactics about trends. What are trends? How do they emerge? And, probably the most important concept for someone who is looking to start a business: How to create a trendy product?

Essentially, the author talks about a small number of companies that created trendy products and how they’ve managed to do it.

Thought-provoking quote:

“The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” Malcolm Gladwell

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4. Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth H. Blanchard

Who Moved My Cheese book

What’s the book about?

A fun business book about a group of mice living inside a maze and looking to get some cheese. At some point, somebody moves the cheese and mayhem happens.

Though the book is quite criticized by readers, there are things you can learn from this business book. Like, “Life moves on and so should we” and “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

It’s a short motivational book about people who are trapped in a corporate capitalist maze and want to escape by starting something on their own.

Why it can help?

If you feel trapped in the corporate maze. Juggling with tasks ranging from pleasing your never-happy boss to dealing with people who are trying to get rid of you. This book might help you find the right path to freedom. While often described as overly simplistic, it’s a classic business book that you might consider.

Thought-provoking quote:

“See what you’re doing wrong, laugh at it, change and do better.” Spencer Johnson

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5. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Lean In book

What’s the book about?

There aren’t many famous business books targeting women. Probably that’s why Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead is a best-seller.

The author talks a lot about giving birth, about job security if you’re a woman, and about women demanding more support from their partners. It’s an inspirational read for the working moms out there. Also, it comes with some great tips for starting your own business while nursing your newborns.

Why it can help?

Help you answer the following question: “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?” The book is a call for leadership. Invitation to create a society that equally rewards people regardless of their values, sex, and cultural background.

Thought-provoking quote:

“We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.” Sheryl Sandberg

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6. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

The Lean Startup book

What’s the book about?

Learn how you can prevent your startup from going bankrupt. The Lean Startup is something like a gospel for the modern entrepreneur. Especially for the people in the tech industry.

Eric Ries keeps repeating how you should launch something as fast as possible. How important it is to create a minimum viable product, show it to a bunch of people, ask for their feedback and later iterate. Because, if you spend forever working on something no one will later buy, you just wasted your time and probably hundreds of dollars.

It’s a business book you should definitely check if you’re considering starting something on your own.

Why it can help?

As the author writes, “The big question of our time is not Can it be built? but Should it be built?” With the tools we have nowadays, you can build virtually everything. But should you build it? That’s the question. Creating something takes time – a lot of time. Think a lot about why or why not something should be created before you start investing time and money.

Thought-provoking quote:

“We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want.” Eric Ries

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7. Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

Elon Musk book cover

What’s the book about?

We all know about Tesla. But do we know enough about Elon Musk? Some people call him the real-life Tony Stark. Others, simply call him the go-to-Mars-guy. OK, the latter is probably not true. Regardless, we need more people like Musk. More people who push the boundaries and make the world a more futuristic place.

This biography is something you should definitely read. You will learn not only about rockets and green energy, but you’ll also learn about where the world is going and what we should aim for in the recent future.

Why it can help?

The story of Elon Musk will trigger a feeling we all need. A feeling of awe. That you can do grand things if you work really, really, really hard. After going through the book, you might realize that building your own rockets is not that hard. The hardest thing is believing that you can do it.

Thought-provoking quote:

“Good ideas are always crazy until they’re not.” Elon Musk

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8. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss book

What’s the book about?

Most business gurus chatter about working yourself to the bone. Not Tim. He’s all about leisure time. About finding someone to work for you while you drink mojitos somewhere distant and warm.

The 4-Hour Workweek is how most people want to live. It’s a book that describes the modern dream: Becoming a dot-com millionaire and earning big from passive income. Though there are a lot of different opinions about this book – a lot of them really negative. The half-day workweek book is a good read, and it can actually teach you quite a few things about starting and running a business.

Why it can help?

Outsourcing work and not checking your email. These are some of the “major” points the author brings to the table. But there is a more subtle theme in the book. It’s finding a work-life balance that suits your personality. Surely not everything the author shares you can emulate. But it will give you a different perspective on how to approach work and living – and how they should magically exist together.

Thought-provoking quote:

“Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.” Timothy Ferriss

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9. Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Rework by Jason Fried book

What’s the book about?

Let’s be honest. Most authors that write business books are full of sh*t. The main reason their books become bestsellers is that they invest heavily in marketing the book. But when you get the book and read what’s inside, you wish you never knew about the title. However, it’s quite the opposite when we’re talking about Rework.

The authors, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, are owners of a company called Basecamp. And in Rework, they share how they run their million-dollar business. It’s quite different than what everyone else is telling you about managing a company. Probably that’s why they are so damn successful.

Why it can help?

The book will literally “rework” the way you think about business and about what should be your priorities as an owner. What most people consider important to run a business is usually some old gimmick that is long obsolete. The founders of the mega-successful project management tool share their way of doing stuff. And their way, is revolutionary better than what most old-school business owners recommend.

Thought-provoking quote:

“Find a judo solution, one that delivers maximum efficiency with minimum effort. When good enough gets the job done, go for it.” Jason Fried

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10. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Shoe Dog A Memoir book

What’s the book about?

As the title says, Shoe Dog tells the story of the person who founded Nike: Phil Knight. We all know Nike, and we’re all familiar with what they do. So, no need to add more words here. If you want to know how this massive corporation was created and how it was able to inspire millions of people to “Just do it,” you should get the book.

Why it can help?

After reading the book, I think that the most helpful thing it teaches is this: That it takes years to create a financially profitable product. Literally years. Even if you do make money. This doesn’t mean that your company is profitable. These two are completely different things in business. Phil Knight tells his personal journey and how long it took for Nike to become, now, a world-renowned brand. Bigger than Adidas. But above all, he teaches that never losing direction differentiates winners from losers.

Thought-provoking quote:

“I’d tell men and women in their midtwenties not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it. If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.” Phil Knight

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Some Closing Thoughts

Of course, you don’t have to read all of the books above to become ultra-successful when running a company or thinking about starting one.

It really depends. You can read just one book and become the next Jeff Bezos. Or, don’t read any of them and still earn a good living from what you’re doing.

The idea here is to help you pinpoint your next read that will potentially aid you with your business venture.

As a business owner, you should always be reading. Reading not only to increase your IQ. But reading to stay curious. Committed. And keep surprising your clients and employees with better products and a better work environment.

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