The best business books can be filled with surprising advice–from cautionary tales to breaking-edge strategies. We’ve rounded up the best business books on our list, including everything from tried-and-true favorites to some leading best sellers.
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Best leadership books
The Meaning Revolution: The Power of Transcendent Leadership, by Fred Kofman
What inspires you to go to work every day? Currently the Advisor of Leadership Development at Google and previously V.P. of Executive Leadership at LinkedIn, Fred Kofman claims that the biggest career motivator isn’t job titles or salaries. Instead, it’s the chance to serve a larger purpose–and the best leaders are those who are able to connect their teams and each other to a greater mission.
Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts, by Brene Brown
Ted Talk all-star and emotions researcher Brene Brown argues that being a successful leader today doesn’t mean being an iron-fisted CEO. Great leadership starts with feeling and vulnerability. Brown writes, “It’s learning and unlearning that requires brave work, tough conversations, and showing up with your whole heart. Easy? No. Because choosing courage over comfort is not always our default. Worth it? Always. We want to be brave with our lives and our work. It’s why we’re here.”
How to Win Friends & Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
Originally published in 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence People remains one of the best-selling business books of all time. Its premise is simple: you can change people’s behavior towards you by changing your own. Fun fact: Warren Buffett took the Dale Carnegie course “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and still keeps the diploma in his office.
“Hard things are hard because there are no easy answers or recipes,” writes Horowitz. One of Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, Horowitz offers practical advice on how leaders can tackle tough issues at work and come out on the other side–including all the lessons business school didn’t cover like laying off employees and hiring your friends. You may not find easy answers in Horowitz’s book, but they’re definitely real.
Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goldman
This is the book that established the concept of “emotional intelligence” as we know it today—and made the case for bringing emotions into the workplace. Goleman and his team examined the leadership styles of more than 3,870 executives and the effect their leadership had on their workplace culture. Based on their findings, they introduced four emotional intelligence “domains,” and how developing each can result in different leadership styles.
The First 90 Days, by Michael Watkins
Lauded as one of the “100 Leadership & Success Books to Read in a Lifetime” by Amazon Editors and “the bible of career transitions,” leadership expert Michael Watkins offers a step-by-step playbook for anyone to succeed during their next career move. If you’re about to take on a new project or stepping into a leadership role for the first time, you’ll find the most common pitfalls new leaders encounter along with tools and strategies for how to avoid them here.
Best books for business growth
Grit, by Angela Duckworth
What’s the difference between a business that succeeds and a business that fails? According to Duckworth, the secret to success isn’t talent: it’s just never giving up. Duckworth is the world’s leading (and perhaps only) expert on “grit”–the dogged self-determination that drives us to keep going, no matter what. She shares how grit can predict long-term success in almost every area of life, from teachers working in the toughest schools to Fortune 100 CEOs.
Contagious, by Jonah Berger
We’ve all seen viral videos, or even shared our own. But what makes something “viral” or “contagious” at all? Berger breaks down the secret behind how virality starts and why with the help of research and case studies. He lays down six core “contagious’ principles–techniques anyone can try for themselves to get the word out about their product or company.
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t, by Jim Collins
So you’ve made it. Now what? Along with a team of elite researchers, Collins identified several elite companies that didn’t just achieve monetary success, but set themselves apart from the pack. After five years, Collins and co. put together their key findings and found the real indicators of what takes a company from good to worldwide greatness.
Measure what Matters, by John Doerr
Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation all have something in common: OKRs. Maybe not what you’d expect, but all three have used Objectives and Key Results to impact millions of people around the world. Original Google investor John Doerr shares how you can use OKRs to define your organization’s most important work, retain top employees, and jumpstart new growth.
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, by Michael E. Gerber
It’s the myth everyone’s heard: most people who start small businesses are entrepreneurs. But in reality, most businesses are started by employees who took the plunge and decided to work for themselves. They have the technical skill, but maybe not necessarily the business acumen. In an updated edition of this business classic, Gerber explains how you can work for yourself, find others to work for you, set up a successful business, and still be able to do what you love every day.
Best books for business startups
Moz founder Rand Fishkin didn’t come from a Harvard dorm room or experience overnight success. Moz took 15 years to grow, and now, Fishkin takes an honest (and funny) look at the realities of launching a startup. Get all the highs and lows from a founder’s first-person, no-holds-barred perspective, along with great advice about startup basics to scaling and funding.
Regulatory Hacking: A Playbook for Startups, by Evan Burfield and J.D. Harrison
Startups and government. The two intersect more than you may expect. Throughout his career, Burfield has helped startups understand and adapt to heavy government regulation. Now, he shows how you can make government and regulation work for you. If your business intersects with government or any highly-regulated industries, this one is a must-read.
The Founder’s Dilemmas, by Noam Wasserman
Even when moving at startup-speed, every decision you make matters. Wasserman goes inside the founder stories of Twitter and Pandora and lays out which common pitfalls to avoid and why. Using over a decade’s worth of research, Wasserman is able to target where things went wrong and when, helping readers and startup founders everywhere avoid the same mistakes along the way.
The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries
The greater Lean startup movement has turned the startup formula on its head. Things that may feel common knowledge to us now, like “MVP” and rapid development cycles, have become the norm, not the exception. Ries further leans into how startups can avoid traditional calls for upfront funding and instead put all their resources towards creating products and services that meet the needs of their customers first.
Rework, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
Similar to Lean, Basecamp founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson challenge Rework readers to do one thing: stop talking and start working. Through easy, practical tips, they share how to do less and create more, explaining why productivity doesn’t just come through long hours and endless conference calls. Instead, it’s all about just diving in and focusing on the things (and people) that matter most.
Best books about productivity
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey
Listed by Time as one of “The 25 Most Influential Business Management Books,” Covey’s book has been a mainstay on bestseller lists since it was published in 1989. From family life to business challenges, Covey explains how being truly effective and productive comes down to owning the same seven habits found in successful people all around the world. And if you’re more of a podcast listener, you’re also in luck: the audio version of 7 Habits was the first non-fiction audio-book in the U.S. to sell more than a million copies.
Getting Things Done, by David Allen
Getting Things Done introduces readers to Allen’s “Getting Things Done” time management method, or GDT. Published in 2001, GDT’s concepts of writing down mental reminders into physical steps and analogue tracking may feel obvious in our Google calendar world, but it still teaches important time-tracking basics even found in trends today, like bullet journaling.
The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg
You know that thing you’ve been meaning to do forever, but just haven’t gotten around to it? Or that business goal you just can’t seem to find the time for? It’s not that those things don’t matter–it’s our (bad) habits stopping us from getting them done. Through studies on both animal and human behavior, Duhigg explores how habits are formed, how they work, and how they can be changed at personal, organizational, and societal levels.
Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman
As you may have guessed from the title, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics and renowned psychologist Kahneman breaks down the way we think into two ways: fast and slow. Fast, or “System 1”, is emotional and intuitive, while slow, “System 2,” is methodical and deliberate. Kaufman walks through how choices in business and in our personal lives are made based on these two ways of thinking, and how we could become better decision-makers by recognizing and avoiding “System 1” errors.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown
Unlike many time management books, Essentialism doesn’t claim to have the latest techniques or strategies. Instead, it approaches time as a discipline. “Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter,” writes McKeown. Owning your time isn’t about knowing the best time management strategies. It’s about knowing what’s most important to you.
Best books on employee management
Drive, by Daniel H. Pink
How do you motivate your employees? Office perks? Monetary rewards? In Drive, Pink argues that businesses have been motivating employees all wrong for years. It’s not about using the old carrot-and-stick approach. Here, Pink shares what really drives motivation: the desire to direct our own lives, the urge to get better at something that matters, the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves–and how businesses can leverage all three to motivate employees at any level.
Dying for a Paycheck, by Jeffrey Pfeffer
Research shows that employees’ well-being and how they’re feeling at work plays a vital role in their performance. Pfeffer’s book dives into the dark side of giving your all at work, and how the growing lack of work-life balance is creating a lose-lose situation for modern businesses and employees. It’s a tough read–but also explains what both businesses and employees can do to keep themselves healthy. In the words of one reviewer, this book has the potential to “literally save lives.”
Radical Candor is a new approach to management that’s a bit, well, radical. It requires two things: “care personally” and “challenge directly.” A CEO favorite, Scott’s book shares how you can be a boss and be human too. Learn how you can care about your employees and still give frank, honest feedback that’s driven by empathy and motivates employees to do their best work.
The New One Minute Manager, by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
When The One Minute Manager was originally published in the 1980s, employee management looked a lot different. This business classic still has the same great one-minute management tips that made it a best-seller, but with important updates that match the more interpersonal management styles of today.
Crucial Conversations, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
Think back to the last tough conversation you had at work. How did it go? Were you prepared? These hard conversations, or “crucial conversations,” can often set the tone for the rest of your interactions with an employee. This book outlines how managers can always be prepared for crucial conversations, no matter when they happen, and how to deal with employee issues openly and appropriately in a way that benefits everyone.
Best books on business strategy
Leap, by Howard Yu
As any small business owner knows, the competition can be brutal. Successful companies last by staying ahead, even when others begin to copy their products or strategies. Using mini-case studies of various companies (that are still around today), Yu illustrates how businesses can poise themselves to be ready to “leap” away from the pack at a moment’s notice and endure for years to come.
Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell
We look at companies and people that succeed and wonder, what makes them different? But according to Gladwell, we’re asking the wrong question. Who succeeds and who doesn’t often has nothing to do with having an “it” factor, but a perfect storm of coincidences and opportunities that positioned them for success–even down to the year they were born. Find out what had to fall into place for the people and businesses we look up to today for them to become outliers.
Different, by Youngme Moon
If your business disappeared, would anyone notice? In Different, Harvard Business School professor Youngme Moon challenges business owners not to focus on what makes them better than other companies, but what makes them different. Her research on companies like Google and IKEA, which Moon refers to as “idea brands” in their respective industries, shows why taking a risk and standing out is better than blending into the herd.
Playing to Win, by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin
In this playbook, Authors Lafley and Martin translate their experience increasing Procter & Gamble’s market value by $100 billion in just ten years into actionable steps business leaders can use to set their own strategies today. The secret: decide your strategy before you start. Learn about the five essential strategic choices business leaders need to make first before they can win big.
The One Thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
The One Thing’s entire premise is in the title: prioritize one thing at a time, then prioritize all the other single things it’ll take to make that one thing happen. Keller and Papasan explain the power of determining one thing you want for your business or career at any given time. What’s the one thing you want in five years? The one thing you want in one month? Start by figuring out your “one thing” and the rest will fall into place.
Best books about business success (and cautionary tales)
Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet, by Claire L. Evans
Similar to 2017’s smash-hit film Hidden Figures, Broad Band shines a spotlight on the women who gave us the internet and computers as we know them today, but whose contributions have been lost in history’s retelling. From known-names like Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper to women you’ve never heard of, you’ll meet the female visionaries we have to thank for search engines and social networks.
Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight
Even great companies start small–and with a little help. Athletic-wear giant Nike began with a $50 loan. From there, founder Phil Knight (or “the man behind the swoosh”) shares how he took Nike from business startup to brand giant. And that means sharing everything. Find out how Knight worked full-time as an accountant while building Nike on nights and weekends and almost lost it all in pursuit of the perfect shoe.
Barbarians at the Gate, by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar
Called “the granddaddy of all takeovers” by the Times, Barbarians at the Gate follows the 1980s bidding war over food giant Nabisco, which was ultimately sold for $25 billion and became the biggest business deal in U.S. history at the time. Investigative journalists Burrough and Helya set the scene, introduce readers to key players, and follow the money through an incredible true tale of corporate greed.
Too Big to Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin
Too Big to Fail tells the story of the 2008 U.S. recession from the perspective of its biggest financial players. Sorkin profiles financial executives and policymakers as they realize the estate bubble has burst and scramble to come together to save the economy. Get an inside look at who knew what when all the way up to final meeting that Sorkin writes “ended” the 2008 Wall Street collapse.
Bad Blood, by John Carreyrou
Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes had all the makings of a new Steve Jobs. An elite college dropout, she created a brilliant startup company with technology that would revolutionize the medical industry. Except, none of it was real. Carreyrou, the investigative reporter whose article initially exposed Holmes in The Wall Street Journal, tells the complete story of Theranos’ fraud and Holmes’ explosive rise and fall in Silicon Valley.
Best books on creativity
Creativity, Inc., by Ed Catmull
Creativity, Inc. follows Catmull’s journey to co-founding Pixar Animation but is much more than another business success story. While he does give insight into Pixar’s meteoric rise, Catmull’s writing focuses on how to build a company that values the creative process and nurtures creativity at every level. Find out how to overcome the organizational challenges that inhibit collaboration and creativity, and why you should focus on finding good people, not just good ideas.
Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
You may have heard of a little book called Eat, Pray, Love. Gilbert’s best-selling memoir cemented her as an Oprah favorite, but now Gilbert is taking a step into the self-help world with Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Gilbert’s advice hones in on the power of ideas (and errs a bit on the mystical side) but gives readers step-by-step tips for owning your individual creativity and the inspiration needed to tackle that big project you’ve been dreaming of.
The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron
Still on the list of “Top 100 Best Self-Help Books of All Time” since it was published 25 years ago, The Artist’s Way is a 12-week creativity course anyone can do to get more in touch with their creative side. The core of the program is the ever-popular “morning pages”, where readers are challenged to fill three sheets of paper (by hand) first thing when they wake up.
Originals, by Adam Grant
If you’re a fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, you’ll also enjoy Originals, an inside look at who comes up with original ideas, how, and what we can do to encourage more of them. Grant, an organizational psychologist, uses research and case studies to show how resisting groupthink and broadening our experiences can lead to more eureka moments.
The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield
Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but just couldn’t make it happen? Pressfield offers some tough love to all creatives: everyone fights some form of “Resistance,” whether it’s in the form of procrastination or fear of failure. It’s time to sit down and do the work. Learn how you can overcome your own “Resistance” or creative barriers, and start producing your best work.
Best books on customer experience
Setting The Table, by Danny Meyer
With a New York City restaurant empire including Shake Shack, Eleven Madison Park, the Modern, Tabla, and Blue Smoke, Meyer shares how he keeps customers always coming back. Meyer explains his philosophy of “enlightened hospitality,” which starts in a surprising place: his staff. Meyer swaps the traditional business approach for one that puts employees first, customers second, and investors last.
The Thank You Economy, by Gary Vaynerchuk
In just five years, Gary Vaynerchuk grew his family’s wine business from three million to six million dollars. Now the owner of a digital agency, Vaynerchuk uses The Thank You Economy to teach the importance of digital customer relationships in a modern world. Learn about the return of “small town courtesy,” how social media influences the customer relationship, and how you can live great customer service by example for your employees every day.
Delivering Happiness, by Tony Hsieh
How can you deliver happiness to everyone who comes in contact with your business? Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh walks through how the billion-dollar retailer established a new brand of corporate culture and immerses its employees in customer service, no matter which area of the business they work in. Through prioritizing happiness for its customers and its workers, Zappos has created an experience few have been able to match.
Hug Your Haters, by Jay Baer
Everyone dreads a bad Yelp review. But if you’ve resisted the temptation to fire up a reply in defense of your business–maybe you shouldn’t. Baer argues that ignoring your “haters” is the wrong approach go customer service entirely. Instead, it’s about understanding the two types of haters, their motivations, and how you can put your worst critics to work for you.
Uncommon Service, by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss
Eighty percent of U.S. jobs are tied to the service industry in some way, making service a part of life for almost everyone in some form. This is the premise of Frei and Morris’ Uncommon Service, which posits customer service as a proactive, not reactive strategy for businesses to stay competitive. With good customer service becoming table stakes, not just icing on the cake, Frei and Morris explain how to create a customer service strategy that can boost productivity, profitability, and competitive advantage.Best Business Books You Need to Read Grace Madlinger