15 Top Startup Books You Must Read
Whether you’re just starting a business or are a veteran entrepreneur, startup books are one of the many ways to get inspiration and stay motivated. If you think you’re in over your head, or are just plain curious about what others have been through, startup books are a great resource full of entrepreneur advice, strategies, and inspiration. It can be difficult to narrow down the options available to you.
That’s why we’re here to help. This list includes some of the best startup books to help you get your business off the ground, find VC funding, be a supportive leader, and stay inspired — no matter the problems you’re facing.
15 top business books for startups
1. “The Startup Owner’s Manual” by Steve Blank
The startup process laid out in “The Startup Owner’s Manual” is taught at elite universities such as Stanford, Berkeley, and Columbia. You don’t have to pay tuition for these lessons, making it one of our favorite startup books.
While most people view starting a business as a nebulous, complicated process, it’s not. This book will walk you through each step to launch a successful business. This book contains over 100 graphs and checklists that will help you take concrete steps to get your business started.
2. “Who” by Geoff Smart and Randy Street
One of the biggest mistakes made in business isn’t in marketing, product, or execution — it’s in hiring. Your business’ success can be affected by hiring the best staff members. That’s why “Who” is one of the best startup books out there.
“Who” covers simple steps that anyone can put into place to improve hiring. This book teaches you how to ensure you’re hiring the right person for the job, no matter if that’s a new CEO, a front desk manager, or a marketing manager. When you’re in the early days of startup life, you’re the one responsible for shaping a healthy, dynamic culture — and learning how to hire the right people is a huge part of that.
3. “You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth” by Jen Sincero
Many entrepreneurs start their own businesses because they love the hustle and excitement of running a business. But the potential to make a great salary doesn’t hurt, either.
Jen Sincero’s “You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth” is an easy-to-read guide that includes personal anecdotes and bite-sized lessons on how to shift your mindset and focus on wealth.
Sincero encourages you to take control of your life and make it your own. As an entrepreneur or startup owner, you’ve already taken the first steps toward achieving that goal — follow Sincero’s advice to go even further.
4. “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel
“Zero to One” has been recognized as one of the best startup books, so if you haven’t yet read this book, you should consider doing so. Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and an early Facebook investor, is known as a controversial figure, but his book “Zero to One” is full of challenging ideas backed up by compelling justifications that are hard to ignore.
While this guidebook is aimed at those building a technology startup, there are plenty of ideas that you can take away from “Zero to One,” regardless of your industry. You can use this book to challenge your preconceived views about the startup or small business world.
5. “Leading at the Speed of Growth” by Katherine Catlin and Jana Matthews
You are the founder of your startup. If you’re doing things right, you might find yourself in periods of extreme growth where things feel chaotic and out of control. The authors of “Leading at the Speed of Growth” have written this book to help you navigate those growth stages and prepare yourself for the next phase.
This guide contains a list of things to do and not do during each stage of entrepreneurial growth: rapid growth, initial growth, and continuous. The book includes stories from more than 500 entrepreneurs that will inspire, motivate, and influence your decisions to be a great leader in times of growth.
6. “Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity” by Kim Scott
A CEO coach is a great way to learn how your business operates. However, who startup entrepreneur can afford it?
Kim Scott is a former CEO coach for top companies like Twitter and Dropbox. Luckily, for the price of her book, “Radical Candor,” you can get her wisdom and lessons on how to provide feedback, listen, and give praise the way any good CEO should.
This New York Times Bestseller provides a clear framework for how to be a better boss. Make it a valuable addition to your startup book collection. If it worked at successful tech companies, why shouldn’t it work at your startup?
7. “The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers” by Ben Horowitz
As one of Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, it’s no wonder Ben Horowitz’s book is listed as one of the best startup books.
Whether you’re a veteran entrepreneur or just getting started with your first startup, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” has plenty of advice to help you make the difficult decisions that you’ll have to face while operating your new business.
As a bonus, you’ll get to enjoy Ben Horowitz’s trademark humor and wit while you read.
8. “Founders at Work” by Jessica Livingston
Many of the best books about startups contain all the information you need, but they can also be dry and boring. “Founders at Work” by Jessica Livingston features engaging interviews with company founders, who share stories from the early days of their companies to inspire you.
In just one book, you can get startup advice from founders and co-founders at Apple, Microsoft, Google, Flickr, PayPal, and Hotmail — to name only a few. This inspiring guide will allow you to be a part of the action and show you how they did it.
9. “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries
“The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries is a number one bestseller on Amazon for a reason. This book will teach you how to run your startup with minimum resources. Most startups don’t start out with tons of extra capital and that’s where this book comes into play.
The big lessons you’ll walk away with from “The Lean Startup” are how to use capital efficiently and leverage human creativity while on a budget, making it one of the best business startup books on the market. With those two lessons in your back pocket, you’ll have your startup humming along in no time.
10. “Never Too Late to Startup” by Rob Kornblum
Our stereotypical image of the startup founder is the disrupter: the young kid in his parents’ garage or her dorm room trying something new that turns into a multi-billion dollar business. It overlooks many startups founders who started in midlife after a successful career.
Luckily “Never Too Late to Startup” by author and venture capitalist Rob Kornblum is here to correct that notion as he shares his interviews with a dozen startup founders who started in midlife. The book is full of insights on how age and experience can make a difference in the startup world. It also offers advice about how to balance family responsibilities with the demands of startup culture.
This book is full of great insight and practical tools. This book includes resources for a 90 day business timeline, a one page business plan, as well as a template for a fundraising pitch.
11. “Superbosses” by Sydney Finkelstein
Although many of these skills are in the business of operations, it is important that a good startup founder knows how to lead. There are few startup books on this topic, but “Superbosses” explores the idea that there are specific personality traits that make for an effective leader.
Sydney Finkelstein, author and professor, says that the best bosses are able to inspire and motivate their employees. Super bosses not only inspire their employees, but also help them become leaders who can create their own successful businesses.
Finkelstein has combined years of research and hundreds upon thousands of interviews with leading figures from different industries to give you an actionable, advice-packed guide to help you be a better leader for you team.
12. “Mastering the VC Game” by Jeffrey Bussgang
Venture capitalists or VCs are the most difficult part of startup growth. You must convince VCs to fund your idea. They also need to see that your idea is a success and will return their investment.
In his book, “Mastering the VC Game,” author Jeffrey Bussgang takes a broad view of startup funding, encouraging founders to find a VC that will not only give them funds, but work with them as a partner in getting their idea off the ground. This book includes advice from dozens, all with their own perspectives.
Bussgang himself has both sought VC funding and been the VC funder — so his balanced approach makes “Mastering the VC Game” one of the best business startup books if you’re hoping to fund your latest venture.
13. “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration” by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
One misconception about startups is that they have to create innovative pieces of software or technology. That’s far from the truth. With animator Ed Catmull, and Amy Wallace, take a look at the genius behind Pixar Animation.
In “Creativity, Inc.,” the authors share ideas on how to make your workspace more inspirational, look for unconventional leaders, and seek originality. The balance can often be a difficult one to strike as a company grows, but it’s not impossible. After all, Pixar has been able to keep talent and originality at the heart of its company under Catmull’s leadership.
14. “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington
Co-founder of the Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, penned “Thrive” after an exhaustion-induced fall caused her to break her cheekbone. While building a startup demands a lot of time and effort, it’s not worth it if you’re not around to enjoy it — something that Huffington speaks to with precision.
“Thrive” is all about redefining success. It’s not just about money and power — those will only sustain us for so long. It is important to balance work and personal life with enough time for rest, relaxation, and mindfulness. That’s something “Thrive” argues for with a compelling certainty, backed up by the newest research in sports, psychology, and sleep.
Of all the best startup books out there, “Thrive” will help any startup founder realize that balance is just as important an ingredient to success as any other.
15. “Start Something That Matters” by Blake Mycoskie
Many of the most successful startup books are focused on creating something new and/or disruptive that will make lots of money. And then there’s Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms. “Start Something That Matters” shares stories, practical tips, and inspiring ideas on how you can start a company that you love, that makes money, and that can change the world — all at the same time.
You might be tempted just to dismiss Toms as a startup. But remember that Mycoskie turned it into a multi-billionaire in less than 10 year. This book is full of valuable lessons.
One last thought
It can be difficult and overwhelming to get your startup started. But sometimes it’s good to get out of your own head and realize that many accomplished people have been right where you are now. No matter what issue you’re facing while operating your startup, one of these books on this list may just have something for you.