Entrepreneurs may be short on time, but the most successful are still usually voracious readers. Bill Gates is known to read 50 books a year, making his rate of consumption nearly a book a week. Meanwhile, billionaire David Rubenstein reads six books a week and a staggering eight newspapers a day. But if you personally can’t commit to reading dozens of books a year, commit to just that short list of books every entrepreneur must read. Here are seven of my own top picks to start with.
1. “The Power of Broke” by Daymond John
The Power of Broke is for anyone looking to crush those excuses for whatever is holding him or her back from success. Bootstrapping your way to success can be a viable and sustainable way to grow your empire. Author (and Shark Tank entreprepreneur) Daymond John built his own fashion label starting with home-sewn clothes and almost no money; he turned around his “broke” status with pure innovation. The book also explores how other everyday people took a similar approach. One entrepreneur, for instance, started a million-dollar cupcake business with the $33 balance in her checking account.
2. “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth
Put aside your insecurities over any lack of talent and ability you might feel, and pick up Angela Duckworth’s book Grit. Instead of focusing on the idea that there’s a big secret behind outstanding achievement, Duckworth touts the importance of blending passion and relentless persistence, otherwise known as grit. Duckworth herself is the daughter of scientists who frequently told her she lacked genius. Her book shows how everyday people, from cadets at West Point to finalists in National Spelling Bees, have actually succeeded through sheer passion and persistence. The trick is finding your own grit.
3. “The End of Jobs: Money, Meaning and Freedom Without the 9-to-5” by Taylor Pearson
Entrepreneurs largely celebrate the end of the dreaded 9-to-5 and are ready to dive headfirst into a world where they call the shots. The End of Jobs argues that rapid advancements in technology and globalization are leveraging points in the accumulation of wealth, meaning and freedom. This eye-opening book will give reluctant entrepreneurs the nudge they need, with sobering statistics on why the century-long growth in wages stopped in 2000, and why MBAs and JDs can’t land jobs, let alone pay off their significant debt.
4. “The Millionaire Real Estate Investor” by Gary Keller
It’s easy to get fired up by the financial freedom that real estate investing can provide, but it’s harder to take the leap. The Millionaire Real Estate Investor offers some good insights on deconstructing the myths that hold people back from investing.
For example, many assume they can’t start investing in real estate. In reality, industry disruptions like crowdsourcing open the door to commercial real estate success. A site like RealtyMogul crowdsources deals on properties from hotels to storage units for an investment of just a few thousand dollars. You could also consider buying a triplex to live in and rent out the other two units to pay your mortgage. Then use the profits to fund your business in real estate.
5. “Poke the Box: When Was the Last Time You Did Something for the First Time?” by Seth Godin
Marketing superstar Seth Godin explores why the economy isn’t static, yet why we behave as if it is, in Poke the Box. In his book, Godin explores the anxiety behind failure and how we work so hard to compete without actually standing out or doing anything remarkable.
Godin suggests that in order to truly be excellent, we need to work harder at taking the initiative with things worth doing instead of trying so hard to just do what we’re told. The book doesn’t give a lot of tactical advice, but it will make you question your own assumptions and challenge you to truly step out of the box.
6. “Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination” by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter nerds and business buffs alike will devour J.K. Rowling’s Very Good Lives. The story draws from a commencement speech Rowling gave at Harvard University, and inspiration from her own life and failures. Entrepreneurs will love how she explains the benefits of failure and the crucial importance of imagination.
This is the book for those who are facing the grim realities of being broke and failing, and those graduating from college. Her main point is the importance of perseverance. Even someone who is on welfare and feeling hopeless could still turn that great idea into a business that launches the next Harry Potter franchise.
7. “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport
Georgetown professor and Study Hacks blog author Cal Newport takes the idea of talent and turns it on its head. Deep Work explores why the ability to focus without distraction is so cognitively demanding and becoming increasingly rare. Newport convincingly argues that deep work is like a super power and not terribly hard to do with the right hacks in place.
This is a must-read for entrepreneurs in the early stages of their business who are trying to push through distractions and insecurity. Staying persistent and focused is ultimately how entrepreneurs — like me! —work incredibly hard and with focus to become successful.