66 Must-read books for Impactful Entrepreneurs

The other day, Maverick1000 members were asking about book recommendations on our private forum. I typically read 1-2 books per week (minimum) so this forced me to sort out some top recommendations by category.

I’ve always believed your life is changed by the books you read, experiences you create and the people you meet.

Think of this as the start of your Maverick MBA with 6 of the most important categories for evolved enterprises and impactful entrepreneurs in the 21st century.

1) Success Thinking/Foundation

2) Marketing & Sales

3) Strategic Thinking & Innovation

4) Operations/Systems

5) 21st Century Orgs & Modern Entrepreneurship

6) Action & Productivity

* * *

I. Success Thinking/Foundation:

  1. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Not really a business book but probably one of the biggest influences for top CEOs and entrepreneurs who have cited this numerous times. I’ve read this several times and even threw out calling our daughter Dagny – but Missy didn’t go for that. I loved Atlas Shrugged for instilling the philosophy that productive value should be compensated and revered instead of these individuals being coerced into self-sacrifice because of their talent and other’s “needs”. It really cemented the argument in my mind that the more laissez-faire approach to governing is ultimately best for a free marketplace and productive society. Yes, this is a thick read but well worth it.

  1. Winning Through Intimidation by Robert Ringer

I know the title of this book is a bit off putting and that’s probably why Robert renamed the latest edition. I love the way Ringer objectively looks at other people’s success advice in here. For instance, the advice of “work hard and you’ll succeed”. He asked himself what “working hard” really means since one person’s definition of working hard is a 18-hour shift while someone else might have a totally different notion. Ringer threw out typical advice like this to work on his own theories for figuring out success. Plus, there is one chapter in here “the Leapfrog theory” that is essential reading. It explodes the myth of “working your way to the top”. Basically this is a waste of time to keep the status quo. You can leapfrog over any competitors by proclaiming yourself at their same level – but you’ve got to be able to back it up with the goods. For some reason people are always waiting to be anointed the “expert” – it doesn’t happen. And Ringer’s book is packed with even more hard-hitting realities for street-smart entrepreneurs.

  1. Lead the Field By Earl Nightingale

I can’t even begin to count the times I’ve listened to these programs. Earl was really the first person who game me ‘permission’ to think and behave differently. He talks about how the top 5% of achievers don’t do the things ordinary people do and that’s why they are extraordinary. Or they are willing to do the things the other 95% aren’t willing to do (like read/listen for hours per day honing my expertise)

  1. Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki

A lot of people might say “Rich Dad/Poor Dad” is more influential but I would argue this second book in the series really hits the concepts explained there harder. If you’re looking for a book to shake you or someone who needs it out of the typical 9-to-5 mindset – this will do it. The Cashflow Quadrant is all about creating enough passive income to pay for your needs and truly creating financial independence. It’s a simple concept explained by Kiyosaki’s drawing depicted on the cover. On the left-hand side are the people who trade time for money. That’s the “E” or employee quadrant and the “S” or Small business quadrant. Then on the right-hand side are the people creating passive wealth by being “I” – Investors or “B” Business owners (who work on in their business not in it). While Kiyosaki’s books are pretty short on specific details – I think the philosophy and mindset is way more powerful and important.

  1. THE LAW OF SUCCESS IN SIXTEEN LESSONS by Napoleon Hill

I like this even better than the more popular Think and Grow Rich because you get the full lessons Napoleon Hill uncovered with interviews spanning 20 years with the biggest tycoons and empire builders of his time.

  1. 59 Seconds: Think a Little Change a Lot by Richard Wiseman
  1. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams by Deepak Chopra
  1. The Practice of Happiness by John Kehoe

John is not super well known but this is a great book to get you attuned to some of the most important elements in a joyful life.

  1. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Wow! This is a powerhouse of a book dealing with shame and vulnerability, something every leader needs to hear and work with.

  1. Choose Yourself by James Altucher

James is one of the most transparent and wonderfully vulnerable people I have met (and read). James has made and lost millions and he provides a valuable paradigm for anyone to get their thinking straight.

  1. Make it Big: 49 Secrets for Building a Life of Extreme Success by Frank McKinney

Frank McKinney builds mega multi-million dollar mansions on spec (meaning – no buyer before he builds). This is his first book that really shares his all encompassing philosophy for living a full life in every sense. I’ve spent extended amounts of time with Frank in Haiti helping build self-sustaining villages and Frank has immense integrity in everything he does leading from these principles.

  1. The Great Work of Your Life by Stephen Cope

My #1 book of the last year. It’s a little (okay a lot) different than any business book because it’s about your Dharma. A Buddhist concept essentially meaning your path or truth. If you’re considering what you really should be doing with your life and how to integrate your deepest purpose and meaning into everything you do – this is the book to read. Mine is massively highlighted with notes all over.

  1. Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It by Kamal Ravikant

I love, love, love this book! Written by a CEO of a venture backed company in Silicon Valley, it’s a totally transformative book to go from depressed and dark periods of burn out to full engaged and living at your optimal level. Try the exercises in here for big results.

II. Marketing & Sales

  1.   Influence: The psychology of persuasion by Robert Cialdini, PhD

I’ve read it at least 9 times and it will truly help you understand the psychological triggers to a sale. Very powerful stuff. Written by a self-proclaimed “sucker” and professor of psychology to help consumers avoid being taken “in” by marketers – this instantly became a classic for us marketers to apply each of the psychological tactics to success. This truly is a power that should only be harnessed for good. If I was to start at zero again and if you stripped away all the knowledge from every book I’ve read – I would start by reading this one and get it all back!

  1.   How to Make Millions with Your Ideas: An Entrepreneur’s Guide by Dan Kennedy

Yes, even though this was published in 1996 and some of the new-fangled technology sections like broadcast fax are out-of-date – this is a top ten for sure! I’ve spent probably $150k or more with Dan and every product or resource I buy from him gives me back at least a 10-to-1 return. This is one of my favorite Dan books (along with #7 on the list) but you really can’t go wrong buying any of his books. When I first stumbled onto Dan I was so excited because he finally provided more of the true ‘nuts & bolts’ I was looking for. Sure, he’s grumpy and not the most sociable guy – but his information is priceless no matter what type of business you are in

  1.   Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements by Robbin Phillips, Greg Cordell, Geno Church and Spike Jones

 One of my favorite newer books on creating an identity and community for the customers you serve.

  1.   Primal Branding: Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future by Patrick Hanlon
  1.   Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got: 21 Ways You Can Out-Think, Out-Perform, and Out-Earn the Competition by Jay Abraham

I like his Mr. X book a lot more, but it’s not as widely available. Jay is the very first direct marketing expert I ever encountered when I was 17 and his fundamental thinking for leverage and uncovering hidden assets is unparalleled.

  1.   Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples

An absolute classic for any direct marketer or anyone that doesn’t want to waste a dime on untrackable ads. Devour this one and also look for Caples’ other books that are out of print. A true professional who generously published his directly-traceable results for everybody to benefit from. Many people might think there’s nothing to be gained from a book written decades ago – WRONG! Everything Caples reveals applies online in spades.

  1.   Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins

Yes another “old time” marketing book but the gems in here are absolutely brilliant if applied today. Remember, human nature does not change – just the ways to activate our buying does. This is a short read and available online for free in many places since it’s in the public domain. Hopkins was one of the true advertising pioneers and this little guide really distills the essence of why you cannot use conjecture or opinion but actual tested, scientific methods to discover what your customers/prospects want.

  1. Magic Words that Bring You Riches by Ted Nicholas

There are 3 main people I’d give credit for opening my eyes to the enormous power of direct response marketing and helping me achieve financial independence before I was 31. And one of those is definitely Ted Nicholas. I cannot begin to tell you how many dozens of times I listened and read Ted’s material over and over again. He’s one of my all-time marketing heroes. Ted took the guts of his $197/year newsletter on direct marketing and distilled it into this single book. When I checked this morning there were a few used copies available on Amazon but you can now find it as an ebook or real book on TedNicholas.com.

  1. Pow! Right Between the Eyes: Profiting from the Power of Surprise by Andy Nulman

IF you want to create some memorable that your customers MUST talk about – this book gives you the formula. Warning: The only problem with surprise elements is you must be constantly re-inventing.

  1. The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes

Chet a proven blueprint for creating a sales and marketing machine in your business.

  1. Double Double by Cameron Herold

Cameron built 1-800-Got Junk from $3M – $100M+ as the COO. This is the process.

  1. Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business into a Sales Machine with the $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com by Aaron Ross

Aaron Ross presents his ‘cold calling 2.0’ strategy for creating predictable and scaleable selling. This is the personal account of creating a $100M pipeline for Salesforce and multiplying yourself and your team.

  1. The Ultimate Sales letter by Dan Kennedy

Easiest to follow formula for creating sales copy (letters) that work.

  1. Advertising Secret of the Written Word – Joe Sugarman

I love Joe Sugarman’s material. He’s the first person that used 800#s to market products and he’s responsible for blockbusters like ‘Blu Blockers’. Joe is first and foremost a copywriter and you’ll get some of his best thinking on this valuable subject.

  1. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath 
  1. Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff

A great book about creating the right ‘frame’ for having others qualify themselves and turn the tables on selling.

III. Thinking/Innovation:

  1. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim

Blue Ocean is a pretty easy concept to understand but difficult to implement. It can lead to some big innovations and really owning a category that you invent – but it’s imperative to combine with something like Little Bets (below).

  1. The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam

 Even if you don’t think you’re an artist in the least, this book is a really powerful application of using simple pictures to sell.

  1. The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain’s Untapped Potential by Tony Buzan and Barry Buzan 

A good primer on using Mindmaps. One of my favorite tools for creating new ideas.

  1. Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality by Scott Belsky
  1. Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries by Peter Sims
  1. Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd by Youngme Moon

Written by one of the most popular Harvard Business School professors, Different is exactly that. It’s a good take on how to create a competitive advantage in the marketplace by being different. Most businesses talk about being ‘different’ but so many fall into the trap becoming mediocre because they look at their competitors and try to copy some of their strengths. This only leads to being average across a bunch of different aspects instead of being unique in just 1 or 2 differentiable points. This book is a fairly easy read and not a dull, boring college textbook. And as one reviewer on Amazon said, just skip the Harvard MBA and get this book!

IV. Operations:

  1. Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less by Sam Carpenter

Excellent book by Maverick member, Sam Carpenter detailing how he went from nearly bankrupt and totally having a business out-of-control to a smoothly run ‘machine’.

  1. Get A Grip: An Entrepreneurial Fable…Your Journey to Get Real, Get Simple, and Get Results by Gino Wickman and Mike Paton

One of my favorite books that has a lot of actual application to help you work on what’s most important and get all your team members in alignment with your vision.

  1.   Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish
  1. Make The Noise Go Away: The Power Of An Effective Second-In-Command by Larry G. Linn

A short but profound book on grooming a “2nd in command”.

V: 21st Century Organizations & Modern Entrepreneurship:

  1. Screw Business as Usual by Richard Branson

Richard is my biggest business hero and I’ve been privileged to spend several weeks with him on his private island. This is his manifesto for a new way of doing business and I really think there’s a tipping point that’s been reached. It’s an idea to look at new models for entrepreneurs.

  1.   4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

Tim and I met over our love of marketing and living life to the fullest. There’s a reason this book has literally taken on a life of its own and achieved best-seller status so quickly. To me, it’s because the concepts in here are so compelling. I’ve given away a ton of copies of this book and a lot of people have actually gotten pissed at me for giving to them. One of my hockey teammates said that to me again a few nights ago. He’s gets really mad when he looks at it on the nightstand because he’s not living his life the way it could be using the ideas in this book. This book is designed to get you to stop and think if you are really putting the right things in the right priority. Tim has a concept of the “New Rich” and that’s people who have time to do the things they want & they’re passionate on. There’s some exciting concepts about life design, dumping the email habit, outsourcing and creating online “muses” that pay for it all. Tim started a revolution with this book and it’s still pertinent.

  1. Start Something that Matters by Blake Mycocskie

I love what Blake has been able to do with TOMS shoes and his buy-one, give-one program is truly a remarkable and impactful business model.

  1. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

Tony is incredible with what he’s been able to do with Zappos and now the Downtown Project. If you want to consider how happiness is integrated into your profitability for 21st century organizations, this is your book.

  1. Unique Ability: Creating the Life You Want by Catherine Nomura, Julia Waller, Shannon Waller

This is my absolute favorite book about simply focusing on what your unique abilities are and then bringing in others who are strong in areas that are not unique abilities. Now “Unique Ability” is different than simply finding your strengths like the book “Now Discover Your Strengths” (which is also quite good for their online test). Unique ability is not only about something that is a strength for you but something you love and that gives you more energy when you do it! Critical difference. You could have a strength but you don’t necessarily want to keep doing that activity. This book walks you the process of discovering your own unique abilities. Highly recommended. (At some point I’ll do a post just on this concept and share with you my own ‘unique ability’ statement I’ve come up with from this.) This book is put out by Dan Sullivan’s company “Strategic Coach” and they have an excellent group of other ‘knowledge’ products. If you can find it the CD set “Pure Genius” is remarkable.

  1. The Business of Happiness by Ted Leonsis

Former Underground® keynote presenter, Ted Leonsis shares his 6 secrets for building a business that increases your happiness.

  1. Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business by John Mackey, Rajendra Sisodia and Bill George

All part of the ‘tipping point’ going on with business serving a higher purpose. I really like the idea of an evolving consciousness for business serving all stakeholders (customers, employees, suppliers, investors, etc).

  1. A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business by Ari Weinzwieg

Huge thumbs up for me on this book! You must get this one from Ari’s training site (ZingTrain.com) and you’ll be absolutely impressed. One of the key books I always recommend.

  1.   PEAK by Chip Conley

One of my favorite books about creating a higher PEAK state for everybody in your organization based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

  1. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses… by Eric Ries

Ries has quite a following in Silicon Valley and for good reason. This book lays out an excellent methodology for ‘testing’ new business ideas and getting traction fast.

  1. Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers by Alexander Osterwalder

A really nice visual way of looking at and thinking through your business model.

  1. The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf

A really nice step-by-step guide to go from idea to roll out.

  1. Business Stripped Bare by Sir Richard Branson

The best ‘nuts and bolts’ out of any Branson book I’ve read. Plus, I love seeing some of his journal entries on the inside cover.

  1. Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson by Mark Ford
  1. Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal

One of the best books to get you thinking about using ‘gamification’ (the hot term) to help everything in your organization.

  1. Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright
  1. How to Get Rich by Felix Dennis

A totally tell-it-like-it-is recap from the founder of Maxim magazine.

  1. Maverick Startup by Yanik Silver 😉

Yes, I’m biased but still makes the list.

VI: Action/Productivity:

  1. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The best book out there about the difference between a professional and an amateur to beat down procrastination.

  1. No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs by Dan Kennedy

Yes, Kennedy makes the list again. Let’s face it, for entrepreneurs we’ve got no greater asset than our time. And even if you’ve read a 100 other time management books I guarantee you’ll get something out of this one. Here’s Dan’s unique & ruthless approach to time management that might give some people pause. I don’t follow all of Dan’s advice here because I’m a little too nice at times but reading this book will really let you understand that you create the rules at all times. You decide how you want customers to work with you, people to contact you, etc. Fact is, if you don’t set the rules – then someone else will for you by default.

  1. 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management by Hyrum Smith

This book has probably had one of the most profound effects on my inner values starting in 1998 when I got introduced to Hyrum’s company, now-called “Franklin Covey”. This book really made me examine what my value was and most importantly in what order should those values be. I look at them nearly every day when I get up to make sure my decisions are on track with my inner compass. This isn’t a half-hour read and then you’ve ‘got it’. I spent some time really considering what type of values and life legacy I’d like to leave. Excellent exercises

  1. The Power of Less by Leo Babauta
  1. The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
  1. Getting Things Done by David Allen

Some people swear by this – it’s not something I always use but principles are solid

  1. Strengthfinders 2.0 by Tom Rath

This is one of the assessment tests we use when we hire new team members and work with new partners. Very insightful.

  1. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Dan Pink
  1. Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Nice work from the founders of 37signals dispelling some beliefs about business.

Comments14

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  1. I totally disagree with your list of books. The only correct thing about your list is it is your opinion.

  2. Hi Yanik,

    These caefully selected books are just extra-ordinary in the values and resources they provide.

    Most of the books, though I’ve not read them personally, have changed something in me. Yes I believe; I have to find a way of getting them in my library.

    Thanks

  3. This list is really a great one. I read Leo’s “Focus” and “Striving on Less” and they are great reads too.

  4. Great list! Dan Kennedy’s books and products are the elite, best of the best.

    Oh, and Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples is dynamite!! Definitely a great “keep on your desk” book.

  5. Wow. What a superb list! I have about 20% of these but I plan on putting most of these on my Amazon wish list!

    Love your site and content. Just discovered your site this evening. Big fan already!

  6. Hello Yanik, ….(i’ll put this year)

    how are you doing ?

    Great list of books, you forgot to include ‘autoresponder magic’ in that list.

    and Yanik…. do you remember one of your emails (which I got years ago), where you told a story that you met somebody (on a bus or train i think) and told them that in your college/uni course , that on that course that you ‘did not’ learn that much about marketing,…..but you infact actually learned more about marketing while actually doing internet marketing?

    Do you remember that email ?

    Hope you and your family are doing well.

    Matt Morgan

  7. Great list, Yanik! I love these fave book lists by people I’ve studied with, and admire. Dan Kennedy has a similiar list. Jeff Johnson also. Vishen Lakhiani of MindValley has shared his list as well. Your list is valuable for the reasons that it underscores the truth that leaders are readers as well as to introduce others to great books they might not have been aware of. Question though: No Tony Robbins – Unlimited Power? And Richard Koch’s The 80/20 Principle or/and The 80/20 Individual…well, let’s just say, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on them…

    • I think the 80/20 books are wonderful and could have been here for sure.

  8. Wow, thanks for all those great book suggestions. I;ll be bookmarking this page for future reference. The only book I have read from that list is the “4-Hour Workweek” and I liked it a lot.

  9. Pingback: 66 Must-read books for Impactful Entrepreneurs | Maverick MBA

  10. You could have put affiliate links in all of them :p

  11. I have only 10 books from the list. A long way to go I guess!!

  12. Yanik – thanks for the list. I’ve cherry picked a few to go in my top 50 must reads for 2016!

    Do you chunk reading / learning as part of your ‘working day’ or is this an extra-curricular activity? I’d be interested to know how you schedule reading time to hit 1-2 books per week.

    See you at Maverick 1000 sometime!

    • I don’t have a set schedule – but more often than not it’s at night instead of TV.

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