21 Best Business Books to Read in 2021

Home » Books » Business BooksUpdated: September 15, 2021

You found our list of top business books.

Business books are practical guides to building and running successful enterprises. The genre is diverse and offers advice to businesses of all sizes and types. These books cover topics like negotiation, management, profit, and productivity. The purpose is to teach entrepreneurs effective habits and best practices that result in successful ventures.

The genre also includes business strategy books, small business books, startup books, CEO books, and HR books.

This list contains:

  • motivational business books
  • books on business for beginners
  • business books by women
  • self-help books for business owners
  • business biographies

Here we go!

List of business books

From classic bestsellers to new releases, here is a collection of must-read business books for current and aspiring entrepreneurs.

1. The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

The Infinite Game

The Infinite Game is among the greatest motivational business books. Business is an endless game and a series of constantly evolving challenges. Simon Sinek emphasizes the importance of adopting an infinite mindset in playing the long game. The book touches on topics such as team trust, the role of rivals in professional development, and innovative flexibility. This work is a manifesto of how to operate with no permanent endpoint. The Infinite Game stresses evolution over final solutions and teaches leaders to plan for the long term. The easy-to-read and enjoyable prose makes the book an equally engrossing and informative read.

Notable Quote: “When leaders are willing to prioritize trust over performance, performance almost always follows.”

Buy The Infinite Game.

2. Permission to Screw Up: How I Learned to Lead by Doing (Almost) Everything Wrong by Kristen Hadeed

Permission to Screw Up

Permission to Screw Up is one of the best recent business books by women. While many women writers target aspiring female entrepreneurs, Kristen Hadeed addresses topics relevant to business hopefuls of any gender. The book traces Hadeed’s journey in building her company, Student Maid. Part memoir and part self-help book, the story recounts the missteps and mistakes made in the journey of building the business. Permission to Screw Up teaches leaders to embrace and flip the narrative on failure and treat setbacks as learning moments. This book empowers entrepreneurs to fail forward for the sake of experimentation, and values progress over perfection. Haddeed admits her mess ups to help other entrepreneurs avoid the same mistakes and to illustrate the point that you do not need to make the right call 100% of the time to succeed.

Notable Quote: “Good leaders know that their people will only truly thrive not when they are pushed to be perfect but when they are encouraged to be their natural best.”

Buy Permission to Screw Up, and check out more leadership books.

3. The Common Path to Uncommon Success: A Roadmap to Financial Freedom and Fulfillment by John Lee Dumas

The Common Path to Uncommon Success

Inspired by John Lee Dumas’s hit podcast, The Common Path to Uncommon Success draws on hundreds of interviews with industry leaders. The book seeks out patterns in top performer’s methods and presents a 17-step framework to replicate the results of extraordinary entrepreneurs. Chapters center around practices like narrowing down a niche, choosing a mentor, and drafting a content plan. The Common Path to Uncommon Success answers aspiring entrepreneurs’ most pressing questions and lays out the basics in an easy-to-follow format.

Notable Quote: “Everyone is not your customer. In fact, most people are not your customer. There are billions of people in the world. Ninety-nine percent of humans will never know you exist, let alone consume your content and be impacted by your message. And that’s ok.”

Buy The Common Path to Uncommon Success.

4. Future Proofing You: Twelve Truths for Creating Opportunity, Maximizing Wealth, and Controlling your Destiny in an Uncertain World by Jay Samit

Future Proofing You

Future Proofing You lays out instructions for building resilient businesses and achieving lasting success in an age of constant disruption. Digital media innovator and former Deloitte executive Jay Samit shares twelve foundational principles that serve as a basis for safeguarding against the unknown. For instance, adopting a growth mindset, using fear to fuel action, and working towards profitable sustainability. The book teaches readers how to thrive personally and professionally in a world that can change at any given moment. Future Proofing You is a guide for outlasting the unknown and achieving longevity in an era of unending reinvention.

Notable Quote: “The only requirements for becoming Future Proof are insight and perseverance (…everything else can be hired.)”

Buy Future Proofing You.

5. Zero to One: Notes on Start Ups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

Zero to one

Zero to One is an exploration of innovation. The book examines ways to discover the unheard-of and unexpected and perhaps even form new industries. Peter Thiel steers readers away from technical stagnation and conformity in favor of out-of-the-box thinking. Zero to One captures the startup spirit and explains how to launch businesses that really do change the course of humanity and shape the world.

Notable Quote: “The best entrepreneurs know this: every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside. A great company is a conspiracy to change the world; when you share your secret, the recipient becomes a fellow conspirator.”

Buy Zero to One.

6. Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine by Mike Michalowicz

Profit First

Profit First is one of the more practical books on business for beginners. Achieving and maintaining positive cash flow is one of the greatest challenges for emerging businesses. Profit First teaches readers how to transform ventures from money-suckers to money-makers. The book champions prioritizing profit and limiting expenses and outlines practical strategies for balancing budgets and keeping the business out of debt. By providing assessment tools, step-by-step processes, and case studies this book shares practical tips for running financially healthy businesses.

Notable Quote: “All revenue is not the same. If you remove your worst, unprofitable clients and the now-unnecessary costs associated with them, you will see a jump in profitability and a reduction in stress, often within a few weeks. Equally important, you will have more time to pursue and clone your best clients.”

Buy Profit First.

7.People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others, and Resolve Conflicts by Robert Bolton

People Skills

The business world revolves around relationships, meaning success requires excellent interpersonal skills. People Skills is a guide for navigating everyday interactions and avoiding or settling disputes and disagreements. The book explores basic human psychology and suggests ways to stand up for yourself and meet your needs without offending or alienating others. The author demonstrates how to read body language, pick up emotional cues, and use conversation skills to get what you want without ruining relationships. People Skills offers a crash course in communication and emotional intelligence and serves as a basis for building strong coworker or client bonds.

Notable Quote: “The law of change says, “Things do not stay the same. If they don’t get better, they get worse.”

Buy People Skills.

8. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber

The E Myth

The E-Myth Revisited is one of the better self-help books for business owners. The work deconstructs the misconceptions that all small business owners automatically become entrepreneurs and that technical prowess alone is sufficient to run a business. Michael E. Gerber challenges the popular narratives about entrepreneurship and explains the requirements for launching, growing, and maintaining a successful venture. The book presents strategies for marketing, managing, business development, and more. The E-Myth Revisited defines the job of the business owner in clear terms and outlines the necessary steps for success.

Notable Quote: “Most salespeople think that selling is “closing.” It isn’t. Selling is opening.”

Buy The E-Myth Revisited.

9. 12 Months to $1 Million: How to Pick a Winning Product, Build a Real Business, and Become a Seven-Figure Entrepreneur by Ryan Daniel Moran

12 Months to $1Million

12 Months to $1 Million is an instruction manual for launching a lucrative organization within a year. Beyond that, the book is also a practical guide for what it takes to run a good business, including grit, determination, good judgment, and prudent planning. Ryan Daniel Moran breaks the process of founding a seven-figure startup into three phrases: The Grind, The Growth, and The Gold. The book recommends actions and focus points for each stage. These simplified systems make the process of launching a profitable startup seem less overwhelming and more achievable.

Notable Quote: “Some people resist marketplace change because their primary income stream feels under threat. At the same time, those changes open up new opportunities.”

Buy 12 Months to $1 Million.

10. High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove

High Output Management

High Output Management focuses on management techniques and best practices. Andrew S. Grove led teams and initiatives in some of the biggest tech companies in the US for over twenty years, and he brings that experience to this guide. The book covers competencies like leading meetings, making decisions, planning workflows, training, and giving feedback. Each chapter contains examples and explanations for key leadership techniques to maximize output. High Output Management teaches leaders to create efficient systems and get the maximum performance out of employees.

Notable Quote: “Let chaos reign, then rein in chaos.”

Buy High Output Management, and check out more management books.

11. Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman

Traction

Traction is a guide for gaining momentum in business ventures. Many entrepreneurs spend the bulk of their time putting out fires and dealing with issues like employee mediation, insufficient funding, production hiccups, or slower-than-expected growth. This resource shows leaders how to make progress on goals. The book outlines six key components of entrepreneurship: people, vision, data, issues, traction, and process. By properly balancing these elements, organizations can expand upon foundations and make headway on goals. Traction is the ultimate handbook for growing young companies.

Notable Quote:“If you’re truly going to commit to building a great company, a strong leadership team, and getting the right people in the right seats, you must prepare for change on your leadership team.”

Buy Traction.

12. Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX by Eric Berger

Liftoff

Liftoff is one of the hottest new business biographies. The book charts the early days of SpaceX, tracing the company’s journey starting from the inception and the initial Falcon 1 rocket launches. Before SpaceX became a cosmic juggernaut it was a scrappy startup. This history traces the journey from the days before Elon Musk was a household name, illuminating the route the company took to transform their mission from a pipedream to a leading aerospace organization. Liftoff gives a behind the scenes look into the beginnings of one of the most intriguing companies of the modern age.

Notable Quote: “To understand SpaceX, where it aspires to go, and why it just might succeed, one must voyage back to the Falcon 1 rocket and dig up the roots. The seeds for everything SpaceX has grown into today were planted during the early days of the Falcon 1 program by Musk.”

Buy Liftoff.

13. Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products (Silicon Valley Product Group) by Marty Cagan

Empowered

Empowered challenges the idea that business success hinges on attracting top talent. The book claims that the true key to prevailing is bringing out the best in the majority of the staff. This guide advocates for utilizing all employees, building great teams, and fostering a culture of creativity and innovation. The book explores topics like coaching, imposter syndrome, time management, collaboration, product design, and team development. Empowered insists that to design the next great product, employees do not have to be geniuses, they just need the right motivation.

Notable Quote: “The companion to empowerment is accountability.”

Buy Empowered.

14. Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets by Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, et al.

Play Bigger

Play Bigger is a manifesto on category design, the act of creating demand for a new concept. The book explores business case studies and inventions throughout history to discover how trailblazers created sensations. The authors lay out strategies and steps for launching new industries and remaining on top as competitors enter the market. Play Bigger is a handbook for becoming “category kings” through the act of being the first and staying the best.

Notable Quote: “The story about your business is more important than the facts about your business. Sound outrageous? Maybe, but the brain research proves it’s true. People relate to and remember stories—even people who make a living analyzing facts.”

Buy Play Bigger.

15. Built to Sell: Turn Your Business Into One You Can Sell by John Warrillow

Built to Sell

Many business books focus on building a lasting business. However, not every founder dreams of sustaining an organization long term. Some entrepreneurs launch businesses to turn a profit, while others do not want to commit to a single idea for a lifetime. This book focuses on launching and growing a business with the intent of selling. Built to Sell teaches leaders how to run an organization during the growth stage and find the right purchaser once the business matures. The book outlines common mistakes owners make when selling and mentions steps and tips to avoid a prolonged exit. Built to Sell is the perfect book for temporary entrepreneurs.

Notable Quote: “Don’t be afraid to say no to projects. Prove that you’re serious about specialization by turning down work that falls outside your area of expertise. The more people you say no to, the more referrals you’ll get to people who need your product or service.”

Buy Built to Sell.

16. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

The Hard Thing About Hard Things is one of the most popular books on business. Ben Horowitz lays bare the struggles of entrepreneurship in an honest account of what it takes to run a startup. The book explores the realities of holding ultimate accountability, being the deciding factor on business choices, and leading through uncertainty. Chapters address challenging scenarios like conducting layoffs and demotions, hiring executives, eliminating office politics, and evaluating yourself as a CEO. The Hard Thing About Hard Things offers battle strategies for every trial of entrepreneurship.

Notable Quote: “Most business relationships either become too tense to tolerate or not tense enough to be productive after a while. Either people challenge each other to the point where they don’t like each other or they become complacent about each other’s feedback and no longer benefit from the relationship.”

Buy The Hard Thing About Hard Things, and check out more entrepreneurial books.

17. Race, Work, and Leadership: New Perspectives on the Black Experience by Laura Morgan Roberts, Anthony J. Mayo, and David A. Thomas

Race Work & Leadership

Race, Work, and Leadership is one of the best business books. This work chronicles the experience of Black professionals in recent and present corporate culture. The book consists of essays that examine the ways race affects leadership opportunities and professional development. Race, Work, and Leadership explores the history of race and work within the US, analyzes the current climate, and calls for continued progress and increased organizational accountability. This book is the ultimate primer on race and industry, as well as a handbook for navigating the corporate world as a person of color.

Notable Quote: “What happens in society spills over because organizations are in society, not apart from it. Employees do not leave their race or racial beliefs at the entrance when they enter the workplace.”

Buy Race, Work, and Leadership, and check out more books about diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

18. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin

Purple Cow

The Purple Cow teaches businesses how to stand out in competitive markets through the power of the wow factor. Marketing master Seth Godin preaches that in order to find success, companies must find and capitalize on a remarkable quality. In an internet age where consumers can instantly compare thousands of items, it is not enough to merely create a good product. Offerings must be extraordinary enough to convince folks to try them, and impressive enough to inspire repeat purchases. The Purple Cow suggests designing products with marketing in mind and provides strategies for determining what customers want and getting the message to the right audiences.

Notable Quote: “If a product’s future is unlikely to be remarkable – if you can’t imagine a future in which people are once again fascinated by your product – it’s time to realize that the game has changed. Instead of investing in a dying product, take profits and reinvest them in building something new.”

Buy Purple Cow, and check out more marketing books.

19. Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz

Never Split the Difference

Never Split the Difference presents a masterclass in negotiation. The book was co-written by an FBI hostage negotiator with years of experience navigating high stakes situations. The author shares techniques for keeping calm, de-escalating emotions, and gaining leverage in tough circumstances. The skills the author gained in the field can serve professionals in boardrooms and offices, or in personal interactions. Never Split the Difference is full of extraordinary first-person accounts and practical advice that teach readers how to bargain effectively and achieve favorable results in the most dire situations.

Notable Quote: “He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation.”

Buy Never Split the Difference.

20. Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio

Principles

Principles is one of the bestselling business books of all time. In this autobiographical work, hedge fund legend Ray Dalio shares the greatest pieces of business advice he amassed throughout his long and outstanding career. Dalio passes on life lessons and personal philosophies through a candid, no-nonsense tone. The book is a collection of memoirs and mantras that inspired the likes of Bill Gates and Tony Robbins.

Notable Quote: “Listening to uninformed people is worse than having no answers at all.”

Buy Principles: Life and Work.

21. Business Made Simple: 60 Days to Master Leadership, Sales, Marketing, Execution, Management, Personal Productivity and More by Donald Miller

Business Made Simple

One of the hottest recent business bestsellers, this book is a crash course in management and business mastery. Business Made Simple aims to condense an MBA education into a single, simple volume. Written in easy to understand language, the book breaks down the basics of entrepreneurship into digestible parts. Donald Miller addresses topics like personal productivity, character, messaging, execution, and sales. Business Made Simple is an encyclopedia of business best practices and actionable advice.

Notable Quote: “What’s the most important thing you can do today? If you can answer that question, morning after morning, you are in an elite group of professionals.”

Buy Business Made Simple.

Conclusion

Business is busy, and reading tends to be way down the list of priorities. However, books on business keep professionals informed. Devoting a few hours to reading these works can help entrepreneurs avoid mistakes and pitfalls that take time away from growing and building the business.

This extensive genre covers a wide range of topics, from leadership habits and styles, to strategy and profit, to culture and inclusion. Entrepreneurs must have such a wide range of knowledge, that experience alone is often not enough to prepare leaders for high-ranking roles. Reading books on business management provides a strong foundation of knowledge to build upon. Not to mention, these works give readers up-close-access to the insights of some of the greatest minds in industry who are eager to pass on valuable advice to the next generations of business leaders.

For more reading material, check out these lists of project management books, office management books and business books for women.

FAQ: Business books

Here are answers to common questions about business books.

What are business books?

Business books are guides for creating companies and launching successful ventures. These works cover topics such as innovation, entrepreneurship, scaling, management, and marketing. The genre includes categories like business memoirs and histories, handbooks, guides, and motivational manifestos. Many of these nonfiction works are written by entrepreneurial legends and industry thought leaders. The purpose of these books is to make readers more business savvy.

What are some good business books for beginners?

Some good business books for beginners include Profit First by Mike Michalowicz, The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, and Business Made Simple by Donald Miller.

What are the best books on business for leaders?

Some of the best business books for leaders include Empowered by Marty Cagan, High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove, People Skills by Robert Bolton, and Principles by Ray Dalio.

Are business books worth reading?

Business books are worth reading because these works can illuminate common errors and pitfalls and help leaders avoid obvious missteps.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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