18 Best Entrepreneur Books to Read in 2021

Home » Books » Entrepreneur BooksUpdated: July 15, 2021

You discovered our list of must read entrepreneur books.

Entrepreneur books are resources that help founders launch and build businesses. Reading advice from noted visionaries helps entrepreneurs set reasonable goals and expectations, endure obstacles, stay true to their missions, and shape and grow successful organizations.

Entrepreneurship books are types of business books and are similar to startup books, CEO books, management books, and leadership books.

This list includes:

  • entrepreneurship books for beginners
  • the best entrepreneur biographies
  • books for aspiring entrepreneurs
  • female entrepreneur books
  • Black entrepreneur books
  • nonfiction entrepreneur books

So, here is the list!

List of entrepreneur books

Here is a list of newly released and all-time top selling entrepreneur books to help founders weather adversity and build healthy, dynamic businesses.

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

The Lean Startup

Via Amazon

Most startups fail, yet failure is often preventable. In The Lean Startup, Eric Ries describes a sensible approach to founding and running a new company. The book examines common entrepreneurial mistakes and misconceptions and offers up best practices for launching a company.

The Lean Startup Method consists of five main principles:

  • Entrepreneurs are everywhere
  • Entrepreneurship is management
  • Validated learning
  • Build-Measure-Learn
  • Innovation accounting

Ries backs his practical, factual approach to entrepreneurship with triumphs and failures of real companies, including his own. The Lean Startup does not try to dissuade aspiring entrepreneurs from starting businesses, but rather prepares them for the realities of their new job by adjusting expectations and teaching valuable techniques proven to increase the chances of a startup’s survival.

Notable Quote: “The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.”

Buy The Lean Startup.

2. Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence-and How You Can, Too by Gary Vaynerchuk

Crushing It

Via Amazon

Gary Vaynerchuck also wrote Crush It!, a 2009 hit about transforming passion into a personal brand. Crushing It! is a followup to that bestseller. This book is a refreshed and expanded guide to the realities of entrepreneurship. Gary Vaynerchuk revisits and refreshes his advice about seizing your calling and growing your influence. Crushing It! Includes updated examples and case studies of entrepreneurs who triumphed by following the principles of Crush It!. This book has a heavy emphasis on the role of social media leveraging to grow empires. Plus, GaryVee’s signature empathetic yet no-bullsh*t approach makes Crushing It! one of the best books for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Notable Quote: “It’s a matter of survival to think beyond your current successes and constantly look for ways to create new ones so that you’re never limited to any one platform or even one topic.”

Buy Crushing It!

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

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Via Amazon

The Hard Thing about Hard Things is one of the must-read entrepreneurship books for beginners. Ben Horowitz is a Silicon Valley venture capitalist. The book lays bare the realities of the entrepreneurial life and is an honest account of what it takes to make a new business thrive. The Hard Thing About Hard Things avoids generalities in favor of presenting specific, realistic obstacles and offering actionable solutions. The book covers topics like layoffs, employee egos, company politics, the mechanics of scaling, plus plenty of other situations that other guides often fail to mention. The Hard Thing About Hard Things delivers advice for difficult situations for the founders who often have no reliable source of support or guidance.

Notable Quote: “People always ask me, “What’s the secret to being a successful CEO?” Sadly, there is no secret, but if there is one skill that stands out, it’s the ability to focus and make the best move when there are no good moves.”

Buy The Hard Thing About Hard Things.

4. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

Zero to One

Via Amazon

Zero to One centers around the premise that true innovators do not merely improve upon an existing product, but rather create something entirely new and unique. Real disruptors shift the landscape by introducing concepts the world has never seen, and maintain momentum by constructing an insider culture that inspires loyalty. Peter Thiel is a Silicon Valley investor and the founder of PayPal. The author spills the secrets of what makes a company worth betting on. Zero to One has won the praise of visionaries like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg.

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.

5. The Execution Factor: The One Skill that Drives Success by Kim Perell

The Execution Factor

Via Amazon

Many people believe that all it takes to launch a lucrative business is a really good idea. Kim Perell counters that execution is the most important component of the entrepreneurship equation. The Execution Factor explains that anybody can master the behaviors critical to business success by embracing the five key traits of enduring leadership: vision, passion, action, resilience, and relationships.

Henry David Thoreu once famously said, “‘If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” The Execution Factor embraces this philosophy, teaching founders how to pair the sense of purpose and excitement that is so critical to selling an idea with the practical behaviors that ensure smooth implementation.

Notable Quote: “If you change nothing else in your life than the people you spend your time with, you will have increased your chances of success tenfold.”

Buy The Execution Factor.

6. How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World’s Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs by Guy Raz

How I Built This

Via Amazon

How I Built This is one of the best nonfiction entrepreneur books in recent years. This book turns Guy Raz’s popular podcast into an anthology of essays on some of the world’s most influential entrepreneurs. The book consists of three sections: The Call, The Test(s), and The Destination, addressing different stages of the entrepreneurial journey. Each interview and resulting story reveals crucial wisdom about what it takes to succeed in the high-stakes, high-pressure, yet highly rewarding world of entrepreneurship.

Notable Quote: “Good ideas are hard to find and hard to get right. But once you find one, they are also very hard to turn away from. That’s what makes good ideas so intimidating. Not that you won’t ever find one, but that one day you will, and when you do, it’s very possible that your life will never be the same again.”

Buy How I Built This.

7. Why Didn’t Anybody Tell Me This Sh*t Before?: Wit and Wisdom from Women in Business by Marcella Allison and Laura Gale

Why Didn't Anybody Tell Me This

Via Amazon

Why Didn’t Anybody Tell Me This Sh*t Before? is one of the most honest and empowering female entrepreneur books. Marcella Allison and Laura Gale gathered 60 letters full of advice from female owners of businesses large and small. The book imparts valuable pearls of wisdom like “never trade your authenticity for ease or safety,” “let your anger fuel your success,” and “you do not have to be perfect.” Simultaneously humorous and enlightening, Why Didn’t Anybody Tell Me This Sh*t Before? is a must-read for women entrepreneurs.

Notable Quote: “But just because money isn’t your first motivator, it doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to get paid what you’re worth.”

Buy Why Didn’t Anybody Tell Me This Sh*t Before?

8. Your Next Level Life: 7 Rules of Power, Confidence, and Opportunity for Black Women in America (African American Women in Business, Be Unapologetically You) by Karen Arrington

Your Next Level Life

Via Amazon

Entrepreneur books by Black women have gained traction within the past few years, and Your Next Level Life is a welcome addition to the genre. Karen Arrington has created an ode to Black Girl Magic in guide to thriving in the corporate world as a woman of color. This book delivers inspiration and instruction through seven rules, including “identify your superpowers,” “position yourself like a star,” and “give back from day one.” Your Next Level Life is a treasure trove of motivational quotes and uplifting advice and a reminder of the importance of community.

Notable Quote: “So many victories. So much to celebrate. And yet, there’s still so much work to be done. It’s time to redefine what it means to be a courageous, compassionate, and confident black woman today.”

Buy Your Next Level Life.

9. Black Magic: What Black Leaders Learned from Trauma and Triumph by Chad Sanders

Black Magic

Via Amazon

This book is a testament to the against-the-odds achievements of famous Black leaders. Chad Sanders’ debut work is one of the best Black entrepreneur books in recent years. Black Magic traces Chad Sanders’ struggle to fit into Silicon Valley culture prior to realizing the strength of self-acceptance. The book also analyzes the experiences of Black leaders throughout history, showing how they refused to back down in the face of a world that railed against them. Black Magic draws on lessons from historical figures who overcame insurmountable odds, and is a masterclass on perseverance and embracing identity.

Notable Quote: “I remember the day I realized I couldn’t play a white guy as well as a white guy. It felt like a death sentence for my career.”

Buy Black Magic.

10. That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea by Marc Randolph

That Will Never Work

Via Amazon

Written by Netflix cofounder Marc Randolph, That Will Never Work falls into the genre of business memoirs. The book tells the story of Netflix, from inception to evolution into the industry-leading streaming media giant it is today. That Will Never Work touches on the theme of doubt, emphasizing that entrepreneurs will not only experience moments of self-doubt, but also cynicism and disbelief from the outside world. Randolph narrates his own experience as an example of perseverance and grit that eventually pays off, though not without a great deal of work and faith. This memoir serves as a reminder that even the most prosperous companies can start off shaky and face unimaginable challenges.

Notable Quote: “Everyone is aligned when the wind is blowing the right way. it’s when a storm comes up that all of a sudden it becomes apparent that people have different goals and objectives.”

Buy That Will Never Work.

11. George Washington, Entrepreneur: How Our Founding Father’s Private Business Pursuits Changed America and the World by John Berlau

George Washington Entrepreneur

Via Amazon

A delightful blend of two genres, this title is ideal for fans of history biographies that also want to brush up on business skills. John Berlau makes the case that George Washington was not only the US’s first president, but also one of the country’s most influential early entrepreneurs. George Washington, Entrepreneur draws on letters and historical accounts to detail Washington’s business ventures and analyzes the influence those deals had on the fledgling nation.

Notable Quote: “Adjectives like “creative” and “innovative” at first don’t seem to apply to Washington as much as other founding fathers like Jefferson and Franklin. In reality, Washington was just as creative as they were. But his creativity was of a different type. Whereas Franklin built gadgets at his homestead, and Jefferson designed fancy buildings, Washington built a series of interconnected businesses.”

Buy George Washington, Entrepreneur.

12. The Soul-Sourced Entrepreneur: An Unconventional Success Plan for the Highly Creative, Secretly Sensitive, and Wildly Ambitious by Christine Kane

The Soul Sourced Entrepreneur

Via Amazon

Society often pictures the stereotypical entrepreneur as logical, confident, and stoic. Founders must be tough, because only the strong survive in the unforgiving world of startups. Yet in The Soul-Sourced Entrepreneur, Christine Kane makes the case for conscious and creative entrepreneurs, declaring that sensitivity can be an asset, not just a liability.

The book presents a guide for succeeding in business without sacrificing authenticity or compassion. The Soul-Sourced Entrepreneur explains how to set purposeful and intentional goals, interpret interactions and experiences, manage responsibilities and power, and navigate decisions with both emotion and reason. Kane has created a valuable resource for unlikely entrepreneurs, proving that it is not only sharks who succeed in founding startups.

Notable Quote: “Nothing drains your energy and your brainpower more than unmade decisions. Putting things off can eat away at your ability to think clearly because in the back of your mind, you’re still ruminating and not taking action.”

Buy The Soul-Sourced Entrepreneur.

13. Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World by Rand Fishkin

Lost and Founder

Via Amazon

Written by the founder and former CEO of Moz, Rand Fishkin, Lost and Founder is an entrepreneurship handbook that subverts the standard startup story. Contrary to the Silicon Valley mantra of “move fast and break things,” Fishkin reveals that some of the most successful startups are slow-growing, yet built to last. Lost and Founder tackles topics like the caveats of raising capital from investors, the nature of layoffs, and the importance of timing when introducing a product to market. This book reads like a startup confessional full of sincerity and sage advice.

Notable Quote: “Managing is a skill, not a prize.”

Buy Lost and Founder.

14. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday

The Obstacle is the Way

Via Amazon

The Obstacle Is the Way is a motivational manual with a special attention to entrepreneurship. The principles of stoicism inform this guide to enduring tough times and finding meaning within misfortune. Ryan Holiday uses examples throughout history of great figures overcoming adversity by accepting hardships and persisting through the struggle. The Obstacle Is the Way is a masterclass in discipline, resilience and mindfulness, equipping entrepreneurs with the skills and mindsets they need to weather turbulent times.

Notable Quote: “It’s okay to be discouraged. It’s not okay to quit. To know you want to quit but to plant your feet and keep inching closer until you take the impenetrable fortress you’ve decided to lay siege to in your own life—that’s persistence.”

Buy The Obstacle Is the Way.

15. Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs Official Biography

Via Amazon

After almost a decade, Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography still reigns as one of the best entrepreneur biographies. For this book, Steve Jobs granted Walter Isaacson a series of honest interviews, speaking unabashedly about his life, influences, vision, and root of his success.

Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography paints an intimate portrait of the legendary founder of Apple with a surprising amount of humility. While Jobs often presented as a larger-than-life figure throughout his career and inspired hero or god-like worship from fans, this book makes him seem human, albeit a human who achieved remarkable feats. With a tone more aspirational than inspirational, Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography does what every great entrepreneur biography should do: pay respect to both the real story and the subject, and make accomplishments seem attainable.

Notable Quote: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Buy Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography.

16. The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup by Noam Wasserman

The Founder's Dilemmas

Via Amazon

The word “entrepreneur” often conjures the image of a single visionary embarking on a noble solo quest to enact a vision. Yet new companies often have multiple founders, and the choice of co-founder can be just as pivotal to a business’s success as any of the decisions that follow. Partnering with the right partners is just one of the situations Noam Wasserman addresses in The Founder’s Dilemmas, a book that chronicles the hazards and common missteps of startup culture. Drawing on data from thousands of entrepreneurs and plenty of intimate anecdotes, Noam Wasserman presents research-proven methods for making tough decisions smartly.

Notable Quote: “It’s unfortunate but true: if entrepreneurship is a battle, most casualties stem from friendly fire or self-inflicted wounds.”

Buy The Founder’s Dilemmas.

17. The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage by Daymond John and Daniel Paisner

The Power of Broke

Via Amazon

Though Daymond John eventually headed multi-billion dollar brands like FUBU and served as a judge on Shark Tank, he started his career with almost no money, prospects, or prestige. The Power of Broke charts John’s meteoric rise from selling t-shirts on sidewalks to overseeing one of the most lucrative global streetwear brands. While most entrepreneurs claim to build something out of nothing, Daymond John exemplifies the claim. A lack of resources benefited the author, and can benefit readers too. As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.” Desperation can breed innovation, ingenuity, discipline, and drive. With nothing to lose, broke businessmen have everything to gain.

Notable Quote: “The easiest thing to sell is truth.”

Buy The Power of Broke.

18. Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Rework

Via Amazon

Rework challenges notions like “business plans are the key to success,” “you need outside investors,” and “entrepreneurs must be workaholics.” The book debunks common myths about entrepreneurship, offering instead a productive and practical model for building a business from the ground up. Basecamp founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson embrace the philosophy of “work smarter, not harder,” presenting a no-nonsense, straightforward approach to building a business. The book is devoid of the usual martyrdom and mythos that surround entrepreneurship, favoring instead a balanced, action-centered approach.

Notable Quote: “Working without a plan may seem scary. But blindly following a plan that has no relationship with reality is even scarier.”

Buy Rework.

Conclusion

Having various responsibilities and hectic schedules, an entrepreneur may believe that reading is not the best use of his or her time. Yet entrepreneurial books can be a lifeline to founders who feel like they have nowhere else to turn.

These helpful resources enable leadership to make informed decisions while maintaining an air of competence and composure. Books enable entrepreneurs to benefit from predecessors’ wisdom, thus dodging avoidable mistakes and making smart, informed decisions at every stage of a company’s lifecycle.

For more reading suggestions, check out our list of books on business strategy, HR books and books on project management.

FAQ: Entrepreneur books

Here are answers to common questions about entrepreneur books.

What are entrepreneur books?

Entrepreneur books are works of nonfiction that provide guidance for company founders and business visionaries. These books navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship, covering topics like securing funding, building a brand, overcoming doubt and enduring hardship, growing companies sustainably, and enacting values and mission. Entrepreneurship books typically share philosophies and best practices, real-life founder stories, or some combination of both.

What are some must read entrepreneur books?

Must read entrepreneurial books include:

  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things
  • The Lean Startup
  • The Founder’s Dilemmas
  • That Will Never Work
  • Lost and Founder
  • Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography

All of the titles on the above list are top selling entrepreneur books that impart vital information and advice for aspiring, struggling, or knowledge-hungry entrepreneurs.

Why should you read entrepreneur books?

One of the hardest parts of starting a company is the lack of internal guidance or support. When you are the highest rung on the organizational ladder, consulting with a manager is not an option. Entrepreneurship books provide guidance and reassurance from professionals who have been through the process, enabling founders to avoid common pitfalls. Smart entrepreneurs are always learning and growing, and books are one of the easiest ways to boost skills and knowledge.

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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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