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12 Entrepreneurial Books to Motivate and Inspire

“Reading is fundamental” might be something commonly heard in grade school, but it applies just as readily in business. Books from noteworthy industry personalities are especially important for entrepreneurs looking for inspiration. Adding motivational books to your bedside table can stimulate your business across the board, allowing you to explore new ideas, enhance your expertise, and grow your creativity. 

Below are some of the best entrepreneur books to read when you’re looking for a boost of inspiration or guidance.


1. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

Want to escape the grueling workweek but still earn an income at the same time? This book details Ferriss’s transition from making $40,000 a year to $40,000 a month, all while working only four hours a week. The book’s step-by-step format will help you learn how to become a self-made success; plus there are useful tips on how to optimize your operations, such as using virtual assistants or eliminating excess work.


2. The Education of an American Dreamer by Peter G. Peterson

In this candid book, Peterson, former Secretary of Commerce and co-founder of the world’s largest alternative private equity firm, the Blackstone Group, talks about his successes, failures, tragedies, and triumphs—including becoming a billionaire at 80 years old. 


3. The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday

This book explores the timeless philosophy: You don’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. By analyzing various historical figures through time that have experienced notable successes, the book shows readers how to turn adversity into an opportunity.


4. Good to Great by Jim Collins

Why do some companies succeed while others don’t? Collins’s 21-person research team set out to answer this very question by coding thousands of articles and interviews on the topic over five years. The book presents their findings as a universal recipe for business success.


5. The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

This book demonstrates how small investments can turn into big business, while also fueling creativity and self-fulfillment. Author Guillebeau has always been one to reject the standard ways of working, so he reviewed the experiences of 1,500 individuals who built successful companies by following their passion. He surveyed small businesses (no more than five employees) that required less than $1,000 in startup capital and that grew to generate more than $50,000 annually.

The key to success, in Guillebeau’s view, is finding how personal passions and expertise intersect with the needs of other people. Guillebeau helps readers determine what ideas have financial legs, and offers guidance and encouragement for turning passion into profit.


6. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

As one of Silicon Valley’s most respected business leaders, venture capitalist Horowitz uses humor, honesty, and even rap lyrics to illustrate the difficulties of being an entrepreneur. The book details the ups and downs of buying and selling companies, as well as the realities of ownership. Horowitz touches on how to manage your own mental health, making this an invaluable read for both seasoned entrepreneurs and newcomers alike.


7. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

This engrossing memoir by Nike’s founder and CEO talks about how he helped transform a small company into the iconic empire it is today and serves as a powerful inspiration for entrepreneurs in a range of industries.


8. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Borrowing ideologically from lean manufacturing practices, Ries teaches readers how to run a sustainable operation, cultivate innovation in coworkers and partners, and remain inspired in the face of uncertainty. This book will teach readers how to continuously adapt and adjust while forging ahead with a new business.


9. When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink

Life is based on timing, both in our personal and professional lives, and Pink, a journalist and author who served as a chief speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore, explores timing as a science rather than an art. His book showcases research from psychology, biology, and economics to help readers identify when it’s the ideal time to move forward or take a step back.


10. How to Be a Capitalist Without Any Capital by Nathan Latka

Latka, who runs his own private equity firm, explains how opportunism and unconventional methods helped amass his fortune. This rule-breaking book teaches entrepreneurs how to grow with little to no funding, which is useful for startups of all kinds.


11. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This timeless bestseller from 1936 has influenced generations of professionals by teaching them how to climb the ladder of success in both their business and personal lives. Carnegie details several ways to be likable, win people over, and change others without garnering resentment.

12. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

In 2008, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Pausch—a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon—delivered a final, stunning lecture to the university. This book details his beliefs on empowering your dreams and overcoming obstacles.


Get inspired to take the next step

Starting a business requires a certain level of fearlessness and determination, and reading motivational books like these are a great first step on your journey toward entrepreneurship. The best entrepreneur books can also be essential resources as your company ages.

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