In the startup and entrepreneurship space, books are a dime a dozen. Self-help, marketing, branding, design, organization, leadership, public speaking, it goes on and on. If you tried to read every single book out there targeted at entrepreneurs, you’d die before you finished the ever-growing list.
There are only a few books that are truly value-packed on every page. Those are the must-reads for any aspiring Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates. I’m going to share with you my three personal favorites that I think every entrepreneur should read.
Before you pick up any of these books—actually, before you pick up any business book—here’s something you should know. I have a little exercise I do when reading books that helps me maximize the value I get from them. While reading, I have a pen and paper (or a blank Word doc) handy. Every time I come across a new piece of advice, something actionable to implement or a successful model, I write down 3 ways I could implement that same advice in my daily life or in my business. This way, I’m not just perusing fluff—I’m taking away actionable and relevant information from everything I read.
Here’s my top 3:
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
I’m sure this book appears on every “must-read” list out there, and it’s not for no good reason. Dale Carnegie packs in a ton of knowledge and uses anecdotes to illustrate every single one of his extremely actionable points. The first time I read this book I started applying what I’d learned and seeing the results literally within minutes of finishing the final page.
Where a lot of leadership and persuasion books beat around the bush and speak in abstract terms, Carnegie cuts right to the chase. Each chapter introduces a concept, defines it, and then just provides example after example. The advice is focused on techniques for persuasion, effective communication, bargaining, compromise and collaboration. It’s highly applicable to most people’s personal and work lives.
This book is a great example of how you can implement the reading strategy I outlined at the start of this article. For every piece of advice that Dale Carnegie imparts on you (and trust me, there are many), write down 3 ways in which you can implement that technique or perspective in your day-to-day life.
You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.
Hooked by Nir Eyal
Nir Eyal is a very influential viral marketer and advertiser who has taught at institutions like Stanford. His book is very easy to read and explains customer behavior in a very clear manner. He walks through his four-step Hook Model to acquiring and retaining customers.
What I like about this book is that even if you’re not a startup marketer or someone who deals with marketing in any way, the examples he cites—ranging from Pinterest to a mobile Bible App—are very interesting. Readers get an in-depth look at how and why popular products become and remain popular with their users.
This book is a little more relevant and actionable if you are a businessperson yourself. However, even if you do not deal directly with your company’s marketing or advertising efforts, I still think it is a good read. It provides more than just actionable steps for customer acquisition—it outlines a philosophy of design and product development that I think is valuable to know for everyone in every industry.
To change behavior, products must ensure the user feels in control. People must want to use the service, not feel they have to.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
This book is awesome because it’s useful both as a business and a personal development book. Ariely’s book explains why people do what they do, even when those decisions are irrational. He uses research that he and his colleagues conducted as examples to back up his theories, and always relates concepts back to how they can be applied in business and in personal life.
At first glance, Predictably Irrational just seems like a cool psychological look at how and why people make weird decisions. However, if you read it through the lens of “how can I use this knowledge to enhance my career?”, you’ll gain much more. In everything from hiring to project management to personal relationships, hidden forces are shaping our decisions. Becoming aware of these forces and knowing how to use them to your advantage is highly valuable.
For this book, I definitely recommend taking notes on how each concept can apply to your personal or business life. I also found it interesting to take note of how each concept presented itself in my own experiences. It was definitely eye-opening, and the data backing up the content is very reassuring (and also scary at times!)
People are sometimes willing to sacrifice the pleasure they get from a particular consumption experience in order to project a certain image to others.
So, there you have it—my top 3 reads for entrepreneurs. Dale Carnegie’s book is great for interpersonal relations, Nir Eyal’s is great for developing your business, and Dan Ariely’s book is great for both. If you actively read all of them and take notes for how the concepts explained in each can be applied to your own life, you’ll be much better off. Good luck and happy reading!
Raghav is a startup founder, social media marketing consultant, public relations professional and author. He is a prolific writer and blogger on Medium, Gamasutra and LinkedIn. A public speaker and mentor for aspiring entrepreneurs and game developers, Raghav has taught classes and led workshops for startup accelerators and game development training programs. He has also given talks at TwitchCon and SXSW Gaming. His company, Black Shell Media, is a marketing and PR studio focused on the gaming industry. You can reach Raghav at [email protected] or on Twitter: @xinasha.