10 Essential Books for Startups and Entrepreneurs: Your Guide to Success
Every entrepreneur’s bookshelf simply cannot be without some fundamental books that explain in detail how to achieve success. There are many books for startups and entrepreneurs: some of them illustrate tips and methodologies to follow in order to arrive at the best operational decisions, while others recount experiences and case studies that are useful as valuable virtuous examples from which to draw inspiration.
In this guide you can find the titles of 10 books for startups and entrepreneurs that you absolutely cannot afford not to read. Before you go through the list, however, it is important that you really understand why it is so helpful for an entrepreneur to read (and, more importantly, why it is important to read these very books).
Why reading is critical for entrepreneurs
Books that explain how to build success, how to achieve it, and how to maintain it are useful both for those who are starting a startup (innovative or not) and for those who are running an established company in the market.
By reading such books, you have the opportunity to draw inspiration from those who have gone before you, to pick up on certain details in your path to success that you may not have noticed before, and to stay motivated along the entire path to your ultimate goal.
Starting a startup and bringing it to success is certainly no easy feat, and in the words of those in the past who have been in the condition you are now, you can find the right impetus to continue on your path. Remember: whatever problem you find yourself facing, in one of the books for entrepreneurs that we will mention in the next few lines you will find the cue to identify the best solution.
Want one more reason to start (or continue) reading? That this activity is crucial for entrepreneurs was also argued by Jim Rohn, a famous entrepreneur and motivational speaker. This, in fact, is a famous phrase of his that you would do well to always keep in mind:
“A leader is a reader first. Those who do not read are destined to follow.”
Startup Fundamentals – Nicola Zanetti
Published in July 2023, “Startup Fundamentals” by Nicola Zanetti (founder of B-PlanNow®) is the perfect travel companion for anyone wishing to navigate the startup world and turn their idea into a successful business venture.
The “heart” of the book is devoted to the “SCALEUP method“, a step-by-step approach to building and growing a startup. Inside this handbook you can find many examples and practical tools, guides and valuable advice on various topics related to the startup universe, such as funding strategies.
The first lines of the book deserve special attention: “Startup Fundamentals,” in fact, begins with a frank reflection on the challenges a startup faces, such as fear of failure and founder burnout. By reading this book, you will understand that even failure can be a stepping stone to success.
You can find it here.
Creare Modelli di Business – Alex Osterwalder
“Creare Modelli di Business” by Alex Osterwalder, first published in English in 2010 under the title “Business Model Generator” (and later translated into 23 languages), is “a practical and effective handbook for those who need to create or innovate a business model“.
Keep in mind that even when markets are in turmoil, those who can combine strong creativity with rigorous method can not only survive but also thrive.
This book is famous because within it is illustrated the Business Model Canvas, among the most widely used frameworks for defining the business model of a startup.
The Lean Startup – Eric Ries
“The Lean Startup“, a 2011 book translated into Italian under the title “Starting Light,” describes the method developed by young entrepreneur Eric Ries (the “Lean Startup” method to be exact), which proposes a continuous process of ideation, check and modification to adapt the product step by step to the customers’ desires, while keeping expenses under control.
The goal is to drastically reduce time and costs and, with them, also the likelihood of going bust. By reading this book, then, you will discover how to make your startup work even on a limited budget.
Fun fact: This method has spread around the world by word of mouth, thanks to the existence of a real Lean Startup “movement,” which is also present in our country.
Zero to One – Peter Thiel
“Zero to One” is the book in which Peter Thiel, founder of Paypal and Palantir (but also an investor in a hundred startups, including Facebook and SpaceX), explains that copying the ventures of those who came before us is not the solution: in fact, to build the future, we need vertical and transformative change (in his words, we need to go “from 0 to 1”).
The act of creation, Thiel explained in his book, is unique, and in the world of innovation each event happens once and only once.
The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development – Brant Cooper, Patrick Vlaskovits
Regarded as a “must-read” by Steve Blank and Eric Ries (of the aforementioned Lean Startup method), “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development“, a 2010 book written by Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits, is an easy guide that explains how to find early adopters, how to build a Minimum Viable Product, how to find the product fit to the market, and how to establish a sales roadmap and marketing.
The Four Steps to the Epiphany – Steve Blank
We have just mentioned Steve Blank and cannot fail to mention his “The Four Steps to the Epiphany“, among the best books for entrepreneurs to read.
In this 2013 book on startups, Steve Blank finds answers to a fundamental question that any startupper should be asking: where are the customers?
The “four steps to Epiphany” referred to in the title of the book are precisely the various steps of Customer Development: Discovery, Validation, Creation and Building.
The Toyota Spirit – Taiichi Ohno
“Lo Spirito Toyota” is a 2004 book in which Taiichi Ohno recounts how he invented the Toyota production system. This volume, however, is also so much more: it is, for example, the material history of Japan from the postwar period to the present and raises several absolutely relevant questions, including: how much does Japan cost? How much and what poverty does this model entail? Who will be the losers?
Who – Geoff Smart, Randy Street
There is a specific reason why “Who“, a 2008 book by Geoff Smart and Randy Street, is one of the best books on startups: hiring the wrong employees is one of the most common and most serious mistakes anyone running a company can make.
This book, in just a few simple steps, tells you how to find the right people to hire, no matter what specific role you’re recruiting for.
Creativity Inc. – Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace
Knowing how to break the mold is important if you want to consistently create amazing things. The book “Creativity Inc.” by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace, named one of the best books of 2014 by The Huffington Post, Financial Times, Success, Inc. and Library Journal, gives you an in-depth look at the world of Pixar, the animation giant responsible for some of the masterpieces so beloved by children (and others).
The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
Last but not least is the book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz. In this 2014 book you can find advice on how to give birth to a startup and how best to run it, focusing on the most complicated problems and how you can tackle and solve them.
By reading this book you can get an idea of why the CEO’s job may be considered among the most complicated in the world, but you can also discover how to survive anxiety and stress by separating facts from perception and understanding that “there are no shortcuts to knowledge.”
Books for Startup: how to choose them
Having exhausted the roundup of the 10 books on entrepreneurship that you need to read, it is time to reiterate that the volumes mentioned above, some more and some less, are useful both for those who are planning to start a startup and for those who are already running an established business. Rightly so, now you are probably wondering: okay, but which book do I start with? And which ones are best suited to my specific needs?
Of course, you can already get an idea about the content of the various books from the brief introductions we have made of them in the previous lines. In fact, as already pointed out, there are books devoted specifically to the startup universe: one example is the book “Startup Fundamentals” by B-PlanNow® founder Nicola Zanetti.
Within our list of books for startups and entrepreneurs you can also find volumes that are particularly useful in addressing specific stages of a startup’s life. For example, there are book titles suitable for aspiring startuppers (such as the book “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel), books suitable for those running a startup in the seed and startup stage (“Creare modelli di business ” by Alexander Osterwalder) and “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries), and books more useful for those with a growing startup (such as, for example, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz).