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Top 100 Business + Marketing Books For Entrepreneurs

By Tim Brown
Updated May 20, 2020
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Favorite marketing + business books for entrepreneurs and business people
Tim Brown
Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, an SEO and Web Design company focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses, roofers and construction companies.

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Books – why do they matter? Your average CEO may not read 52 books a year, like some hustlers (examine their motives) suggest – high-income individuals read 15 instead of the average 12.

  • The point is WHAT YOU DO with that knowledge.
  • I believe in “just in time” knowledge rather than “just in case” knowledge.
  • Reading 5 books a year and applying them deeply is way more important than the quantity.

This list of my top 100 business + marketing books for entrepreneurs and professionals is ordered by category, and there are less than 10 of these books that I have not read, but they were so highly suggested by my network on Linkedin that I decided to include them.

Quick note: Each category is ordered – the number one book in each category is my favorite.

My Five Books if You Read Nothing Else

  1. Storybrand – Donald Miller: Learn how to position your customer as the hero, and how to create a compelling brand story, simplify your message.
  2. E-myth Revisited – Michael Gerber: Systems above all, create a franchise model for your business, and standard operating procedures that give you more freedom, and lead to a better customer experience.
  3. 10X Rule – Grant Cardone: A really great read if you need a boost. It’s not the bible, take it with a grain of salt, but it’s super motivating.  The idea is – ‘set a goal 10X the size’ of what you feel you can do, and what actions would you take to get there?
  4. Traction – Gino Wickman: All about getting organizational alignment so your team can all be working in the same direction. Complete with the Vision Traction Organizer, this book is full of practical, rubber meets the road power.
  5. Profit First – Mike Michalowicz: Basically the envelope method for businesses. Create ‘envelopes’/different accounts for initial income, Operating Expenses, Owners Draw, Taxes, and Profit – and stick to percentages allocating money to the different accounts twice a month. Pushes you to get your money right, and even non-naturals with money can do it.

Getting Clients / Sales

  1. Book Yourself Solid – Michael Port: Ways to get more clients, starting with identifying your ideal clients and with tons of very specific stuff. 
  2. Pitch Anything – Oren Klaff: Amazing book about framing, and how to pitch things. Super well written book about sales. Tons of great stories.
  3. Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play by Mahan Khalsa: Talks about how high end consulting sales is different, and how you don’t want to sign bad clients to so be real.
  4. The Challenger Sale – Matthew Dixon and Brent Anderson: The challenger type sales approach works because once you challenge/change someones worldview, you own that part of their head.
  5. Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty– Harvey Mackey: Learn how to get the most from your networking efforts and get what you want. Takeaway: Network before you need it.
  6. Giftology – John Ruhlin: Find out how you can use generosity as a way for you to get more referrals, increase retention rate, and boost your ROI. Don’t opt for shitty gifts, go for epic / meaningful / intimate.
  7. Sell or Be Sold – Grant Cardone: This one is all about the breakdown of different techniques and strategies you can use to handle rejection, increase positivity, and guarantee greatness. Are you being sold – or are you selling?
  8. To Sell is Human – Daniel Pink: A book that teaches you the practical skill of selling through things like elevator pitches, understanding perspective, and how to make your message clear and more persuasive.
  9. Never Eat Alone – Keith Ferazzi: A good read that gives you the steps to take and mindset to have when reaching out and connecting with the people in your contact list. 
  10. Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss: The psychology behind negotiation from a lead hostage negotiator. Keep the frame, and win the deal, lots of good tactical tips. Also check out Chris’s MasterClass.
  11. Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play – Mahan Khalsa and Randy Illig: A new way for you to transform your sales culture and not only help you succeed, but your customers as well. Long and short –
  12. Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence-and How You Can, Too – Gary Vaynerchuk: Learn how to take life by the reigns and live life on your own terms and build your path to financial success and professionalism.

Marketing – Conceptual

  1. The Pumpkin Plan – Mike Michalowicz: Get the clients you want, shed the clients you don’t and build rapport with strategic clients, this is a really nice blend of conceptual and tactical, with some really actionable takeaways.
  2. Purple Cow – Seth Godin: This is the first marketing book I ever read, and I was challenged to think of marketing as a part of the solution. Marketers should challenge organizations to improve the product, and help it stand out in the market as an almost completely new, and REMARKABLE thing. Meaning people want to remark on it, and share it.
  3. Blue Ocean Strategy – Chan Kim: This likely was a concept Purple Cow was rooted in, differentiation. Blue Ocean Strategy drives home the point that you really have to look for new concepts, and markets to stop fighting in red oceans (filled with blood / competitive markets) to achieve something breakout in your marketing and your products.
  4. Selling The Invisible – Harry Beckwith: People can’t see what you do as a service, but they can see other things like your website, your suit, your business card, your process illustration. All of these are clues to the actual services quality. 
  5. The Tipping Point– Malcolm Gladwell: Learn more about the tipping point phenomenon and see how it is changing the way people around the world view selling.
  6. Contagious: Why Things Catch On – Jonah Berger: If you’re looking for techniques for helping your information to spread like wildfire, this is the book for you.
  7. Surge – Mike Michalowicz: This book will teach you how you can spot the next big surge in the demand of consumers and help you achieve an entrepreneurial breakthrough.
  8. Insanely Simple – Ken Segall: This book will take you inside of Apple conference rooms with Steve Jobs and teach you how the search for simple helped Apple truly thrive.
  9. Guerilla Marketing – Jay Levinson: This book teaches small business new and better ways for them to execute their marketing and get results. Lots of tactical examples as well.
  10. Permission Marketing – Seth Godin:Learn how you can develop long term relationships, more trust, and build brand awareness. The new frame of marketing is around getting people’s permission to market to them with content and authority.
  11. Influence – Robert Cialdini: Find out the 6 universal principles of influence as well as how to defend yourself against the dishonest attempts at influence.

Marketing – Tactical

  1. Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins: Data headlines turn people into customers. Have an offer coupon or code that helps you track promotion effectiveness – and tons more really timeless and useful anecdotes that focus around copywriting and very tactical marketing techniques, dating back 1923! Crazy.
  2. Exactly What To Say by Phil Jones: Formula’s for headlines, emails, phone scripts – focused on persuasion and catching people’s attention. There aren’t a lot of books that take the risk of trying to give you the actual words, and this one does. Author is savvy and the content is good.
  3. Bird by Bird – Ann Lamott – This is one of the better books I’ve ever read on writing. I tried to write a novel after reading it, and has since motivated me a bit every time I sit down to write a blog post. Give yourself permission to write shitty rough drafts Lamott says.
  4. Content Inc. – Joe Pulizzi: This book will give you the guidelines on how you can build a customer base that you are able to sell anything to.
  5. Hooked – Nir Eyal: Based on years of research, Eyal puts together a guide of how you are able to build, more addicting products. You want a pain pill not a vitamin, this also un-earths how and why so many apps are addicting.
  6. Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines: Learn the guidelines to follow for your pages and other needs and see the different tasks you should be doing to increase your ratings.
  7. Convert: Increasing Traffic and Conversion – Ben Hunt: See how Ben and his team have been able to more than double conversions and the simple, but effective steps they took to do it.
  8. Duct Tape Marketing – John Jantsch: Find a solid foundation for your small business with this book and learn how to grow trust with your customers that will grow stronger.
  9. They Ask, You Answer – Marcus Sheridan: Get a better understanding of how you can increase your companies web presence, build trust with customers, and learn how to produce good content.
  10. On Writing – Steven King: This takes you into how Stephen King has been shaped through his habits and experiences that helped to shape his work. Takeaway: Sit down every day for a certain amount of time, this is how professionals get work done.
  11. DotCom Secrets – Russell Brunson: This book will help you to better your sales funnels and sales scripts so you can better your business and get more leads. A little ‘pitchy’ but Brunson has learned a lot too – take the good with the bad.
  12. The Conversion Code – Chris Smith: This guy believe in Facebook and social ads more than me – but there is a ton of really good tactical advice, and it’s great to see other very specific methods work for other people and how.

Design

  1. Rocket Surgery Made Easy – Steve Krug: Super useful tactical ways to do user testing, literally all you need to make it happen. So good.
  2. The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron: Get hundreds of exercises and activities that will help you to explore the inner artist that will help support you in your future projects.
  3. Do the Work – Steven Pressfield: Good encouragement to get over your hangups and get shit done.
  4. Creative, Inc – Meg Mateo Ilasco: This book goes over the basics of how you can build a successful business on your own doing what you love.
  5. The Trust Edge – David Horsager: Learn how to build trust with your customers and clients through 8 pillars of trust that will bring you bigger results.
  6. Lean UX – Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden: You are given the principles, tactics, and techniques of lean UX and how you can experiment and adjust your design.
  7. Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely: This one is all about how we people make decisions and goes over what really shapes our decisions.

Meaning

  1. Man’s Search For Meaning – Victor Frankl: Some core tenants of behavioral therapy, and positive psychology. Great, short read to help you feel more optimistic in my opinion.
  2. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield: Helps infuse meaning into fighting your creative battles. Beautifully written diabtribe on creativity, enjoying creative work, and pushing through.
  3. The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell: Really entertaining, great reading by Joseph Campbell about symbolism, the roots of storytelling, and why humans resonate with religion and why we need mythology.

Motivation / Mindset

  1. Anti-fragile – Nassim Taleb: What if every setback that didn’t destroy you made you stronger? This book walks you through how this is often the natural state of living things on earth, examples and how to leverage it in your life.
  2. Think and Grow Rich – Napolean Hill: Could be higher on the list for me personally because this is the first book I read that showed me I could use affirmations, positive thinking, and goal-setting to move my ‘station in life.’ THE OG book for folks that want to change their life, and almost every ‘self-help’ book since has drawn some inspiration from Think and Grow Rich.
  3. 100 Ways to Stay Motivated – Grant Cardone: A really, really good kick in the pants to get off my ass. I use this book on a regular basis just to get moving, and stay excited about my work.
  4. Crush It! – Gary Vaynerchuck: This book takes you through how you are able to use the internet to be able to turn your interests into a real business through the use of the internet.
  5. 48 Laws of Power – Robert Greene: It is a pretty much a summary of three thousand years on the history of power broken down into summarized into 48 essential laws.
  6. Linchpin – Seth Godin: Godin explains how you are able to make a significant impact on your organization and how you can love your work and turn each day into an art. 
  7. Unlimited Power – Tony Robbins: This is a book that will work out your mind and teach you how to perform at your peak and give you the knowledge to remake your world.
  8. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck – Mark Manson: Manson talks about what he thinks really matters and will help you to put your priorities in place.
  9. Be Obsessed or Be Average – Grant Cardone: Learn how obsession will help you to fulfill your lifelong dreams. Grant will teach you how to set crazy goals and block out the haters.
  10. Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin: This book will give you the skills you need to take ownership over your life and stop blaming others for what is happening in your life, and your business.
  11. Boundaries – Dr. Henery Cloud and Dr. John Townsend: See where boundaries are impacting your life and how you can use boundaries to live a happier and healthier life.

Personal Discipline & Mastery

  1. Mastery by Robert Greene: Anyone who wants to seek professionalism at a deeper level should read this. Super great biographical info on the masters in arts and science, and clear cut principles to apply. My favorite that has stuck with me – “Patience + Time” are the ultimate life-hack, and the people that stop looking for shortcuts win, because they stick with the disciplines that seriously drive you to the deepest levels of mastery.
  2. 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Do in 12 Months by Brian Moran: 100% a very tactical approach to increasing discipline. Most people don’t want to set and stick to goals – this will help you put systems in place to that.
  3. The Checklist Manifesto – Atul Gawande: Checklists, why the work, and how to use them more.
  4. Getting Stuff Done – David Allen: A good read that will teach you how to get the most out of yourself without breaking yourself down while overcoming anxiousness and feeling overwhelmed. 
  5. How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams: Systems not goals should be your approach, Scott Adams breaks down the how and the why.
  6. The 4 Hour Work Week – Timothy Ferriss: A step by step guide to doubling your income, becoming more efficient, and getting more from the work you do. 
  7. Atomic Habits – James Clear: Get a better idea of how your system works and how you can stop repeating the habits you want to break and make time to add new habits.
  8. The Power of Full Engagement – Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr: This book will give you a roadmap of how to become more engaged both on and off the job and manage your energy.
  9. The One Thing – Gary Keller: Learn the power of centering your focus on one thing at a time and how it can help you live a more rewarding life.
  10. Calm Energy – Robert E. Thayer: In this book, Thayer gives a rundown of how people’s daily energy and tensions are taking place and how this knowledge will help you to have calm energy and overcome eating the wrong foods that take your energy. 

General Business

  1. Lean Startup – Eric Reiss: Lean manufacturing involves figuring doing a whole process and then learning each time, and is popular in Asia, and when applied to startups is insanely valuable.
  2. Fix This Next – Mike Michalowicz: Applies Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs to small business, Mike Michalowicz is basically the author, I’d just read all of his books if I was starting again and make his strategies the basis for most things. Smart guy – has his limitations, but a very smart guy.
  3. Tools of Titans – Tim Ferriss: Get the tools that Tim Ferriss has used to level up his life as well as tips from guests on his podcast like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Foxx, and more high caliber celebrities with mountains of success under their belt.
  4. Good To Great by Jim Collins: Good is the enemy of great. Don’t let your current ‘we’re good’ stop you from getting to the next level. I also love Jeff Bezos (congrats on being a Trillionaire buddy) great quote to the same affect – in an annual company document, Jeff said he loves his customers ‘divine discontent’ that the customers always want more and better from the service, helping them improve.
  5. The Magic of Thinking Big – David Schwartz: The Magic of Thinking Big will help you to set your goals high and achieve them through useful methods, not an empty promise. 
  6. Small Giants – Bo Burlingham: In this book, you are taken through an in-depth look at 14 small companies who decided not to take the route of continued growth and focusing more on being a great place to work, customer focus, and contributing to their communities.
  7. You’re My Favorite Client – Mike Monteiro: This book gives you the tools you need to ask the right questions and challenge you to be the best you can be.

Management

  1. Who – The “A Method” to Hiring by Geoff Smart: Gives scorecard method to hiring and quarterly reviews, reminds you to only hire A players, lots of great tactical advice on finding great people.
  2. The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni: Patrick describes why “Hungry, Humble and Smart” were his top 3 ways to get to team players and why teams should have core values define their talent acquisition strategy.
  3. Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone: There are tactical ways to make sure your hard conversations go better – this book lays them out. Some core element include trying to listen curiously rather than listening to persuade, and also directing the direction with questions.
  4. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni: Learn what is at the very center of why teams tend to have struggles, no matter how good you are, and learn the actionable steps on how you can overcome them.
  5. Clockwork – Mike Michalowicz: Years of research and experience is put into a book to give you a better idea on how to make your business extremely efficient.
  6. Rocket Fuel – Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters: This book gives you the relationship of the visionary and the integrator and how the combination of the two can help your business take off.
  7. The One Minute Manager – Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson: Learn the management techniques of goal setting, praising, and reprimands that have changed the lives of millions already, and how implementing them can change yours.
  8. Crucial Conversations – Kerry Patterson: Learn what it takes to tackle lifes most difficult conversations and say what’s on your mind while achieving results.
  9. Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman: Learn the power of our “two minds” and how they are able to determine our future through certain factors.
  10. How to Be a Great Boss – Gino Wickman: Learn how to improve the way you spend your time, how you can surround yourself with great people, and how you can be a great boss.

Worldview

  1. Factfulness by Hans Rosling: We all have a bias to pay attention to negative news – and other bombshells that will help you understand the world is getting better all the time, and will continue to do so, according to FACTS from a leading data scientist. Huge in changing the way I thought about the world at large, and recommended by Bill Gates.
  2. The World is Flat – Thomas L. Friedman: Free trade and capitalism, and how we got to a world economy. Clearly nationalism is pushing back against this right now, but this is a great primer on how we got where we are and some challenges to that. 
  3. The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads – Tim Wu: Your brain is the battleground, and your attention is the commodity. People want it, it’s harder than ever to get.
  4. The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand: Lone genius is a pillar of creative growth, and some people hate it. 
  5. Talking to Strangers – Malcolm Gladwell: Get a better understanding of how to talk to strangers and how you can use tools and strategies to get a better understanding of how to better understand strangers.
  6. Outliers: The Story of Success – Malcolm Gladwell: Learn what is making the high achievers and take a dive into how they came to be with their culture and upbringing.  

Biographical

  1. Shoe Dog – Phil Knight: Written (and read if you do the audiobook) by the Nike founder himself, and has tons of golden anecdotes about passion, finding a niche, marketing, and negotiating deals. Pure value, and well-written too.
  2. Steve Jobs  – Walter Isaacson: The Good, bad and the ugly, this book I think gives lots of stories about when to stick to your guns, as well as a somewhat cautionary tail of ego in certain ways. But ultimately genius, and some aspects of how Steve Jobs matured.
  3. Elon Musk – Ashlee Vance: This dude is a force, and this book gives you a peek inside his brain, his story, and how he leveraged PayPal money to build an empire he believes in.

Money Management

  1. The Total Money Makeover – Dave Ramsey: The best book on personal finance. Snowball your debt, by paying off your smallest debt first and roll the payment into the next smallest until your debt free. Grateful to be personally debt free at 33 because of this book, and have taken that amount I was spending on debt and pushed it into monthly investing. 
  2. Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki: Mindset on money, why and how to make more, and making sure you’re looking to the right mentors about money advice. Some people want to virtue signal, and use a different system of values – but at the end of the day money is useful, and it’s good to be able to allocate it. 
  3. The Millionaire Booklet – Grant Cardone: Putting this book in money management is actually kind of ridiculous, but Grant Cardone breaks down 10 ways to make 1 million dollars a year, written in a very short time directly after he gave 100’s of thousands to charity and wanted other people to be able to do that too. How to look at money, push, and not be scared.

What are your favorite 3 marketing and business books if you had to name them?

Would love to hear any of your takes on the books above! Any of them overhyped? Any of them – every person on earth should read? Share below in the comments 🙂


 

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Tim Brown
Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, an SEO and Web Design company focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses, roofers and construction companies.

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