Top 8 Must-Read Books to Fuel Your Entrepreneurial Dreams

by | Apr 26, 2024 | Books & Stories

So you’ve got this burning desire rattling around inside to start your own business, be your own boss, and shake up an industry. But the path from idea to viable company can be filled with obstacles, self-doubt, and tough decisions that test your grit as an entrepreneur.

Launching a business can be thrilling but very intimidating too. Those nagging questions start creeping in:

  • What if I fail and let everyone down?
  • Can I actually turn this idea in my head into reality?
  • How do I know if people even want what I’m selling?

It’s totally natural to feel some nerves and uncertainty in the beginning! But here’s the good news:

The right book at the right time can give you an invaluable confidence boost. I’m talking about those page-turners filled with hard-won entrepreneurial wisdom that makes everything click into place.

The Ultimate Reading List for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

So if you’re looking for an inspirational and informative entrepreneurial spark for your mind, here are 8 must-read books I can’t recommend enough from some super successful founders and disruptive thinkers.

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

#1 – The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Eric Ries basically helped create and define this scrappy new business strategy of rapid experimenting and iteration to find what customers actually want before you invest too much time and money.

This modern entrepreneurship bible teaches you how to quickly get a basic product out to people, collect feedback, keep what works, toss what doesn’t, tweak it, and repeat.

It’s all about failing fast and pivoting instead of wasting months or years building some perfect thing in a cave that you hope people want. Talk about a total game changer to vet ideas faster!

Some of my favorite lightbulb moments from the book:

  • Treat your early ideas as hypotheses or guesses, never facts. Test them!
  • Success isn’t about having the smartest ideas from the beginning – it’s about listening, adjusting, and executing.
  • Don’t obsess over a failing plan – pivot to find the right product/market fit based on what real customers want.

Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned pro, this book will change how you think about turning startup ideas into reality.

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

#2 – The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

So get this: you don’t need fancy offices, millions from investors, or even a killer original idea to bootstrap a profitable business!

I know it sounds crazy. But Chris Guillebeau proves it through tons of inspiring case studies of regular people building small lifestyle businesses around their passions and knowledge while spending almost zilch.

We’re talking launching a blog, selling handmade crafts on Etsy, creating online courses, or turning a hobby into a little side consulting gig. And yes, even a few of those cute pet Instagram accounts with millions of followers!

Chris shows you how everyday people leverage tools like WordPress, YouTube, Facebook groups and more to quickly turn passions into profits with just a little hustle.

A few motivational gems:

  • Success doesn’t have to mean becoming a billionaire CEO. Redefine it on your own terms.
  • Don’t obsess about new untested business ideas. Leverage existing skills and interests instead.
  • Build an audience around your personality and niche knowledge before you even sell anything!

This is perfect if you want to dip your toes into entrepreneurship or build a tiny company that fits the lifestyle you want.

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

#3 – The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

So picture this soul-crushing trap: you launch your bright and shiny new small business only to get utterly overwhelmed by every little administrative task, order, marketing campaign, and customer service issue.

Next thing you know, you’re working round the clock but barely scraping by. Your business owns you now!

Michael Gerber pulls back the curtain on why most new entrepreneurs unknowingly construct a job for themselves instead of designing a company that can eventually run without them. Ouch!

The E-Myth Revisited walks you through that essential mindset shift from technician (you focused on delivering a service/product) to entrepreneurial CEO building systems, processes, and a team to scale impact.

Some perspective-changing insights:

  • Work ON your business strategically, not just IN your business doing all the work.
  • Create systems, automation, training for employees to replicate what you do.
  • Franchise your successful business processes and skills if you ever want to sell.

Once you start thinking like a founder rather than an employee, it opens up a whole new world of growth possibilities!

This is a must-read if you actually want to own a business not just a job.

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

#4 – Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Now if the word “motivation” was a human being, I swear it would look exactly like Phil Knight, the founder of teensy shoe startup you may have heard of…Nike!

This raw and totally vulnerable memoir takes you along his wild rollercoaster journey filled with crippling defeats and breakthrough successes to build one of the most iconic global brands on the planet.

We’re talking getting doors slammed in his face attempting to sell shoes out of his trunk thousands of times over years. Or facing bankruptcy and the brink of collapse more times than he can count before finally catching fire.

Phil’s story is proof that with enough relentless passion and perseverance, you can will just about any vision into existence even if it takes decades of never-ending setbacks.

Some blood-pumping inspirational gold:

  • Success takes years of unbelievable persistence through hurdle after hurdle. Surviving tough times separates the victors from the rest. Never ever give up.
  • Build a talented tribe around you that believes in your mission as much as you do. They’ll help carry you through the dark times.
  • Even after you “make it”, you need to hustle harder and keep taking bold risks. Complacency kills.

When you start doubting if you can push through those entrepreneurial hard times, crack open Shoe Dog for a heavy dose of courage and motivation!

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

#5 – The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

So reality check here. Being a startup CEO often gets glorified in the media with flashy headlines about massive funding rounds, crazy valuations, and changing-the-world perks.

But Ben Horowitz pulls back the curtain to reveal the harsh truth that it’s mostly an emotional meat grinder full of gut-wrenching, lonely decisions that can make or break your company.

We’re talking high-stress scenarios like laying off friends, almost missing payroll and watching your baby faceplant with no clue why. It can seriously mess with your mind!

The Hard Thing About Hard Things prepares you for the hellish mental and emotional rollercoaster that is shepherding a startup.

Some tough but necessary lessons:

  • Bravery and radical authenticity are key to addressing issues head-on even when you’re terrified. No hiding! Employees will respect your truth.
  • Cash flow emergencies, disastrous pivots, people problems and paralyzing doubt all come with the territory. Roll with the punches!
  • Make unpopular but necessary decisions for the good of the company, even if it means layoffs. CEOs have to be ruthless and compassionate.

This book delivers that cold hard slap in the face every wide-eyed entrepreneur needs. Leading a startup is often a painful emotional journey, but ultimately worth it!

Crush It! by GaryVee

#6 – Crush It! by GaryVee

Alright, imagine a high school football coach giving you a monster motivational speech while chugging a dozen energy drinks. That’s what it feels like to have Gary Vaynerchuk screaming inspiration at you through this game-changing book!

Crush It! is that explosive kick-in-the-pants we all need sometimes to stop overthinking, quit waiting for perfect conditions, and immediately start executing on our ideas by building a personal brand around our voice, story, and passions.

GaryVee motivates millions with his central message that right now is the absolute best time in human history to start a business thanks to tools like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter allowing us to build audiences we control.

Some key pump-up messages:

  • There are zero excuses in today’s digital age not to start creating value from your ideas and turn it into a business.
  • Share your genuine personality, interests and entrepreneurial journey publicly right from the start to attract your tribe.
  • Document your wins, fails, vulnerabilities – all of it! The more real your personal brand, the tighter your community.

If you need some no-BS motivation to finally start stepping into entrepreneurship, GaryVee will light that fire. Let’s gooo!

The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton Christensen

#7 – The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen

Beyond motivation, you also need to understand what makes or breaks seemingly unstoppable industry leaders. That way you can avoid their pitfalls as an scrappy startup trying to disrupt things.

Clayton Christensen examines why once massively successful and well-run companies often crash and burn when seismic market shifts happen that they dismissed or ignored too long.

Think Blockbuster laughing off Netflix or cab companies fighting rideshares. Whoops!

The key is that truly disruptive innovations initially underperform existing solutions, so established profitable companies focusing on bigger customers tend to overlook them.

But then the scrappy startup disruptors gain steam in smaller fringe markets that eventually take over thanks to shifting consumer habits. By the time incumbents notice, it’s too late!

Some critical lessons here:

  • New innovations that don’t initially meet the needs of your best customers are easy to dismiss but can become hugely disruptive.
  • Identify shifts in consumer behavior and emerging tech that legacy companies may ignore. Capitalize on those ripe opportunities!
  • As a nimble startup you can pivot much faster to ride the wave of disruption rather than getting crushed by it.

Read this to understand the common mistakes that allow agile startups to topple even the most legendary of companies. And how you can be the disruptor!

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

#8 – How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Alright, let’s shift gears to talk about winning over the hearts and minds of customers, possible partners, talented team members, influencers and networks that can amplify your mission!

Dale Carnegie dishes out timeless and actionable lessons on connecting authentically with people, understanding their core desires and motivations, and bringing out their best to get them genuinely excited about your entrepreneurial goals.

Top takeaways on next-level relatability:

  • Become genuinely interested in learning about people. Ask engaging questions. Use their name. Offer sincere praise.
  • Let people express ideas without arguing. See their perspective. Make them feel smart, understood and significant.
  • Think from the other person’s vantage point. Present your ideas around their wants and needs, not yours.

Building an energized community around your startup requires next-level interpersonal skills. This book gives you that emotional toolset!


Well there you have it! The 8 essential page-turners covering motivation, resilience, strategic thinking, disruptive innovation, and influential leadership to inspire your entrepreneurial path.

Soak up their hard-won stories, lessons and wisdom. Let them spark your fire to step confidently into your vision with the courage, support and knowledge needed to turn it into reality!