12 Books Every Business Person Must Read – Forbes

Times have changed.
In 1865, Horace Greeley wrote that in order to have success, enterprising individuals should “Go West, and grow up with the country.” Now, with the country fully grown, that advice doesn’t mean that much.
Still, there is a lot of unexplored territory out there. You just have to look in the right places: inside a book. I might be old-school, but I still believe in the power of great books. And so I offer a new directive: Go to the bookstore, ambitious business woman! To the library, businessman in training! Get the information you need to be successful.
Not sure where to get started? Here is a short list of 12 great books that I believe every business person must read. I decided not to list How to Win Friends and Influence People because, well, that’s a given.
But beyond the obvious classic, here are a few that you might not have thought of. There are also a few that you wouldn’t expect in a list of books for business, but they are great nonetheless.
The Effective Executive. Peter F. Drucker, 1967.
Execution is key for Drucker, and that means getting “the right things done.” An oldie but a goodie, this classic still occupies the shelves of many leaders. In it, he explains how although some are natural-born leaders, there are skills that can be developed to make a better executive.
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t. Jim Collins, 2001
Are you ready to take your company to the next level? Citing five years of research into 6,000 articles and 2,000 pages worth of interviews, Collins tells you how to do it. You’ll love his deep store of refreshing ideas for evaluating business leadership, including “Level 5 Leadership.”
Giants of Enterprise: Seven Business Innovators and the Empires They Built. Richard Tedlow, 2003
Andrew Carnegie. Henry Ford. Sam Walton. Their shadows still tower over national commerce, and Tedlow describes the lives of these true business giants that have undoubtedly changed the world as we know it. The studious business person can learn much from this review of the struggles and successes of these world-renowned leaders.
True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership. Bill George, 2007
One major change to business leadership in recent times is the emphasis on authenticity. Rather than adopting time-worn models of stuffy leadership, George inspires readers to know themselves and create their own, tailor-made style.
Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity. Hugh MacLeod, 2009
From idea doodles on the backs of cards to his own popular blog, MacLeod has ideas about everything, including standing out from your competitors and the meaning of life. His main subjects here are creativity and how to foster new ideas. A lively, illustrated guide to unleashing your ingenuity.
Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box. Arbinger Institute, 2010
Using relatable storytelling to drive the theme, the authors reveal how we refuse to see our true motives, limiting our potential success and happiness. Readers will learn how to remove this impulse and unlock greater self-awareness.
Thinking, Fast and Slow. Daniel Kahneman, 2011.
Nobel Prize winner and psychologist Daniel Kahneman breaks down our thought patterns into two sectors: the impulsive, emotional System 1 and the logical, deliberate System 2. Knowing when you are using one—when you should be using the other—could be the key to better, more effective business decisions.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Charles Duhigg, 2012
Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” In his exploration of habit, Duhigg expands on this idea, detailing how our habits are precursors for the events that make up our life—or business—success story.
The Wisdom of Failure: How to Learn the Tough Leadership Lessons Without Paying the Price. Laurence G. Weinzimmer and Jim McConoughey, 2012
Are you looking forward to making mistakes for the sake of learning valuable lessons? You won’t have to with The Wisdom of Failure. In this collaborative piece, the authors prefer instead to learn by not making the mistakes of individuals and businesses they researched during a seven-year study.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. Laura Hillenbrand, 2014
The strength and resiliency of the human spirit provides lessons in all walks of life, including the world of business. Hillenbrand’s recounting of the story of Louie Zamperini is inspirational and instructive, reminding us all that we have courage far beyond our understanding.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things. Ben Horowitz 2014
Running your own business is hard, and Horowitz doesn’t shy away from that fact. To help other entrepreneurs through their journey, he shares the story of when his business nearly failed, how he staved off defeat, and how you can do hard things too.
This is one of my personal favorites. I read it often because it reminds me that what I’m going through, as a founder, is not unique and others have succeeded in the face of similar challenges.
Zero to One. Peter Thiel and Blake Masters, 2014
When the founder of PayPal and Palantir and a lead investor of Facebook teaches a class on start-ups, you’d better take good notes. That’s what Masters did while taking a class from Thiel at Stanford, and it led to a groundbreaking book about the importance of unique business ideas.


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