12 of the Best Books for Startups You Need on Your Reading List
Elevate your entrepreneurial game with our recommended reading list!
Mar 30, 2023 | 18 min read
Starting a business can be exciting and terrifying in equal measure. Building a team, creating an organization where talented people want to work, startup life in general can feel lonely at times. That's why it's essential for startup founders to constantly improve and learn from those who have been through it before.
Whether you're an aspiring startup founder or a seasoned entrepreneur, there's always something to learn and new habits to develop. Reading books is one of the best ways to gain new knowledge about entrepreneurship, leadership and living a productive life. At MasterBorn we believe that you are what you read and these business books embody our company values of growth, clarity, efficiency and acceptance. These 12 books are in our library — and our DNA.
Our reading list for startup founders embodies values of continuous innovation and can help inform your own journey as an entrepreneur. If you're just starting out or are looking to take your business to the next level, these books will help you create radically successful businesses. Each one offers valuable lessons and practical advice that can help you scale your business.
Here’s a list of some of the best books for startups we’re reading over the last few years. These books cover a wide range of topics including startup culture, leadership, and business strategy, and are written by some of the most successful entrepreneurs and business leaders of our time.
1. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think is an eye-opening book by professor of international health Hans Rosling. The book debunks common misconceptions about the state of the world and provides a more accurate and optimistic view of humanity's progress.
Rosling argues that people have a natural tendency to be overly negative and to exaggerate problems, which he calls "the overdramatic worldview." He shows how this perspective is reinforced by the media, which focuses on sensational and negative stories, and by politicians and activists, who often exaggerate problems to garner support for their causes.
Based on extensive data analysis and research, Rosling’s book presents the facts in a clear and compelling way. He covers a wide range of topics, including poverty, health, education and the environment. He shows that progress has been made in these areas and that many of the problems we think are getting worse are actually getting better.
One of the most powerful aspects of the book is the way Rosling challenges our biases and encourages us to question our preconceived notions. He provides a new perspective on the world and shows how we can be more accurate and realistic in our understanding of global issues.
In addition to being informative and at times provocative, the book is also highly accessible. Rosling's writing style is both engaging and entertaining, making the book a pleasure to read.
Factfulness is an excellent book for founders since it provides a much-needed dose of realism and optimism — qualities essential to effective leadership. It’s a must-read for anyone who wants to better understand the state of the world and the progress that humanity has made.
2. The Meaning Revolution: The Power of Transcendent Leadership
The Meaning Revolution: The Power of Transcendent Leadership by Fred Kofman is an insightful book that explores the importance of finding meaning in our work and how this can lead to more effective leadership. Kofman, who is a Vice President at LinkedIn, draws on his extensive experience in business and philosophy to argue that true leadership is not about achieving power or wealth, but about creating value and serving others.
One of the key themes of the book is the importance of transcendent leadership, which Kofman defines as "the capacity to connect to something greater than oneself, to inspire and guide others to do the same, and to co-create a shared vision of a better future." He argues that this type of leadership is essential for creating a sustainable and fulfilling work environment, and for addressing the complex challenges facing organizations today.
Kofman also explores the concept of "conscious capitalism," which is based on the idea that businesses can and should serve a higher purpose beyond just making a profit. He makes the case that conscious capitalism not only creates more meaning and purpose for employees and customers, but also leads to better business performance in the long run.
One of the strengths of the book is the way Kofman weaves together lessons from different disciplines, such as philosophy, psychology and neuroscience, to create a holistic and compelling argument for the power of transcendent leadership. He also includes a number of practical exercises and tools that readers can use to apply the concepts in their own lives and organizations.
Overall, The Meaning Revolution is a valuable and inspiring read for leaders at any level. It’s a great guide on how to create the kind of organizations and societies we all want to be a part of for the long haul.
3. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future is for those interested in innovation and entrepreneurship. Written by Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and early investor in companies like Facebook, the book offers a unique perspective on how to create something truly new and meaningful today.
One of the key themes in the book is the importance of thinking for yourself and not following the crowd. Thiel argues that most people focus on improving upon existing ideas, rather than creating something truly new and revolutionary. He emphasizes the importance of going from 0 to 1 — creating something that has never existed before.
Thiel also discusses the importance of having a strong and cohesive team, and the role of secrets in business. He argues that a successful startup should be able to create and protect a unique advantage, whether it's a new technology or a new business model. He also emphasizes the importance of long-term thinking and the dangers of short-termism in business.
Throughout the book, Thiel provides a wealth of practical advice and real-world examples to illustrate his points. Whether you're a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting out, this book is sure to provide inspiration.
Zero to One is an actionable guide to building a successful startup. Thiel's personal experience, insights and wisdom make it essential for entrepreneurs, startup founders and innovative thinkers. It challenges conventional wisdom and encourages the reader to think differently and be bold in creating something new. A powerful book that will change the way you think about innovation, business and the future.
4. Extreme Ownership
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win offers timeless wisdom on improving leadership skills and achieving success in people’s personal and professional lives. Written by former Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, the book gives practical advice for leaders at all levels.
One of the main themes of the book is the concept of extreme ownership, which means taking complete responsibility for everything in your life, whether it be a task, a project, or a team. The authors argue that this mentality is essential for effective leadership and successful outcomes. They use real-life examples from their time as Navy SEALs to illustrate how this mindset can be applied in any situation.
The book is also filled with valuable leadership lessons and strategies. The authors discuss the importance of communication, decision-making, and delegation, and provide practical tips for how to master these skills. They also delve into the importance of developing a strong team culture and the role of the leader in fostering it.
Extreme Ownership is a highly engaging and informative read that will challenge you to think differently about leadership and inspire you to take action to become a better leader. We highly recommend this book to anyone looking to improve their leadership skills and achieve success in their personal and professional lives — whether you’re a manager, a team leader, a startup founder or a CEO.
5. Ego is the enemy
In Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday explores the dangers of allowing our ego to take control of our lives. The book is based on the idea that our ego can lead us to make poor decisions, become arrogant and self-centered, and ultimately hinder our personal and professional growth.
Holiday draws on a wide range of historical examples, from ancient philosophers to modern-day leaders, to illustrate the negative impact of ego on individuals and society as a whole. He argues that true success comes from humility, hard work, and a focus on serving others, rather than from an inflated sense of self-importance.
One of the strengths of the book is its ability to relate to readers from all walks of life. You’ll find relatable examples and practical advice on how to overcome the ego and achieve success.
Holiday also emphasizes the importance of taking a step back and reflecting on one's actions and motivations, in order to identify and overcome the ego. He encourages readers to adopt a growth mindset and to continuously strive for self-improvement.
Ego is the Enemy is a valuable read for today's entrepreneurs looking to gain a deeper understanding of the role of ego in our lives and how to overcome it. It provides a refreshing perspective on what it truly means to be successful and will inspire readers to lead a more purposeful and fulfilling life.
6. What Would Google Do?
What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis explores the business and technology landscape of today. Jarvis, a well-known blogger and media commentator, delves into the strategies and practices of the world's most powerful search engine, Google, and argues that by understanding and emulating the company's approach, businesses of all sizes can thrive in the digital age.
One of the book's key insights is that Google has been able to achieve its dominance by embracing openness and transparency, both in its products and in its corporate culture. Jarvis argues that this approach has allowed the company to build trust with its users and to quickly iterate and improve its products. He also highlights how Google has been able to harness the power of its users by leveraging user-generated content and harnessing the wisdom of crowds.
Another key takeaway from the book is the importance of leveraging data and analytics to inform business decisions. Jarvis notes how Google has been able to use data to drive product development, marketing, and even employee performance evaluations. He also emphasizes the importance of being able to measure and track progress, in order to be able to make data-driven decisions.
What Would Google Do? is a fascinating read that provides valuable strategies and practices that have made Google one of the most successful and influential companies in the world. Whether you're a business owner, entrepreneur, or just someone interested in the tech industry, this book is definitely worth checking out.
All told, the book is a great read for anyone interested in the business and technology landscape of today, and specifically for understanding how Google has been able to achieve its dominance by embracing openness and transparency, leveraging data and analytics, and harnessing the power of its users.
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7. Let My People Go Surfing Yvon Chouinard; Naomi Klein
Let My People Go Surfing is a memoir by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. The book tells the story of how Chouinard built his company from a small climbing equipment shop to a global outdoor clothing and gear brand. Along the way, he shares his philosophy on business, the environment and living a fulfilling life.
One strong theme throughout the book is Chouinard's commitment to sustainability. He writes about how Patagonia has always been focused on reducing its environmental impact, from using organic cotton in its clothing to recently devoting Patagonia company profits now and in the future to environmental causes. This commitment is a core part of the company's identity and is something that sets it apart from other brands.
Chouinard also writes about the importance of living a balanced life. He believes that people should be able to pursue their passions, whether that's surfing, climbing, or something else. He encourages readers to find their own path and not get caught up in the rat race of traditional career success.
Well-written and easy to read, the book is full of personal anecdotes and stories from Chouinard's life that make it feel like you're having a conversation with him. The book is also full of valuable lessons on business, the environment and living well.
Let My People Go Surfing is a great read for anyone interested in ethical business success, the environment, or the outdoors. It's a refreshing look at how one person's passion and commitment can change the world. It's an inspiration for people who want to make a difference in the world and live a meaningful life.
8. Radical Acceptance
One of the best business startup books in our view is"Radical Acceptance" by Tara Brach. Brach's work is a powerful and transformative book that explores the concept of accepting reality as it is, rather than constantly struggling against it. Brach delves into the different ways we try to avoid difficult emotions and experiences, such as through numbing or distraction, and how these strategies ultimately lead to more suffering.
One of the most striking aspects of the book is the way Brach integrates Buddhist teachings with Western psychology. She skillfully explains how the practice of mindfulness can help us develop a "radical acceptance" of our experiences, including difficult emotions. This allows us to break free from the cycle of resistance and suffering, and find a deeper sense of peace and well-being.
Brach also shares personal anecdotes and case studies to illustrate the concepts she discusses, making the book both relatable and practical. Throughout the book, she also includes guided meditations and exercises to help readers begin to incorporate the practices of radical acceptance into their own lives.
Radical Acceptance gives practical tools for anyone looking to cultivate greater emotional resilience and well-being. It is a book that we highly recommend for startup founders to focus on what matters while still building resilient, fulfilling organizations.
9. Digital Minimalism
"Digital Minimalism" by Cal Newport is full of insights and explores the impact of technology on our lives and how we can use it more intentionally. Newport argues that we have become too reliant on technology and that it has begun to negatively affect our relationships, productivity, and well-being. He suggests that instead of simply trying to use technology less, we should adopt a "digital minimalism" approach that involves identifying which digital tools truly add value to our lives and then using them in a deliberate and intentional way.
One of the book's strengths is its ability to make the reader reflect on their own relationship with technology. Newport provides many examples of how people have implemented digital minimalism in their own lives and the positive impact it has had. It is clear that Newport has done extensive research on the topic and presents it in an easy-to-read and engaging way.
I found the book to be practical and actionable. Newport provides a 30-day "digital declutter" challenge that guides readers through the process of identifying which digital tools are essential and which ones can be eliminated. He also provides tips on how to use technology in a more intentional way, such as by setting specific goals for its use and setting boundaries around when and where it is used.
Digital Minimalism is a compelling guide for those looking to take a more intentional approach to technology. It is well-researched, practical, and thought-provoking, and is sure to make readers reflect on their own relationship with technology. It’s for those who want to take control of their technology instead of letting it control them.
10. Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals
Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman is a refreshing take on the often dry and formulaic subject of time management. Rather than providing a step-by-step guide to maximizing productivity, Burkeman approaches the topic with a more philosophical and introspective angle. He encourages readers to take a closer look at their own relationship with time and to consider how they might be able to use it better.
One of the key themes of the book is the idea that time is a finite resource, and that we should treat it accordingly. Burkeman argues that the traditional approach to time management, which focuses on maximizing efficiency and productivity, often leads to feelings of stress and anxiety. Instead, he suggests that we should focus on making the most of the time we have, rather than trying to cram as much into it as possible.
Burkeman also delves into the concept of mindfulness, and how it can help us to be more present in the moment. He encourages readers to take a step back from their busy lives and to reflect on what is truly important to them. This can help to give them a sense of perspective and to prioritize their time in a more meaningful way.
Burkeman's writing in Four Thousand Weeks is both clear and accessible and is an excellent resource for leaders looking to improve their work-life balance as well as their relationships with time.
11. Crucial conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High
Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High is a comprehensive guide to navigating difficult conversations. Authors, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler, provide a step-by-step approach to preparing for, conducting and resolving conflicts.
The first part of the book focuses on the importance of mastering crucial conversations and provides practical tips on how to prepare for them. The authors emphasize the importance of understanding the other person's perspective and providing clear and honest feedback. They also provide techniques for handling difficult emotions and staying focused on the task at hand.
The second part of the book focuses on making it safe to have crucial conversations. The authors provide strategies for creating a safe environment where all parties feel heard and respected. They also provide tips on how to avoid common pitfalls such as defensiveness and blame.
The third part of the book focuses on making the conversation effective. The authors provide techniques for staying on track and resolving conflicts in a constructive way. They also provide tips on how to follow up after the conversation to ensure that the results are long-lasting.
Crucial Conversations is a valuable resource for anyone looking to improve their communication and lead a successful startup. The authors provide clear and practical advice that is easy to understand and implement. The book is a great tool for new founders and entrepreneurs trying to negotiate high-stakes deals, lead a team or give harsh feedback in a productive and effective way.
12. Radical Candor
Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity is a guide for startup founders and leaders to improve their communication and management skills, while still maintaining a sense of humanity and empathy towards their team members.
Written by Kim Scott, the book is divided into three parts: the first part is about the concept of radical candor, which is the ability to give honest and direct feedback while also showing that you care personally about the person you are giving feedback to. The second part of the book is about how to implement radical candor in practice, and the third part is about the common mistakes that managers and leaders may encounter when trying to implement her advice.
Scott uses real-life examples and anecdotes from her career at Google and other major tech firms to illustrate her points. The concepts presented in the book are practical and can be applied in any workplace. The author also provides actionable advice and tips on how to implement Radical Candor in daily interactions with team members.
In conclusion, the book provides a refreshing perspective on how to communicate effectively with team members, while also being mindful of their feelings and well-being. It's well-written, engaging and provides practical advice that can be implemented immediately. It's a must-read for any startup founder looking to improve their feedback culture and create successful businesses.
Business startup books can be a valuable source of inspiration and practical wisdom for new founders and experienced entrepreneurs alike. Our list offers diverse perspectives and advice on topics such as startup culture, leadership, and business strategy.
These startup books provide valuable insights and practical advice that can help entrepreneurs navigate the challenges of starting and growing a business. Whether you're just starting up or are a seasoned entrepreneur, these books are worth reading and can serve as valuable resources throughout your business journey. Remember that the journey of an entrepreneur is a continuous learning process, and these books can help you at every stage. Here's to your next great idea!
Table of Content
- 1. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
- 2. The Meaning Revolution: The Power of Transcendent Leadership
- 3. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
- 4. Extreme Ownership
- 5. Ego is the enemy
- 6. What Would Google Do?
- 7. Let My People Go Surfing Yvon Chouinard; Naomi Klein
- 8. Radical Acceptance
- 9. Digital Minimalism
- 10. Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals
- 11. Crucial conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High
- 12. Radical Candor
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