Warren Buffett famously said he credits a large amount of his success to his insatiable appetite for reading. When the Berkshire Hathaway CEO and billionaire investor was asked how others could replicate his success, he pointed to a large stack of books in his office.
Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.
While there are countless Warren Buffett books that contain valuable information for business professionals, libraries are packed with jewels of wisdom from many sources that can help you secure additional clients, sharpen your level of focus, or even simply entertain you for an educational afternoon.
Quicklook – Best Business Books
- The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
- The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey
- What makes a great business book?
- Best for Beginners in Business: Brushing Up on the Fundamentals
- 1. The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
- 2. The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen
- Best for Intermediate Knowledge: Understanding Business Psychology
- 1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- 2. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- For Business Experts: Opening or Advancing Your Own Business
- 1. Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
- 2. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber.
- For Those Who Want to Cultivate Their Work Ethic
- 1. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
- 2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey
- The Final Word
What makes a great business book?
Each business book is written for a target audience. However, the best texts all share the following characteristics:
- Authored by an expert. From authors with Ph.Ds in economic theory to business professionals with years of experience, you’ll want to ensure your information is from a reliable source. Before you dive in, quickly search the author to learn about his or her credentials. If you can’t find anything relevant, you may want to reconsider your selection.
- It matches your technical skill level. Certain business books are written for advanced audiences. If you’re just starting your journey, you may have trouble understanding the technical terms used in advanced texts. If you’re frequently stopping to look up terms or re-reading paragraphs multiple times to understand the content, start with an easier book. Over time, you’ll work your way up to more intricate texts.
- It’s actually enjoyable to read. Unless you’re still in school, no one (typically) is forcing you to read. Great business books aren’t just educational—they’re fun and convey concepts through an easily digestible medium. If you’re dreading the next chapter or you don’t remember what you read a few hours after you finished reading, consider picking up a different book. There are many options on similar topics that you’ll find invigorating. Reading is supposed to be fun, and educational books are no exception.
Best for Beginners in Business: Brushing Up on the Fundamentals
1. The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. Penned by one of the most important and successful investors of the 20th century (and a man who Warren Buffet considers to be one of his biggest early influences), The Intelligent Investor focuses on the cornerstone of business, the principle of placing money into companies that will increase in value over time. The Intelligent Investor cleverly personifies the market, calling it “Mr. Market.” “Mr. Market” is an unpredictable “manic-depressive” controlled by the fears and greed of every investor buying and selling stocks. Graham argues that, though the average investor may not be able to predict the next Apple or Google, investors can avoid losing money by protecting against loss through slow gains over time.
A classic read and one of the best investing books of all time, The Intelligent Investor is an easy-to-understand and educational text that’s a standby on the shelves of the most important men and women in business.
2. The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen
The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen. In 2004, there was a Blockbuster video store on every corner and a TiVo in every home. Companies that were once thought to be untouchable now go defunct every year. Just think about the massive shift that the advancement of online shopping has caused. How can a successful business survive the inevitable march of innovation and technology? Enter: The Innovator’s Dilemma, a classic work by Harvard professor Clayton Christensen. In The Innovator’s Dilemma, Christensen introduces his theory of “disruptive innovation.” The idea of disruptive innovation states that the largest corporations can be brought down if they fail to analyze the market regularly and work with niche innovations instead of against them.
Christensen argues that innovation for large corporations follows an S-curve. Since most innovations are not immediately profitable, large firms focus on existing products instead. However, it’s this ignorance that allows niche services and businesses (like Netflix and Hulu in the case of Blockbuster and TiVo) to become obsolete. Both an innovative text and a warning against complacency, The Innovator’s Dilemma has shaped the way we do business in the digital age.
Best for Intermediate Knowledge: Understanding Business Psychology
1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Investors don’t always decide to make an investment based on data alone — sometimes they give their money based on the charm and drive of the man or woman behind the wheel of the corporation. How to Win Friends and Influence People is a classic in the field of business psychology that will teach you how to better connect with potential clients and investors. It also looks at how to change someone’s opinion without being aggressive, and how to expand your social circle and meet like-minded industry professionals. Carnegie explains that the best way to convince and influence people is to be genuinely interested in their unique perspectives, seeing things from their points of view. Mastering this skill is indispensable for business men and women.
Very few texts experience everlasting success like How to Win Friends and Influence People. It is just as useful and engaging today as it was during the original publication date of 1936. With over 15 million copies sold to date, Carnegie’s text is a worldwide phenomenon.
2. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Why do consumers choose one brand over another? If there are two jars of the same strawberry jelly on a shelf, how does a consumer make a decision? In a world of endless choices, it seems like we grab something and get on with our day. But in Thinking, Fast and Slow, psychologist Daniel Kahneman examines the reason and biases we use to make choices, even when we think we’re picking at random. Thinking explains that humans use two sets of thought processes when making a decision, which are referred to as “System 1” and “System 2.” While System 1 is fast, emotional, and reliant upon preconceived biases, System 2 is logical and careful. Kahneman argues that one system is not inherently better than the other; if we were to spend all day meticulously deciding between two jars of jam, we would never have time to do anything else.
Kahneman’s book is a great tool for marketing professionals. It contains useful information about how consumers decide between two comparable products, how consumers estimate the quality of a product or service, and how you can take advantage of common heuristics. If you’re looking for a crash course on the psychology of decision making, Thinking is a great place to start.
For Business Experts: Opening or Advancing Your Own Business
1. Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio. In 1975, Ray Dalio founded his New York-based investing firm, Bridgewater Associates, out of his two bedroom apartment. Just four years later, he was running one of the most profitable hedge funds in the world. Principles: Life and Work covers the lessons that Dalio learned while managing his successful company. Dalio argues that building and running a profitable organization doesn’t require genius-level intellect or superhuman insights into the market. Rather he suggests the ability to make strong decisions, act as an honest-yet-firm leader, and effectively use each employee’s strengths and weaknesses are essential for success. Dalio claims that the secret to his success is not his upbringing, teachers, or IQ, as he grew up in a modest, middle-class home on Long Island. He instead credits his success to “idea meritocracy that strives to achieve meaningful work and meaningful relationships through radical transparency.”
Full of practical solutions and lessons anyone can apply to a small business, Principles is a great first-read for entrepreneurs new and experienced alike. With Dalio collecting praise from Time magazine and investing professionals alike, those creating a business plan can learn a lot from Dalio’s “idea meritocracy.”
2. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber.
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber. Many entrepreneurs are drawn to the idea of starting a business by visions of overnight success, rags-to-riches, and the excitement that comes with being the boss. However, statistics on new business and their owners, tell a much bleaker tale. Twenty percent of small businesses will fail before the end of their first year, half of the small businesses will fail after five years, and even a successful business will take two to three years to become profitable. In The E-Myth, small business consultant Michael Gerber dispels many of the myths surrounding entrepreneurship and its hardships. Its title comes from the idea that entrepreneurs, though teeming with optimism and big ideas, make poor business people because they lack the realism needed to steer a new venture. Gerber’s keen insights encourage entrepreneurs not to abandon their dreams, but to formulate concrete plans of action to get there, especially in the first few years.
The E-Myth is a necessary exercise in realism that every small business owner and hopeful should read before investing in a new venture. An instant classic and New York Times Bestseller, consider picking up The E-Myth if you know that your idealized plans need some work before they become practical and viable.
For Those Who Want to Cultivate Their Work Ethic
1. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. The ping of your cell phone, the iconic “swoosh” of a new email in your inbox, a notification for a new YouTube video: In our world of technological innovation, we’re more prone to distraction than ever. If you’re a business owner or professional, chances are that cutting out the mental clutter will help improve your work.
Deep Work is an investigation into the myth of productivity and a crash-course in focused success. The first half of the book describes a process called “deep work,” which is an uninterrupted focus on a cognitively demanding task. Newport cites field revolutionaries, ranging from world-renowned psychologist Carl Jung’s famous isolated tower, to a social media guru who flew to Tokyo to write a book without the internet’s buffet of distractions. The second half of the book introduces the reader to tips and strategies they can use to get in touch with their inner focus. Part social critique and part how-to guide, Deep Work offers both theories and practical advice for the everyday business person
2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey. A groundbreaking text originally published in 1990, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People provides a step-by-step pathway to personal and professional fulfillment. For decades, readers have lauded Covey’s straightforward writing style and practical tips on changing your perspective to a more productive mindset. The book is a particularly powerful resource for those who are starting their own business or switching career paths. It caters to those who are struggling to master the first few steps of building a client book and network circle.
To this day, millions of men and women in all industries have learned from 7 Habits. While you don’t need to be a business professional to appreciate the book, its pages contain tried-and-true methods to help you hone in on your goals, make more meaningful connections, and reinvigorate your career.
The Final Word
Warren Buffett may read 500 pages of text a day, but that doesn’t mean you have to sell your home and move into the library to take advantage of his strategy. Educational books, websites, and finance magazines are now more readily available than ever before — you just need to make time to further your learning. Devoting just 30 minutes a day to uninterrupted reading can have a surprisingly positive effect on both your business knowledge and your mental health.