The path of a startup is marked by overcoming constant struggles and learning how to make a name in a certain industry. Reading books that tell the tales of successful entrepreneurs and their companies can help you navigate the twists and turns of starting your own company. These books are anecdotal, advisory, or a combination of both.
Whether you’re currently toying around with a simple idea or in the launching phase of your company, the right startup book helps guides you through making tough decisions. Some of the topics covered include vertical scaling, team management, and finding investors.
For a closer look at what it takes to be a successful founder, we’ve curated our top picks for the best startup books for your reading list.
Quick Look: The Best Start Up Books You Can Read Right Now
- The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau - Get this book
- Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Futureby Peter Thiel with Blake Masters - Get this book
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz - Get this book
- Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace - Get this book
- The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries - Get this book
- The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank - Get this book
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber - Get this book
- Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal - Get this book
- Explosive Growth: A Few Things I Learned While Growing To 100 Million Users – And Losing $78 Million by Cliff Lerner - Get this book
- The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf - Get this book
What You Should Look for in a Startup Book
If you’re simply looking for educational resources on how money functions within an organization, economics books may be a good choice for you. However, startup books provide you with this information and more. You’ll not only learn about how money functions within an organization, but how to find that money, how to hire better than yourself, and much more.
There’s no shortage of these books on the market, from general business strategy to startup narratives. To find the right text, we’re looking at 3 specific categories that can help you narrow down your choices.
Author Startup Experience
You’ll want to make sure the author of the text has proper experience working at a startup. Many books are authored by founders of their own companies. Occasionally, you may also come across a startup text that resembles a business book, as it’s written by journalists or academics.
Both types of books can offer a wealth of expertise and advice. It’s best to read widely and consider many different perspectives.
Range of Discussed Topics
There are startup books that discuss the full life of the company, from concept to launch. Other texts are more specialized, looking at the specifics of getting investors, testing a product, or another specialized area.
If you are looking for information on idea conception, startup books pair well with a good entrepreneur book. It is a great way to get familiar with the correct mindset at the beginning of your journey.
However, if you already have a startup, specialized topics are usually more useful. Some books are written like memoirs with narratives about the process. These can be insightful and help you clarify some key points. Others provide readers with actionable steps to help them overcome issues and solve problems.
Current Status of the Startup
As mentioned before, sometimes startup books are penned by founders. Before taking their advice without question, look into the current state of their company. See how successful the advice has actually made them. As luck is a huge component in startups, know that there is flexibility when it comes to measuring the accuracy of advice to success of a company.
Don’t entirely discount startup fails, as you can still learn from mistakes. But as a beginner, you want to learn from someone whose success guarantees they know what they’re talking about.
Our Picks for the Best Startup Books
To help build your reading list, check out our picks for best startup books.
1. The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau
Chris Guillebeau believes that you should be able to make a living by following your passions. In his tell-all book The $100 Startup, he details how he achieved this dream, and how you can too.
This book is built on the concept of taking a smaller investment, like $100 and utilizing it in a way to fund your entrepreneurial project. This book might not be useful for large scale startups, but if you want to open a small business with a simple business plan, this may be of interest to you.
2. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters
This book is a compilation of notes from a startup course Peter Thiel taught at Stanford University back in 2012. Though you may know Thiel from his close friendship with President Trump, he’s been a powerhouse in the entrepreneurial space for decades.
The notes were revised for a larger audience and cover the idea of progressive thinking. He encourages readers to stop reinventing old business ideas and jump to the next realm of invention. Though it is a short read, you may need to re-read it a few times to absorb it all.
3. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz
Ben Horowitz brings the knowledge from his blog to his text The Hard Thing About Hard Things. A very advice-heavy book, some readers say this book is almost like having a startup mentor help you make the crucial decisions for your business.
Horowitz gives you foundational advice about building and running a startup, with most of these topics not being covered in the standard business school curriculum. They include development, management, selling, buying, investments, supervision, and more. It’s an easy read that’s filled with advice based on the author’s own experiences.
4. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
If you’ve ever wanted a peek into the nerve center of Pixar Animation, this may be your chance. Look beyond the Academy Award-winning movies and learn the ideas and techniques that made the company so popular and profitable.
Get inspiration for your own work environment by seeing how it’s done at Pixar. You may find their management and leadership styles unconventional, but what worked for them may also work for you.
5. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries
The Lean Startup approach is the idea of doing away with elaborate business plans. If this intrigues you, you may want to read Eric Ries tell-all book about this theory. It focuses on lessons learned from lean manufacturing and covers topics such as rapid scientific experimentation, shortened development cycles, and measuring actual progress.
This may help companies shift direction smoothly, without cumbersome framework reworking. The author posits that treating their startup like an experiment makes more sense.
6. The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank
This classic book is indispensable for startups and new corporate ventures alike. Blank takes you through his 4-step process of customer development.
These steps also help you uncover flaws in business plans and products before they become costly mistakes.
7. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber
Do common myths and assumptions get in the way of you running your business?
The E-Myth Revisited outlines the steps you should take when creating a new business.
Gerber’s insight helps you grow your business in productive and predictable ways while helping you through growing pains and all the way up to franchising.
8. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
If you’re a startup founder who wants to focus on engaging users, this one is for you. Hooked outlines how emotions can drive behavior, and how to get users hooked. This is one of the secrets discussed in this book.
The premise involves building a Hook Model that eventually forms a viral loop. The book is mainly focused on app development, but it can also help startups struggling with general product development.
9. Explosive Growth: A Few Things I Learned While Growing To 100 Million Users – And Losing $78 Million by Cliff Lerner
This narrative gives you a playbook on Lerner’s experience as the founder of a popular online dating startup.
Learn how he handled explosive growth, startup life, and entrepreneurship in general.
Consider his perspectives and insights, and maybe learn from some of his mistakes.
10. The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf
If you enjoy working with clear outlines and instructions, this book may be a good option for you.
It contains everything you need to know when building your company, including 9 deadly sins that destroy chances of success, business model canvas for startup hypotheses, identifying your customers, and customer development methods to bring concepts to life.
It also includes checklists, charts, graphs, and diagrams to help scale your company and profits. This comprehensive book is a good option if you want to start a business but don’t know what to do first.
Finding the Best Startup Books
If you don’t have a successful startup mentor on speed dial, reading startup books can be the next best thing. Learn from influential and successful founders who have been where you are right now. It can be extremely helpful to find out what they did to build their company.
Frequently Asked Questions
What factors do you look for in an excellent startup book?
You should consider the topics, the author’s experience and the success of the author’s company.
What are the best startup books for beginners?
Benzinga recommends “Zero to One,” “Creativity Inc.” and “The Lean Startup.”