Looking for a list of great — and underrated — books for entrepreneurs?
Books that’ll make you a better writer?
Give you a sense of belonging?
Help shape your entrepreneurial journey?
Even change how you run your business?
Then, you’re in the right place!
From fiction to nonfiction, self-help to a fantastical adventure, Greek myths retold to an incredible family saga spanning generations (and everything in between), this list will have you heading to Amazon or your local bookstore as soon as possible. 🙂
Ready to dive into my 13 book recommendations to read in 2024? Then, let’s go!
How to F*ck Up Your Startup by Kim Hvidkjaer
“Every business owner dreams of success, but the majority of businesses are doomed to fail.”
At the age of 29, Kim Hvidkjær joined the ranks of millionaires. However, a series of calamitous events over the following two years stripped him of his wealth. Undeterred, Hvidkjær clawed his way back to financial success by founding a number of prosperous companies. Through his experiences and the analysis of countless startup failures, he has become a connoisseur of commercial collapse, understanding its nature, its appearance, and the measures entrepreneurs can take to sidestep it.
In his book, How to F*ck Up Your Startup, Hvidkjær escorts readers through a riveting and instructive exploration of the myriad ways failure weaves itself into the entrepreneurial narrative, discussing aspects such as:
- Misjudgments in attitude
- Flaws in business model conception
- Market analysis errors
- Mismanagement of funding and finances
- Mistakes in product development
- Organizational misunderstandings
- Missteps in sales strategies
- Complications associated with expansion
Beyond just identifying problems, he provides guidance for navigating through the storm when a business veers off course. His book stands as a critical piece of literature for anyone looking to thrive in the business world in 2024.
Deep Work by Cal Newport
“If you don’t produce, you won’t thrive — no matter how skilled or talented you are.”
If you’re one of my students, coaches, a team member, a subscriber or follow us on Instagram, you know how I feel about this one!
Last April, I had lost my way.
My attention was being splintered in a thousand different directions (Slack, social media, my phone) and I wasn’t able to get in and stay in my zone of genius.
But then something amazing happened.
I finally picked up this book.
(Quick lesson: Don’t ignore a book that’s been recommended to you over and over again. :))
And since reading it, I’ve reclaimed my ability to experience levels of concentration SO DEEP that I’m able to effortlessly create the work I’m meant to share with the world.
I want that for you too!
Give Deep Work a read to discover:
- How to become a winner in the new economy & produce at an elite level
- How to make deep work a part of your daily ritual (including a breakdown of the 4 scheduling types so you can find what works best for you)
- And why deep rejuvenation is just as important as deep work.
Plus, so much more.
Seriously, get you a copy of Deep Work right now!
The Man Who Wanted To Be Happy by Laurent Gounelle
“A successful life is a life that you have led in accordance with your wishes, giving the best of yourself in what you do, staying in harmony with who you are, and, if possible, a life that has given us the chance to go beyond yourself, to devote yourself to something other than yourself and to bring something to mankind, even very humbly, even if it’s tiny.”
While on vacation in Bali, an unhappy school teacher, Julian, decides to consult a renowned local healer, Samtyang.
Samtyang tells Julian: you are healthy, but you are not… happy.
And during a series of daily encounters, the healer shares cryptic messages, greatly frustrating Julian.
But in his unusual manner, Samtyang shows Julian – and us – how our thoughts shape our lives and becomes our reality.
A word-of-mouth sensation, The Man Who Wanted to Be Happy explores the world of new possibilities that are opened to us when we’re able to break free from what’s preventing us from truly being happy.
This is not a self-help book but one that can help you if you take up its challenge (and it’s an easy read, too, especially if you prefer wisdom in fiction form).
Plus, it serves as a reminder to always go beneath the surface… whether that’s in what you’re reading or in the daily encounters you have.
“If you choose the wrong market, your business is destined to fail before you even begin.”
A single decision can have a lasting effect that stretches out over years – sometimes even decades – for your business.
And one of the biggest reasons why so many new businesses fail is because, in the pursuit of what business to start, most of the conventional wisdom is flat out WRONG.
It focuses on WHAT… as in what should you sell or what should you create.
When you really should be obsessing over WHO. As in who should you serve?
And that’s what my good friend Ryan’s book is all about — How to choose your WHO.
Pachinko by Lee Min-jin
“Living everyday in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.”
Pachinko was recommended by my friend Laura Belgray. I ask Laura for book recommendations because she’s a world-class copywriter and I’ve found that reading really good fiction is one of the best ways to quickly improve your writing… plus it’s fun!
Pachinko is a type of Japanese gambling game… basically Japanese-style slot machines.
And when I started reading the book I was like, “What is this, a Shakespearean tragedy?” Because (spoiler alert) 8 people die in the very first chapter!
But I decided to keep with it and I’m so glad I did because Pachinko took me to a world completely unlike my own.
Read this one to uncover:
- Why fear is an essential part of growth and how to awaken or reawaken fear in yourself
- That YOU are ready
- And that you can’t create your business masterpiece all by yourself – you have to actually talk to people
Dive deeper into my 3 biggest takeaways from this “un-put-downable” read!
Will It Fly?: How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money by Pat Flynn
“The riches are in the niches, but the fortune is in the follow-up.”
I love Pat’s approach to ideation and niching.
He says that it’s NOT necessarily about going for the biggest blockbuster hit idea which is the opposite of what most people tell you to do.
It’s about coming up with an idea that’s BIG to someone specific because your earnings are a measure of how well you serve someone.
And that “someone” represents a small group of people and it’s often a tiny percentage of the population.
But far too many entrepreneurs try to appeal to everyone and end up appealing to no one (and that kills more businesses than anything else).
There’s much more to unpack with Will It Fly? (check out more takeaways here)… but I’ll leave you with this quote from Joel Barker…
Speed is only useful if you’re running in the right direction.
And Will It Fly? will help ensure you’re clear for takeoff!
The Dream Society by Rolf Jensen
“For a product to be successful, its primary purpose will be the ability to fulfill an emotional need.”
Rolf Jensen was a futurist. And he predicted around 40 to 50 years ago that marketing in business was changing… away from data and logic and information to imagination.
Changing to a new society driven by dreams, adventure, spirituality and feeling.
Where emotional marketing reigns supreme.
And Rolf identified 6 emotional markets.
And each one filled a different need in people’s hearts and minds that caused them to WANT to buy this particular product or service.
So, those who understand the inner workings of the Dream Society will be the ones who’ll create the new products, new markets and new businesses that dominate the world of tomorrow.
Watch to learn more about using emotional marketing to stand for something more and make lasting connections with your customers.
Mythos by Stephen Fry
“Painters, poets and philosophers have seen many things in the myth of Sisyphus. They have seen an image of the absurdity of human life, the futility of effort, the remorseless cruelty of fate, the unconquerable power of gravity. But they have seen too something of mankind’s courage, resilience, fortitude, endurance and self-belief. They see something heroic in our refusal to submit.”
Mythos is a modern-day collection of Greek myths superbly retold by legendary writer, actor and comedian Stephen Fry.
Fry transforms the adventures of Zeus and the Olympians into deeply affecting and hilarious stories without losing any of the original wonder.
While Fry’s book isn’t a “traditional” recommendation for entrepreneurs, it’s a great read if you want to take your storytelling and messaging to the next level.
Through his beautiful words, many of the most well-known stories of all time are sparked to life.
This is an underused resource for anyone wishing to “speak” to their audience in a way that really resonates.
Plus, you’ll be so thoroughly entertained that it won’t feel like “learning”! (I recommend listening so you get the full impact of Fry’s incredible storytelling).
Level Up Your Life by Steve Kamb
“Hope needs to be combined with action for the story to progress. A call needs to be answered. Adventure can start anytime, anywhere, but it has to start.”
Have you ever prepared and prepared and prepared to do something but never actually took action?
As a business mentor, I see so many people spending hour after hour, week after week, year after year, collecting knowledge that they never do anything with!
Steve calls this problem “collecting underpants”, and when you read the book, it’ll make so much sense. (It really is a great analogy!)
You’ll also discover how to make the most mundane tasks exciting and how to constantly level up as a human.
Use Steve Kamb’s book to uplevel your business or your entire life… either way, I highly recommend checking it out. 🙂
Still undecided? Check out my top 3 takeaways here.
“Belonging is the opposite of loneliness. It’s a feeling of home, of “I can exhale here and be fully myself with no judgment or insecurity.”
When was the last time you felt like you truly belonged?
So I’m going to be 100% honest and vulnerable with you…
Some of my family lives in Wisconsin and there are few places in the world where I feel I belong less.
I know exactly what it feels like to NOT belong and I’m always looking for ways to connect and communicate better and to create an engaged community where people feel at home…
And so I was thrilled when I found this amazing book.
One thing I learned is that for so many people, community is something they think about if they have the time.
But the truth is that’s not the way to find a real community. You need to prioritize and get super intentional about it and know that you can choose your community and even your family.
And you should because community is the key to happiness.
“It’s not how good you are; it’s how good you want to be.”
Steve Kotler studied extreme sports athletes for a decade to understand how to reach flow, an optimal state of consciousness that allows humans to perform at their best and often break through limitations.
While I’ve always believed that human potential is infinite, I’ve never been able to explain exactly how… until I picked up this book.
In The Rise of Superman, he mentions something called the Challenge-Skill Ratio. I believe THIS is the real secret to unlocking your potential.
So give this one a read if you’re ready to start to do things other people see as impossible.
I share more about the Challenge-Skill Ratio here.
The Soul-Sourced Entrepreneur: An Unconventional Success Plan for the Highly Creative, Secretly Sensitive, and Wildly Ambitious by Christine Kane
Moved by meaning more than manipulation?
Is your strength more about sensitivity than swagger?
Can you succeed while still being true to yourself?
Christine Kane is living proof that you can!
And I like to think that I’m proof too 🙂
But for far too long, the world’s been screaming at us that there’s only ONE way to succeed in business…
You have to be ruthless. Strategy-obsessed. Data-driven. Take no prisoners.
But through her book, Kane is determined to show a new class of entrepreneurs another way… that it’s time to connect, NOT crush.
Inside, you’ll get a practical plan to:
- Throw out old hat goal-setting models
- Reframe your intuition and sensitivity as valuable assets
- Take a closer look at old patterns to see what’s been holding you back
- Break free from the fear-based decision-making that curses most business
The Works of Haruki Murakami
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
I couldn’t resist plugging my all-time favorite author!
His story is one that will inspire any entrepreneur.
One day at a baseball game, he heard the satisfying crack of the bat on the ball and the scattered applause in the stadium… and it suddenly dawned on him that he could write a novel.
It was an epiphany of sorts that he could not shake.
So on the way home, he took a train and bought a sheaf of writing paper and a fountain pen.
Now of course, making the choice to write a novel and buying the pen and paper was just the beginning, but the truth was that Murakami “hadn’t a clue about how to write a novel.”
Just a feeling that he could. And he followed that feeling.
But it didn’t start off well.
As a fan of Russian psychological realism and American hard-boiled detective novels, he hadn’t really read any Japanese novels and hadn’t really written before.
And soon into his new endeavor, he found that he didn’t like what he wrote. It left him cold.
So he thought to himself, “If that’s the way the author feels… a reader’s reaction will probably be even more negative. Looks like I just don’t have what it takes.”
Now Murakami could have stopped there, but he could still remember the undeniable feeling he had that day at the game and just knew he had to keep going.
So he pushed through the resistance and on the other side, a deeper truth appeared: “Give up trying to write something sophisticated… Forget all those prescriptive ideas about ‘the novel’ and ‘literature’ and set down your feelings and thoughts as they come to you, freely, in a way that you like.”
And that same lesson applies to HOW you write for your business!
There’s so much more to his story that I share here.
Pick up any of his novels (except the first two) to discover why I consider Marukami the greatest writer alive today.
What Book Will You Add to Your List?
There you have it — 13 books for entrepreneurs I highly, highly recommend!
Which ones stood out to you? I’d love to know in a comment.
Oh, and be sure to drop your own recommendations below… I’m always looking to add some good ones to my own personal library 🙂
And if you’re ready to finally take consistent action on the right things to grow your business, check out my program — Live Your Message Lab!
Because the key to success isn’t talent, or motivation or even mindset… it’s taking consistent action on the right things at the right time.
And when you join us in Lab, you’ll get the exact steps to take plus the coaching, support and community you need to finally build your dream business… the overwhelm-free way.
I hope to see you inside Lab! 🙂
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Cal Newport: So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love
Great suggestion by a great author! Thanks for sharing!
Free Time by Jenny Blake. She has distilled systems and strategies for making the most of our daily 24 hours like no one else, and has done so with deep heart, a friendly, approachable tone, and just enough humor and lightness to make it a page turner. Even for those of us who have been devoted systems-builders for decades (I used to be a professional organizer) there is absolute GOLD on page after page.
Sounds amazing! Will pass this on to Marisa. Thanks for sharing, Sharon!
Built to sell by John Warrilow
Good pick, thanks for sharing!
I consume books like water – there are some new ones here that I will definitely check out! Stay curious! keep learning, but NEVER learn instead of DOING! It can become a problem just stacking learning on top of learning – you MUST execute and try out what you’ve learned or else it’s just another way to procrastinate from ACTION!!!!
Absolutely LOVE this post. Thank you. I can’t wait to get started on this reading list.
Thank you so much for your diligence, rapid respond and generosity of sharing this information. Those books must be truly inspiring and motivational, I would like to read and start any of them. I am hoping to solve my personal problems and move ahead…
Once again , my gratitude and appreciation, thank you and more Powers to you and your career!
Daryl Ely Czar
Oh, I’m thrilled to see Haruki Murakami on the list. He is such an original and entertaining voice.
I didn’t know his back story, so I’ll enjoy looking into it. Thanks so much for mentioning him – I will return to looking up the works I haven’t read yet as it’s a few years since I was an avid reader.
A great list, thank you, Marisa.
Might seem a bit off-piste, but I highly recommend these two books, especially for solopreneurs and freelancers. When we’re super busy, we don’t always put self-care first. They offer actionable advice to help stay healthy and productive as long as possible. Both are evidence-based and scientifically proven. There’s some pretty jaw-dropping stuff.
“How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease” by Dr Michael Greger
“Ultra-Processed People: Why Do We All Eat Stuff That Isn’t Food … and Why Can’t We Stop?” by Dr Chris van Tulleken
Dream Society and the Emotional Markets speaks right to the heart of the mission of mount business to create heart-connected community. Can’t wait to read it-and catch the rest of the videos in your series about it.
Awesome list of books! Thank you!
I am reading Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
It’s a great blueprint for creating product
Thanks for this beautiful and rich piece. Now I have books to keep my busy for a while.
Dream Society 🙂