Reading is the best way to gain experience without having been there yourself. As Warren Buffett’s business partner Charlie Munger said, “In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads — at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.” While there are mounds of terrible business books out there, there are some hidden gems. Read on for what I think are the best 12 business books and why you should read them.

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Business books: Self-improvement

1. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

For more than sixty years the rock-solid, time-tested advice in this book has carried thousands of now famous people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives.

Now this previously revised and updated bestseller is available in trade paperback for the first time to help you achieve your maximum potential throughout the next century! Learn:

  • Three fundamental techniques in handling people
  • The six ways to make people like you
  • The twelve ways to win people to you way of thinking
  • The nine ways to change people without arousing resentment

2. Choose Yourself! by James Altucher

The world is changing. Markets have crashed. Jobs have disappeared. Industries have been disrupted and are being remade before our eyes. Everything we aspired to for “security,” everything we thought was “safe,” no longer is: College. Employment. Retirement. Government. It’s all crumbling down. In every part of society, the middlemen are being pushed out of the picture. No longer is someone coming to hire you, to invest in your company, to sign you, to pick you. It’s on you to make the most important decision in your life: Choose Yourself.

Business books: Leadership and management

1. The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done (Harperbusiness Essentials) by Peter F. Drucker

The measure of the executive, Peter F. Drucker reminds us, is the ability to “get the right things done.” This usually involves doing what other people have overlooked as well as avoiding what is unproductive. Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge may all be wasted in an executive job without the acquired habits of mind that mold them into results.

Drucker identifies five practices essential to business effectiveness that can, and must, be learned:

  • Managing time
  • Choosing what to contribute to the organization
  • Knowing where and how to mobilize strength for best effect
  • Setting the right priorities
  • Knitting all of them together with effective decision-making

2. Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet

David Marquet, an experienced Navy officer, was used to giving orders. As newly appointed captain of the USS Santa Fe, a nuclear-powered submarine, he was responsible for more than a hundred sailors, deep in the sea. In this high-stress environment, where there is no margin for error, it was crucial his men did their job and did it well. But the ship was dogged by poor morale, poor performance, and the worst retention in the fleet.

Marquet acted like any other captain until, one day, he unknowingly gave an impossible order, and his crew tried to follow it anyway. When he asked why the order wasn’t challenged, the answer was “Because you told me to.” Marquet realized he was leading in a culture of followers, and they were all in danger unless they fundamentally changed the way they did things.

Business books: Strategy

1. The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail (Management of Innovation and Change) by Clayton M. Christensen

The bestselling classic on disruptive innovation, by renowned author Clayton M. Christensen.

His work is cited by the world’s best-known thought leaders, from Steve Jobs to Malcolm Gladwell. In this classic bestseller—one of the most influential business books of all time—innovation expert Clayton Christensen shows how even the most outstanding companies can do everything right—yet still lose market leadership.

Christensen explains why most companies miss out on new waves of innovation. No matter the industry, he says, a successful company with established products will get pushed aside unless managers know how and when to abandon traditional business practices.

2. Competition Demystified: A Radically Simplified Approach to Business Strategy by Bruce Greenwald and Judd Kahn

Bruce Greenwald, one of the nation?s leading business professors, presents a new and simplified approach to strategy that cuts through much of the fog that has surrounded the subject. Based on his hugely popular course at Columbia Business School, Greenwald and his coauthor, Judd Kahn, offer an easy-to-follow method for understanding the competitive structure of your industry and developing an appropriate strategy for your specific position.

Over the last two decades, the conventional approach to strategy has become frustratingly complex. It?s easy to get lost in a sophisticated model of your competitors, suppliers, buyers, substitutes, and other players, while losing sight of the big question: Are there barriers to entry that allow you to do things that other firms cannot?

Business books: Marketing

1. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition by Robert B. Cialdini

Influence, the classic book on persuasion, explains the psychology of why people say “yes”—and how to apply these understandings. Dr. Robert Cialdini is the seminal expert in the rapidly expanding field of influence and persuasion. His thirty-five years of rigorous, evidence-based research along with a three-year program of study on what moves people to change behavior has resulted in this highly acclaimed book.

2. Purple Cow, New Edition: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable–Includes new bonus chapter by Seth Godin

What do Starbucks and JetBlue and KrispyKreme and Apple and DutchBoy and Kensington and Zespri and Hard Candy have that you don’t? How do they continue to confound critics and achieve spectacular growth, leaving behind former tried-and true brands to gasp their last?

Face it, the checklist of tired ‘P’s marketers have used for decades to get their product noticed -Pricing, Promotion, Publicity, to name a few-aren’t working anymore. There’s an exceptionally important ‘P’ that has to be added to the list. It’s Purple Cow.

Business books: Entrepreneurship

1. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, offers essential advice on building and running a startup—practical wisdom for managing the toughest problems business school doesn’t cover, based on his popular ben’s blog.

While many people talk about how great it is to start a business, very few are honest about how difficult it is to run one. Ben Horowitz analyzes the problems that confront leaders every day, sharing the insights he’s gained developing, managing, selling, buying, investing in, and supervising technology companies. A lifelong rap fanatic, he amplifies business lessons with lyrics from his favorite songs, telling it straight about everything from firing friends to poaching competitors, cultivating and sustaining a CEO mentality to knowing the right time to cash in.

2. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

The great secret of our time is that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. In Zero to One, legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create those new things.

Thiel begins with the contrarian premise that we live in an age of technological stagnation, even if we’re too distracted by shiny mobile devices to notice. Information technology has improved rapidly, but there is no reason why progress should be limited to computers or Silicon Valley. Progress can be achieved in any industry or area of business. It comes from the most important skill that every leader must master: learning to think for yourself.

Business books: General business

1. Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur

Business Model Generation is a handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers striving to defy outmoded business models and design tomorrow’s enterprises. If your organization needs to adapt to harsh new realities, but you don’t yet have a strategy that will get you out in front of your competitors, you need Business Model Generation.

Co-created by 470 “Business Model Canvas” practitioners from 45 countries, the book features a beautiful, highly visual, 4-color design that takes powerful strategic ideas and tools, and makes them easy to implement in your organization. It explains the most common Business Model patterns, based on concepts from leading business thinkers, and helps you reinterpret them for your own context. You will learn how to systematically understand, design, and implement a game-changing business model–or analyze and renovate an old one. Along the way, you’ll understand at a much deeper level your customers, distribution channels, partners, revenue streams, costs, and your core value proposition.

2. The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America, Third Edition by Warren Buffett and Lawrence A. Cunningham

* Buffett repeatedly declares The Essays “Recommended Reading”

* Cunningham followed up with Berkshire Beyond Buffett: The Enduring Value of Values (an amazon “hot new title”) 

  • By arranging Buffett’s lengthy writings thematically, Cunningham’s classic clarifies all the principles of Buffett’s philosophy of business and investing.
  • Cunningham’s new book, Berkshire Beyond Buffett: The Enduring Value of Values, takes deep dives inside Berkshire’s businesses to glimpse the future by a study of the past.

The Twelve Best Business Books of All Time

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