Looking for tried-and-proven reading ideas to grow an idea or a startup? 

There are two powerful lessons from my experience as an entrepreneur building couple of startups, and working with successful startups and entrepreneurs.

You need to read a lot. Treat every book as a mentor and you will be mentored by some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world for couple bucks. Make time to read.

There is no time to read bad books. If you are an entrepreneur, every hour of your day is precious and accounted for. There is no room for wasting any time.

I am extremely picky about what I chose to read, for the reasons mentioned above so I always spend significant amount of time researching my reading list. I included below my short-list of the 5 top books for entrepreneurs who want to take their marketing growth to the next level.

I read about 1-2 hours a day, about 5 books a time. I cut out cable TV and video gaming out of my life to make room for more reading time. I find self-education and personal development being key activities for those starting or building a business–how else do you expect to stand out and beat a competition?

Here is couple of tips to make time to read more that worked for me:

  • Read when you commute
  • Read when you wake up
  • Get an audio book and just listen to it when you drive

5 Startup Life Books for Entrepreneurs

On the list, you will find couple of timeless classics that every marketer should read, as well as more recent publications that I am planning to read in 2014.

startup life booksorginal photo credit: Bravo_Zulu_ via photopin cc

All descriptions via Amazon.com.

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries


lean startup


The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Most startups fail. But many of those failures are preventable. The Lean Startup is a new approach being adopted across the globe, changing the way companies are built and new products are launched. Eric Ries defines a startup as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. This is just as true for one person in a garage or a group of seasoned professionals in a Fortune 500 boardroom. What they have in common is a mission to penetrate that fog of uncertainty to discover a successful path to a sustainable business.

The Lean Startup approach fosters companies that are both more capital efficient and that leverage human creativity more effectively. Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, it relies on “validated learning,” rapid scientific experimentation, as well as a number of counter-intuitive practices that shorten product development cycles, measure actual progress without resorting to vanity metrics, and learn what customers really want. It enables a company to shift directions with agility, altering plans inch by inch, minute by minute.

Rather than wasting time creating elaborate business plans, The Lean Startup offers entrepreneurs – in companies of all sizes – a way to test their vision continuously, to adapt and adjust before it’s too late. Ries provides a scientific approach to creating and managing successful startups in a age when companies need to innovate more than ever.

Get it on Amazon

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz


hard things about hard things


The Hard Thing about Hard Things 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.

Filled with his trademark humor and straight talk, The Hard Thing About Hard Things is invaluable for veteran entrepreneurs as well as those aspiring to their own new ventures, drawing from Horowitz’s personal and often humbling experiences.

Get it on Amazon

Choose Yourself by James Altucher

choose yourself 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.

New tools and economic forces have emerged to make it possible for individuals to create art, make millions of dollars and change the world without “help.” More and more opportunities are rising out of the ashes of the broken system to generate real inward success (personal happiness and health) and outward success (fulfilling work and wealth).

This book will teach you to do just that. With dozens of case studies, interviews and examples–including the author, investor and entrepreneur James Altucher’s own heartbreaking and inspiring story–Choose Yourself illuminates your personal path to building a bright, new world out of the wreckage of the old.

Get it on Amazon

Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen


innovators dilemma


The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen

The Innovator’s Dilemma is the revolutionary business book that has forever changed corporate America. Based on a truly radical idea—that great companies can fail precisely because they do everything right—this Wall Street Journal, Business Week and New York Times Business bestseller is one of the most provocative and important business books ever written. Entrepreneurs, managers, and CEOs ignore its wisdom and its warnings at their great peril.

Focusing on “disruptive technology,” Christensen shows why most companies miss out on new waves of innovation. Whether in electronics or retailing, a successful company with established products will get pushed aside unless managers know when to abandon traditional business practices. Using the lessons of successes and failures from leading companies, The Innovator’s Dilemma presents a set of rules for capitalizing on the phenomenon of disruptive innovation.

Find out: (1) when it is right not to listen to customers, (2) when to invest in developing lower-performance products that promise lower margins, and (3) when to pursue small markets at the expense of seemingly larger and more lucrative ones.

Sharp, cogent, and provocative, The Innovator’s Dilemma is one of the most talked-about books of our time—and one no savvy manager or entrepreneur should be without.

Find it on Amazon

Do More Faster by David Cohen and Brad Feld


do more faster


Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup by Techstars

Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup is a collection of advice that comes from individuals who have passed through, or are part of, this proven program. Each vignette is an exploration of information often heard during the TechStars program and provides practical insights into early stage entrepreneurship.

Contains seven sections, each focusing on a major theme within the TechStars program, including idea and vision, fundraising, legal and structure, and work/life balance

Created by two highly regarded experts in the world of early stage investing
Essays in each section come from the experienced author team as well as TechStar mentors, entrepreneurs, and founders of companies

While you’ll ultimately have to make your own decisions about what’s right for your business, Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup can get your entrepreneurial endeavor headed in the right direction.

Find it on Amazon

 Did I miss any significant startup life read? Let me know in the comments section.

Other relevant reading lists:

8 Internet Marketing Books You Should Read in 2014

5 Must-Read Personal Development Books in 2014


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2 replies
  1. Ryan Biddulph
    Ryan Biddulph says:

    Hi Matt,

    Great list.

    James Altucher is an amazing guy. I always dig his posts on PositivelyPositive when I stop by to read them. He has a delivery I’ve frankly never seen from an author, funny and entertaining, yet sobering at times too when he shares some amazingly emotional, powerful tales. Love the guy.

    It’s funny, but simply watching less TV and reading more has helped me create a pretty neat life. I’m writing these words from Fiji in a beach front pad, all because I got rid of my cable 5 years ago and committed to reading each day.

    As noted, there’s no time to read bad books. Pick good reads recommended by your buddies and you’ll be well on your way to improve your life and getting your startup off to a smart start. So many of these brilliant folks will happy share their mistakes with you and cut your learning curve down by months if not years. Why not read, study, and listen to these pros, to make your life easier?

    We have all the tools we’ll need if we’ll just read daily and soak up wisdom from people who’ve been there.

    Thanks for the helpful share Matt.

    Tweeting in a bit.



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