The 8 Best Books for Entrepreneurs

America is truly the land of opportunity.

According to a study sponsored by Babson College and Baruch College, the U.S. now has 27 million entrepreneurs (about 14% of the total population). And many of these American entrepreneurs are thriving — 24% of them expect to employ 20 or more people in the next five years.

If you want to learn the ropes of entrepreneurialism, real-life experience is your best bet, but reading on the subject can also provide you with essential insights necessary for success. Whether you're an aspiring entrepreneur eager to become your own boss, or a seasoned business owner seeking to take your startup to the next level, here are the eight best books to help you on your business venture.

1. Four Steps to the Epiphany

Often referred as the father of the Lean Startup revolution, Steve Blank is a seasoned entrepreneur (starting eight high-tech companies over 21 years), entrepreneurship author, and professor (U.C. Berkeley, Stanford University and the Columbia University/Berkeley joint MBA program). In The Four Steps to the Epiphany, Blank explains the practical and proven four-step customer development process, which is key to launching and maintaining a sustainable startup.

2. Web Analytics: An Hour a Day

Don't undermine your business venture by leaving it offline. According to a Google and Ipsos survey of more than 3,800 small businesses, 58% of them didn't have a website. But setting up a website is just the first step — you also need to understand how it performs. For this, you should leverage web analytics, which is the process of using data to assess and improve the effectiveness of a site. Learn from world-renowned analytics expert Avinash Kaushik through his book Web Analytics: An Hour a Day. As its name implies, Kaushik's book provides a daily guide to understanding and applying advanced analytics concepts, including SEM/PPC analysis, the power of segmentation, and conversion-rate best practices. Learn to leverage quick-start solutions for all types of sites, such as small business websites, blogs, and digital storefronts.

3. Tribes

In a perfect world, any entrepreneur would want their customers to be as fanatical as Apple's, Disney's, or The Burger Shack's. Marketing expert Seth Godin shows you the key to using the Internet to create your own customer "tribe" in his book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. From detailed best practices, you'll learn how to craft your own manifesto, make it easy for your members to connect to you and one another, and track your movement's progress.

4. Zero to One

You may have heard the name of Peter Thiel before. Whether it was as one of the co-founders of PayPal in 1998 or the first outside investor in Facebook (a 10.2% stake acquired in 2004 for $500,000), you know that Thiel means serious business. In his New York Times bestseller Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, Thiel outlines unique and practical insights about entrepreneurship, and discusses success in terms of human nature and culture. Along with actionable tips on business strategy, Thiel outlines the seven questions that "every business must answer," which are key to fine-tuning your entrepreneurial vision.

5. The Art of the Start 2.0

While evangelism marketing is more common nowadays, it wasn't so ubiquitous back in the early 1980s. Many people believe former chief evangelist of Apple, Guy Kawasaki, to be the father of the art — making customers believe so strongly in a particular product or service, that they freely try to convince others to buy and use it. Kawasaki is well-known for his down-to-earth and down-to-business writing style. In The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything, he provides a detailed marketing and PR blueprint for aspiring entrepreneurs, small-business owners, and not-for-profit leaders.

6. The 4-Hour Workweek

One of the main reasons that individuals venture into entrepreneurship is to achieve a better work-life balance. Tim Ferriss is one of the most vocal advocates of pursuing entrepreneurship to improve your lifestyle. In The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, Ferriss teaches techniques for helping entrepreneurs and business owners to produce seemingly superhuman results in minimum time. (See also: 11 Time Saving Hacks From the World's Busiest People)

7. Start Something That Matters

Besides a better work-life balance, many entrepreneurs start businesses in search of the ideal mix of profit and social good. Founder and Chief Shoe Giver of shoe company TOMS, Blake Mycoskie is the poster boy for a business model that helps people in need with every product purchased. Start Something That Matters tells the story of the steps Mycoskie took to set up his for-profit company to help children he met in a small village in Argentina, and how he inspires others to start something that positively impacts the world. In his book, he profiles other entrepreneurs doing good, including Lauren Bush (founder of FEED Projects), and Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry (co-founders of method).

8. Delivering Happiness

In Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Inc, explains how his company went from scrappy shoe online retailer to major player in ecommerce, with over $1 billion in gross merchandise sales every year. Great customer service is key for the survival of any business, and Hsieh makes a strong case of how customer service should be the responsibility of the entire company, not just a department. Given that Zappos consistently ranks among the top companies to work for and was eventually acquired by Amazon in 2009 for a cool $1.2 billion, he is definitely on to something.

What are your favorite books on entrepreneurship?

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Guest's picture

I noticed that the Web Analytics book is copyright 2007. Is there a version that you recommend that is more current?

Damian Davila's picture

I would recommend another book from the same author (Avinash Kaushik): Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity. Given that Google updates its policies constantly and releases updates to it search algorithm regularly, take these books as guidelines to develop a strategy. While some specific code may be out of date, these two books still provide solid foundations for the beginner and intermediate SEO professional.

Another alternative is to check the author's blog, Occam's Razor by Avinash Kaushik. He posts on a regular basis and provides plenty of screenshots of Google Analytics and step-by-step instructions.