25 Books That Every Startup Founder Needs To Read — And It’s Not The Usual Suspects

Now that it’s (almost) Fall, grab some of these books below to help you think about a new strategy for your startup.

1. Good to Great, Jim Collins

Jim Collins differentiates what makes good companies vs. what makes great companies.

2. The Mom Test, Rob Fitzpatrick

I first read this book when looking to write an article on User Interviews. Fitzpatrick provides a great framework on how to talk to customers and learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you.

3. Start With Why, Simon Sinek

An excellent book on leadership, and motivating people to action through the “why”.

4. The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz

A look back on Ben Horowitz’s journey from CEO to VC at Andreessen Horowitz, including how a CEO’s ability to handle difficult decisions / conversations ultimately shapes the outcome of a company.

5. How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie

A great read on selling, negotiation, and persuasion.

6. Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek

A book about culture and leadership — though the piece I found most interesting was our body chemistry (endorphins, serotonin, etc) and how humans have evolved toward certain behaviors triggered by, or to trigger the release of these substances.

7. Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell

Reveals how our inherent bias can impact whether we are inclined to trust someone or not.

8. Caffeine, Michael Pollan

A fun quick read describing how a vast number of the people on the planet are living in an altered state, every day.

9. The Science of Energy, Michael E. Wysession

This is a very long but fascinating series about energy — both sources and uses. A real eye opener for anyone interested in the sustainability of our economy and our planet.

10. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Lori Gottlieb

As I’ve been considering bringing on a coach, this was a helpful view into the life of a therapist as practitioner and client.

11. Pizza Tiger

An inspirational true story of how Thomas Monaghan founded Domino’s Pizza. A testament to the power of persistently following one clear idea all the way to greatness.

12. High Output Management

Everyone wants to talk about leadership, but nothing actually happens without management. Learn to plan, perform, track, and take corrective actions. This is how you get things done.

13. The Goal

The best business book ever written. In the form of an enjoyable story, you will learn how to operate a factory, and this matters because all businesses are factories of some sort.

14. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

When the task is challenging, relationships become strained. If you want your senior team to hold together, you’ll need to identify and fix these typical dysfunctions.

15. Zero to One

Before you start a company, know which factors determine its future success.

16. The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni

This book was hugely influential on how we approached operating our business and working together when I was a member of the management team at Pluralsight. Lencioni has a knack for cutting to the core of how to create healthy, high-functioning teams.

17. 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni

I first read this book when the management team at our startup was knee-deep in dysfunction. It felt like looking in the mirror; suddenly we had language to name the behaviors that had driven us to that point and move forward on a healthier path. It’s never too early to read this book or to start investing in creating a healthy team dynamic.

18. Made in America, Sam Walton & John Huey

While Walmart may be a controversial company, Sam Walton’s story of building the business from a small town variety store into a global retail giant is a truly inspiring entrepreneurial tale of grit and drive.

19. The Alliance, Reid Hoffman

I’ve always struggled with balancing the often familial nature of early-stage startups with the reality that sometimes a company may outgrow an individual. The concept of committing to an employer-employee “tour of duty” resonated with me as a way to create alignment and invest in the growth of team members while acknowledging inevitable change over time.

20. City of Thieves, David Benioff

True story — studies have shown that reading fiction makes you smarter. This was one of my favorite fiction reads last year, a story about war, hardship, survival and the power friendship.

21. Behind the Cloud, Marc Benioff

Marc Benioff, the inventor of SaaS, does a masterful job articulating the strategy behind Salesforce’s rapid ascent to multi-billion dollar behemoth.

22. The Everything Store, Brad Stone

The Everything Store tells the Amazon growth story while delving into the intricacy of the company’s ultra differentiated culture.

23. Competing Against Luck, Clayton Christensen

Competing against luck explains Clay Christensen’s Jobs to be Done Theory. Jobs to be Done Theory is centered on making innovation more predictable by focusing on what “job” a customer is hiring a product or service for.

24. Algorithms to Live By, Brian Christian & Tom Griffiths

Curious about how many people to date before proposing to someone? Optimal stopping theory has an answer for you. Algorithms to live by apply’s popular computational theories to your everyday life in a fun but dense read.

25. Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink

There are no bad teams, only bad leaders. Navy Seal, Jocko Wilinik explains why blaming no one else is always the answer.