I’m a books-on-tape guy. I’d love to sit down and read, but who has the time? So I listen – with headphones on. I typically speed-up the pace of the narration 2x. The added speed adds a bit of urgency, if not anxiety, to the content. And I like that – it’s the perfect soundtrack for the solitude of chores around the house. If I’ve got yard work, laundry, cooking, or dish duty – I’ve got headphones on. You can crush through books like this.
I’d exhausted my reading list and was looking around online for some new recos – slim pickens. So, I thought I’d reach out to some friends and find out what they were reading. I asked specifically which books they’ve read that have directly impacted their business, or provided a welcome escape.
This post is a collection of their response. I’ve hosted each of these folks on our podcast Velocity Business Intelligence. They are founders, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and artisans. A very qualified group for business book recommendations. I hope these selections find you well and inspire greatness. #headphoneson – Ryan
You can download this list here.
“Telling the story of how SEGA entered the video game market and the dynamics of a very large businesses struggling to deal with nimble competitors.”
At once bitingly funny and emotionally absorbing, Magary’s novel is a remarkably unique addition to the contemporary fantasy genre, one that draws as easily from the world of classic folk tales as it does from video games.
As important as the story of the war itself is Orwell’s analysis of why the Communist Party sabotaged the workers’ revolution and branded the P.O.U.M. as Trotskyist, which provides an essential key to understanding the outcome of the war and an ironic sidelight on international Communism.
A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.
On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope—and a terrible secret. And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands.
A vibrant, inspirational force, Boggs has participated in all of the twentieth century’s major social movements—for civil rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights, and more. She draws from seven decades of activist experience, and a rigorous commitment to critical thinking, to redefine “revolution” for our times. From her home in Detroit, she reveals how hope and creativity are overcoming despair and decay within the most devastated urban communities. Her book is a manifesto for creating alternative modes of work, politics, and human interaction that will collectively constitute the next American Revolution.
This sweeping chronicle of music, politics, drugs, fear, loathing, and faith has been recognized as an indie rock classic in its own right. Among the bands profiled: Mission of Burma, Butthole Surfers, The Minutemen, Sonic Youth, Black Flag, Big Black, Hüsker Dü, Fugazi, Minor Threat, Mudhoney, The Replacements, Beat Happening, and Dinosaur Jr.
“A great overall guide to approaching product management and marketing and vitaly useful if you’re a leader in engineering, product, or the CEO. I would put it put it up there next to The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank. For escapes I like Murakami, Neal Stephenson, and throwing myself into something challenging like Tolstoy to clear my head. ”
Kitchen Confidential reveals what Bourdain calls “twenty-five years of sex, drugs, bad behavior and haute cuisine.
The Overlords appeared suddenly over every city – intellectually, technologically, and militarily superior to humankind. Benevolent, they made few demands: unify earth, eliminate poverty, and end war. With little rebellion, humankind agreed, and a golden age began.
“It’s a quick and easy read with valuable snippets to take in throughout the day. It focuses on practices you apply to yourself which in turn benefits your business.”
“An amazing biography on one of the most impressive presidents–and people–in American history. In their words ‘It is, in effect, the biography of seven men–a naturalist, a writer, a lover, a hunter, a ranchman, a soldier, and a politician–who merged at age forty-two to become the youngest President in our history. Rarely has any public figure exercised such a charismatic hold on the popular imagination.’ As a founder, it is beyond inspiring to read about someone who is both so passionate and personable. If that doesn’t get you excited to go out and build something, I don’t know what will.”
“While rooted in data and research from publicly traded companies, the core elements that contributed to sustained greatness in his case studies are applicable in all sectors and for all types of organizations / businesses. It’s not a super sexy book that is leveraging recent trends, but tends to focus more on the stable foundational elements needed in all organizations. The social sector has also latched onto Good to Great as a model for how nonprofit organizations can make the leap from good to great. I often lean on the principles shared in Good to Great as a guide.”
“As someone who is on a journey of my own (aren’t we all?), it’s always an immersive experience when engaging in someone else’s (whether rooted in fact or fiction). The Pilgrimage is fiction, but the story is rooted in self-exploration through the various “tests” we experience in our lives. I am not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination, but very much connect to his books given the simplicity he offers around better understanding ourselves to accomplish what we have set out to do. At face value, it’s a great book about a journey of someone trying to reach a goal. At a deeper level, it offers an incredible opportunity to self-reflect into our own lives around how we are getting to know ourselves on a much deeper level.”
“Then in the more practical world in which I operate – ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle. I think the most reading I’m able to get into my life these days are the books I read to my 2 year old. A wonderful story about metamorphosis and the resources we need to create the change in our lives.”
“It is an easy read, we used it as a company-wide book club over a few weeks sessions after work to engage employees in our culture and in a principle lead organization.”
A book about the research findings of how introverts and extroverts interact. While there are many great tools to strengthen and support the traits of extroverts, like group brainstorming, these tools stifle individual creativity and lower the quality of collective work.
Essentialism is a call to arms to stop the craziness and apply a structured discipline that will help to identify and foster what matters. By cutting out the nonessential, we can in-turn achieve productivity, fulfillment, and success.
“It has many valuable lessons about following your intuition, luck, and the repercussions of your actions as a leader.”
“Great insight to everything within the retail world. From diagnosing what kind of leader you are, to hiring, merchandising, rotating inventory, sales tips and more. It is one of the few books I feel I have gotten a lot of great info from.”
“It is a personal memoir of a retail self-starter #girlboss. I even bought a copy for my Chief of Operations, so she could read the book as well. Now looking back, I take this book with a grain of salt, as the author and founder of the company, recently filed for bankruptcy. Despite poor money management, she was able to take her company from literally nothing, to a net value of +$300 million.”
Jitterbug Perfume is an epic. Which is to say, it begins in the forests of ancient Bohemia and doesn’t conclude until nine o’clock tonight (Paris time). It is a saga, as well. A saga must have a hero, and the hero of this one is a janitor with a missing bottle. The bottle is blue, very, very old, and embossed with the image of a goat-horned god. If the liquid in the bottle actually is the secret essence of the universe, as some folks seem to think, it had better be discovered soon because it is leaking and there is only a drop or two left.
This is the story for people who follow their hearts and make their own rules…people who get special pleasure out of doing something well, even if only for themselves…people who know there’s more to this living than meets the eye: they’ll be right there with Jonathan, flying higher and faster than they ever dreamed.
This groundbreaking book continues to remind us not to get mired in all those sacred organizational routines that stifle people and strangle both profits and profitability.
Traction will teach you the 19 channels you can use to build a customer base and how to pick the right ones for your business. It draws on interviews with more than 40 successful founders, including Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), Alexis Ohanian (reddit), Paul English (Kayak), and Dharmesh Shah (HubSpot).
It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture – but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.”
Within each corporation are anywhere from a few to hundreds of separate tribes. In Tribal Leadership, Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright demonstrate how these tribes develop—and show you how to assess them and lead them to maximize productivity and growth.
Louder Than Words offers specific strategies and tactics for uncovering, developing, and bravely using your authentic voice to create a body of work you are proud of, that resonates deeply with others, and that ultimately impacts the world.
The Secret contains wisdom from modern-day teachers—men and women who have used it to achieve health, wealth, and happiness.
Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.
“I find it fascinating that it is the most translated book in the world. The story is so simple yet the messages are so profound, sweet and endearing and somehow everyone can find it relatable in some way.”
“It is a great story and I truly believe we have become so detached from where our food comes from. It is important to get back to our roots, understanding our food, and becoming more involved in our food system.”
As Guy likes to say, “Entrepreneur is a state of mind, not a job title.” His book will help you make your crazy ideas stick, through an adventure that’s more art than science – the art of the start.
Based on nine years of research,buttressed by rigorous analysis and infused with engaging stories, Collins and his colleague Morten Hansen enumerate the principles for building a truly great enterprise in unpredictable, tumultuous and fast-moving times.
Drawing on the latest findings in neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics—as well as the experiences of CEOs, educational reformers, four-star generals, FBI agents, airplane pilots, and Broadway songwriters—this painstakingly researched book explains that the most productive people, companies, and organizations don’t merely act differently.
Whether your dream is escaping the rat race, experiencing high-end world travel, or earning a monthly five-figure income with zero management, The 4-Hour Workweek is the blueprint.
“We read this while launching Adventure Nannies and it inspired us to try to build Adventure Nannies in such a way where our business could effectively run without us (one day). We wrote so many protocols, handbooks, FAQ’s, guidelines, and informative blog posts that anyone in our company can now go on vacation or maternity leave, without us worrying about what will happen when they’re gone.”
“This book made us re-think our branding and messages in a way that truly expresses why we do what we do. I realized from reading this that we do exactly what any other staffing agency does, but it’s our why that sets us apart.”
“The book is sort of a memoir but each chapter tells a different, real life, story of trauma faced by children. The title is just one of the chapters/stories in the book. One of the sub titles is ‘what traumatized children can teach us about love, loss, and healing’ and that’s really the focus; you get the anecdote/back story of what caused the trauma and how it was caused (in terms of brain development) but also what/how the children were able to overcome their specific experience. Most of the stories have a positive ending but some unfortunately, do not. Dr. Perry also worked with the victim children from the Branch Davidian so his work is pretty well known.
This book has been helpful to me because it has made me more aware of trauma and how it can impact children. Most of the stories in the book are on the higher extreme of the spectrum but it is still helpful as we think about how our students are impacted by their traumatic experiences, even if they are on the lower extreme. Just today we had a short professional development session on trauma informed practices with staff. We talked about what trauma is, what can cause a traumatic experience, and some strategies that we use in the classroom to support students who may be victims of a traumatic experience (knowingly or unknowingly).”
Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than fifty years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships—or, as they would say, because of them—they are two of the most joyful people on the planet.
“It teaches you that profit is a habit. And it helps you understand cashflow & how to add and remove important barriers around your money.
“About all of the soft skills around running a business. How to be more creative, how to build a coalition to move your idea forward, how to take risk. So many good skills backed up by research (not just someone’s opinion).”
“A quick little book about when to quit. How do you decide something is not worth pursuing? And once you do how do you quit it quickly, effectively, and without risk so that you can go after other opportunities. This book helped me quit my job and start my own thing.”
“Great fiction book about a fraction of the population using robots as their bodies and the politics around that issue. Finished it in 3 days. :)”
Refreshing in its directness, yet often disturbing in its cold practicality, The Prince sets down a frighteningly pragmatic formula for political fortune. Starkly relevant to the political upheavals of the 20th century, this calculating prescription for power remains today, nearly 500 years after it was written, a timely and startling lesson in the practice of autocratic rule that continues to be much read and studied by students, scholars and general readers as well.
Blink reveals that great decision makers aren’t those who process the most information or spend the most time deliberating, but those who have perfected the art of “thin-slicing”-filtering the very few factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables.
Pink describes the six successors to the elevator pitch, the three rules for understanding another’s perspective, the five frames that can make your message clearer and more persuasive, and much more. The result is a perceptive and practical book–one that will change how you see the world and transform what you do at work, at school, and at home.
Based on the same sort of detailed, on-scene, high-energy reporting that powered Tom Wolfe’s previous bestselling novels, BACK TO BLOOD is another brilliant, spot-on, scrupulous, and often hilarious reckoning with our times.
Zero to One presents at once an optimistic view of the future of progress in America and a new way of thinking about innovation: it starts by learning to ask the questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places.
David Allen’s Getting Things Done has become one of the most influential business books of its era, and the ultimate book on personal organization. “GTD” is now shorthand for an entire way of approaching professional and personal tasks, and has spawned an entire culture of websites, organizational tools, seminars, and offshoots.
Rick Carson, creator of the renowned Gremlin-Taming™ Method, has revised the book to include fresh interactive activities, real-life vignettes we can all identify with, and new loathsome gremlins ripe for taming. Carson blends his laid-back style, Taoist wisdom, the Zen Theory of Change, and sound psychology in an easy-to-understand, unique, and practical system for banishing the nemesis within.
The modern world has given us stupendous know-how. Yet avoidable failures continue to plague us in health care, government, the law, the financial industry—in almost every realm of organized activity. And the reason is simple: the volume and complexity of knowledge today has exceeded our ability as individuals to properly deliver it to people—consistently, correctly, safely. We train longer, specialize more, use ever-advancing technologies, and still we fail.
Reporting on a fascinating range of research, from the psychology of creative blocks to the influential field of design thinking, Sims offers engaging and illuminating accounts of breakthrough innovators at work, and a whole new way of thinking about how to navigate uncertain situations and unleash our untapped creative powers.
The idea is simple: your flinch mechanism can save your life. It shortcircuits the conscious mind and allows you to pull back and avoid danger faster than you can even imagine it’s there. But what if danger is exactly what you need?
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Find out how the best and brightest companies have cracked the female code, and hear horror stories about those that haven’t. Through instructive case studies and interviews, Why She Buys provides practical, field-proven techniques that you can apply to your business immediately, from giants like Procter & Gamble and Toyota to upstarts like Method home-care products and lululemon athletica apparel.
Marketing visionary Martin Lindstrom has been on the front lines of the branding wars for over twenty years. Here, he turns the spotlight on his own industry, drawing on all he has witnessed behind closed doors, exposing for the first time the full extent of the psychological tricks and traps that companies devise to win our hard-earned dollars.
Filled with entertaining inside stories about how we respond to such well-known brands as Marlboro, Nokia, Calvin Klein, Ford, and American Idol, BUYOLOGY is a fascinating and shocking journey into the mind of today’s consumer that will captivate anyone who’s been seduced – or turned off – by marketers’ relentless attempts to win our loyalty, our money, and our minds.
Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.
By focusing their energy on one thing at a time people are living more rewarding lives by building their careers, strengthening their finances, losing weight and getting in shape, deepening their faith, and nurturing stronger marriages and personal relationships.
For the last two years, I’ve interviewed more than 200 world-class performers for my podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. The guests range from super celebs (Jamie Foxx, Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc.) and athletes (icons of powerlifting, gymnastics, surfing, etc.) to legendary Special Operations commanders and black-market biochemists. For most of my guests, it’s the first time they’ve agreed to a two-to-three-hour interview. This unusual depth has helped make The Tim Ferriss Show the first business/interview podcast to pass 100 million downloads.
Learn from an entrepreneur who pitches his start-ups by highlighting the reasons not to invest, a woman at Apple who challenged Steve Jobs from three levels below, an analyst who overturned the rule of secrecy at the CIA, a billionaire financial wizard who fires employees for failing to criticize him, and a TV executive who didn’t even work in comedy but saved Seinfeld from the cutting-room floor. The payoff is a set of groundbreaking insights about rejecting conformity and improving the status quo.
“I wanted to dive very deep on blockchain theory as a technology beyond currency and this was a strong primer.”
“I applied these principle to my whole sales strategy while Teakoe Tea. In short, the concept is ‘zag’ when the industry (or your entire competition) ‘zigs’. Taking your business tactics and shifting away from the norm for your vertical (the ‘red ocean’) and attracting the untapped ‘blue ocean’ consumers. It’s nothing too heady, rather re-thinking who your target audience could be and challenging the status quo. It’s good.”
“An adventure biography of the early days of mail delivery (commercial aviation) from a French author /pilot. Really fun read and it’s also on National Geographic’s all time Top 10 novel list.”
“Simple and metaphorical approach to differentiating your product, brand, business.”
More escape for me- though I think broadening your cultural understanding, exploring famous rivalries (on the field and off) and journeying to a dozen other countries probably applies to growing a business, too.
Think of this book as a Philosopher’s notes on that awesome class. From “Spiritual Farts” and “110-Year Old You”s to “The Tolle Trap” and “Blissipline,” you’ll have fun getting your wisdom on in this inspiring, playful, wise and practical little book as Brian Johnson shares one hundred of his favorite Big Ideas on how to create a life brimming with a radiant enthusiasm only discovered when we align with the fundamentals of Optimal Living.
A landmark, bestselling business book and a fascinating behind-the-scenes history of the creation of Danny’s most famous eating establishments, Setting the Table is a treasure trove of valuable, innovative insights applicable to any business or organization.
Burning slums and five-star hotels, romantic love and prison agonies, criminal wars and Bollywood films, spiritual gurus and mujaheddin guerrillas—this huge novel has the world of human experience in its reach, and a passionate love for India at its heart. Based on the life of the author, it is by any measure the debut of an extraordinary voice in literature.
“The book was published before the 1960 presidential election when Kennedy was still a Senator from Massachusetts. The book recounts eight stories of individuals making hard decisions with no clear answers. It’s a series of case studies in judgement and how a decision-maker weighs competing visions of what is right.”
The inspiring true accounts of eight unsung heroic acts by American patriots at different junctures in our nation’s history, Kennedy’s book became required reading, an instant classic, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Now, a half-century later, it remains a moving, powerful, and relevant testament to the indomitable national spirit and an unparalleled celebration of that most noble of human virtues.
“It helps me understand the business structure of hip-hop from a historical perspective. What worked in terms of big promotion, radio, groups that failed and groups that succeeded, record labels, etc.”
300 industry giants like Def Jam founders Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons gave their stories to renowned hip-hop journalist Dan Charnas, who provides a compelling, never-before-seen, myth-debunking view into the victories, defeats, corporate clashes, and street battles along the 40-year road to hip-hop’s dominance.
“My bible. It’s a book that details the ‘wild woman’ archetype using wolves as the symbolic focal point. The stories are incredible and really apply to everyday life and nourishing a creative spirit.”
In Women Who Run with the Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés unfolds rich intercultural myths, fairy tales, folk tales, and stories, many from her own traditions, in order to help women reconnect with the fierce, healthy, visionary attributes of this instinctual nature. Through the stories and commentaries in this remarkable book, we retrieve, examine, love, and understand the Wild Woman, and hold her against our deep psyches as one who is both magic and medicine.
“When you understand that nobody wants to read your shit, you develop empathy. You acquire the skill that is indispensable to all artists and entrepreneurs—the ability to switch back and forth in your imagination from your own point of view as writer/painter/seller to the point of view of your reader/gallery-goer/customer. You learn to ask yourself with every sentence and every phrase: Is this interesting? Is it fun or challenging or inventive? Am I giving the reader enough? Is she bored? Is she following where I want to lead her?”
“He covers everything from how to build a team, think about compensation / equity, telling your story and creating an operating system for yourself and your company. I can’t imagine there’s a better book out there for a first time founder.”
The author died less than four months after its publication. The Brothers Karamazov is a passionate philosophical novel set in 19th century Russia, that enters deeply into the ethical debates of God, free will, and morality. It is a spiritual drama of moral struggles concerning faith, doubt, judgement, and reason, set against a modernizing Russia, with a plot which revolves around the subject of patricide. Dostoyevsky composed much of the novel in Staraya Russa, which inspired the main setting.
A practical, real-world program that is implemented real-time into your business, Gerber begins by engaging the reader in understanding why the entrepreneur is so critical to the success of any enterprise, no matter how small or large it may be, and why the mindset of an entrepreneur is so integral to the operating reality of the organization, of the small business, and the enterprise.
“It is very important to us to run an ethical business that looks beyond profit to measure success. Our goal is to do good for consumers, the environment, the local community, and our employees. We are also proud to walk the path less traveled when necessary. Clif Bar’s story is a huge inspiration to us for all of those reasons.”
If you are a manager, executive, business owner, or board member, Raising the Bar is your personal guide to corporate integrity. If you are a sports enthusiast, environmentalist, adventure lover, intrigued by a unique corporate culture, or just interested in a good story, Raising the Bar is for you.
You Are the Placebo combines the latest research in neuroscience, biology, psychology, hypnosis, behavioral conditioning, and quantum physics to demystify the workings of the placebo effect . . . and show how the seemingly impossible can become possible.
In eighty-one brief chapters, Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching, or Book of the Way, provides advice that imparts balance and perspective, a serene and generous spirit, and teaches us how to work for the good with the effortless skill that comes from being in accord with the Tao—the basic principle of the universe.
Driven by four accelerating forces—psychology, neurobiology, technology and pharmacology—we are gaining access to and insights about some of the most contested and misunderstood terrain in history. Stealing Fire is a provocative examination of what’s actually possible; a guidebook for anyone who wants to radically upgrade their life
“While it is a political book, it is a GREAT book to learn about framing your messaging around speaking to people who you may not understand.”
The dark elves of Menzoberranzan, including the powerful Archmage Gromph, aren’t done with Drizzt yet. And consumed by their own power struggles, feeling backed into a corner, the drow may just be desperate enough to call on demonic forces from the deepest reaches of the Abyss, and unleash a disaster even the Underdark could never have prepared for.
Jack Herer has updated his authoritative history of hemp’s myriad uses and of the war on this plant, just as it has become high-profile news, with supporters such as Woody Harrelson and Willie Nelson. Herer thoroughly documents the petrochemical industry’s plot to outlaw this renewable source of paper, energy, food, textiles, and medicine
Winningly personal, insightful, and even life-changing, Grit is a book about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that—not talent or luck—makes all the difference.
Grabbing the low-hanging fruit is no longer acceptable. ZICO Coconut Water founder Mark Rampolla argues that when you choose to reach higher, you can build an incredible business, be profitable, and maybe even change the world.
The world of plants and its relation to mankind as revealed by the latest scientific discoveries. “Plenty of hard facts and astounding scientific and practical lore.”
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.
Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking. He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives―and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble. Winner of the National Academy of Sciences Best Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and selected by The New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best books of 2011, Thinking, Fast and Slow is destined to be a classic.
The 10 X Rule unveils the principle of “Massive Action,” allowing you to blast through business clichŽs and risk-aversion while taking concrete steps to reach your dreams. It also demonstrates why people get stuck in the first three actions and how to move into making the 10X Rule a discipline. Find out exactly where to start, what to do, and how to follow up each action you take with more action to achieve Massive Action results.
*The organization of this list was determined by order of response.