Best Business Books 

Best Business Books of All Time
For those who want to grow their businesses or careers

By Tommy L.

When you are not at work, what do you do? 

Billionaires liked Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg devote many of their non-working hours in reading books.

 

According to a study performed by Affluent Market Institute, many billionaires spend their minds and time differently than the average person. Reading is one of the habits identified that is different.

 

Another study shows 85% of wealthy people in America read two or more books a month for education and learning purposes.

 

As reading is so important in shaping your career success or becoming rich, the next question I would like to answer is what are the best business books of all time for us to start our reading journey.

 

To have a fair selection, I refer to four different sources on book rankings which are:

  • Goodreads (One of the largest social cateloging websites on book recommendations)

  • BookBub (A book recommendation and discounted eBook website)

  • Forbes (An American business magazine which is well known for its lists and rankings)

  • Book Depository (An UK-based online book seller provides best selling rankings)

 

The 10 Best Business Books of All Time are:

  1. How to win friends and influence people

  2. The tipping point

  3. The lean startup

  4. Start with why

  5. The 4-hour workweek

  6. Thinking, fast and slow

  7. The 7 habits of highly effective people

  8. Lean in

  9. Rich dad poor dad

  10. The power of habit

 

I put the details on how to find the books at the end of this article.

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No. 1: How to Win Friends and Influence People

More than 80 years since it was released, this book is still rated in the top of all chosen recommended book lists in all chosen media, no matter book rating sites, publication media or online bookshops. In 2011, the book was listed by Time Magazine as one of the most influential books.

In his book, Carnegie explains that success comes from the ability to communicate effectively with others.

 

He provides relatable analogies and examples, and teaches you skills to make people want to be in your company, see things your way, and feel wonderful about it.

 

The skills Carnegie teach you include:

  • Six ways to make people like you

  • Twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking

  • Nine ways to change people without arousing resentment

 

In an interview with reporter, Billionaire investor Warren Buffett says one of his very best investment in life is joining a course taught at Dale Carnegie, who is the author of this book.

 

The book’s advice has helped thousands of successful people in their business and person lives. You are probably the next billionaire, achieve your maximum potential by learning from Carnegie.

No.2: The Tipping Point

Malcolm Gladwell explains and analyses the 'tipping point', that magic moment when ideas, trends and social behaviour cross a threshold, tip and spread like wildfire. The book seeks to explain and describe the “mysterious” sociological changes that mark everyday life.

Gladwell describes “The Three Rules of Epidemics” in the tipping points of epidemics, which are:

  • The law of the few;

  • The stickiness factor;

  • The power of context. 

 

To be frank, this book is not written for business people while Gladwell tries to explain some sociology questions such as a sharp decline in New York City crime rate during 1990s.

 

The reason why it is ranked high under business & management because Gladwell explores and brilliantly illuminates the tipping point phenomenon. It is already changing the way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas.

 

The book is highly recommended by sales and marketing professionals such as Bob Ruffolo to explain how the concepts and theories work in real life.

No.3: The Lean Startup: How constant innovation creates radically successful businesses

After graduating from Yale University, Ries started his career in Silicon Valley in 2001 while he co-founded IMVU in 2004. Before he stepped down in 2008, he helped IMVU to raise venture fund by more than US$18 million.

Based on his experiences, he joined venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins as venture advisor and developed lean startup methodology. This methodology as said by him, is inspired by lean manufacturing.

Initially, Ries document the lean startup methodology on this blog with a post titled “The lean startup”. The book was finally published in 2011.

 

As stated by Ries, most new businesses fail. But most of those failures are preventable. His new approach written in the book to business that's being adopted around the world. It is changing the way companies are built and new products are launched. 

The Lean Startup is about learning what your customers really want. It's about testing your vision continuously, adapting and adjusting before it's too late. 

No.4: Start with Why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action

Sinek is not only an author but also a great speaker. He’s invited to TED Talk based on Start with Why while more than 44 million views on his talk, the third most popular TED video of all time!

He starts with basic questions in the book. Why are some people and organizations more inventive, pioneering and successful than others?

 

And why are they able to repeat their success again and again?

Because in business it doesn't matter what you do, it matters why you do it. Steve Jobs, the Wright brothers and Martin Luther King have one thing in common: they STARTED WITH WHY.

 

The leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way — and it’s the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle.

This book is for anyone who wants to inspire others, or to be inspired. 

No.5: The 4-hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, live anywhere and join the new rich

First of all, it is not a book telling you how to become rich faster and start your retirement earlier. What Ferriss wants to share is how the world is changed so that your work and lifestyle too.

He spent five years learning the secrets of the New Rich, which is a fast-growing subculture who has abandoned the “deferred-life plan” and instead mastered the new currencies-time and mobility-to create luxury lifestyles in the here and now.

The book is so influential because it introduces the new style of work in 2007. It inspires many people to think about how they design their work and lifestyle.

 

In 2011, The New York Times reported how the world is changed according to Ferriss which is a proof on how his thoughts changing the world.

 

Whether your dream is escaping the rat race, experiencing high-end world travel, earning a monthly five-figure income with zero management, or just living more and working less, this book is the blueprint.

No.6: Thinking, Fast and Slow

Kahneman is very popular in academic world. He is a professor in Princeton University, USA. In 2002, Kahneman received the Nobel Prize in Economics and his research interests are cognitive biases, bahavioral economics, prospect theory and loss aversion.

In this list of Best Business Books of All Time, Kahneman is the only author receiving Nobel Prize. But the book is not difficult and general public can understand from Kahneman.

The author takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical.

The impact of overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next vacation — each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions.

 

So what’s the influence of Kahneman’s work in modern business?  Steven Pinker, a professor at Harvard University, says Kahneman is so influential on The Guardian because his important discovery on how human make choices with their cognitive psychology and social psychology.

No.7: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful lessons in personal change

It should not be a surprise to see this book in the list of 10 Best Business Books of All Time. The book has been sold more than 25 million worldwide and more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies are Covey’s clients on coaching how to implement “7 habits”.

As reported by The Telegraphy, US President Bill Clinton invited Covey to advise him in 1994 and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was also said to be a follower of Covey’s managerial techniques.

 

Covey introduces Maturity Continuum which includes three successive stages of increasing maturity: dependence, independence and interdependence. At birth, everybody is dependent, and this is the first and lowest stage of maturity.

 

In business world, you need to be independent as well as work well with others (interdependence) to perform your tasks. The book is all about how to develop the 7 habits to achieve independence and interdependence.

 

This is one of the rare books that has influenced presidents, CEOs, educators, and individuals all over the world not only to improve their businesses and careers but to live with integrity, service, dignity, and success in all areas of life.

No.8: Lean In: Women, work, and the will to lead

In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg – Harvard Business School graduate, Facebook COO and one of Fortune magazine's Most Powerful Women in Business - draws on her own experience of working in some of the world's most successful businesses and looks at what women can do to help themselves, and make the small changes in their life that can effect change on a more universal scale.

Sandberg combines her personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can. She provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career.

She also describes specific steps women can take to combine professional achievement with personal fulfilment, and demonstrates how men can benefit by supporting women both in the workplace and at home.

 

Although it is not Sandberg’s purpose to write a book of her biography, many readers comment the book is an elite sharing her view and ambitions. Zoe Williams, a popular columnist in The Guardian, says the book is reactionary guide for ambitious women (The Guardian).

 

But the book is very success in inspiring people to discuss how women can become more equal in work and personal life.

 

Written with humor and wisdom, Lean In is a revelatory, inspiring call to action and a blueprint for individual growth that will empower women around the world to achieve their full potential.

No.9: Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the rich teach their kids about money that the poor and middle class do not!

Since it’s published in 1997, Rich Dad Poor Dad has been sold over 32 million copies in more than 40 languages.  In terms of copies sold, it is the most popular personal finance book in decades.

Rich Dad Poor Dad is Robert's story of growing up with two dads his real father and the father of his best friend, his rich dad and the ways in which both men shaped his thoughts about money and investing. The book explodes the myth that you need to earn a high income to be rich and explains the difference between working for money and having your money work for you.

As the book is so popular, the ideas in it shape many people’s mind in personal finance and investment. You can easily find this book in every book shop. However, it receives a lot of critics too.

 

One of popular American journalists, John Reed, says the book is one of the dumbest financial advice books he has ever read. He continues saying the book contains many factual errors and numerous extremely unlikely accounts of events that supposedly occurred.

 

A smart reader liked you, should read the book and think about why it’s so popular and challenge what’re wrong so that you don’t make the same mistakes in your investment or personal finance.

No.10: The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business

Graduated from Yale University and earned an MBA from Harvard Business School, Duhigg is a reporter and journalist. He won Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting when he worked in New York Times.

In The Power of Habit, Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed.

 

Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to the sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential.

 

At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

 

Larry Swedroe, director of research for the BAM Alliance and author, comments “The Power of Habit” is what few books are able to do to educate while being entertaining. Once you read the book, you’ll never look at yourself, your organisation, or your world quite the same way.

Conclusion

The 10 Best Business Books of All Time are very influential on how we work and what to do in business. In addition, they are shaping our business organisation structure and forming our culture.

No matter you are a student, fresh graduate, experienced business professional or entrepreneur, reading these books introduces you to new ideas and invites you to solve problems. Your analytical thinking was stimulated merely from reading. Reading also has the following advantages to you:

  • Reading makes you a better writer

  • Reading improves your conversational skills

  • Reading strengthens worldview and convictions (important in business!)

  • Reading improves your self-discipline and consistenty

  • Reading challenges imagination

  • Reading increases your skills in an area of interest

 

Start reading now and develop it as your habit!

Methodology of choosing Best Business Books of All Time

From the four chosen sources, I look for “Best business books of all time” or “Popular business books” in their websites. They rank the books with their different criteria, such as readers rating, number of books sold, or professional journalists rating.

Next, I take a simple weighted average rankings for each book to find 10 best business books of all time. 

 

For Example, the book “How to win friends and influence people” rankings in each source are, 4 (Goodreads), 1 (BookBub), 1 (Forbes) and 5 (Book Depository). The weighted average ranking is 2.75 and it is the score in my list.

If the score is the lowest, it is the highest ranked book in my Best Business Book of All Time.

Following this rationale, I find the top 10 books which I just shared to you in above.

The search was done on 5 July 2019.

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Note: Some of the links in this page contain affiliate links. I will earn a small commission for any purchases you make, though there is no extra cost to you. 

The products or services I recommend only I use them myself or after my investigation and truly believe they are useful to you. Don’t forget there are many other options out there – these are simply my preferred choices.