No matter what stage of your career you're in, it can be a challenge to know how best to approach difficult or unusual situations as they arise. Whether you're managing people for the first time, trying to get up to speed on a new client or industry, or facing a bigger strategic challenge, we all need guidance from time to time. And we can all benefit from the thinking of others who have gone before us.
For many, that's where business books come in. And there are, seemingly, millions of them. However, some of them rise above the pack and become important references.
Here are some of our favorites:
- The Hard Thing About The Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz. This was considered one of the best business books the year it was published (2014). Horowitz is the widely respected cofounder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, so he has a great view of successful businesses. In Hard Things he tells stories from the frontlines of building his own technology company, how he succeeded in the face of overwhelming odds, and the lessons to be drawn from his experience. The big takeaway: Confront difficult situations immediately.
- Leaders Eat Last, by Simon Sinek. Business has changed, and leaders need to recognize that. Sinek explores the way the chemicals in our brains react to various aspects of leadership and work life, and how leaders can inspire their teams to achieve more.
- Good to Great, by Jim Collins. It's considered a classic for a reason. As Collins writes, “good is the enemy of great.” Collins examines companies that made the leap, and how they did it.
- Mavericks at Work, by William C. Taylor and Polly G. LaBarre. Taylor and LaBarre profile companies that have succeeded by zigging when the rest of their industry is zagging. The lesson is to be true to what you want to do, and then do it relentlessly… regardless of what everyone else is doing.
- Rework, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. Fried and Hansson are the partners behind Basecamp. They run their company in a radical way, eschewing many tried and true business practices, and their approach is detailed in Rework. We do not agree with everything they do, but it can be helpful to think about business in a different way.
- Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcom Gladwell. Sometimes, we think people who have great success are merely lucky. Gladwell looks at the reality of success, which is that it requires a lot of diligent hard work.
- Blue Ocean Strategy, by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. The concept of this book is that the key to success is often discarding common assumptions and conventional wisdom. Consider it a guide for rebels.
- Moneyball, by Michael Lewis. The famous book about the Oakland A’s new approach to an old game, there are some interesting ideas in here about disrupting your industry. Plus, if you are a baseball fan, this is a fun read.
- Business Adventures, by John Brooks. This book is more than 40 years old, but it received a lot of attention a couple of years ago after Bill Gates revealed that Warren Buffett told him it was his favorite business book. Those two are pretty successful, so this is probably worth putting on your list.
- The Circle, by Dave Eggers. This is a novel, but it is a fascinating, Orwellian look at where social media and workplace culture could be taking us.