As the saying goes: "Leaders must be readers." But, let's face it, you can also waste a lot of time reading the wrong books that don't offer the value you're looking for.

Whether you're an aspiring entrepreneur, team leader or a seasoned business veteran, moving forward means remaining forever teachable. Thankfully, we're lucky enough to live in an age with open access to the mistakes, triumphs and stories of others.

The right expert advice at the right time can often offer you a shortcut to success.

Over the years, I've come across a number of books that have catapulted my career and taken my business to bigger and better heights. Recently, I've also interviewed some of these creative authors and influencers too.

To save you time and energy, here are the 21 business books, split into three helpful categories that you absolutely must read today. I've also included a notable quote from each author to give you immediate insight into what you might find within their pages.

Sales & Marketing Books

 

1. Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff

Whether you're looking to nail your next sales pitch, deliver a killer presentation or hone your existing skills, this book has it all. Oren is the real deal; he's been there and done it at the highest levels of high pressure sales. This book walks you through exactly how to excel in a sales environment and he doesn't hold anything back.

"Attention is really the key element in selling." - Oren Klaff

 

2. Over Subscribed by Daniel Priestley

What if you could master the tools and techniques that would get people lining up to do business with you? It's not just a pipe dream - this book can help make it a reality. I've literally just finished reading this book and I'm listening to the audio of it in my car again. Filled with simple practical advice that seems blindly obvious once you read it.

"A really common trait of oversubscribed business is that they turn the buyer into a celebrity." - Daniel Priestley

 

3. The Content Code by Mark Schaefer

Take the complexity out of your marketing and focus on what really matters. This book promises you six essential tactics to ignite your content marketing - under the apt acronym B.A.D.A.S.S. - and it really delivers. I couldn't put this book down. Mark explains things so well, you'll be excited to put his advice into practice.

"Trust is what builds a brand, trust that you stand for something and that you have a promise." - Mark Schaefer

 

4. Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Seth (as he told me to call him) could be considered a forefather of modern marketing. His concise insights will help you bring clarity and precision to your approach to product development and marketing. He's written any incredible titles, however Purple Cow is the one I read at least once a year to remind how to really stand out from a crowd amongst other pearls of marketing wisdom. Make a great product and remember what really matters: word of mouth sharing. Read this book to create a remarkable marketing strategy that cuts through all the noise.

"Start by amazing and delighting the few and then, maybe, they'll tell their friends." - Seth Godin

 

5 & 6. Invisible Influence & Contagious by Jonah Berger

These books are perfect if you're looking to understand why things catch on. Contagious explains how and why some content is shared and remembered when it matters in a remarkably easy to understand 'STEPPS' formula.

Invisible Influence takes the lessons of Contagious to new heights - digging deeper into why we do what we do. Berger explains why and how we can influence others in a number of different business scenarios. It's well worth making time for.

"Emotion is the fire that motivates us. If we don't understand people we can't push them into action." - Jonah Berger

 

7. Content Inc by Joe Pulizzi

If you've heard of the term 'Content Marketing' it's quite likely that it's because of Joe Pulizzi. Joe is the CEO and founder of The Content Marketing Institute and one the originators of the term itself.

In 'Content Inc' you'll find countless practical tips and advice for how to grow your business with timely, targeted content. This book is suitably practical, however he also explains the wider context of content marketing which goes beyond 'digital'.

"People will invest the time for amazingly valuable, relevant and compelling content." - Joe Pulizzi

 

8. To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink

Sales can often be uncomfortable. That's just a basic fact of human nature, right? Well, maybe not. In this book, Daniel Pink breaks down the preconceptions of sales and shows why just about everyone are a salesman. If you're struggling getting out of a comfort zone or you just don't think you're cut out for sales, rad this book and prepare to have your mind changed.

"Persistence almost always trumps talent." - Daniel Pink

 

9. Getting Goosebumps: A Pragmatic Guide to Inbound Marketing by Bryan Adams & Dave Hazlehurst

So, I had to give myself a slight nod at some point! My book is jam-packed with the strategy, tactics, tools and ideas to rocket your digital marketing to the next level.

Dave and I originally wrote this book for our clients at Ph.Creative in order to explain exactly how we run our agency. The downloads, step-by-steps and stories are all designed to add immediate value and we don't hold back.. but with this one, you be the judge.

"Behind every digital experience there's a person just like you and I. We can't forget the importance of making an emotional connection." - Dave Hazlehurst

 

Leadership & Entrepreneurship Books

 

10. Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Why does your company matter? What's the true purpose behind what you do? If you've struggled to get to grips with these questions, then I can't recommend this book enough - you truly need to Start with Why.

"People don't buy what you do, they buy why you did it." - Simon Sinek

 

11. Illuminate by Nancy Duarte & Patti Sanchez

Illuminate tackles the challenge of leading your team to success in a fresh and unique way that distinguishes this book from all other "leadership" books I've read in recent years. This book will help you embrace a bold vision as well as guide you through your own journey of transformation. If you need to inspire others and move your business forward in the right way, this is the place to start.

"The future isn't a place that we're going to, it's a place that you get to create." - Nancy Duarte

 

12. Top Dog: Impress and Influence Everyone You Meet by Andy Bounds

To smash through the status quo, you need to maximize personal relationships and get the most out of every interaction and this book spells it out for you.

Andy has an amazing story as to why and how he looks at the world differently to most people. As a result, this book will give you countless, painfully simple 'light bulb' moments that will make you and your business more effective the second you put the book down.

It's packed practical advice, with stories, examples and techniques you can use straight away. Also check out the 'Snowball Effect' too - it's another Andy Bounds best seller.

"The best way to tell great stories that resonate is to ask the right questions." - Andy Bounds

 

13. Good to Great by Jim Collins

Why is it that some companies are seemingly thrust into the spotlight, while others fail to make it past a prescribed point? This book is a neat read into how your company can make the transition from good to great. It's that simple.

"Greatness is not a matter of circumstance, it's a matter of conscious choice and discipline." - Jim Collins

 

14. What Got You Here Won't Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith

Climbing the ladder of success is an extremely rewarding and satisfying experience, but what happens when you get to the top? How do you not only maintain your position, but continue to grow, expand, develop and improve?

Sometimes, you hit a ceiling or you've just started to plateau in some way. it might be time to deconstruct and rebuild your approach to growing your business. If that's the case, Start with 'Good to Great'.

This is a must read if you're looking to reach new levels of achievement.

"Never confuse acquiring degrees with wisdom." - Marshall Goldsmith

 

15. The Lean Start Up by Eric Ries

The word 'start-up' has become synonymous with today's success stories - but that's only the ones that make it. As a failed entrepreneur himself, Eric Reis believes that to succeed you need to work backward from the business of results of what you're trying to achieve.

"Don't be in a rush to get big. Be in a rush to have a great product." - Eric Ries

 

Operational Excellence Books

 

16 & 17. Gung Ho & Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard & Sheldon Bowles

Gung Ho will help you inspire your employees to fulfil their highest potential, while Raving Fans reveals that it's simply not enough to just have "satisfied" customers anymore. These two small books are simply incredible. I've read them countless times over the last 10 years or so and I've bought them for my team, customers and community, too. They each take an hour to read and will leave a lasting impression, I promise you that.

"None of us is as smart as all of us." - Ken Blanchard

 

18. Scaling Up by Verne Harnish

Scaling up is an honest and insightful look at how a few companies make it and why the rest don't. Winner of countless awards, this definitely isn't one to miss. As soon as I started using the worksheets, routines and advice in this book my business improved immediately - that's not hype, it's just a fact.

"There are no straight lines in nature or business." - Verne Harnish

 

19. X: The Experience When Business Meets Design by Brian Solis

We live in a customer-centric world where consumers increasingly want to experience things - whether that's in-store or online. Meaningful experiences will shape the success of tomorrow's businesses. This book could be interpreted as a book for large organizations looking for marginal gains over competitors, however we can all learn from this book. If your customer service hasn't been deliberately mapped and designed, you're already behind the curve. This book is a comprehensive 'step by step' guide to achieving world-class customer experience. It took Brian 2 years to write and produce and I read this book 3 times over and over when I first bought it. It's a modern business "must-read."

"Experiences are a catalyst for getting us back to customer centricity." - Brian Solis

 

20. Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed

This book is a game changer. Matthew Syed reveals the principles and mindset behind the aviation industry and how they don't just openly acknowledge mistakes, they embrace and even celebrate them as opportunities to take giant leaps forward.

Once you've read this book, you will never look at innovation, productivity, safety and team culture the same ever again. There's a couple of heavy-going' chapters in the middle of the book which dives into the depths of theory and science behind his principles, however the book delivers so much value it's hard to believe.

"Mere experience, if it is not matched by deep concentration it does not translate into excellence." - Matthew Syed

 

21. Peak by Chip Conley

Nearly everyone is familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs, but not everyone understands that great companies get their mojo from Maslow himself. This book offers a window into the motivations of employees, customers, bosses and investors - and provides answers to create meaningful, lasting relationships with each. The stories in this book are amazing, they spell out the value of truly understanding your audience and putting their needs first above all else when designing business process and customer experience.

"Feeling good about your life, but not expressing a heartfelt 'thank you' is like wrapping a gift for someone and never giving it to them." - Chip Conley

 

So there they are, my top 21 books. I hope you find as much value from them as I did. What books have I missed? I'd love to hear from you.