A Summer Reading List for Entrepreneurs
Maybe you’re off to the beach, or maybe it’s a staycation for you this year. Or perhaps it’s neither, and you’re just expecting everybody else’s vacation to mean things are a bit quieter at the office and you’ll actually have a few more spare moments to catch up on your reading this summer. Whatever the reason, if you’re looking to load up the suitcase (or e-reader) with reading material, your fellow entrepreneurs have suggestions.
We reached out to a handful of founders to find out what they’ve read recently that they’d recommend to other business owners, and they came through with plenty of brain food if you’re looking to nourish your brain. Got your Amazon Wish List queued up? On to the books!
"The most relevant book I'm reading now is the Denma Group's translation of Sun Tzu's Art of War. There are many translations of this 2,000-year-old masterpiece of strategy, but this is the clearest, most accessible, and most thought provoking I've read. For entrepreneurs facing increasing competition, and who are willing to go beyond the ‘60 second manager’ approach, I highly recommend Sun Tzu and the Denma Group's commentary," says Matthew Bellows, founder and CEO of Yesware.
"Time is a premium commodity for everyone these days, not just entrepreneurs. The Elements of Style is a grammar book from 1918 which espouses clear, concise writing. I consider it a must read for all execs," Stuart Wall, founder and CEO of Signpost, told Inc.com. Not interested in flipping through a grammar handbook from the comfort of your sun lounger? He also offered these alternate suggestions: Creativity, Inc.; High Output Management; The Checklist Manifesto; and Business Adventures (an out of print favorite of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett).
Not expecting to get any break at all that summer? That doesn’t mean you can’t catch up on classics of wisdom, as the response of Tanya Menendez, co-founder of Maker’s Row proves. "I'm listening to [famed Zen Buddhist teacher] Alan Watts on audiobook during my commute to keep perspective," she says.
The Page Turners
Jim Secord, CEO of Kashoo, recommends The Martian by Andy Weir. "We all need a little downtime in the summer. I read this last weekend and couldn't put it down. It's about an astronaut left behind on a mission to Mars and what he does to survive until he is rescued. Appropriate nerd reading for, well, nerds," he explains. (VC Brad Feld seconds this recommendation, and I wholeheartedly agree as well.) Feeling guilty about reading frivolous fiction? Research actually shows novels boost social skills, empathy and critical thinking.
"I just started reading David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell. The book examines the way we think about sociological changes and factors that contribute to high levels of success. So far, I’ve been enjoying the book, which I read on weekends and in the middle of the night when sleep eludes me," says Ricky Eisen, the founder of Manhattan cafe Between the Bread, proving that relaxing reading can be non-fiction too.
The New Releases
"Ben Horowitz's book is a must read. Most business books tell you how to do everything in a perfect world. The reality is that things go wrong all the time and there is no perfect business. Ben clearly outlines how to fight various fires and how to get back on top when things go south instead! I'd also highly recommend The Everything Store as it paints a great picture about Amazon in general and what made it successful," says Craig Watson, founder and COO of Soundwave.
Lisa Falzone, CEO and co-founder of Revel Systems, agrees: "One read I’ve really enjoyed is Ben Horowitz’s book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers. I like how it provides real honest truth into what it’s really like being a CEO of a VC-backed startup."
The Business Books
"I am currently reading Alexis Ohanian's Without Their Permission. As a long-time user of reddit, it's inspiring to read more about how the site was built from the ground up. It has been so inspiring to watch it grow, and despite the website getting big, it has never lost its genuine core or sense of integrity. I really respect that," says Makeoverly founder Hannah Wright about her pick.
“Peopleware taught me how to remove interruptions for our developers and increase productivity while keeping everyone sane. It includes dozens of studies to support its positions, as well as suggestions you can implement in your company to fix common issues that crop up in software companies. It's a must read for any tech founder, technical or not,” enthuses SERPs.com founder Scott Krager.
“I just finished reading Leadership is Not for Cowards by Mike Staver. I loved the book as it was full of great nuggets of sound, practical advice. Throughout reading it, I would constantly dog ear pages as it would spur ideas on how to handle certain situations at work. It is so relevant to day-to-day management, which is key for anyone in business,” says Diane Ramirez, CEO and co-founder of Halstead Property.
What book would you recommend to fellow founders this summer?