We asked that question in our August Editor's Letter. Your responses were surprising (think ancient Greek philosophers and Brazilian fables). Here's your entrepreneurial canon:
"The theories in Dale Carnegie's 1936 classic How to Win Friends and Influence People still hold true today," writes Christine Hutman, the founder of PetServicesReview.com. "The book is essential for those serious about mastering the skill of negotiation."
"The book that has had the most influence on my life is The Time Trap, by Alec Mackenzie," says Mike Weingart, president of Carlson Wagonlit Travel. "Mackenzie pointed out that for every hour you devote to planning, you save four hours. And he's right."
Anthony J. Chibbaro, a retired sales executive and former naval officer, says, "Books that have inspired me -- perhaps consoled me -- include Man's Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl; The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius; and The Golden Sayings of Epictetus."
"In 1994," writes Stephen F. Medici, the founder of Black Mountain Management, "I picked up a copy of A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative, by Roger von Oech. Because of this book, I went back to work the following Monday, quit my job, convinced the 10 people who worked for me to quit as well, and founded my company."
José M. Bermúdez, technical sales engineer at Du-Co Ceramics Company, writes, "Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist inspired me when I first immigrated to the U.S. from Venezuela. It was one of the first books that I read when I arrived in the U.S. for grad school. To me, The Alchemist proves that even with very little, you can turn things around to work for you."
"As an entrepreneur working in a difficult new music market," writes Chris McConnell, founder of The 5000 Music Group, "I have learned to balance faith and business, when and why to take risks, and many other business lessons from the Bible."
"What appeals to me about Earl Nightingale's The Strangest Secret," says Warren Tracy, founder of The Busted Knuckle Garage, "is Nightingale's discussion of the idea of conformity. I believe that conformity is that scary little guy that sits on the shoulders of most entrepreneurs, threatening us with the consequences of breaking the mold."
"Abraham Maslow, the psychologist and author of Toward a Psychology of Being," writes Paul Alpert, owner of The Incredible Delta Planner, "teaches us that with our basic needs met, we can start to focus on the higher needs of fulfillment and self-actualization."
"I've been inspired by and seen the results from repeated readings of a little book called The Science of Getting Rich, by Wallace D. Wattles, which was first published in 1910," writes Frank V. Carone, vice president of Power Express Mortgage Bankers.
"Though it's a science-fiction novel (and a comedy)," writes Brian Pelkie, the owner of In Your Ear Audio Advertising, "Phule's Company, by Robert Asprin, could and probably should be a business training manual. I intend to use Asprin's book as a guide as my business grows."
"More than any other book, Marian Wright Edelman's The Measure of Our Success inspired me," says Louise C. Brimmer, an English teacher at Carteret Community College. "The book is part autobiography but also contains great life lessons. If I see a copy in a used-book store, I always buy it so that I will have copies to give away."