There's no escaping the fact that the time you have been allotted in this world is ticking away. So instead of wasting your minutes, hours, and days coasting by, it's in your life-clock's best interest to strive for continuous self-improvement so you can be the best version of yourself as soon as possible. Here are titles nearly two dozen successful people say inspired them to have more success in business and life.
1. Measure What Matters by John Doerr
"'Vision without execution is just a hallucination.' In this book, famed Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr explains the concept of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) that enabled Intel, Google, Intuit, and many other companies to execute in an aligned and agile way. It explains why OKRs matter, how to set effective goals that matter, and how to operationalize them through the company. The book brings them to life with case studies told by the CEOs or leaders at some of the greatest tech companies in the world. This is a must-read for any entrepreneur."
--Roy Raanani, CEO of Chorus.ai, a conversation intelligence platform for sales teams which has raised over $20 million from top Silicon Valley VCs and is growing at over 100 percent year-over-year
2. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
"Most of us pride ourselves on being rational and making logical, fact-driven decisions in our executive roles. But the reality is, humans are vulnerable to many forms of psychological manipulations. Dan Ariely's body of work in behavioral economics is fascinating, since he exposes these vulnerabilities with simple experiments that drive clear insights. I highly recommend this book as an entertaining and quick read (a classic airplane read for the city-hopping exec). It provided many aha! moments and ideas that I applied almost instantly in my day-to-day work as a CEO of a high-growth startup. I also believe that the increasing awareness of being susceptible to such behavioral patterns has improved my own decision-making process. Together with adjacent books, behavioral economics changed not only how I negotiate with customers, employees, and even my wife, but also laid the roadmap for my company's core product."
--Liad Agmon, co-founder and CEO of Dynamic Yield, an A.I.-powered omnichannel personalization engine individualizing experiences beyond the Web for more than 600 million users each month for its 200-plus brands, including HelloFresh, Stitch Fix, and Ikea
3. Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days by Jessica Livingston
"As a founding partner at Y Combinator, Jessica Livingston was privy to some of the brightest ideas in their earliest days. This book features candid insights from the founders of Apple, PayPal, Flickr, and others, offering the ability to understand startups as they really are and not as they are glossed over in the press. The stories in the book are down-to-earth, about people and their motivations, decisions, and fears. I've gained valuable insights about product management, pricing, and how to take a fledgling company and make it big. The book offers relatable anecdotes about the struggle and perseverance that building a business demands."
--Amos Haggiag, co-founder and CEO of Optibus, a SaaS platform helping transit providers in over 300 cities worldwide better run mass-transportation through advanced artificial intelligence and optimization algorithms
4. Start Up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer
"This book is an excellent case study that has become canon for Israeli companies to understand their place in 'Silicon Wadi.' It gives an overview of the qualities that have made the Israeli tech scene so successful and makes a strong case for applying those same ingredients to other communities. On a larger scale, [this] book is an interesting case study of how to strategize when scaling a company. [It's] the ultimate playbook for growing in a dynamic environment by taking risks and breaking the rules."
--Inbal Lavi, CEO of Webpals Group, a performance marketing company specializing in online and mobile traffic monetization which has acquired $27.2 million worth of assets in the past year, adding to its thousand-plus wholly managed and operated assets in over 18 languages by 350 employees
5. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
"I prefer history or fiction over books on management, so I wholeheartedly recommend Diamond's book, which explores the evolution of different human societies. This is a great book to learn about the evolution of humanity, not to mention an excellent case study that demonstrates the importance of fact checking and using multiple disciplines to analyze the same data. With multiple sources, Diamond does an excellent job of synthesizing compelling conclusions from them about humans as a species."
--Lior Handelsman, founder and VP of marketing and product strategy of SolarEdge, a publicly traded smart energy technology company which has products installed in 125 countries
6. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
"On a long business flight from Tel Aviv to New York, I finally had the time to dive into this wonderful book. It analyzes the accomplishments of extraordinary individuals in a range of fields, from math to music to business. Gladwell demystifies the success of individuals such as the Beatles, Bill Gates, and many others, meticulously investigating the root causes for their specific successes. He reaches some surprising conclusions, such as the rule of 10,000 hours and the impact of family, hometown, culture, and even the specific month or year that they were born. I enjoyed reading and learning about success from an entirely new perspective and was deeply inspired by what I found."
--Guy Zipori, CEO of Skyline AI, a real estate investment technology using proprietary artificial intelligence and machine learning to augment the performance of institutional-grade commercial real estate investments which has raised $21 million since being founded in 2017
7. Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
"[It's] the perfect book for any person looking to start their own business. As opposed to traditional business advice, Rework forces the reader to reconsider and reevaluate aspects of running a business most take for granted. It adds a deeper level to concepts that most see as pretty straightforward--from questioning why growth is important, to the respective benefits and limitations of PR and marketing--and is a must-read for any aspiring entrepreneur. You definitely won't agree with every point made, but I guarantee that at least a few points will make a lasting impact on you and your business."
--Yariv Bash, co-founder and CEO of drone logistics company Flytrex, which launched the world's first fully autonomous drone delivery service in Iceland in 2017 and was selected to participate in the FAA's pilot drone program with the aim of bringing commercial drones to the U.S.
8. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
"Entrepreneurs seeking a good read often instinctually turn to the management section. But this book taught me that when you truly believe you can do something and want it with all your heart, you can do it, despite discouraging words and questions that others throw your way, and that the more you give to others, the more you gain. Tenacity, stamina, and selflessness are just as essential entrepreneurial qualities as business savvy, and when you have them, the sky is the limit and you can fly."
--Ronny Cohen, co-founder and CEO of Vayavision, a developer of AV perception systems, who holds 12 patents and has distributed $100 million to shareholders over his 30-year career in tech
9. Lovemarks by Kevin Roberts
"Traditional branding practices and one-sided relationships are gone--they're hollow, disingenuous, and not a fair exchange. Roberts's idea of creating and cultivating a space of true 'love affairs' truly speaks to me, as I strongly believe that that is the way that brands should be interacting with consumers. For me, I'm inspired by going beyond a basic shopping experience or transient Instagramable moment and into gestures of true emotion, surprise, and delight, with genuine acts of kindness and respect at the enterprise level."
--Russell Barnett, CMO of My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream, which in a little over a year at market has expanded distribution to over 12,000 stores nationwide and secured a spot in the top 10 percent of all frozen novelty brands
10. Give and Take by Adam Grant
"So many great lessons in this book about giving versus taking. Our society has grown to be a bit self-absorbed, and therefore, many people are takers. But who really wins, the givers or the takers? Adam Grant looks at the success of business people from both perspectives. I love the idea of giving more than you get but I'm 100-percent convinced you get back tenfold and with no expectations. This book isn't just about business, it's about how we interact with other humans, family, friends, and business associates. Thought provoking and even surprising."
--Lori A. Torres, founder and CEO of Parcel Pending, a provider of package management solutions which has over 140 employees and thousands of multifamily, retail, commercial, and university customers nationwide
11. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
"[It's] a comprehensive yet straightforward guide on effective leadership and business strategy. I particularly like the simplicity of the text and have found the book to be more inspiring after I started my business than when I first read it 15 years ago. The author makes it clear that you are solely responsible for the success of your team and business, and it is your responsibility to create opportunities, foresee threats, and manage your team to victory. Anything less is failure (or, in the case of war, death). He also talks about how vital it is to make plans and strategize before engaging in new ventures but not to be afraid to change direction and alter plans when opportunities arise. In fact, knowing when to take advantage is a key for success. The book also underscores the need for understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and your business and not only how each plays out against each other but in terms of the terrain (outside forces). For me, this book explains everything worth knowing about business strategy and leadership, and it only takes about 30 minutes to read."
--Andrea Servadio, CEO of Fitdog Sports Club, a Santa Monica, California-based dog care facility founded in 2010 and now serving over 3,000 clients
12. Simple Pictures Are Best by Nancy Willard
"Ambitious and creative entrepreneurs and managers have plenty of ideas. In this little book, a shoemaker and his wife are getting a picture made to celebrate their anniversary. It starts with just the two of them, posed elegantly in front of their house, but the shoemaker just can't resist adding more beloved people, prized possessions, and other weird stuff to the shot. Every time he does, the photographer gently admonishes him that 'simple pictures are best,' but it takes a while for him to get it. I pull this book down from time to time to remind myself that innovative and creative ideas are valuable, but you can't just pile them on. Successful concepts usually rely on one or two important parts. When it comes to building a great business, simple pictures are usually best."
--Jim McCarthy, co-founder and CEO of Goldstar, a seller of half-priced tickets to live entertainment, and board member at Innovate Pasadena, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing greater Pasadena as an innovation hub
13. Good to Great by Jim Collins
"The author has a conversation with Admiral Stockdale regarding his coping strategy during his period in a Vietnamese POW camp, and his strategy applies to all aspects of life and business. Stockdale explains, 'I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.' This determination to prevail in the most brutal of times has made this the absolute Bible of business and life for me."
--Stephen Richards, president and CEO of multi-million-dollar health food company BetterBody Foods, which sells online and in over 10,000 retailers
14. Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi
"I can't say enough good things about this book. It's truly a must-read for businesses in all industries and of all sizes looking for unique ways to attract prospective customers by creating information and content they actually want to engage with (which is quite challenging in today's information-overload world). The book provides a step-by-step process of positioning your business as a trusted expert."
--Melissa Cricks, founder and CEO of BandaBeau, a beach accessory brand with triple digit year-over-year growth
15. Rise and Grind by Daymond John
"Reading this book continues to keep me motivated to stay the course and keeps me on track to believe in myself and my team and my dreams to make it happen with sales and building my company and brand for the future. Staying the course has allowed me to plan for future growth and build a brand and not just a company. Outperform, outwork, and outhustle your way to a more successful and rewarding life. Reading about Daymond John and how other people have become successful motivates me and helps me adapt to what will work best for me following their lead and fine tuning it to my business."
--Gina Hoensheid, founder and CEO of Seat Sitters/SeatSational LLC, a brand focused on keeping travel clean and healthy and seen on ABC World News Now, The Boston Globe, Forbes, USA Today, and more
16. Losing My Virginity by Sir Richard Branson
"I was very inspired to take risk after reading this book."
--Eric Jensen, president of Badeloft USA, a multinational bathroom fixture business
17. When Coffee and Kale Compete by Alan Klement
"It is one of the few published works outside of academic papers expanding on Clayton Christensen's 'Jobs to be Done' framework for customer adoption. If you are a business executive, then ultimately your job is selling, and that means understanding why a customer would choose your offering over others. The 'get-anything-you-want-any-time-you-want-it' market we live in today demands extra care understanding the job your product is hired for by customers. This book will help you take a new view on understanding that job."
--Chris Mismash was the VP leading digital strategy for McCann Erickson and the CEO of digital publishing company Jux.com, which reached more than 50 million readers per month; now working as chief growth officer for Voke Superfood Tabs
18. The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
"This book really helped open my mind about how to let go of some things in the business and create a life for myself that is more sustainable and in line with the flexibility that I want."
--Sari Davidson, founder and CEO of multinational and multi-million-dollar juvenile products manufacturer BooginHead, which recently had its 10-year anniversary and experienced quadrupled sales growth from 2010-2017
19. Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley
"[It] explains in an easy-to-read and comprehend manner the importance of working out. Anyone who wants to age healthy should consider this book. Even if you experience a lazy time of forgoing workouts, you probably won't for long because the words on these pages linger in the mind, long after the read. [It] will motivate the reader to kick-start and most likely continue a healthy workout routine. Best line: 'Once you pass 50, you must work out six days a week.'"
--Candice Nicole, founder and president of HUmineral, a plant-based mineral line of research-based products sold in health food stores and spas across the U.S.
20. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
"The book feels like you're talking to a friend who is going through exactly what you are in scaling your [business], in a non-fluffy way that leaves you with a ton of tangible knowledge to apply."
--Tara Bosch, the 24-year-old founder of healthy candy company SmartSweets, which grew from $2 million to $15 million in one year
21. The Execution Factor by Kim Perell
"There isn't a better book to guide you in turning your ideas into reality. Kim Perell knows what it takes to execute a vision, no matter how big or small. The Execution Factor is for the entrepreneur in all of us, for the person daydreaming about being their own boss while stuck at a nine-to-five."
--Chris Burch, a 30-year investor and entrepreneur who has participated in the rise of over 50 companies, is the CEO of Burch Creative Capital and co-founder of Tory Burch LLC
22. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
"I read this book at least 20 years ago and still recommend it to anyone starting a business today. Its simple message still holds true: 'As a man thinketh so a man is.' When I read his book, I realized that his business recommendations closely aligned with my life principles. I have used his 13 steps to success in many of my business decisions. The collaborative wisdom of the most successful people in the world has transformed how I approach business challenges."
--Sue McCarthy, owner of multi-million-dollar business The Vault Luxury Resale; star of The Style Network's Resale Royalty; and author of Good, Better, Best: The Rags-to-Riches Story of the Upscale Resale Queen
23. The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale
"These quotes from Peale inspire me every day: 'How you think about a problem is more important than the problem itself. So always think positively' and 'When you get up in the morning, you have two choices--either to be happy or to be unhappy.'"
--Sharon Hoffman, founder and CEO of Vitamin Friends, LLC, a multi-million-dollar vitamin brand that has experienced triple digit growth since 2012