Reading is fundamental. This saying holds true for just about everyone, including business professionals considering striking out on their own. 

The journey of entrepreneurship can be difficult to navigate, especially for entrepreneurs in their early days. Many aspiring CEOs turn to friends, online resources, and those who have previously paved the way for advice on business success. 

While there is no direct startup owner’s manual or easy answers for guaranteed success,  business books are another excellent source of knowledge from those who’ve already built successful startups. 

Zeni Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer, Snehal Shinde says business-focused or startup books help founders acquire hard-learned lessons without having to make the same mistakes as those teaching them.

“Startup books can help you be a better founder and a well-rounded leader in a short time.” Shinde explains. “They act as mentors and advisors by giving you insights so you can avoid making mistakes and leapfrog forward. You are constantly learning from other successful founders and leaders who have gone through the same journey multiple times before.”

So which books are real page-turners? Below is a roundup of some of the best startup books recommended by the most innovative founders of our day. These books cover everything from dealing with investors, fostering creativity, dealing with unseen forces, and learning that sometimes it’s OK to fail. 

Take a look at this list below and follow Shinde’s advice to “look for startup books that focus on the one or two things that can help you improve as a founder/leader” and go from there!

Go beyond knowledge. Make more informed decisions with Zeni, your AI-powered finance concierge. Book a personalized demo today.

6 Best Startup Books

1.  Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel 

Most of us know that PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel is no stranger to the keys to building a many successful business and investing in others. Thiel tells us all how to do the same with the guiding principle and mastery of the skill of ‘learning to think for yourself.’

Shinde also highly recommends this book because it “shows you how you can find singular ways to create new inventions and explore uncharted frontiers.”

2. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Don’t let this book’s title fool you. While written by two U.S. Navy SEAL officers who led special forces during the Iraq War, this book is about more than war-time lessons. What Willink and Babin learned as leaders on the battlefield, they aptly reapply to business and life as a whole — a way of true inspiration. 

Philip Pages, founder of, says that this New York Times bestseller is “hands-down the best book on leadership. The principles are time tested by Navy Seals in combat and should be immediately applied to all startups looking to succeed.”

He adds that “too many books are written by those whose business is writing books, not starting companies. The best startup books are written by those who have gone through the gauntlet.”

3. The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup by Noam Wasserman

“I recommend this book so highly that I’ve personally distributed over 200 copies to new business grads and acquaintances,” says Mark Valderrama, Owner of Aquarium Store Depot. “The author does an excellent job of profiling entrepreneurs from a variety of businesses, discussing their positive and negative experiences.”

Valderrama says the book is compelling because it offers relatable examples, such as the story of Twitter and other well-known companies. Reading about others’ experiences can help entrepreneurs be more proactive and avoid making common mistakes. “The book also acquaints new entrepreneurs with business structure and helps them gain a better understanding of the key aspects of running a business effectively.”

4. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz, highly successful entrepreneur, venture capitalist and co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, offers in his book a checklist and first-hand advice on building and running a startup. 

“This is a compendium of practical wisdom, humbling experiences, and advice that all help a founder prepare for the challenges in starting a new business,” says Jay Bats, co-founder and developer at ContentBASE.

Bats says the book addresses difficult professional and personal issues challenging today’s entrepreneurs, such as letting go of friends who are no longer a good fit, poaching personnel from competitors and dealing with the possibility of bankruptcy. “It's a must-read for entrepreneurs who are currently facing similar issues or who wish to be better equipped to confront them when the time comes.”

5. The Mom Test: How to Talk to Customers & Learn If Your Business Is a Good Idea When Everyone Is Lying to You by Rob Fitzpatrick

“One of the quickest methods of validating a startup idea is discussing it with potential clients,” says Jason Ball, founder and director at Considered Content. But Ball notes these discussions often backfire because many individuals prefer to be supportive and socially polite instead of frank and honest. “As a result, it’s easy to misinterpret their support for genuine interest.”

However, Ball says this book demonstrates how to communicate effectively with others to obtain honest and meaningful feedback that can help you gather the insights you need to validate or develop your idea properly. “It can also assist you in avoiding deceptive criticism that could prematurely lead to your startup's demise.”

6. The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

“This book can assist you in identifying the best product to produce—one that customers want and are willing to pay for—as quickly as is feasible,” says Bradly Bonnen, founder of iFlooded Restoration. He says the book emphasizes the need for establishing critical assumptions early on so that you can test them fast and cheaply. “When done correctly, this strategy can help you transform your idea into a viable business far more quickly and with significantly less waste.”

Startup Books Give You Knowledge. Zeni Gives You A Helping Hand.

Avoid the typical struggle with finances that most startups experience. Get the support you need with Zeni, a team-based, AI-powered finance concierge. We combine cutting-edge technology with professional human expertise to help you overcome common startup accounting and bookkeeping problems. In addition, Zeni enables you to optimize your accounting systems, so you always have access to the most accurate, up-to-date information about your company’s finances—and you can make informed decisions quickly.

Schedule a personalized, live demo of Zeni to see how our platform gives you an insightful, full-picture view of your startup’s financial position.

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