Nowadays, it’s tempting to believe we can learn everything from blogs, but nothing could be further from the truth. If you want to deepen your understanding of a highly specific topic or gain insight into someone else’s perspectives, there is no substitute for a good ol’ book
The world is always changing, but there are also some things that will always be true. The books ahead are a mixture of classics filled with timeless knowledge and recent releases that tackle what business is like in today’s digital world.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at these best business books for entrepreneurs, creatives and professionals (in no particular order):
Best business books you can buy in 2020
What it’s about: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is more than a business book. It’s a manual for winning people to your side in every conversation. You will learn how to make people like you, how to change people’s minds without making them resent you, and more.
Why you should read it: How to Win Friends and Influence People provides detailed, step-by-step instructions for navigating business relationships of all kinds. Many of the lessons can be applied to personal relationships as well.
What it’s about: The Innovator’s Dilemma shows readers how even the most established business can lose market leadership if they fail to innovate. The book explores a variety of both failure stories and success stories, using those examples to demonstrate how and when the best way to succeed is to abandon traditional business practices.
Why you should read it: The Innovator’s Dilemma offers a set of rules to help you drive your business’s success to the next level with disruptive innovation. With these rules in mind, you will more easily be able to assess when to stick with traditional business methods and when doing something different can transform your business.
What it’s about: Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ explains the five core skills that comprise emotional intelligence, and shows how our competency in those skills determines success in every area of our lives, including business. This book explores the neuroscience and psychology behind emotional intelligence, including the human potential for growth at any age.
Why you should read it: Building emotional intelligence is one of the best ways to improve your success in business dealings, along with every other relationship in your life. This book will help you understand what emotional intelligence is and why it’s essential in every interaction. If you want to push forward your personal growth as well as the growth of your business, this book is a must-read!
What it’s about: Think and Grow Rich is another business classic, first published in 1937. The book offers 13 steps anyone can take to achieve business success, based on over 500 interviews with successful people of the day. Some of the notable people interviewed by Hill include Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Charles M. Schwab. Hill also includes several of his own experiences, including a variety of thought experiments.
Why you should read it: This book offers a variety of strategies to help you change your mindset in relation to money and business so you can attract more success. Almost one hundred years after the book was originally published, this book simultaneously provides a window into business practices of the past and offers advice that is still useful today. Again, this is a great book to spur both personal and business growth in the coming year.
What it’s about: The Lean Startup details a business model based on “validated learning,” rapid scientific experimentation, and a variety of strategies to reduce the length of product development cycles. This book also details how to measure the results of your experiments so you can adapt and adjust your strategies based on what your customers actually want.
Why you should read it: Adaptability is one of the biggest factors in any professional’s long term success, and it is doubly important for businesses trying to survive in today’s always-changing business environments. This book will show you how to build adaptability into your business model to protect yourself from changes coming down the pipeline in your industry.
What it’s about: Good to Great shares the findings of a study that compared elite companies (those who outperformed major corporations like Coca Cola over a sustained period of at least 15 years) with companies that had only achieved ‘good’ results over the same period to discover how some companies became great while others remained merely good. This book discusses the type of leadership needed to make the leap from good to great, the importance of discipline for success, and more.
Why you should read it: Good to Great demystifies what makes a business achieve exceptional success, and shows you how you can achieve spectacular results in your own field. If you’re looking for actionable advice, this is one of the best business books for you.
What it’s about: Guerilla Marketing was first released in 1983 and provided a revolutionary framework for business marketing. The book has been updated several times. The fourth edition, released in 2007, includes strategies for internet marketing, taking advantage of new technologies like podcasting, and more.
Why you should read it: This book is one of the most comprehensive guides ever published on marketing, combining a new philosophy of marketing with practical strategies designed for the modern era. If you’ve been struggling to create successful marketing campaigns, Guerilla Marketing might just provide the mindset shift you need.
What it’s about: Built to Last shares the findings of a six-year study that took 18 exceptional and long-lived companies and studied them in direct comparison with their contemporary top competitors. The book uses these findings to offer dozens of practical steps entrepreneurs can take to ensure the longevity of their businesses.
Why you should read it: For starters, the companies Collins included in this study are still thriving today, which proves that he was on to something. The book also offers hundreds of examples to help you see how the strategies contained within play out in real businesses. This book is a great tool for anyone who wants their business to thrive across decades.
What it’s about: Creative Construction uses three decades of research on innovation and success to show entrepreneurs how they can grow their business by creating an environment of sustained innovation. The book also explains the complexities of running a larger business.
Why you should read it: This book will show you what it’s like to run a massive corporation and give you a blueprint for handling growth in your own company. Creative Construction is an excellent read for anyone who dreams of someday running a global company with hundreds or even thousands of employees.
What it’s about: Connected Strategy shows business owners how to transform sporadic, occasional buyers into long-term working relationships. The approach detailed in this book consists of four main strategies: respond-to-desire, curated offering, coach behavior, and automatic execution.
Why you should read it: This book is particularly great for freelancers and other small business owners who struggle to find repeat customers. If you want to transform your next one-time gig into a steady job, this book is an ideal place to start.
What it’s about: Invisible Women explores the gender bias in hundreds of studies across a variety of industries, where men are treated as default and women are considered atypical. The book uses these studies to show the root of gender inequality in research and how this impacts women’s everyday lives. This book will also show you why it’s important to include women in your customer research and personas.
Why you should read it: This book will change the way you see the world and how you understand the research you read. If you’re someone who collects and studies data, this book will provide you with an invaluable mindset shift in how you approach the data you receive.
What it’s about: The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity explores how companies like Amazon, Google, and Apple are creating AIs that will act unpredictably, thinking and acting in ways that defy human logic. The book then goes on to share how we can change course, creating more effective AI that people will be able to rely on for centuries to come.
Why you should read it: AI is becoming more and more important to the business world with each passing month. This book will give you insight into how today’s AI systems work and what their place is in the market. The book also provides information on how we can push for better AI. If you’re interested in AI at all, this is one of the best business books for you.
What it’s about: Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control details how AI exists in our world right now, including how it has been misused to create things like autonomous lethal weapons. The book goes on to suggest that we rebuild AI from the ground up. To be truly helpful to humanity, Russell contends, AIs must operate from a place of uncertainty about what their human masters want. Machines with this trait will be inherently humble, altruistic, and dedicated to helping their human counterparts.
Why you should read it: This book provides extensive information about how AI is being used throughout the world today, going beyond The Big Nine‘s focus on a specific group of companies. You will finish this book far better equipped to deal with the AI tools businesses are using today, and maybe even to build better AI systems of your own.
What it’s about: Extreme Economies examines some of the world’s most unusual economies, ranging from the poorest major city in the world to the first digital state. Davies goes on to argue that these economies are where the financial structures of the future are being built.
Why you should read it: Nobody can deny that the world is changing at an incredibly rapid rate. Our economies will be forced to change in response to the new world. Reading this book will help you ride the waves of change and come out with your business intact.
What it’s about: Loonshots author Safi Bahcall uses her expertise in physics and experience in business to present readers with new ways of understanding the behavior of companies and empires. The book then goes on to show how you can use this new methodology to nurture radical innovation.
Why you should read it: This book will radically alter how you see both your own business and the world of business as a whole. If you are looking to shake things up and change your mindset to improve your success, this is one of the best business books for you.
What it’s about: In Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, David Epstein examines the lives of the world’s top athletes, artists, musicians, scientists, and more; discovering that early specialization is the exception in these successes, not the rule. He argues that this is because generalists are more agile, more creative, and able to make connections their specialized peers can’t see.
Why you should read it: This book offers fascinating insights into the lives of successful people across a wide range of industries. If you specialized young, this book provides a compelling argument for expanding your skillset. If you’re already a generalist, this book will help you understand how to leverage your generalism to increase your success.
What it’s about: To create Tribe of Mentors, Tim Ferriss asked over 50 world-class performers, including several of his own idols, a set of questions about how they had used their time to create their incredible careers. He then compiled all of their advice into this book, including over 50 different morning routines.
Why you should read it: The advice within this book will help you clarify your purpose in life and how to achieve it, all based on tried and true methods. You’ll also find excellent strategies for things like recovering from failure and achieving work-life balance. Whether you’re uncertain about where you want your business to go next or you’re simply looking for advice on how to refine your processes, this book has something to offer.
What it’s about: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World discusses the power of deep work, defined here as “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively difficult task.” Through stories such as the time Carl Jung built a tower in the woods to focus his mind, Newport demonstrates how deep work is the best way to achieve great success. He then goes on to offer a variety of strategies to build your capacity for deep work.
Why you should read it: In today’s world, most professionals must combat dozens of distractions every day. It’s easy to get caught in a loop of checking your social media, checking your email, and checking your social media again, only to reach the end of the day and realize you have accomplished nothing. If you want to improve your focus in the coming year, this is one of the best business books for you.
What it’s about: Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future offers a new framework for looking at innovation, based on the argument that outside of Silicon Valley, we are in an age of technological stagnation.
Why you should read it: Peter Thiel is a co-founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies. He brings everything he has learned from decades of successful entrepreneurship and investment to this book. If you want to radically change the way you approach your business, this is one of the best business books for you.
What it’s about: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People begins with the premise that the way we experience the world is based wholly on our perceptions; in order to change ourselves, we must first change our perceptions. The book then goes on to detail seven habits successful people use to shift their mindset and control their destinies.
Why you should read it: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People offers a detailed practical framework for changing your mindset, and by proxy, changing your life. If you have found yourself getting in the way of your own success in the past, this book can help you avoid doing so in the future.
What it’s about: The Art of Living shows readers how the art of mindfulness can help them answer life’s most profound questions and enjoy the freedom they desire. The book includes precise instructions for seven meditations to help people understand more about themselves, their relationships, and their connection to the world around them.
Why you should read it: This book will help you understand the world, and your place in it, in a more comprehensive way. Meditation is also proven to reduce stress and lengthen attention span, among other things.
Final thoughts on the best business books for 2020
Constant learning is the best way to keep yourself, and your business, relevant in 2020. You can learn a lot from blogs (like this one), but there’s no substitute for the knowledge you can find in some of the best business books out there. Whether you borrow from the library or invest in your own copies, make sure you read some of these books in the coming year. (Or listen to them. You’ll find most available on Audible.)
Feeling overwhelmed by all of the options on this list? Focus on one book at a time, schedule an hour or two for reading every night, and you’ll work your way through these best business books in no time.
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