We came up with this list of 16 of the best books for bootstrapping entrepreneurs by asking our own team of founders for their personal favorites. These are the titles that came up over and over because they’re like playbooks for running your business better. From classics to new releases (and even a little inspiration outside of the business section) we’ve got something for every entrepreneur’s reading list. Eyes blurry from staring at your screen? Relax, we have links to the audiobook versions, too.
The Best Business Books for Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs
Zero to Sold by Arvid Kahl
We knew as soon as we did this interview that FeedbackPanda Co-Founder, Arvid Kahl, had a book in him! He released Zero to Sold in June 2020 and quickly followed it up with The Embedded Entrepreneur in May 2021. and if you’re a bootstrapped entrepreneur it should definitely be on your reading list.
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
A book dedicated to helping you avoid the pitfalls that lead most startups to fail, this one’s packed full of advice to help you do more with less, adjust faster, and figure out what your customers really want.
Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy
If you’ve ever left an important pitch or sales call feeling like your performance was less than stellar, this book needs to be on your radar. In June 2012, social psychologist and author Amy Cuddy gave one of the most popular TED talks of all time. Her insights into how body language might impact not only how others see us, but also how we see ourselves has been viewed and shared more than 50 million times. In her book, Presence, she expands on this idea with passion, research, and real-life examples.
Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin
Fishkin’s 2018 memoir reads like a conversation with a good friend over a couple beers. While he could easily talk up his many business successes, instead he takes you on an honest, funny, and overarchingly human ride through all the ups and downs that are life as a startup founder.
The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank
A new classic with practical advice on everything from rapid iteration and customer feedback to testing your assumptions.
Amazon | (not available as audio)
“A grandiose title for a very good book!”
–Mack McConnell, Founder of Taster’s Club
The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki
If business is more art than science, then Kawasaki is one of the masters. Updated in 2015, this easy-to-follow guide will lead you through everything from innovating, recruiting, fundraising, branding, and social media.
INSPIRED: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan
One of the best books for entrepreneurs new to product management, Cagan’s straightforward, master-class like volume is a must-read to help you develop your product management cycle, scale and staff your team, and uncover new features your customers will love (and pay for).
Tools of the Titans by Tim Ferriss
It’s hard to think of an impressive business list that Tim Ferriss hasn’t topped since the success of The 4-Hour Work Week launched him to worldwide fame. He’s one of Fast Company‘s “Most Innovative Business People,” one of Forbes‘s “Names You Need to Know,” and one of Fortune‘s “40 under 40.” Oh yeah, and he’s been an early-stage investor/advisor in companies like Uber, Facebook, Shopify, Duolingo, Alibaba, and more than 50 others. It’s the understatement of the year to say he knows the startup world, and safe to say if he’s got a book out, it should be on your nightstand.
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
Author and spirit-animal/soulmate to Oprah, Brené Brown is read and beloved by millions who have used her wisdom to get past the emotions and habits holding them back in life, business, and relationships. If you struggle with relating to your team, or find that you talk yourself out of opportunities, any one of her books may offer insight into getting past these patterns and making progress.
16 of the best books for entrepreneurs from classics to new releases (and even a little inspiration outside of the business section). Click to Tweet.
Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Yvon Chouinard
Hear in his own words how the legendary Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard went from a young rock climber seeking the next thrill to running one of the most successful and recognizable outdoor brands. With a laser-focus on doing right by both people and the planet that’s made him beloved by customers and employees alike, Chouinard is a model for the 21st-century CEO.
“A great, behind-the-scenes look at the unique way that one of America’s greatest brands was built.”
– Kevin McArdle, Co-Founder & CEO of SureSwift Capital
Hustle: The Power to Charge Your Life with Money, Meaning, and Momentum by Neil Patel, Patrick Vlaskovits, Jonas Koffler
A great book for the newbie or aspiring entrepreneur, consider Hustle your personal coach. This book is packed with inspiration for quitting your day job, starting your own business, and taking leaps in your life.
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
Duckworth has good news for bootstrappers: It’s grit, not genius that turns out to be the biggest predictor of success. If you started a business solo, that usually means there will be areas that are outside your wheelhouse. Maybe you’re a great programmer, but the marketing side’s a bit of a mystery to you, or vice versa. Or maybe your business is going great, but the next stage means management, which you’ve never done. Grit will teach you to meet challenges in business and life with passion and persistence.
The Best Books for Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs: Finding Inspiration Outside of the Business Section
Sometimes the best books to help entrepreneurs to find inspiration are a little less obvious. Just like Archimedes in the bathtub, here a few more out-of-the-way places you might find your own “Eureka!” moment.
Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court by John Wooden & Steve Jamison
A great read if you’re getting ready to scale your business with new hires. A lot of things that work for managing a team on the court apply to life off the court as well.
“John Wooden! The winningest coach in NCAA history. But he never talked about winning to his team. He believed that if you focused on perfecting the small things, then winning would take care of itself.”
– Marvin Russell, Founder of The Ocean Agency, MySiteAuditor, and Checkli, and Growth Advisor for SureSwift Capital
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
There’s a reason this book has been a favorite of savvy entrepreneurs since before the days of Mad Men, and is still wildly popular in Silicon Valley today. Consider it a metaphor for running your business, and put it in your cart now if you’re launching in a competitive space. Snap Chat founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy famously bought it for every one of their six employees when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was digging for information on their business plans after they rejected his offer to buy their company.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
It’s hard to describe this one without giving spoilers, so we’ll leave it up to our VP Revenue, Tom Kincheloe, who re-reads it every couple months.
“I pretty much never read ‘business’ books unless it’s required reading, but I’ve read the Alchemist every one to two months for over six years now. This is my favorite business/entrepreneur book by a mile, even though almost no one would classify it as such. It’s a book about life and living in the now. Two lines I love from it are, ‘People are capable at any time in their lives of doing what they dream of,’ and ‘If you improve on the present, what comes later is better.’ Business shouldn’t be that different from life.”
– Tom Kincheloe, VP Revenue for SureSwift Capital