The Best Books for Entrepreneurs and Creative Thinkers
I want to preface this list of the best books for entrepreneurs and creative professionals by saying I despised reading books up until 2013.
There was something about sitting down and reading a book that felt like I was wasting time. It felt like I could be doing so many other worthwhile things. Then I realized something: No one was forcing me to finish reading a book if I didn’t like it.
It may sound silly, but I’m willing to bet we all carry some baggage of being forced to read crappy books in our younger years (and the subsequent book reports that followed them, ugh). I finally ditched that baggage.
Below is a list of my favorite books for entrepreneurs and creative thinkers. I’ll continue to update this list as I continue to read books. I purposely didn’t number this list because my ranking scale changes depending on what I’m doing in my entrepreneurial life. I did however separate the books into three categories: Inspiration, Knowledge and Getting Unstuck.
*I’ve included my affiliate link to purchase any of these books on Amazon. I probably make $0.35 if you use my link and it doesn’t cost you anything extra. No hard feelings if you don’t want to use my affiliate link.
Rework – Buy Now
by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson
A business book with pictures! The talented Mike Rohde penned images that went along with Jason Fried’s book about rethinking the way business is done. I’ve read Rework twice now and I think typing this mini-review will actually get me to read it for a third time. ‘Nuff said.
Steal Like an Artist – Buy Now
by Austin Kleon
I can’t remember exactly how I found Austin Kleon’s work, but I’ll assume it was through my girlfriend and give her the credit. Austin does these really cool blackout poems and reading those led me to his first book Steal Like an Artist. If I could pick a style of book to read every single day, it would be the way Austin does his books. Lots of huge hand-drawn images, quotes and photos. Poignant writing that resonates with my inner creative. This book was also the inspiration to do a “French Flap” on the first edition of my paperback book as well. Show Your Work is another awesome book from Austin Kleon and I’d highly recommend buying the paperback versions of his books (it’s worth it!).
The Circle – Buy Now
by Dave Eggers
I can’t take credit for finding what is my favorite fiction book I’ve ever read. Yes, you read that correctly: favorite. My good buddy DJ Waldow recommended this book to me and it was unbelievably good. If there was a 5-star rating scale, it would get 36 stars. This is one of the only books I’ve ever read that I simply couldn’t put down. Want to question everything you know about your digital life? Dig into this book!
The Purple Cow- Buy Now
by Seth Godin
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a Seth Godin book in this list. I’ve read almost of all of Seth’s books, but The Purple Cow is the book that had the most impact on me. It really showed me it was okay (and necessary) to stand out from the crowd. You certainly won’t read a bad book by Seth, but this one is my absolute favorite. And fun fact, Seth got denied by over 900 publishers before getting his first book deal.
The Essential Calvin and Hobbes – Buy Now
by Bill Watterson
This may seem out of place, but I read Calvin and Hobbes comics every single morning. There’s something really special about the way that Bill Watterson looked at the world and translated his thoughts into a comic strip featuring an adventurous kid and his stuffed tiger. I think everyone should own (and constantly read) a copy of their favorite book from their childhood!
The Lean Startup – Buy Now
by Eric Reis
This is the only book on my list that I openly admit is boring. I’d be lying if I said I crushed through this book. However… I think The Lean Startup is one of the absolute best business books of our time (digital age). The lean methods discussed in the book have changed everything I know and implement with my businesses. The word “iteration” has become a staple in my vocabulary because of this book. Buy and read this book if you care about your current or next business.
The Obstacle Is The Way – Buy Now
by Ryan Holiday
I’d never thought about how much our negative experiences in life can propel us forward and motivate us. The Obstacle Is The Way has created an entirely new frame of reference for me when a problem arises (as they always do). The crappy stuff that happens to us in life or business doesn’t have to be looked at as “woe is me,” instead it can be looked at as an opportunity to grow, create, fix, enhance, and improve. I thoroughly enjoyed Ryan Holiday’s book and I think you will too.
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing – Buy Now
by Al Ries and Jack Trout
Everyone wants to know the next great marketing trend, tip, trick or tactic, but the best marketing advice you’ll ever learn can be read in this book. Like other marketers, I’ve probably read this book four or five times. Every time I read it a small light bulb goes off for me. It might be a simple customer service thing I’m not doing or a new idea comes to light. This book is a must read if you do any marketing of any kind (and we all do!).
Everything I Know – Buy Now
by Paul Jarvis
You may notice that I do a bunch of stuff with Paul Jarvis nowadays. Well, that wasn’t the case when I read his book Everything I Know. In fact, I took a free course he made called My Damn Book and his final email after taking the course offered his book as further reading. I knew I was in his sales funnel, but couldn’t do anything about it. Reading Paul’s book was like talking to a friend about my entrepreneurial life. It’s a great read, especially if you’re a freelancer or creative professional.
Creativity, Inc. – Buy Now
by Ed Catmull
Funny enough, I’d seen the cover of this book tons of times while putting my own book (Creativity For Sale) on Amazon. Every time I search for my book or needed to update something, this book popped up. For some reason, even though I’m a huge Pixar fan, I never thought to buy the book and read it. Then my good friend Drew Himel said he read it and I should too. I’ll admit, I didn’t tear through this book, but it was extremely interesting. I loved seeing behind the curtain of Pixar, its origins, the huge acquisition by Disney and some great behind-the-scenes looks at Steve Jobs.
Body of Work – Buy Now
by Pamela Slim
This book helped me find the courage to write my own book. I’m fortunate to know Pam and after reading her book had the pleasure of speaking with her. She showed me how to deal with the failures of my past and to embrace the successes that came along with them. If you’re feeling lost (or know someone who is), I can’t recommend this book enough. To be clear, it’s also a great book even if you don’t feel lost and has nothing to do with book writing.
Choose Yourself – Buy Now
by James Altucher
During my “feeling lost” months in 2013 someone introduced me to James Altucher’s Facebook page. He pours his heart out through his writing and I can really relate to that. He also seems to be an entrepreneur with an insasiable appetite and I can relate to that too. My good friend Clay Hebert was nice enough to send James a copy of my book and after reading it he asked me to be a guest on his podcast. Since I knew he’d read my book, I decided to pick up his book I’d seen everywhere. If you’re a fan of James, you’ll absolutely love Choose Yourself. He writes just like he talks (and thinks), so be prepared for a lot of tangents and random thoughts.
Three Simple Steps – Buy Now
by Trevor Blake
It seems some of the best books I read come recommended from friends. Three Simple Steps is one of those books and I can thank my buddy James Robert Lay enough for this one. This book does a great job of walking you through actual steps that can help you find your “thing.” Trevor’s story is inspiring, but comes with lots of practical advice. I will admit I didn’t crush through this book in one sitting, but books in the “Getting Unstuck” category typically are hard to read because they bring up a lot of difficult thoughts and feelings.
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I hope this list helps you or the creative entrepreneur in your life. If you want to suggest books, feel free to email me, but know I won’t suggest something unless I actually read it and enjoy it.