The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of

The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of Cover

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

— Haruki Murakami

When you read books no one else is reading, you don’t just become a more creative person, you’ll also be more interesting. You’ll have something new to contribute wherever you go, and your mind will make connections no other mind is making. If you’re looking for an advantage in your career or even your personal life, look no further! Read what no one else is reading. 

Read the obscure, the questionable, and the forgotten. Pick books that lie outside your comfort zone, that feel hard to understand, and that have an air of mystery around them. Here are 12 titles that fit that mark. Even if you’re an avid nonfiction reader, I’m sure you’ve never heard of most of them. I think they’re some of the best nonfiction books of all time, and I hope you’ll give them a try.


1. The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner

The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of #1

Favorite Quote

“The problem with patience and discipline is that it requires both of them to develop each of them.” — Thomas M. Sterner

The Book in One Sentence

The Practicing Mind shows you how to cultivate patience, focus, and discipline for working towards your biggest goals, by going back to the basic principles of practice, embracing a child-like trial-and-error attitude again and thus make working hard towards mastery a fulfilling process in itself.

Why should you read it?

This short book is the best guide on how to combine mindfulness and ambition that I’ve ever read. If you want to be great at what you do, be it writing, a corporate job, or being a parent, you need to master the process — and truly mastering anything takes decades.

Sterner explains how, when we humbly focus on that process without obsessing over the results, we’ll do better work almost instantly. Yet, simultaneously, we’ll find the patience we need to take the long-term view. This book is simple, inspiring, calming, fun, and to the point. I rarely see it talked about anywhere, yet I’d recommend it to anyone.

Key Takeaways

  1. Forget your end goal every time you work.
  2. Never use goals as an indicator of progress.
  3. Apply the Do, Observe, Correct technique to keep your productivity in check.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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2. How to Live by Derek Sivers

The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of #2

Favorite Quote

“You don’t see things as they are. You see them as you are.” — Derek Sivers

The Book in One Sentence

How to Live offers 27 wildly differing answers to life’s biggest question, thus providing plenty of useful advice along with one powerful realization: Life is not “either/or,” it is “and” — and you can always change your mind.

Why should you read it?

Derek Sivers is a well-known figure in the entrepreneurship world, but unless you’re on his newsletter, you likely won’t know that he’s now mainly writing books, and How to Live is his magnum opus. 

The book provides 27 focused, highly compressed answers to one single question: “How should you live your life?” Each answer is fully convinced of itself and, in only a few pages, tries to sell you on its lifestyle. Travel the world! Make lots of money! Renounce everything! Be a hermit, make a million friends, or build useful things. 

The genius of this book lies in the fact that each chapter contradicts the next — and therefore forces you to think hard about what it suggests. Sivers condensed this book from an original 1,000+ pages down to just around 100, packing everything he’s learned over several decades into a 2-hour read. Do not miss out on this one.

Key Takeaways

  1. For great work and deep connections, live a small, slow, focused life.
  2. If you want calmness and routine, live an open, moderate, independent life.
  3. To fully savor life to the utmost extent, live a big, fast, immersed life.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself. I also wrote an essay explaining the bigger message behind the book.

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3. Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse

The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of #3

Favorite Quote

“Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries.” — James P. Carse

The Book in One Sentence

Finite and Infinite Games offers the theory that we play many different games in life, showing you that work and relationships are long-term endeavors and how to play them in order to win.

Why should you read it?

Originally published in 1986, this book provides an entire, spiritual yet rational way of looking at the world. It contains hundreds of clever metaphors and world plays, showing you that human activities can be neatly separated into two kinds of games: finite and infinite ones.

Finite games are clearly defined in their rules, time frame, and space. For there to be a winner, there must always be a loser. Think about sports, stock trading, or political elections. Infinite games, on the other hand, extend forever. The goal is not to win, it is to keep playing, and to keep playing, the players must keep changing the rules! Love is an infinite game. So is business, if you’re trying to build one that lasts for generations. So is life itself.

Mastering and applying these two mindsets will change how you view the world forever. Do give this book a chance.

Key Takeaways

  1. Finite games are played for the sake of ending them, but infinite games are played simply for the sake of playing.
  2. No one can force you to play a game, and winning isn’t everything.
  3. Everything in life can (and should) be viewed as a game.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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4. Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill

The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of #4

Favorite Quote

“Your only limitation is the one which you set up in your own mind.” — Napoleon Hill

The Book in One Sentence

Outwitting the Devil is an imagined interview between Napoleon Hill and the Devil himself, in which he wrings certain truths from the root of evil, which will help us avoid his grasp and live a good life.

Why should you read it?

Everyone knows Think and Grow Rich by what might have been America’s first self-help author, but no one knows this, arguably much better book. Written in 1938, one year after Hill had released his all-time classic containing the results of interviewing some 500+ extraordinary people, this book holds only one interview — but it is an interview with the devil himself.

Going back and forth with the lord of evil himself, Hill eventually manages to wring certain truths from him, and, slowly but surely, the devil explains how he keeps us from fulfilling our potential. Hill also talks about his personal struggles, and how he finally found the confidence to authentically share his story and spread his message.

This book is fun, insightful, and awe-inspiring. So much, in fact, that Hill’s wife thought it was too controversial for its time — the book was only published 72 years after he wrote it, in 2011. Definitely make some soothing tea to go with this one.

Key Takeaways

  1. There are only two bases from which we build our entire lives: faith and fear.
  2. The devil’s goal is to make all humans aimless drifters and if we’re not careful, he quickly succeeds.
  3. To attain mental, spiritual, and physical freedom, we must follow seven principles and escape the devil’s grasp.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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5. The Dip by Seth Godin

The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of #5

Favorite Quote

“Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.” — Seth Godin

The Book in One Sentence

The Dip teaches us that, between starting and succeeding, there’s a time of struggle when we should either pursue excellence or quit strategically while helping us choose between the two.

Why should you read it?

Like Napoleon Hill, Seth Godin is a famous author. Ever heard of Purple Cow? Permission Marketing? Unlike most of his other books, The Dip is not strictly about business. It’s about how you can build a meaningful career and be successful at what you do.

The dip is a simple concept: When we start a new endeavor, we learn a lot quickly. We see early results fast and have fun. And then…it gets hard. Welcome to the dip. Why does it always have to get hard? According to Seth, the dip is what separates average from extraordinary. It’s the trough we must traverse if we want to get a top 1%-job, have top 1%-money, and live a top 1%-life.

More than just telling you to keep pushing, however, the book lays out a framework for when you should quit and when you should “stick.” It’s an immensely powerful read, and it only takes 2 hours or so to complete.

Key Takeaways

  1. Whatever your goal, you’ll need to confront a dip to succeed. 
  2. The rewards for being first are huge and even unexpected, aim for them!
  3. If you want to be a winner in the long run, you’ll have to master the art of smart quitting.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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6. Ikigai by Yukari Mitsuhashi

The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of #6

Favorite Quote

“When you find anything even remotely interesting, try not to dismiss it so easily.” — Yukari Mitsuhashi

The Book in One Sentence

Ikigai is a simple and concise explanation of the Japanese concept with the potential to enrich our lives with joy and meaning from sources big and small.

Why should you read it?

Ikigai is a Japanese concept blending meaning and happiness. It means “reason for waking up in the morning.” While there is now a plethora of books on this subject, do not confuse this one for one of the more popular titles by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles. Their book also contains a lot of interesting ideas, but it muddies the concept of ikigai, adding several parts that have nothing to do with it, like whether you can make money with the activity that you enjoy, how focused you are on your health, etc.

Born and raised in Japan, Mitsuhashi explains that the idea is much simpler than that: Your ikigai could be work-related, but it doesn’t have to be. It could be the song of birds in the morning, the smell of fresh coffee, or making your grandma laugh. She also provides some useful questions for finding your “bigger picture” ikigai and shares stories of people who explain how they found theirs. Yet another short, underrated read.

Key Takeaways

  1. Ikigai as in “meaning of life” is more about daily life than your life as a whole.
  2. A feeling of ikigai can come from your work, interests, and even the tiniest interactions with the world.
  3. Ultimately, ikigai is about the actions we take in pursuit of happiness.

If you want to learn more, you can click below or get a copy for yourself.

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7. Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker

The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of #7

Favorite Quote

“It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.” — Peter F. Drucker

The Book in One Sentence

Managing Oneself is a guide to developing a skillful persona and learning more about your strengths, weaknesses, inclinations, and how you collaborate with others, all while making yourself more knowledgeable about how to thrive in your career.

Why should you read it?

Like some of the other authors on this list, Peter Drucker is quite famous. He’s considered “the father of modern management,” primarily for the ideas he compiled in The Effective Executive. Once again, however, his best title may be one few people know: Managing Oneself is a phenomenal guide to self-awareness at work and in your career.

I got this book as a gift in audio form nearly ten years ago, and the 45-minute listen changed my life. Drucker shares a list of simple but profound questions, like “How do I perform (best)?” “Am I a reader or a listener?” and “What are the strengths I can double down on?” This was originally an article for Harvard Business Review, but Drucker later expanded it, and I’d recommend it to anyone trying to make a difference at and through their work.

Key Takeaways

  1. Know your strengths and weaknesses by conducting a feedback analysis. 
  2. Understand your communication style and how you work with others.
  3. Work on your second career to keep yourself engaged and challenged in your working life.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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8. The Little Book of Contentment by Leo Babauta

The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of #8

Favorite Quote

“Contentment actually is a much better place from which to start making changes than an unhappiness with who you are.” — Leo Babauta

The Book in One Sentence

The Little Book of Contentment is a short guide to calm, mindfulness, and happiness that stem from within rather than without, taking a minimalist approach at finding — and then securing — our spiritual and emotional wellbeing.

Why should you read it?

Babauta is the blogger behind Zenhabits, an extremely popular blog on mindfulness, minimalism, and behavior. He also wrote more popular books, but this little below-the-radar gem is my favorite. Best of all? It’s free. You can download it on his website.

In just over 100 pages, Babauta explores why discontentment is the root of all suffering, how we can get our inner peace back, and why happiness will naturally follow once we find it. I’ve read it more than once, and whenever you feel like inner turmoil is brewing, I recommend you reach for this book.

Key Takeaways

  1. Discontent is the root of all problems.
  2. If you want to be happy, focus on noticing things instead of owning them.
  3. Self-acceptance is a key part of contentment, and it does not mean we’ll be complacent.

If you want to learn more, you can download the book for free on Leo’s website or buy a copy on Amazon and support both us and him directly along the way.

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9. The Authentic Swing by Steven Pressfield

The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of #9

Favorite Quote

“Faldo didn’t defeat Norman. Norman defeated Norman. The golfer’s greatest enemy is himself.” — Steven Pressfield

The Book in One Sentence

The Authentic Swing is a field guide for writers, artists, and anyone hoping to live authentically, drawing lessons from golf about life and creativity learned along the way of completing a bestselling novel about the sport.

Why should you read it?

You know how this goes by now. Everyone knows The War of Art. While the concept of Resistance — the invisible force keeping us from achieving our dreams — is brilliant, I found The Authentic Swing even better. Technically, it’s a book about writing, but really, it’s a book about living — and not just if you’re a maker or hoping to eek out some extra creativity at work.

Beyond giving us a behind-the-scenes look of how Pressfield managed to write his first successful novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, a story about golf that was made into a Hollywood movie with Matt Damon, Will Smith, and Charlize Theron, this little jewel will show you how to be your truest, most authentic self — and thus live life on your own terms and succeed in your very own way. Highly inspiring and definitely entertaining. Give it a swing!

Key Takeaways

  1. In golf as in life, each player can only successfully swing one swing: their own.
  2. Whether you’re a golfer or the hero in the Bhagavad Gita, your biggest enemy is you.
  3. It’s okay to follow your nose, even if it doesn’t lead you where everyone else points.

If you want to learn more, you can click below or get a copy for yourself.

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10. Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant

The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of #10

Favorite Quote

“If I loved myself truly and deeply, would I let myself experience this?” — Kamal Ravikant

The Book in One Sentence

Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It explains how Kamal Ravikant overcame professional and personal failure thanks to a vow he made to love himself, showing how you, too, can use this simple technique of deep self-compassion to beat adversity and find happiness.

Why should you read it?

One day, Kamal Ravikant found himself unable to get out of bed. He wasn’t unable to move — he just didn’t see the point. His formerly successful Silicon Valley startup had imploded, his girlfriend had left him, and he barely had any money. 

At some point, he got so fed up, he staggered to his desk and scribbled a vow to himself on a piece of paper: “I vow to love myself.” This book explains what happened next — and the results are nothing shy of magic. It contains a story, a practice, and a guide to making the practice a habit. Ravikant rewrote and expanded the book in 2020, but I would recommend starting with the shorter, original 2012 edition.

Key Takeaways

  1. Telling yourself you love yourself will work, even if, at first, you don’t believe it.
  2. Once your daily self-love practice kicks in, your life will seem to magically get better.
  3. Even after you’re happy and fulfilled, never stop loving yourself — it’s easy to lose the habit and slip back into negativity.

If you want to learn more, you can click below or get a copy for yourself.

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11. The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey

The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of #11

Favorite Quote

“The player of the inner game comes to value the art of relaxed concentration above all other skills, the secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard.” — Timothy Gallwey

The Book in One Sentence

The Inner Game of Tennis is about the mental state required to deliver peak performance and how you can cultivate that state in sports, work, and life.

Why should you read it?

First published in 1974, you might wonder what an over-50-year-old book about tennis is doing on this list. Trust me, it has earned its place — because it’s not really about tennis, and Gallwey’s method is as sound as it ever was.

Gallwey never made it big in tennis, but he did coach the Harvard student tennis team for a while. Eventually, he developed his own method of teaching, which is almost 100% based in observation, visualization, and imitation. In this quick read, he explains how you can learn anything thanks to mindfulness, and why it’s a much better method than the usual tell-and-repeat approach we practice in school, sports, and offices around the globe.

Key Takeaways

  1. How our two inner selves interact decides how skilled we are on the outside.
  2. In order for our performance to flow effortlessly, we must calm Self 1 and have faith in Self 2.
  3. The inner game applies in all walks of life, not just tennis or even sports in general.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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12. On the Shortness of Life by Seneca

The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of #12

Favorite Quote

“You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire.” — Seneca the Younger

The Book in One Sentence

On the Shortness of Life is a 2,000 year old, 20-page masterpiece by Seneca, Roman stoic philosopher and teacher to the emperors, about time and how to best use it, to ensure you lead a long and fulfilling life.

Why should you read it?

“Life is long if you know how to use it.” Phew. This one hit me hard when I first read it. When people think of ancient Stoic philosopher Seneca, the first thing that comes to mind may be his Moral Letters. Yet once again, it is in this lesser known manifesto that his greatest contribution lies — at least if you ask me.

In around 100 pages, Seneca will completely change your perspective of time. He’ll show you why using your days, weeks, and years well is not just advisable but essential, and you’ll walk away feeling empowered and inspired.

Key Takeaways

  1. Chasing leisure, luxury and legacy is what makes a long life appear short.
  2. You can be busy all your life without ever doing something meaningful, so beware.
  3. Your ability to contemplate and appreciate life will never disappear.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Why Read Nonfiction Books? And Why the Less Popular Ones?

There are a million reasons to read. We read to feel, to forget, and to remember. We read for fun, for joy, and for mystery. But we also read to learn. In a good nonfiction book, in just 200 pages, we can understand what took someone else a lifetime  and many painful lessons to fully comprehend.

If learning is one of your primary drivers to read, you must read widely, not just deeply. Imagine a city of one million people in which everyone can only read the same 10 books. If those books are all about inequality and societal problems, that city’s citizens will constantly be bickering and fighting. If those books are full of stories about community, kindness, and helping one another, everyone will get along.

Regardless of their effect, however, with only 10 books, the people in that city will inevitably stop learning. Thinking, creativity, innovation — these activities will come to a screeching halt. Why? Because the pool of ideas is too limited! The best those citizens can do is to rehash the same ideas from the same 10 books, over and over again. They need more input to create better output.

The same dynamic holds true for you as an individual. If you only read the few bestsellers everyone is talking about each year, and you and your friends mostly agree on their premises, none of you will learn! Where’s the discussion? The thinking? The discourse? When you all read different books, however, everyone has something to teach to everyone else.

Popular books are usually popular because they’re agreeable. They’ll rarely teach you something you don’t already know. They might get you social credit but little extra brains. There’s nothing wrong with reading these books, but they shouldn’t be the only ones you consume. Otherwise, you run the risk of becoming like the people in that town: Set in your ways; a rusty thinker.

If you want to stay creative and sharp, be fun to talk to, and to truly never stop learning, read what no one else is reading.


Conclusion

There is one more reason to read widely instead of just deeply: It indulges our natural curiosity — and only by satisfying our desire to learn can we sustain it. There is nothing worse than losing our curiosity, for with it, we will lose our lust for life altogether.

I hope these books have made you a little curious. I also hope you’ll pick up at least one of them and read it in full, especially since they’re all short reads. Here are 12 doors into unknown worlds full of wonder, insight, and inspiration. May you take them only to discover thousands more. Enjoy some of the best nonfiction books. Happy reading!


Other Book Lists by Topic

Looking for more of the best books on various topics? Here are all the book lists we’ve made for you so far:


Other Book Lists by Author

Looking for more books by the world’s most celebrated authors? Here are all of the book lists by the author we’ve curated for you:


The 60 Best Business Books of All Time (Will Forever Change How You Think About Organizations)

The 60 Best Business Books of All Time Cover

“There is no skill called ‘business,’” Naval Ravikant says. That’s… an odd thing to say for a businessman. Naval briefly worked for Boston Consulting Group, a firm that advises businesses, and he founded and successfully sold his own business, Epinions. What Naval means is that “business” is a composite activity, a mix of engineering, research, product development, marketing, sales, psychology, ethics, mathematics, and a lot more. So if we want to succeed in business, actually, we’ll need a broad variety of skills, and that’s why we should business books across the board rather than just a few generic ones!

As a beginner, you can read a few introductory books about business, sure, but as soon as you commit to a company you want to see succeed, be it your own or someone else’s, you’ll need specific skills depending on your role and goal at any given time. As a startup founder, you might want to start with idea validation and product development. If you’re an accountant, there are good books about business finances you can read. And if marketing is your chosen field of battle, there are great guides for that too.

At Four Minute Books, we’ve summarized over 1,000 books. Today, we’d like to share the 60 best ones about business with you. We think these are the best business books of all time, and whether you agree or not, we’re 99% certain you can find a title in here that’ll teach you something new. From starting a business to scaling one to developing a flourishing company culture, you’ll find whatever you (and your business) need right now on this list.

 

To help you get to the exact book that’s most useful for you quickly, we’ve sorted this list into various categories. We’ll start with the best business books overall, then share some good ones for beginners. From there, we’ll move through business books for managers, employees, and leaders, right on to books about teamwork and company culture. After that, we’ll cover productivity, startups, and strategy. Then, we’ll go from starting a business to scaling one and from small business owners to solo creators. Finally, we’ll address sales, marketing, and share some inspiring biographies from great CEOs and business leaders.

For each of the books on our list, we’ve included our favorite quote, a one-sentence-summary of the book, as well as why and when you might want to read it. We’ve also added the three key takeaways from each title and some big buttons for you to decide between: Do you want to read the full summary of that book on Four Minute Books? Or insta-buy a copy for yourself on Amazon (affiliate links)?

Just use the clickable table of contents below to jump to any specific book or category, and instantly start learning more about business!

Ready to succeed at and with your work? Here are the 60 best business books of all time!


The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of

Best Business Books Overall

1. Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Best Business Books of All Time #1

Favorite Quote

“Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” — Greg McKeown

The Book in One Sentence

Essentialism shows you a new approach to productivity and life by allowing you to be extremely selective about the essential things in your life and then ruthlessly cutting out everything else.

Why should you read it?

The core idea of this book is embedded in a beautiful graphic showing 12 arrows for the 12 hours in your day. In one case, they all point in different directions, showing how scattered focus leads to meager results. In another version of the image, they all point in one direction and thus add up, explaining the powerful impact of focus in a single picture. A lot of time management books are about prioritizing, but they do it in the form of “Do this, then that,” which just leads to your laundry list of work getting even longer than it was before you read the book. This book says “Do this and nothing else,” and that’s what makes it one of the all-time greatest. It’s a philosophy for you, for your business, and for life in general, and that’s why it tops our list.

Key Takeaways

  1. Doing nothing and doing everything are both signs of learned helplessness.
  2. Become the editor of your own life with the 90% rule.
  3. Always give yourself a buffer of 50%.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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2. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

Best Business Books of All Time #2

Favorite Quote

“The only thing that prepares you to run a company is running a company.” — Ben Horowitz

The Book in One Sentence

The Hard Thing About Hard Things is an inside look at the tough decisions and lonely times all CEOs face, before showing you what it takes to build a great organization and become a world-class leader.

Why should you read it?

Many books make being a CEO sound like it’ll be the time of your life. On most days, it won’t. It’ll be boring, challenging, and uncomfortable. This book is one of few shining a light on the tough realities of leadership, and that’s why it’s valuable. Some real-talk for blue-eyed optimists that’ll make you feel stronger and more resilient by the time you’re done listening to (or reading) it.

Key Takeaways

  1. The CEO should be the first one to shout when shit hits the fan.
  2. There are 2 types of CEOs.
  3. Great CEOs must learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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3. Good to Great by Jim Collins 

Best Business Books of All Time #3

Favorite Quote

“By definition, it is not possible for everyone to be above the average.” — Jim Collins

The Book in One Sentence

Good to Great examines what it takes for ordinary companies to become great and outperform their competitors by analyzing 28 companies over 30 years, who managed to make the transition or fell prey to their bad habits.

Why should you read it?

If your business has been around for some time but feels like it’s just cruising along, read this book. It’ll show you how to get on top and stay there, which is something few businesses ever achieve. If you need long-term motivation and big-picture strategy for an established company, this is the book to grab. Also by Jim Collins, also great: Built to Last and Great by Choice.

Key Takeaways

  1. Find your Hedgehog concept.
  2. Only adopt new technology if it helps you reach your goal.
  3. Confront nasty facts head on but don’t lose hope.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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4. The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker

Best Business Books of All Time #4

Favorite Quote

“Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge are essential resources, but only effectiveness converts them into results.” — Peter F. Drucker

The Book in One Sentence

The Effective Executive gives leaders a step-by-step formula to become more productive, developing their own strengths and those of their employees.

Why should you read it?

Are you a role model in any capacity at work? Then there’s no one better than Peter Drucker to turn to. The “father of modern management,” as he is often called, will help you lead with grace and by example. He’ll show you how to develop your own skills in order to help others build theirs, and thus spread efficiency and good decision-making all throughout your organization. Honorable mention: the wonderful Managing Oneself.

Key Takeaways

  1. To be an effective executive you must lead by example, first developing your own skills.
  2. Learn how to make the right decisions and stand by them, no matter what others say.
  3. Focusing on the talents of your employees will build an efficient working environment.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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5. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim

Best Business Books of All Time #5

Favorite Quote

“Create. Don’t Compete.” — W. Chan Kim

The Book in One Sentence

Blue Ocean Strategy talks about a new type of business strategy that doesn’t necessarily rely on gaining a competitive advantage over your rivals, but on innovating your way out of the current market to create your own ocean of opportunities.

Why should you read it?

Humans are social animals. We love imitating and copying. It provides us with a sense of comfort. In business, this is fatal. If you want your startup or small business (or even your huge corporation) to be anything more than an “us-too” competitor in your industry, perhaps it’s time to invent your own market altogether. Don’t compete — lead! If you’re stuck in a tough market with fierce competition, this one’s for you.

Key Takeaways

  1. A company must switch its focus from Red to Blue Oceans.
  2. The business canvas strategy allows you to define your company and focus on your core strengths.
  3. Making the competition seem irrelevant compared to your innovations is what the Blue Ocean strategy is all about.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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6. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell 

Best Business Books of All Time #6

Favorite Quote

“People don’t care what you know until they know what you care.” — John C. Maxwell

The Book in One Sentence

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership shows you that leadership is learned not inherited and that you can become a leader too, if you internalize some of the universal principles at play in any leader-follower-relationship.

Why should you read it?

Did you recently first become responsible for other people in your company? Do you aspire to be a leader? Then this classic by John Maxwell will provide you with some solid foundations on how to earn the respect of others, mobilize people towards a common goal, and inspire folks to follow where you’re trying to lead them. Also worth reading by John Maxwell: The 5 Levels of Leadership and Leadershift.

Key Takeaways

  1. Make sure you stand on solid ground and uphold the rules you want to inspire others to keep.
  2. Keep earning the respect of your followers.
  3. It’s okay to be a bad loser – it keeps you focused on winning.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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7. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie 

Best Business Books of All Time #7

Favorite Quote

“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” — Dale Carnegie

The Book in One Sentence

How to Win Friends and Influence People teaches you countless principles to become a likable person, handle your relationships well, win others over and help them change their behavior without being intrusive.

Why should you read it?

I don’t think much needs to be said about this book. It’s an all-time classic almost everyone has at least heard of. This book is full of simple tips to make other people like you, be a kind person, and cultivate efficient, well-oiled relationships in all areas of life. I’d recommend it to anyone. Side note: If you’d like more specific advice around marketing and sales from Carnegie, try The Sales Advantage.

Key Takeaways

  1. You can make a great first impression just by smiling.
  2. To be interesting to others, talk about their favorite topic: themselves.
  3. If you want to convince people, get them to say yes a lot.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Business Books for Beginners

8. 21 Days to a Big Idea by Bryan Mattimore

Best Business Books of All Time #8

Favorite Quote

“In the scheme of things, the time spent upfront in the idea-generation phase is so minor compared to the time needed to develop that idea.” — Bryan Mattimore

The Book in One Sentence

21 Days to a Big Idea shows you how to combine the creative and rational sides of your brain to come up with cool, new ideas and fun ways to implement them, which might even help you create a sustainable business in the long run, in as little as 21 days.

Why should you read it?

Stuck on the ideation phase of your business? If you’re early in the starting-a-business game or need creative breakthroughs as a team, this book will guide you through the process. It’s a short, simple, actionable read and an elegant way to come up with good ideas quickly whenever you need them.

Key Takeaways

  1. Ask yourself what you wished for as a kid to find areas to innovate in.
  2. Use the “and” technique to come up with ideas in seconds.
  3. Try billboarding to see which ideas could become a business.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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9. Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff 

Best Business Books of All Time #9

Favorite Quote

“There are limits to the human attention span, which is why a pitch must be brief, concise, and interesting.” — Oren Klaff

The Book in One Sentence

Pitch Anything relies on tactics and strategies from a field called neuroeconomics to give you an entirely new way of presenting, pitching, and convincing other people of your ideas and offers.

Why should you read it?

For those who get dry mouth when they so much as read the word “presentation,” this book can be a life-saver. Whether you realize it or not, you’re constantly pitching — ideas to coworkers, products to the market, even recommendations to friends. You might as well learn how to be good at it. This skill will come in handy much more often than you think it will.

Key Takeaways

  1. Your pitch must speak to your audience’s neanderthal brain.
  2. Make yourself the prize.
  3. Use multiple so-called frames to trigger a gut decision in your favor.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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10. Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk

Best Business Books of All Time #10

Favorite Quote

“There no longer has to be a difference between who you are and what you do.” — Gary Vaynerchuk

The Book in One Sentence

Crush It is the blueprint you need to turn your passion into your profession and will give you the tools to turn yourself into a brand, leverage social media, produce great content and reap the financial benefits of it.

Why should you read it?

Need some inspiration to get your business butt in gear or, rather, the chair? Look no further. Gary Vee is the Tony Robbins of business. This book includes his personal story as well as grounded advice and a heavy dose of motivation. Pick it up whenever you need a pick-me-up!

Key Takeaways

  1. In order to profit from your passion, you have to turn yourself into a brand.
  2. Pick a medium that fits you to tell stories people want to hear.
  3. Always be authentic in your content.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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11. #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso

Best Books on Business #11

Favorite Quote

“Take the opportunity to seek out what you are good at, and find a place where you can flourish. Once you do, you’re going to kill it.” — Sophia Amoruso

The Book in One Sentence

#GIRLBOSS shows that even an unconventional life can lead to success when you discover your passions and improve your skills in unusual and unpredictable ways.

Why should you read it?

Did you suck in school? Do you feel it’s too late for you to succeed in business? Has the business world shoved you into a corner because you’re a woman? This book will teach you better. An empowering read, not just but for women in particular, that’ll show you it’s okay to take an unconventional path to success — and that’ll help you map out yours.

Key Takeaways

  1. Even opportunities that seem off your chosen path can teach you about yourself, enhance your skills, and open new and better doors for you.
  2. Once you have started doing what you like, know your business inside and out and stay focused on it, ignoring what other people think of you.
  3. If you want your company to flourish, create a community and work with like-minded people in an environment that suits you.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Business Books for Managers

12. The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman

Best Books on Business #12

Favorite Quote

“Business schools don’t create successful people. They simply accept them, then take credit for their success.” — Josh Kaufman

The Book in One Sentence

The Personal MBA will save you a few hundred grand by outlining everything you really need to know to get started on a thriving business, none of which is taught in expensive colleges.

Why should you read it?

College professors make free markets sound theoretical and complicated. Actually, business is one of the most practical areas of life there is! Having written a world-class blog about business for almost 20 years, Josh Kaufman will make sure you’ve got your head on straight. Especially recommended for anyone considering an MBA. Read this first, then decide.

Key Takeaways

  1. Make sure your business addresses at least one of the four core needs.
  2. Think about the context of your marketing message.
  3. If you ever need to make a deal, do the work up front, so the negotiation becomes easy.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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13. What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School by Mark McCormack

Best Books on Business #13

Favorite Quote

“If you aren’t afraid to fail, then you probably don’t care enough about success.” — Mark McCormack

The Book in One Sentence

What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School teaches why succeeding in business has less to do with accumulated theoretical knowledge through schooling and books, and more about people and communication.

Why should you read it?

If you’ve ever tried applying a business strategy that sounded perfect on paper but totally didn’t work out in real life, this book is for you. It’ll explain what and why MBA classroom lessons rarely translate 1:1 to the real world, and where you can find the common sense and good people skills that often beat years of formal education.

Key Takeaways

  1. Learn the personalities, attitudes and what makes your business colleagues tick in order to predict their behavior. 
  2. Listen to your feelings – discomfort and rejection are signals to spur on your efforts.
  3. Approach work and play with the idea of realistic balance in mind and don’t deviate from that pattern.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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14. The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard

Best Books on Business #14

Favorite Quote

“The best minute I spend is the one I invest in people.” — Ken Blanchard

The Book in One Sentence

The One Minute Manager gives managers three simple tools, which each take 60 seconds or less, but can tremendously improve how they do their job: getting people to stay motivated, happy and deliver great work.

Why should you read it?

Being in business means dealing with other people all day long. After all, it’s people you’ll need to transact with to make your business successful. Whether you want to use these three simple tools to better manage your employees, deliver feedback to your boss, or handle difficult customers, they’ll be great additions to your business belt.

Key Takeaways

  1. Set three goals for each of your employees, which you can review in one minute or less.
  2. Use one minute praise to give your employees positive feedback.
  3. A one minute reprimand is more than enough to express your dissatisfaction.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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15. A Year With Peter Drucker by Joseph A. Maciariello

Best Books on Business #15

Favorite Quote

“There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency that which should not be done at all.” — Joseph A. Maciariello 

The Book in One Sentence

A Year With Peter Drucker compiles 52 lessons with weekly exercises into one comprehensive, year-long curriculum for managers, leaders, and those who aspire to be one or the other, based on the teachings of the father of modern management.

Why should you read it?

Being a great manager doesn’t happen overnight. If you want to become a better leader but have limited time to study and practice your soft skills, this book is for you. The weekly structure of insights combined with exercises will make becoming a better manager more manageable (ha!), and Drucker’s wisdom has held up well for decades. A solid, hands-on manual for leaders of all kinds!

Key Takeaways

  1. Start using feedback analysis to learn about your strengths and weaknesses early on.
  2. Work on your concentration and information literacy.
  3. Take a sabbatical to develop your skills in the non-profit sector.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Business Books for Employees

16. Linchpin by Seth Godin

Best Books on Business #16

Favorite Quote

“Transferring your passion to your job is far easier than finding a job that happens to match your passion.” ― Seth Godin

The Book in One Sentence

Linchpin shows you why the time of simply following instructions at your job is over and how to make yourself indispensable, which is a must for success today.

Why should you read it?

I used to think being an employee was a safe bet, until some of my friends and even my girlfriend went through a massive wave of layoffs when the economy was struggling. It’s not fun and often random who gets to stay and who needs to leave. Your best bet? Build skills that set you apart and are in demand, and become indispensable. That’s what this book will teach you, and it’ll help you whether you’re at the top or the bottom of your company’s hierarchy.

Key Takeaways

  1. Linchpins pour their heart, soul, and energy into their work.
  2. You have to make a conscious choice to overcome your fears to become a linchpin.
  3. Give genuine gifts, without expecting anything in return.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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17. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Best Books on Business #17

Favorite Quote

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” — Stephen R. Covey

The Book in One Sentence

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People teaches you both personal and professional effectiveness by changing your view of how the world works and giving you 7 habits, which, if adopted well, will lead you to immense success.

Why should you read it?

This book is another classic that needs little introduction. The 7 habits are a holistic, principle-focused approach to solving both personal and professional problems. Following them will help almost anyone show up to work with integrity, persevere in the face of adversity, and quickly adapt to our fast-pacing modern work environments.

Key Takeaways

  1. Do the funeral test.
  2. Learn how to say no.
  3. Practice active listening.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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18. Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson

Best Books on Business #18

Favorite Quote

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” — Spencer Johnson

The Book in One Sentence

Who Moved My Cheese? tells a parable, which you can directly apply to your own life, in order to stop fearing what lies ahead and instead thrive in an environment of change and uncertainty.

Why should you read it?

If you prefer books that teach life lessons through metaphors, you’ll love this book. It might be the best book for managers in the “story-based” category. Two mice scurrying through a big maze looking for cheese will teach you everything you need to know about how people try to navigate the organizations they work at — including how you can do so and find your cheese, whatever it may look like.

Key Takeaways

  1. Thinking too much about your cheese might paralyze you, so just start looking.
  2. Nothing lasts forever, so keep your eyes open for approaching changes.
  3. You can always find new cheese, and the minute you start moving things will get better.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Business Books for Leaders

19. Drive by Daniel Pink 

Best Books on Business #19

Favorite Quote

“Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.” — Daniel Pink

The Book in One Sentence

Drive explores what has motivated humans throughout history and explains how we shifted from mere survival to the carrot and stick approach that’s still practiced today – and why it’s outdated.

Why should you read it?

If you happen to work in a carrot-and-stick environment (or perhaps even are leading one from the top down), give this book a go. It’ll change how you think about motivation at work and thus either make you a happier, more productive employee, or a better, more inspiring leader.

Key Takeaways

  1. The carrot and stick approach is dead.
  2. Extrinsic motivation destroys intrinsic motivation.
  3. Strive for the flow state in everything you do.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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20. Principles by Ray Dalio

Best Books on Business #20

Favorite Quote

“Rather than thinking, ‘I’m right.’ I started to ask myself, ‘How do I know I’m right?’” — Ray Dalio

The Book in One Sentence

Principles holds the set of rules for work and life billionaire investor and CEO of the most successful fund in history, Ray Dalio, has acquired through his 40-year career in finance.

Why should you read it?

Everyone needs a philosophy, a set of rules they live by. When it comes to your philosophy at work or in how you run your business, this book is the way to go. It’ll lay out the distilled lessons from one of the world’s most celebrated and successful money managers, and they are useful well beyond the world of work and business. Highly recommended.

Key Takeaways

  1. Principles are powerful weapons in the fight against flawed thinking.
  2. Radical truth and transparency are two of Ray’s most important ideas.
  3. Great businesses use principles to create environments where the best ideas win.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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21. Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

Best Books for Businessmen & Women #21

Favorite Quote

“The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.” — Brené Brown

The Book in One Sentence

Dare to Lead dispels common myths about modern-day workplace culture and shows you that true leadership requires nothing but vulnerability, values, trust, and resilience.

Why should you read it?

This book will help you get past the misconceptions of leadership. Brown shatters the myth that leaders must always appear strong. If you want to become the glue that holds your team together and build work relationships based on trust, honesty, and loyalty, all while staying true to yourself, this book is for you.

Key Takeaways

  1. Courage and vulnerability always go together.
  2. If you can narrow your core values down to just two, you can navigate even the toughest of times.
  3. The seven behaviors that create trust can be summed up with the acronym BRAVING.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Business Books About Teamwork & Culture

22. ReWork by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

Best Books for Businessmen & Women #22

Favorite Quote

“When you don’t know what you believe, everything becomes an argument. Everything is debatable. But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.” — Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

The Book in One Sentence

ReWork shows you that you need less than you think to start a business – way less – by explaining why plans are actually harmful, how productivity isn’t a result from working long hours and why hiring and seeking investors should be your absolute last resort.

Why should you read it?

Startups quickly become like corporations once they grow beyond a certain size — which often happens fast. Billion-dollar unicorns raise millions in funding, then find themselves bogged down in red tape once they use that money to hire hundreds of people. If you work at an early- or even late-stage startup where inflexible structures are starting to creep in, read this book.

Key Takeaways

  1. Take a stand for something you believe in and then pick a fight with an incumbent.
  2. Screw big corporate marketing, stay honest, personal and nimble.
  3. Don’t let long hours and meetings prevail, they actually hurt productivity.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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23. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Best Books for Businessmen & Women #23

Favorite Quote

“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” — Sheryl Sandberg

The Book in One Sentence

Lean In digs deep into gender inequality and why women are still underrepresented as a valuable part of our global workforce, showing how they unintentionally hold themselves back, as well as outlining ways for us to enable and support them, including how you as a woman can take the lead and hold the flag of women in work high.

Why should you read it?

If you’re a woman trying to make a name for yourself, hoping to build a career thanks to your hard work and ambition, read this book. It’ll help you avoid some of the pitfalls that still prevail in many male-dominated industries — which is most of them — and navigate even complex organizations with poise and confidence.

Key Takeaways

  1. Treat your career like a jungle gym.
  2. Learn to strike a balance between ambition and appeal.
  3. Before you become a mother, lean into your career as much as you can.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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24. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Best Books for Businessmen & Women #24

Favorite Quote

“When people don’t unload their opinions and feel like they’ve been listened to, they won’t really get on board.” — Patrick Lencioni

The Book in One Sentence

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team uses a fable to explain why even the best teams struggle to work together and offers actionable strategies for them to overcome distrust and office politics to achieve important goals as a cohesive, effective unit.

Why should you read it?

This fable-based book will help you and your team get and stay on the same page which, according to the book, is the most important principle of all if you are to accomplish something big together. You’ll learn how to find common denominators and get everyone invested in the same outcome, even if not everyone always agrees it’s the right one to pursue.

Key Takeaways

  1. As a group, be open about weaknesses and mistakes to facilitate trust. 
  2. Everybody needs to be committed to decisions, no matter what the consensus is.
  3. Hold a common goal instead of looking for individual results.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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25. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

Best Books for Businessmen & Women #25

Favorite Quote

“Money alone isn’t enough to bring happiness. Happiness is when you’re actually truly okay with losing everything you have.” — Tony Hsieh

The Book in One Sentence

Delivering Happiness explains how mega online shoe retailer Zappos built a unique company culture and customer experience worth remembering, which turned it into a billion dollar business.

Why should you read it?

The business lessons are poignant and helpful, but, truly, this is a book you read for the inspiration factor. Discovering Tony’s story from his worm farm business at nine years old to leading a billion dollar company in making millions of customers happy through positivity and a great customer experience will kick your butt in gear like little else.

Key Takeaways

  1. Company culture is more important than customer service.
  2. Choose one thing you want to be best at, and then focus on that.
  3. Invest $0 in marketing and everything in your product.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Business Books for Productivity

26. Getting Things Done by David Allen

Best Books for Businessmen & Women #26

Favorite Quote

“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” — David Allen

The Book in One Sentence

Getting Things Done is a manual for stress-free productivity, which helps you set up a system of lists, reminders and weekly reviews, in order to free your mind from having to remember tasks and to-dos and instead let it work at full focus on the task at hand.

Why should you read it?

If you’re good at sticking to systems once you’ve implemented them, this might be the Bible of productivity books for you. GTD is a handful, but it’s easy to see its appeal and efficiency once in place. Also, if you’ve never experimented with productivity before, this is a great first read. Chances are, you’ll implement at least some of Allen’s ideas and be all the better for it.

Key Takeaways

  1. Use a “collection bucket” to store things outside your mind and stay focused.
  2. Create a “next actions” list for all your projects to avoid thinking in the moment.
  3. Do a weekly review of everything, or else!

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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27. Measure What Matters by John Doerr

Best Books for Businessmen & Women #27

Favorite Quote

“An effective goal-setting system starts with disciplined thinking at the top, with leaders who invest the time and energy to choose what counts.” — John Doerr 

The Book in One Sentence

Measure What Matters teaches you how to implement tracking systems into your company and life that will help you record your progress, stay accountable, and make reaching your goals almost inevitable.

Why should you read it?

Has your company finally entered the big leagues? Was it perhaps bought by a larger, more established competitor? Or did you just become a manager with number-oriented targets for the first time? In any of these cases, this book is for you. You’ll learn how successful companies measure data and condense it into useful pointers for making smart strategic decisions. It’s a book aimed at executives but helpful for anyone who can no longer operate on gut instinct alone.

Key Takeaways

  1. Use objectives and key results (OKRs) to keep you going in the right direction toward achieving your goals. 
  2. Account for your efforts by implementing consistent tracking measures to help you stay on course.
  3. To achieve great success, stretch yourself by setting your sights high. 

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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28. The ONE Thing by Gary Keller 

Best Books for Businessmen & Women #28

Favorite Quote

“It is not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do, it is that we feel the need to do many things in the time we have.” — Gary Keller

The Book in One Sentence

The ONE Thing gives you a very simple approach to productivity, based around a single question, to help you have less clutter, distractions and stress, and more focus, energy and success.

Why should you read it?

If you’re looking for a simple productivity system that you can understand and apply in a few minutes, read this book. All of the other stories and tools supplied around it are helpful. They’ll get you to absorb the idea and make it a mindset. That said, even if you only read a few chapters of this one, there’s a chance you’ll forever approach your to-do list differently afterwards. Worth a shot!

Key Takeaways

  1. You can figure out your long- and short-term priorities and goals with a single question.
  2. In order to get focused, you have to learn how to say no.
  3. Never sacrifice your personal life for work.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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29. Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman

Best Books for Businessmen & Women #29

Favorite Quote

“Confronting the worst-case scenario saps it of much of its anxiety-inducing power. Happiness reached via positive thinking can be fleeting and brittle, negative visualization generates a vastly more dependable calm.” — Oliver Burkeman

The Book in One Sentence

Four Thousand Weeks explores the popularized concept of time management from a different point of view, by tapping into ancient knowledge from famous philosophers, researchers, and spiritual figures, rather than promoting the contemporary idea of high-level productivity and constant self-optimization.

Why should you read it?

Would you like some anti-productivity advice that argues from the other side? The one that doesn’t blindly accept that we should all have to-do lists and try to check them off as quickly as possible? Then this book is for you. It’s both philosophical and practical, and if you’re a creative or someone who struggles with structure, then it will be a liberating, validating, and useful read.

Key Takeaways

  1. As humans started to analyze and understand time, it became more valuable to them.
  2. Boost productivity by leaving room for procrastination and prioritizing your tasks.
  3. Spare time should be used for family activities and hobbies.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Business Books for Startups

30. Zero to One by Peter Thiel

Best Books for Businessmen & Women #30

Favorite Quote

“Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius.” — Peter Thiel

The Book in One Sentence

Zero to One is an inside look at Peter Thiel’s philosophy and strategy for making your startup a success by looking at the lessons he learned from founding and selling PayPal, investing in Facebook and becoming a billionaire in the process.

Why should you read it?

This is a radical and eye-opening book I would recommend to almost anyone in business. It does away with the incremental approach our environment often teaches us. “Just make slightly more comfy shoes” will no longer cut it in today’s cutthroat world. Instead, you’ll learn how to go big and approach everything you do with an entirely different mindset because of it. If you have even the slightest entrepreneurial itch, read this book.

Key Takeaways

  1. The biggest leaps in progress are vertical, not horizontal.
  2. Monopolies are good, for both business and society.
  3. Founders need a vision to take their business from zero to one.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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31. Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore

Best Books for Business #31

Favorite Quote

“Entering the mainstream market is an act of burglary, of breaking and entering, of deception, often even of stealth.” — Geoffrey A. Moore

The Book in One Sentence

Crossing the Chasm gives high tech startups a marketing blueprint, in order to make their product get the initial traction it needs to eventually reach the majority of the market and not die in the chasm between early adopters and pragmatists.

Why should you read it?

Are you involved in innovation? If you work in research, technology development, or big pharma, for example, this book is a must-read. It’ll give you a concept you’ll learn once but know and use forever, explaining why it’s so hard to get people to use new technology — and how your company can overcome the potentially fatal chasm between early adopters and the all-important mainstream customers.

Key Takeaways

  1. The chasm is a gap between visionary early adopters and the pragmatic majority.
  2. Crossing the chasm requires securing a specific niche as a beachhead first.
  3. Position yourself as a market leader in your niche by making a strong claim.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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32. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Best Books for Business #32

Favorite Quote

“The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.” — Eric Ries

The Book in One Sentence

The Lean Startup offers both entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs a semi-scientific, real-world approach to building a business by using validation, finding a profitable business model and creating a growth engine.

Why should you read it?

If you want to start a business without wasting any time on anything that doesn’t matter, grab this book. It’ll give you a step-by-step plan you can follow that’ll save you tons of time in your early research and go-to market approach. As someone who dodged the bullet of making a bad product several times thanks to idea validation, I can vouch for it: The stuff in this book works.

Key Takeaways

  1. Find a business model that works through validation.
  2. Use split-testing to tell value from waste.
  3. Never ever indulge in vanity metrics.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Business Books for Strategy

33. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen

Best Books for Business #33

Favorite Quote

“Disruptive technology should be framed as a marketing challenge, not a technological one.” — Clayton M. Christensen

The Book in One Sentence

The Innovator’s Dilemma is a business classic that explains the power of disruption, why market leaders are often set up to fail as technologies and industries change and what incumbents can do to secure their market leadership for a long time.

Why should you read it?

For a better understanding of how disruption happens, read this book. Perhaps your company is an established player about to lose its grip on the market — or an upstart trying to disrupt one. In any case, this is another useful business concept anyone trying to bring about change should have in their belt.

Key Takeaways

  1. There are two kinds of technologies: disruptive and sustaining.
  2. If a company’s resources, processes and values don’t match the market, no management can save it.
  3. Market leaders can solve the innovator’s dilemma by acquiring or founding subsidiaries.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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34. Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur

Best Books for Business #34

Favorite Quote

“Companies should focus on one of three value disciplines: operational excellence, product leadership, or customer intimacy.” — Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur

The Book in One Sentence

Business Model Generation teaches you how to start your own company by explaining the details of matching your customer’s needs with your product’s capabilities, managing finances, and everything else involved in the planning stages of entrepreneurship.

Why should you read it?

If you enjoy sketching, whiteboarding, and mapping out strategic plans, this one’s for you. It provides a model with various puzzle pieces and several template blank canvases to implement it with. Also great for group brainstorming!

Key Takeaways

  1. Market channels, value propositions, and customer groups are the basis for a good business model. 
  2. You need to know your customer’s relationship with you, how money is coming in, and what physical things that you need to run your company.
  3. Plan for what you’ll do from day to day, who you’re going to work with, and what your cost structure will be.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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35. Sprint by Jake Knapp

Best Books for Business #35

Favorite Quote

“We’ve found that magic happens when we use big whiteboards to solve problems. The room itself becomes a sort of shared brain for the team.” — Jake Knapp

The Book in One Sentence

Sprint completely overhauls your project management process so it allows you to go from zero to prototype in just five days and figure out if your idea is worth creating faster than ever.

Why should you read it?

I was so excited about this concept when I first heard about it that I bought the book on the spot. Developed by Knapp at Google, the design sprint is actually a universal tool to help you prototype and iterate quickly, getting new ideas out the door fast and testing their validity in just a few days. A wonderful book to make more of a positive difference in your customers’ lives faster.

Key Takeaways

  1. Sprints consist of a deadline, a team in one room and a prototype.
  2. Focus on the defining moment in the customer journey and work backwards.
  3. Sketch out existing solutions and see how you can combine them.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Business Books for Starting a Business

36. The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

Best Books for Business #36

Favorite Quote

“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” — Chris Guillebeau

The Book in One Sentence

The $100 Startup shows you how to break free from the shackles of 9 to 5 by combining your passion and skills into your own microbusiness, which you can start for $100 or less, yet still turn into a full time income, thanks to the power of the internet.

Why should you read it?

If you got stuck with your execution while reading The 4-Hour Workweek (I did multiple times), this might be the right book for you. It works in smaller chunks, focuses on little, actionable to-dos, and works like a true step-by-step guide for first-time entrepreneurs. There’s nothing wrong with starting from zero — as long as you actually start!

Key Takeaways

  1. Passion is only 1/3 of the equation, you also need skills and customers.
  2. If you want your passion to be more than a hobby, focus on income and costs.
  3. Keep your plans simple, because action beats them every time.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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37. Choose Yourself by James Altucher 

Best Books for Business #37

Favorite Quote

“The only predictor of a successful tomorrow is a successful today.” — James Altucher 

The Book in One Sentence

Choose Yourself is a call to give up traditional career paths and take your life into your own hands by building good habits, creating your own career, and making a decision to choose yourself.

Why should you read it?

Do you lack confidence? Did your family and friends tell you your ideas are crazy or that you’ll never succeed in the arts or with being an entrepreneur? Then pick up this book. It is a firework of inspiration and will show you that it’s okay, even normal, to fail several times before you succeed. It’ll also provide some hard evidence that choosing yourself is actually the safest bet you can make, at least in the long run.

Key Takeaways

  1. The American dream the middle class keeps chasing is dead.
  2. You have to make yourself the only person who controls your dreams.
  3. Choosing yourself begins with a daily practice of good habits in 4 areas.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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38. The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki 

Best Books for Business #38

Favorite Quote

“Positioning should be about what you do for your customers — not about what you want to become.” — Guy Kawasaki

The Book in One Sentence

The Art of the Start is your guide to beginning a company and explains everything from getting the right people on board to writing a winning business plan and building your brand.

Why should you read it?

This book will provide some startup advice from someone who had a front-row seat and defining role in Apple’s success. The original version is from the early 2000s, but version 2.0 offers an update, and many of the lessons are foundational and still sound.

Key Takeaways

  1. Your first goal as an entrepreneur must be to create meaning, not make money.
  2. Prepare your Milestones, Assumptions, and Tasks to have direction and purpose right from the start.
  3. Set yourself up for success by creating a business plan.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Business Books for Scaling a Business

39. Blitzscaling by Reid Hoffman

Best Books for Business #39

Favorite Quote

“The world keeps getting faster — Silicon Valley is just the first place to figure out how to keep pace.” — Reid Hoffman

The Book in One Sentence

Blitzscaling is the strategy some of today’s most valuable companies have used to achieve huge market shares, insanely fast growth, big profit margins, and become corporate giants in a very short time.

Why should you read it?

This one is full of non-Silicon Valley style advice from someone who lived and made it there, which is refreshing. The LinkedIn founder combines professionalism with the best of startup tactics, which makes this a great read for everyone who wants to build a big business fast without drinking the San Francisco kool-aid.

Key Takeaways

  1. The definition of blitzscaling includes growing rapidly, but also requires your company to stay sustainable at all times.
  2. Businesses who quickly want to reach massive scale must maximize four different growth factors.
  3. Two big obstacles to achieving blitzscaling are product-market fit and operational scalability.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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40. Built to Sell by John Warrillow

Best Books for Business #40

Favorite Quote

“Don’t be afraid to say no to projects. Prove that you’re serious about specialization by turning down work that falls outside your area of expertise. The more people you say no to, the more referrals you’ll get to people who need your product or service.” — John Warrillow

The Book in One Sentence

Built to Sell shows you how to become a successful entrepreneur by explaining the steps necessary to grow a small service company and one day sell it.

Why should you read it?

Some people want to build a business they’ll raise like a child and run until they retire. Others don’t know what they want, stumble into doing something useful for others, or simply want to get rich so they can focus on something else, perhaps something that’s not financially lucrative. All of these are fair goals, and if you’re in the latter camp, this book is the one for you. If you want to build a business you can sell, just be honest about it and focus on that outcome from day one.

Key Takeaways

  1. You will be more successful in business if you specialize in one service.
  2. If you’d like to one day sell your company, you as a founder need to work to make sure that you’re replaceable.
  3. Don’t rely on one big client, it’s risky and makes your business less attractive to those that may buy it.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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41. Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday

Best Books About Business #41

Favorite Quote

“When intelligent people read, they ask themselves a simple question: What do I plan to do with this information?” — Ryan Holiday

The Book in One Sentence

Growth Hacker Marketing uses a 4-step framework to explain how today’s startups remove the barrier between marketing and product development to make the product itself the best way to get new customers.

Why should you read it?

If you’re looking for a concise primer on modern marketing, insta-buy this book. Seriously. You can read it in less than two hours. It’s a short, step-by-step run-through of some of the fastest-growing companies of the internet age and what exactly they did to succeed. Follow along, implement as you go, and waste zero time on outdated marketing tactics.

Key Takeaways

  1. Marketing for startups today is different than it was 20 years ago.
  2. Target one small, but focused group of customers first.
  3. Make your product go viral by turning customers into marketers.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Business Books for Small Business Owners

42. The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss 

Best Books About Business #42

Favorite Quote

“Doing something unimportant well does not make it important.” — Tim Ferriss

The Book in One Sentence

The 4-Hour Workweek is the step-by-step blueprint to free yourself from the shackles of a corporate job, create a business to fund the lifestyle of your dreams, and live life like a millionaire, without actually having to be one.

Why should you read it?

This is one of those rare books that combines giving you a huge motivation boost with providing tons of actionable steps, interesting insights, and practical tools. When I first read it, I spent loads of time on planning my business, but I also ran through a lot of the exercises. An all-time favorite for budding entrepreneurs and even useful for employees who like their jobs. Would recommend this to almost anyone despite its age.

Key Takeaways

  1. Be effective, not efficient.
  2. Validate all of your business ideas.
  3. Charge a premium to make your life easier.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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43. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

Best Books About Business #43

Favorite Quote

“If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business — you have a job. And it’s the worst job in the world because you’re working for a lunatic!” — Michael E. Gerber

The Book in One Sentence

The E-Myth Revisited explains why 80% of small businesses fail, and how to ensure yours isn’t among those by building a company that’s based on systems and not on the work of a single individual.

Why should you read it?

If you’re thinking about starting or turning your business into a franchise, there’s no way around this book. Think first, then implement everything in ways that can be automated, outsourced, and easily repeated from the get-go. One of the great books on thinking and building in systems.

Key Takeaways

  1. Having great technical skills does not mean you know how to run a business.
  2. Imagine your business as a nationwide franchise from day one, then build the first store.
  3. The franchise approach makes sure you build a business based on systems, not people.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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44. Small Giants by Bo Burlingham 

Best Books About Business #44

Favorite Quote

“Success means you’re going to have better problems. I’m very happy with the problems I have now.” — Bo Burlingham

The Book in One Sentence

Small Giants is your guide to keeping your company little but mighty that will allow you to pass up deliberate growth for staying true to what’s really important, which is your ideals, time, passions, and doing what you do best so well that customers can’t help but flock to you.

Why should you read it?

Would you like to fly and stay solo? Not in life, but in business, I mean! Then this one’s for you. As a solopreneur who still does most things by himself nearly a decade into business, I relate deeply to this book and its message. Staying small is not a crime and can often be a blessing in disguise. If your gut tells you a small operation might be the right way to go, read this book.

Key Takeaways

  1. It’s okay for your company to decide not to grow.
  2. Owners of little but mighty companies get to keep doing what they love by keeping things in their control.
  3. Small giants have a real soul because their employees are more passionate about their work.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Business Books for Solo Creators

45. Company of One by Paul Jarvis

Best Books About Business #45

Favorite Quote

“Business success does not lie in growing something quickly and massively, but rather in building something that’s both remarkable and resilient over the long term.” — Paul Jarvis

The Book in One Sentence

Company of One will teach you how going small, not big when creating your own company will bring you independence, income, and lots of free time without the hassles of having to manage employees, long meetings, and forced growth.

Why should you read it?

If you feel like neither a normal 9-to-5 nor a long-hour grind or crazy startup environment are right for you, this book might help. Why not become a freelancer? Why not start a company of one? Jarvis is a great living example, and this book can be your guide to working on your own terms too.

Key Takeaways

  1. If you want to make it as a solopreneur, you need to stay small and deliberately limit your growth.
  2. The smaller your audience, the higher your chances of success.
  3. Technological advancements make it possible to skip large investments and create quick cash to get the ball rolling.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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46. Profit First by Mike Michalowicz

Best Books About Business #46

Favorite Quote

“All revenue is not the same. If you remove your worst, unprofitable clients and the now-unnecessary costs associated with them, you will see a jump in profitability and a reduction in stress, often within a few weeks. Equally important, you will have more time to pursue and clone your best clients.” — Mike Michalowicz

The Book in One Sentence

Profit First explains why traditional business finances are upside down and how, by focusing on profit first and reasoning up from there, you can grow your business to new heights more sustainably, all while being less stressed about money.

Why should you read it?

If you struggle to manage your business’s finance, try this book. It’s a big mindset shift to think of profit — something that’s usually not a fixed percentage — first, then make everything else work from there. But in the book, you’ll quickly see why it makes sense, and you’ll likely feel a lot calmer after you implement this system.

Key Takeaways

  1. The reason so many businesses get hung up in debt is that the regular way of doing things makes you fight against human nature.
  2. If you want to be more successful at managing your finances you must work with smaller amounts of money.
  3. Your profits, and your company, will go further if you look for ways to make your business more financially efficient.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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47. Will It Fly? by Pat Flynn

Best Books About Business #47

Favorite Quote

“A sure-fire way to predict the future is to take no action at all. When you do nothing, you get nothing.” — Pat Flynn

The Book in One Sentence

Will It Fly? is a step-by-step guide to testing your business idea, making sure your new venture matches who you are, and not wasting time or money on something people won’t want, so your business won’t just run, but fly.

Why should you read it?

There aren’t that many books about idea validation specifically, and this is one of the best ones, since Pat ruthlessly applied this concept to every single product he ever launched. If you’re afraid your first dollar-generating idea will flop, read this book, and you’ll have everything you need to make sure it won’t.

Key Takeaways

  1. Make sure the business you create is in line with who you are by interviewing your future self.
  2. Create a Customer P.L.A.N. to make sure your idea matches your audience.
  3. Always validate financially by getting 10% of your target group to buy the product up front.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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48. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Best Books About Business #48

Favorite Quote

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.” — Steven Pressfield

The Book in One Sentence

The War of Art brings some much needed tough love to all artists, business people and creatives who spend more time battling the resistance against work than actually working, by identifying the procrastinating forces at play and pulling out the rug from under their feet.

Why should you read it?

If you’re trying to be a solo creator or work in the arts or any creative industry, please read this book. It is one of my all-time favorites. Full of inspiration and equipped with a new concept — Resistance — you’ll never forget for as long as you live. Beat the fear and create your best work!

Key Takeaways

  1. You’re not alone, everyone struggles with Resistance.
  2. You have to treat your dream like a full-time job.
  3. Commit to a territory and you might change the world.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Business Books for Sales

49. Influence by Robert Cialdini

Best Books About Business #49

Favorite Quote

“Our best evidence of what people truly feel and believe comes less from their words than form their deeds.” — Robert Cialdini

The Book in One Sentence

Influence has been the go-to book for marketers since its release in 1984, which delivers six key principles behind human influence and explains them with countless practical examples.

Why should you read it?

This is Marketing 101, but it’s also “How To Avoid Succumbing to Marketing 101.” You’ll learn both how to use and spot biases and thus be able to more convincingly present your ideas and products, all while learning more from your competitors. Cialdini also wrote a follow-up book decades later, which is called Pre-Suasion and also worth picking up.

Key Takeaways

  1. You can use the reciprocity bias to build up a massive good karma account.
  2. The scarcity bias works, because we hate to miss opportunities.
  3. Make a small commitment to trigger your consistency bias and reach your goal.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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50. Never Split the Difference by Chriss Voss

Best Books About Business #50

Favorite Quote

“He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation.” ― Chris Voss

The Book in One Sentence

Never Split the Difference explains why you should never compromise and how to negotiate like a pro both in business and in your everyday life.

Why should you read it?

Negotiating is an essential life skill none of us learn in school. It’ll help you at work, be it for getting promotions and raises, convincing your boss of an idea, or hiring new employees, and all throughout life. From compromises with your spouse to staying-up-late negotiations with your kids, this book will change your life.

Key Takeaways

  1. Build trust through mirroring and using the right tone of voice.
  2. Label the emotions of the other person to position yourself well in a negotiation.
  3. Take things slowly, don’t accept demands, and do not compromise.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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51. The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy

Best Books About Business #51

Favorite Quote

“Help yourself warm up and prepare mentally by repeating, ‘I feel happy! I feel healthy! I feel terrific!’ It is not possible for you to talk positively to yourself, using words like this, without immediately feeling happier and more confident.” — Brian Tracy

The Book in One Sentence

The Psychology of Selling motivates you to work on your self-image and how you relate to customers so that you can close more deals.

Why should you read it?

This is one of the older (but golder, hoho) books on sales psychology. The ideas are basic but solid, and if you’re in sales or want to get better at it, this is a good read.

Key Takeaways

  1. Utilize the power of your subconscious to become more successful.
  2. You will get more motivation and passion if you learn from the right people.
  3. Questions are the holy grail of unearthing customers’ needs and they will help you make more sales.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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52. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk

Best Books About Business #52

Favorite Quote

“99% of people don’t market in the year that we actually live in.” — Gary Vaynerchuk

The Book in One Sentence

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook is a message to everyone who’s not on the social media train yet, showing them how to tell their story the right way on social media, so that it’ll actually get heard.

Why should you read it?

Not everyone is a fan of Gary Vee’s abrasive and in-your-face aura, but the formula he presents here for succeeding on social media and with marketing and sales in general is rock solid. Rather than based on sleazy tactics and clever tricks, you’ll learn how to move more product by being a kind, ethical human being — and a book that spreads this kind of mindset is always worth recommending, I believe.

Key Takeaways

  1. If you’re not on social media, you’re going to lose.
  2. You have to constantly deliver great content, that’s custom-tailored to the platform, before asking for something in return.
  3. Instagram is your best bet for massive engagement among the masses.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Business Books About Marketing

53. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries & Jack Trout

Best Business Books About Marketing #53

Favorite Quote

“Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products.” — Al Ries & Jack Trout

The Book in One Sentence

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing is an absolute marketing classic, outlining 22 rules by which companies function, and, depending on how much you adhere to them, will determine the success or failure of your products and ultimately, your company.

Why should you read it?

If you need a quick primer on marketing because you’re new in the industry, starting a business, or because you want a full-scale marketing philosophy you can adopt wholesale without having to turn to multiple sources, this is the go-to book for that. A classic with timeless appeal and a set of ideas that is simple enough to keep handy on one printed page after you finish the book so you’ll never forget what you’ve learned.

Key Takeaways

  1. If you can’t be first, be first in peoples’ heads.
  2. Create your own category to avoid competition.
  3. Remember that each product comes with an opportunity cost.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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54. Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Best Business Books About Marketing #54

Favorite Quote

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” — Simon Sinek

The Book in One Sentence

Start With Why is Simon Sinek’s mission to help others do work, which inspires them, and uses real-world examples of great leaders to show you how they communicate and how you can adapt their mindset to inspire others yourself.

Why should you read it?

This book will change how you communicate with anyone in your company, from the CEO to the janitor, and chances are, even the people outside of work. Be sure to watch Simon’s world-famous TED talk as well. It’s a great starting point before diving into the book, which will help you master the specifics of why-based communication.

Key Takeaways

  1. If you want to inspire others, always communicate your why first.
  2. Excited employees are the best resource for any business.
  3. You don’t need sleazy sales tactics when you start with why.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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55. This Is Marketing by Seth Godin

Best Business Books About Marketing #55

Favorite Quote

“Persistent, consistent, and frequent stories, delivered to an aligned audience, will earn attention, trust, and action.” — Seth Godin

The Book in One Sentence

This Is Marketing argues that marketing success in today’s world comes from focusing more on the needs, values, and desires of our target audience, rather than spamming as many people as possible with our message.

Why should you read it?

Seth Godin has been marketing for over 40 years, and this is a comprehensive collection of his best ideas around it, grouped together into one coherent philosophy. I can’t think of a better person to learn marketing from, and he’s a true role model for me. If you only read one book about marketing in your life, make it this one. You won’t regret it.

Key Takeaways

  1. Trying to use the internet to get your product or service in front of your audience isn’t as effective as targeting those individuals you want to serve and their traits. 
  2. Bring your audience together into a tribe by using language that connects with their worldview. 
  3. Utilize the power of networks to take your offering from initial fans to the general public.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Business Books About Inspiring CEOs & Leaders

56. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Best Books About Inspiring Businessmen & Women #56

Favorite Quote

“The only time you must not fail is the last time you try.” — Phil Knight

The Book in One Sentence

Shoe Dog is the autobiography of Nike’s founder Phil Knight, who at last decided to share the story of how he founded one of the most iconic, profitable and world-changing brands in the world.

Why should you read it?

Nike is one of the most well-known brands in the world. If someone was at the heart of building something that almost anyone on the planet will recognize, that sure must have been one hell of a ride. In Phil’s case, it is absolutely a journey worth learning from, one he tackled with grit, wit, and optimism at all times. Super inspiring read!

Key Takeaways

  1. If you’re young and don’t have much to lose, it’s best to go for broke.
  2. Get a mentor and partner on board, who will believe in you and complement your skills.
  3. Don’t tell people how to do things. Let them do their thing.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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57. Sam Walton: Made in America by Sam Walton

Best Books About Inspiring Businessmen & Women #57

Favorite Quote

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” — Sam Walton

The Book in One Sentence

Sam Walton: Made in America shines a light on the man behind the biggest fortune ever amassed in business and explains how he built Walmart into a billion-dollar empire with hard work, incessant learning and an unrivaled resolve to make every single customer as happy as can be.

Why should you read it?

This isn’t only for people who work in retail or want to build an e-commerce business. This man single-handedly put his entire family on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people, and he did it by being thrifty, competitive, and always, always on the side of the customer. If you want to know what kind of person you’ll have to be to succeed on a global scale, this book offers one template — and makes for an entertaining read along the way.

Key Takeaways

  1. Good artists copy, great artists steal.
  2. Always put the customer first. Always.
  3. Share your financial success with your employees.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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58. The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger

Best Books About Inspiring Businessmen & Women #58

Favorite Quote

“Ask the questions you need to ask, admit without apology what you don’t understand, and do the work to learn what you need to learn as quickly as you can.” — Robert Iger

The Book in One Sentence

The Ride of a Lifetime shares the inspirational story of Robert Iger, including his journey to becoming the CEO of Disney and how his vision, strategy, and leadership guided the company through a time when it’s future was uncertain.

Why should you read it?

How do you preserve a legacy you didn’t create? How can you be a good steward of a brand that’s been around for decades? This book answers those questions and teaches clear thinking, good decision-making, and continued courage along the way.

Key Takeaways

  1. Pay attention to what you might consider coincidence, it just may end up leading you to success.
  2. Even if an idea you have sounds crazy, try it anyway because you never know what great opportunities will come from it until you do.
  3. Don’t give up on even the toughest of aspirations, remember that you can utilize your connections to make great things happen.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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59. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Best Books About Inspiring Businessmen & Women #59

Favorite Quote

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” — Steve Jobs

The Book in One Sentence

Steve Jobs is the most detailed and accurate account of the life of the man who created Apple, the most valuable technology company in the world.

Why should you read it?

The foundations of Apple, the modus operandi of Steve Jobs, and understanding some of the technology he created are business basics for almost anyone. As a school teacher, I would not blink twice before handing my students this book. You’ll gain an understanding of the history of the personal computer, what makes great hardware and technology more than just “products,” and how to get customers to be so loyal to your brand they’ll queue for 24 hours and then some just for your new product launch. A must-read!

Key Takeaways

  1. Steve Jobs’s team invented a name for his most important skill, the reality distortion field.
  2. The Apple name was chosen for a very specific reason.
  3. Apple didn’t make Steve Jobs a billionaire, Pixar did.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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60. Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson

Best Books About Inspiring Businessmen & Women #60

Favorite Quote

“Most ‘necessary evils’ are far more evil than necessary.” — Richard Branson

The Book in One Sentence

Losing My Virginity details Richard Branson’s meteoric rise to success and digs into what made him the adventurous, fun-loving, daring entrepreneur he is today and what lessons you can learn about business from him.

Why should you read it?

Want to grow a business while having fun? Do you enjoy taking risks and going on adventures? Then perhaps Richard Branson is the right role model for you. He never did anything by the rules — and it often worked out for the better. If you’re looking for a more fun-oriented, different style of leadership, try this book.

Key Takeaways

  1. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t been born and bred as an entrepreneur.
  2. Always look out for the next thing, but take it one adventure at a time.
  3. The number one skill you should practice is creativity.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Conclusion

There might be no single skill called “business,” and business school will never teach you how to successfully operate a company, but if anything, these are reasons to spend more time studying the many parts that go into running a thriving business, not less — just more strategically than you might have if you had thought of business as one mysterious “thing” someone does.

Whether you want to start your own company or already have, hope to better serve the organization you work for, or would like to round out the multi-decade skill set you’ve developed, we hope our list of the best business books of all time will help you accomplish your business goals. Pick your favorite, learn a lesson, and never stop building towards a better future — and if you have any feedback or suggestions, shoot us a note on Twitter. Like any business, this list is a constant work in progress, and if you can help us make it better, everyone wins! Thanks for reading, and we’ll read you soon!


Other Book Lists by Topic

Looking for more of the best books on various topics? Here are all the book lists we’ve made for you so far:


Other Book Lists by Author

Looking for more books by the world’s most celebrated authors? Here are all of the book lists by the author we’ve curated for you:


The 40 Best Leadership Books of All Time to Help You Become a Truly Inspiring Person

The 40 Best Leadership Books of All Time Cover

We think leadership is something that’s taught in business seminars. If you make it high enough on the corporate ladder, perhaps your company will pay for some leadership training, and then, finally, you’ll become a leader. Ha! Leadership is about none of those things. Everyone can be a leader. Leadership is an attitude. It’s not tied to your title at all — or even your job, for that matter. This might sound confusing, but don’t worry: The best leadership books are here to explain!

The first time I understood leadership as anything other than a privilege for executives was when I watched Simon Sinek‘s TED talk. You know, the famous one. “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” If explaining your mission was such an act of service to the customer, then, surely, it couldn’t be just the higher-ups doing it! After all, it’s the people on the ground who make the sales.

When I was interning at BMW M, I loved my job because I loved the product. I believed in what we were making — sporty cars that are still highly functional — and I talked with enthusiasm about it wherever I went. That was leadership, too. “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money,” Simon says. “But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”

The point of leadership is to inspire others to believe what you believe. Not in a twisted, “do my bidding” kind of way. True leadership is pure, good-hearted, and genuine. And it happens well beyond the confines of work. A single-mom taking time out of her busy day to help an old lady across the street is leadership. So is marshaling a team of 100 engineers to ship an important feature on time. Again: Everyone can be a leader — and a great way to become one is to start with some good leadership books.

 

That’s why, today, we’re compiling the very best titles on leadership for you. After summarizing over 1,000 books here at Four Minute Books, we’ve seen a leadership book or two. The following 40 titles will help you find courage, develop a strong set of personal values, improve group dynamics wherever you go, inspire others, manage difficult conversations, and a lot more!

As usual, we’ve made this list easy to navigate by sorting it into various categories. For each book we share, we’ll include our favorite quote from the author, a one-sentence-summary, a few words on why it might be a good pick for you, and three key takeaways. You’ll also find some shiny buttons to read each book’s summary on Four Minute Books or buy a copy of it on Amazon (affiliate links).

Simply use the clickable table of contents below, jump to the section you most want to learn about, and pick your next great read.

Okay, here we go. These are the very best leadership books!


The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of

Best Leadership Books Overall

1. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Best Leadership Books #1: Leaders Eat Last

Favorite Quote

“It is not the genius at the top giving directions that makes people great. It is great people that make the guy at the top look like a genius.” — Simon Sinek

The Book in One Sentence

Leaders Eat Last teaches you where the need for leadership comes from historically, what the consequences of bad leadership are, and how you can be a good leader in the modern world.

Why should you read it?

Few people are as inspiring, authentic, and empathetic as Simon Sinek. His talks get millions of views because when he speaks, we feel both heard and empowered. His other books, while also good, deal with more specific concepts, like “starting with why” or the idea of infinite games. This one, on the other hand, is his most extensive compendium on all things leadership, and that makes it a great all-around education for anyone hoping to lead others today.

Key Takeaways

  1. Safety means progress.
  2. Responsibility means actually caring about people.
  3. Technology has turned us into performance addicts.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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2. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

Best Leadership Books #2: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Favorite Quote

“You can’t move people to action unless you first move them with emotion… The heart comes before the head.” — John C. Maxwell

The Book in One Sentence

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership shows you that leadership is learned, not inherited, and that you too can become a leader if you internalize some of the universal principles of any leader-follower-relationship.

Why should you read it?

If you want a simple guide to leadership in the form of a set of clear directives, this book is your best bet. Maxwell is a leadership icon, and this book is a bible for CEOs around the globe. Worthy follow-ups, also by Maxwell: The 5 Levels of Leadership and Leadershift.

Key Takeaways

  1. Make sure you stand on solid ground and uphold the rules you want to inspire others to keep.
  2. Keep earning the respect of your followers.
  3. It’s okay to be a bad loser – it keeps you focused on winning.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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3. The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker

Best Leadership Books #3: The Effective Executive

Favorite Quote

“Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge are essential resources, but only effectiveness converts them into a result.” — Peter F. Drucker

The Book in One Sentence

The Effective Executive gives leaders a step-by-step formula to become more productive while developing their own strengths as well as their employees’ best traits.

Why should you read it?

Despite being a writer, Drucker was a man of action more so than words. His approach to leadership is based around productivity, so if you’re the kind of person who wants to roll up their sleeves and get going yet inspire others along the way, Drucker is your man. Also worth the short read: Managing Oneself.

Key Takeaways

  1. To be an effective executive you must lead by example, first developing your own skills.
  2. Learn how to make the right decisions and stand by them, no matter what others say.
  3. Focusing on the talents of your employees will build an efficient working environment.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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4. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

Best Leadership Books #4: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Favorite Quote

“The only thing that prepares you to run a company is running a company.” — Ben Horowitz

The Book in One Sentence

The Hard Thing About Hard Things is an inside look at the tough decisions and lonely times all CEOs face, revealing what it truly takes to build a great organization and become a world-class leader.

Why should you read it?

Being a leader isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. This book will show you specifically what the rainy days look like. What happens when a business goes bankrupt? How do you fire people without needless suffering? This is a book for CEOs, but it’ll also help you become one because it’ll prepare you for some of the unpopular decisions you’ll have to make.

Key Takeaways

  1. The CEO should be the first one to shout when shit hits the fan.
  2. There are 2 types of CEOs, strategic and practical ones.
  3. Great CEOs must learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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5. The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes & Barry Posner

Best Leadership Books #5: The Leadership Challenge

Favorite Quote

“Leading by example is more effective than leading by command.” — James Kouzes & Barry Posner

The Book in One Sentence

The Leadership Challenge shares the top leadership lessons from 25 years of research, explaining what makes successful managers and how you can become one yourself.

Why should you read it?

If you’re looking for a great all-around introduction to leadership, pick up this one. You’ll get to know some of history’s most beloved leaders as well as their lessons for leading well, be it at home, in the office, or in your local organization. A great read for beginners!

Key Takeaways

  1. You’re always setting an example for those you lead — the only question is is it a good one or a bad one?
  2. The best leaders are proactive and look both for opportunities and challenges.
  3. If you want to achieve great things, you must trust your team members to make good decisions.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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6. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Best Leadership Books #6: How to Win Friends and Influence People

Favorite Quote

“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn — and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” — Dale Carnegie

The Book in One Sentence

How to Win Friends and Influence People teaches you countless principles to become a likable person, handle your relationships well, win others over, and help them change their behavior without being intrusive.

Why should you read it?

Most of leadership is just a blend of common sense and good manners. This book combines both. Smile. Be polite. Ask questions. Don’t ramble. There’s a reason this is a book recommended in so many fields: sales, marketing, entrepreneurship, self-help, and, yes, leadership — because the ideas make sense no matter where you work or what you’re trying to do. Learn to lead better and get some great life advice along the way!

Key Takeaways

  1. You can make a great first impression just by smiling.
  2. To be interesting to others, talk about their favorite topic: themselves.
  3. If you want to convince people, get them to say “yes” a lot.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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7. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Best Leadership Books #7: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Favorite Quote

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” — Stephen R. Covey

The Book in One Sentence

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People will teach you both personal and professional effectiveness by first changing your view of how the world works, then giving you seven habits which, if adopted well, will lead you to immense success.

Why should you read it?

I don’t think this book needs an introduction. Is it a bit cliché? Perhaps. But are its principles timeless, and do they still work? Absolutely. Plus, every leader will implement the seven habits differently, as most of them are high-level guidelines more so than explicit instructions. This book belongs on every leader’s desk.

Key Takeaways

  1. Do the funeral test to discover who you want to be.
  2. Learn how to say no.
  3. Practice active listening whenever you talk to others.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Leadership Books for Developing Courage

8. Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

Best Leadership Books #8: Dare to Lead

Favorite Quote

“The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.” — Brené Brown

The Book in One Sentence

Dare to Lead dispels common myths about modern-day workplace culture and shows you that true leadership requires nothing but vulnerability, values, trust, and resilience.

Why should you read it?

If you think you’re too shy, unconfident, or not skilled enough to be a leader, read this book. Brown will teach you that that’s not true, and that leadership comes, first and foremost, from the heart. A great read not just for women, just like Brené Brown’s other books.

Key Takeaways

  1. Courage and vulnerability always go together.
  2. If you can narrow your core values down to just two, you can navigate even the toughest of times.
  3. The seven behaviors that create trust can be summed up with the acronym “BRAVING.”

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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9. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Best Leadership Books #9: Lean In

Favorite Quote

“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” — Sheryl Sandberg

The Book in One Sentence

Lean In explains why women are still underrepresented in the workforce, what holds them back, how we can enable and support them, and how any woman can take the lead and hold the flag of female leadership high.

Why should you read it?

If you’re a woman trying to make a name for yourself, this book will help you navigate the still male-dominated world of business. With a focus on hard work and ambition, this book shows young leaders new paths through a complex, and sometimes rigged, system, and it does so with empathy and understanding.

Key Takeaways

  1. Treat your career like a jungle gym.
  2. Learn to strike a balance between ambition and appeal.
  3. Before you become a mother, lean into your career as much as you can.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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10. Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink & Leif Babin

Best Leadership Books #10: Extreme Ownership

Favorite Quote

“Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.” — Jocko Willink & Leif Babin

The Book in One Sentence

Extreme Ownership contains useful leadership advice from two Navy SEALs who learned to stay strong, disciplined, and level-headed in high-stakes combat scenarios.

Why should you read it?

Do you often lose your cool in stressful situations? Then grab this book. If you want to lead via composure, discipline, and focus, these two former SEALs will show you and your team a new, better way to make progress at work despite the chaos of life and business.

Key Takeaways

  1. A leader who takes responsibility for failure is vital to the success of a team.
  2. Pressure is inevitable as a leader; remaining calm and effective comes from establishing priorities and taking action.
  3. Managing risks before they pop up is a key attribute of great leaders.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Leadership Books for Discovering Your Values & Making an Impact

11. Principles by Ray Dalio

Best Books About Leadership #11: Principles

Favorite Quote

“Great questions are a much better indicator of future success than great answers.” — Ray Dalio

The Book in One Sentence

Principles outlines and breaks down the set of rules for work and life billionaire investor Ray Dalio, CEO of the world’s largest hedge fund, has acquired throughout his 40-year career in finance.

Why should you read it?

Reading this book will help you lay the foundation of both your personal and professional life. To be a successful leader, you’ll need a strong work ethic and a rock-solid set of principles that’ll guide you through your endeavors. Ray delivers both. There’s also a journal to go with the book, next to his other, also interesting books.

Key Takeaways

  1. Principles are powerful weapons in the fight against flawed thinking.
  2. Radical truth and transparency are two of Ray’s most important ideas.
  3. Great businesses use principles to create environments where the best ideas win.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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12. Linchpin by Seth Godin

Best Books About Leadership #12: Linchpin

Favorite Quote

“Transferring your passion to your job is far easier than finding a job that happens to match your passion.” — Seth Godin

The Book in One Sentence

Linchpin claims that the time of simply following instructions at your job is over, showing you how to make yourself indispensable and why that’s a must for career success today.

Why should you read it?

The bad news is that job security is gone. The good news is that, if you become indispensable, there’ll always be someone who wants to hire you. This book will teach you how to do just that by acquiring the right skills at the right time, showing initiative, and making an impact without asking for permission. Another good read from Seth on the topic: Tribes.

Key Takeaways

  1. Linchpins pour their heart, soul, and energy into their work.
  2. You have to make a conscious choice to overcome your fears to become a linchpin.
  3. Give genuine gifts without expecting anything in return.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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13. Spark by Angie Morgan, Courtney Lynch & Sean Lynch

Best Books About Leadership #13: Spark

Favorite Quote

“Small acts of service can transform relationships, teams, and cultures.” — Angie Morgan, Courtney Lynch & Sean Lynch

The Book in One Sentence

Spark teaches you how to become an influential, un-fireable asset to your team by leading regardless of your position, utilizing the power of creative thinking to make better decisions, and learning how to be more self-aware and humble.

Why should you read it?

One way to become indispensable is to contribute so greatly to the work of others that they’ll no longer want to do it without you. That’s what becoming “a spark” is all about. Learn how to supercharge those around you, and thus supercharge yourself and your career.

Key Takeaways

  1. Anyone can be an inspirational leader, “a spark,” regardless of their title.
  2. Sparks make better decisions and connect with others more deeply because they think creatively. 
  3. If you want to be a spark, learn to admit when you’re wrong, serve others, and become self-aware.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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14. EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey

Best Books About Leadership #14: EntreLeadership

Favorite Quote

“If you as a leader allow people to halfway do their jobs and don’t demand excellence as a prerequisite to keeping their job, you will create a culture of mediocrity.” — Dave Ramsey

The Book in One Sentence

EntreLeadership will outline a path to becoming a great leader in your company by identifying the necessary management and entrepreneurial skills, then mastering them.

Why should you read it?

If you want a compendium of great, entrepreneurial leadership advice, compiled by someone who’s walked the walk, check out this book. Ramsey quotes lots of other smart leaders and explains how he implemented their advice in his own businesses. Worth the read!

Key Takeaways

  1. The most successful heads of new companies combine the skills of an entrepreneur and a leader. 
  2. To create a lucrative business, work on your marketing strategy. 
  3. You only get hardworking and loyal employees if you give out generous salaries and bonuses.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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15. Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute

Best Books About Leadership #15: Leadership and Self-Deception

Favorite Quote

“Self-deception blinds us to the true causes of problems, and once we’re blind, all the ‘solutions’ we can think of will actually make matters worse.” — The Arbinger Institute

The Book in One Sentence

Leadership and Self-Deception is a guide to becoming self-aware by learning to see your faults more accurately, understanding other’s strengths and needs, and leaning into your natural instinct to help other people as much as possible.

Why should you read it?

This book will teach you how to spot deception in and by yourself as well as from others. It’ll also help you become more self-aware and have better, more genuine interactions with other people. It could just as well be a self-help book, and its positive effects will go well beyond the workplace!

Key Takeaways

  1. Seeing your own needs as more important than those of others makes you forget they are people just like you.
  2. You justify your worldview by inflating your virtues and overemphasizing other people’s weaknesses.
  3. If you want to beat self-deception, you must act on your instinct to help others in need.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Leadership Books About Teamwork

16. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Best Books About Leadership #16: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Favorite Quote

“When people don’t unload their opinions and feel like they’ve been listened too, they won’t really get on board.” — Patrick Lencioni

The Book in One Sentence

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team uses a fable to explain why even the best teams struggle to work together, offering actionable strategies to overcome distrust and office politics in order to achieve important goals as a cohesive, effective unit.

Why should you read it?

If you struggle to work well together with others, get this book. Learn how to build trust and communicate effectively, even mediate well between different parties. For any aspiring team player, this is a good read.

Key Takeaways

  1. If a group wants to facilitate trust, it must be open about weaknesses and mistakes.
  2. Everybody needs to be committed to decisions, no matter what the consensus is.
  3. Focus on a common goal instead of looking for individual results.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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17. Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono

Best Books About Leadership #17: Six Thinking Hats

Favorite Quote

“We may have a perfectly adequate way of doing something, but that does not mean there cannot be a better way.” ― Edward De Bono

The Book in One Sentence

Six Thinking Hats divides thinking into six distinct areas and perspectives, which will help you, your team, and your company tackle problems from different angles, thus solving them with the power of parallel thinking and saving time, money, and energy as a result.

Why should you read it?

Are you looking for a framework that’ll make meetings smoother, more fun, and more effective? This is the book for you. The six thinking hats can seriously improve any group dynamic.

Key Takeaways

  1. The blue hat is the manager’s hat, which is worn to oversee the situation.
  2. When wearing the red hat, everyone is free to express their emotions without having to worry about being judged.
  3. The yellow hat gets you to pick up your shovel and start digging, because it’s the hat of the optimist.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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18. First, Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman

Best Books About Leadership #18: First, Break All the Rules

Favorite Quote

“People leave managers, not companies.” — Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman

The Book in One Sentence

First, Break All the Rules claims that everything you think you know about managing people is wrong, revealing how you can challenge the status quo so that both you and those you lead will achieve their full potential.

Why should you read it?

Forget about financial incentives, tight deadlines, and demanding speeches. If you want a more human way of pushing others to do their best, check out this book. Learn to be a facilitator of happiness, provide people with autonomy, and good results will follow. This book will teach you how.

Key Takeaways

  1. Successful businesses have happy employees — because managers have the power to ensure team members are satisfied.
  2. To be a great leader, set baseline standards of performance, then let people choose how exactly to reach outcomes.
  3. When you want to improve employees performance, look to the top performers on your team, not mistakes or averages.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Leadership Books About Group Dynamics

19. The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

Best Books About Leadership #19: The Culture Code

Favorite Quote

“Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust — it precedes it. Leaping into the unknown, when done alongside others, causes the solid ground of trust to materialize beneath our feet.” — Daniel Coyle

The Book in One Sentence

The Culture Code examines the dynamics of groups, large and small, formal and informal, to help you understand how great teams work and what you can do to improve your relationships wherever you cooperate with others.

Why should you read it?

If you want to learn how to integrate well in any group, collaborate better, and get your points across, this is a must-read. Charisma, or a lack thereof, is somewhat natural, but culture and communication can be learned. This book will show you how to use them to get people to cooperate and achieve big things.

Key Takeaways

  1. Build a safe environment to make everyone feel comfortable in working together.
  2. Share vulnerability to show no one needs to be perfect.
  3. Establish purpose through a common goal and a clear path to get there.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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20. Move Your Bus by Ron Clark

Best Books About Leadership #20: Move Your Bus

Favorite Quote

“Treating everyone fairly isn’t treating everyone equally.” — Ron Clark

The Book in One Sentence

Move Your Bus illustrates the different kinds of groups in organizations, how leaders can inspire those groups, and what individuals can do to become highly valued, productive members of the organizations they serve.

Why should you read it?

If you often find yourself frustrated with coworkers actions, this book is for you. Learn to accept that different people play different roles at work and in life, and you’ll be more efficient in giving everyone what they need to succeed.

Key Takeaways

  1. Have high expectations of people, then make it possible for them to deliver.
  2. Accept that different people perform on different levels.
  3. Let go of your sense of entitlement, forever.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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21. Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, John King & Halee Fischer-Wright

Best Books on Leadership #21: Tribal Leadership

Favorite Quote

“Change the language in the tribe, and you have changed the tribe itself.” — Dave Logan, John King & Halee Fischer-Wright

The Book in One Sentence

Tribal Leadership explains the various roles people take on in organizations, showing you how to navigate, connect, and lead change across the five different stages of your company’s “tribal society.”

Why should you read it?

Do you feel lost when you look at your company’s org chart? This book will help you navigate it, and not just on paper. Learn to identify the various groups in your organization and the stages they move through over time — and become a more efficient collaborator as a result.

Key Takeaways

  1. In the 21st century, tribes are still the most powerful social units in which we operate.
  2. Tribal progression depends on the quality of connections between its members.
  3. To change a group, you need to work with individuals first.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Books for Leaders Trying to Inspire People

22. Multipliers by Liz Wiseman

Best Books on Leadership #22: Multipliers

Favorite Quote

“The highest quality of thinking cannot emerge without learning. Learning can’t happen without mistakes.” — Liz Wiseman

The Book in One Sentence

Multipliers explains the five types of people who inspire, support, and improve others in their organization, showing you how to become one as well as avoid diminishers, the people who drag down others and make it harder for them to perform.

Why should you read it?

Is there someone at work who always brings you down or even blocks you from accomplishing your tasks? This book will help you deal with them. It’ll also show you how to avoid becoming a “diminisher,” as Wiseman calls them, yourself. Plus, you’ll learn which type of “multiplier” you might be, and how you can best amplify the voices and work of others.

Key Takeaways

  1. Diminishers reduce the effectiveness of their team, while Multipliers expand their team’s capabilities.
  2. If you’ve got a Diminisher boss, hope rests in learning and applying some defensive strategies.
  3. Becoming a Multiplier and improving your workplace is as simple as following a few quick practices.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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23. Unlocking Potential by Michael Simpson

Best Books on Leadership #23: Unlocking Potential

Favorite Quote

“Perhaps the best definition of coaching is ‘unleashing or unlocking the potential of another human being.’” — Michael Simpson

The Book in One Sentence

Unlocking Potential will teach you how to coach others in a way that brings to light their greatest strengths and capabilities, allowing you to make a true difference in people’s lives as a leader.

Why should you read it?

A good leader is similar to a good coach: They’ll help others help themselves, then get out of the way. This book will teach you which questions to ask when and how to empower those around you to do as much as they can on their own.

Key Takeaways

  1. The basics of effective coaching center around trust and potential. 
  2. You can encourage commitment by asking the right questions and help others execute effectively with the principle of flow.
  3. Asking a team member what feedback they’d give to someone in their situation brings out the best advice for them to follow.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Leadership Books About Presence

24. Presence by Amy Cuddy

Best Books on Leadership #24: Presence

Favorite Quote

“Focus less on the impression you’re making on others and more on the impression you’re making on yourself.” — Amy Cuddy

The Book in One Sentence

Presence will grow your confidence by explaining how posture, mindset, and body language all reinforce your feeling of empowerment as well as your communication skills.

Why should you read it?

Do you lack confidence? This book will help bring it back. Through a series of useful exercises, you’ll feel inspired to stand up for what you believe in and hold your head high — literally and figuratively.

Key Takeaways

  1. If you want more courage and the ability to handle stress better, find and write about your #1 core value.
  2. Beat feelings of powerlessness by remembering past wins and other positive events.
  3. Your posture is evidence of how you feel about yourself, and by improving it, even right now, you will become more confident.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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25. Executive Presence by Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Best Books on Leadership #25: Executive Presence

Favorite Quote

“Becoming a leader and doing something amazing with your life hinge on what makes you different, not on what makes you the same as everyone else.” — Sylvia Ann Hewlett

The Book in One Sentence

Executive Presence is an actionable guide to the essential components of a strong leader’s charisma, including and teaching you elements like gravitas, communication, appearance, and others.

Why should you read it?

A leader who has to yell every time to make their point is not a good leader at all. This book will show you how to command respect and meet people eye-to-eye — and that’s before you’ve even started talking. The book also has good tips for that, of course. If you want to exude authority and confidence wherever you go, get this book.

Key Takeaways

  1. Gravitas is the core of executive presence.
  2. It’s not what you say that counts, but how you say it.
  3. Your physical appearance matters a great deal.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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26. The Advice Trap by Michael Bungay Stanier

Best Books on Leadership #26: The Advice Trap

Favorite Quote

“Coaching is the act of staying curious. Feedback is when you need to share your point of view.” — Michael Bungay Stanier

The Book in One Sentence

The Advice Trap will drastically improve your communication skills and make you more likable, thanks to explaining why defaulting to sharing your opinion about everything is a bad idea and how listening until you truly understand people’s needs will make a much bigger positive difference in their lives.

Why should you read it?

When you’re a leader, everyone expects you to tell them what to do. Often, however, that’s exactly the wrong thing! You must learn to help people figure out what to do on their own, and that’s what this book is about. Combine silence, transparency, and appreciation, and you’ll rise through the ranks thanks to your influence, not your aggression.

Key Takeaways

  1. Your Advice Monster takes on three personas that you need to be aware of if you want to beat it.
  2. Listen better by using keywords to prime yourself, repeating a single skill, and learning to make it enjoyable.
  3. Be generous when communicating with others in three specific categories.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Leadership Books About Communication

27. Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson et al.

Best Books on Leadership #27: Crucial Conversations

Favorite Quote

“It’s the most talented, not the least talented, who are continually trying to improve their dialogue skills. As is often the case, the rich get richer.” — Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan & Al Switzler

The Book in One Sentence

Crucial Conversations will teach you how to avoid conflict and come to positive solutions in high-stakes conversations so you can be effective in your personal and professional life.

Why should you read it?

Looking for a better way to handle high-stakes situations? Then this might be the right book for you. Speech is what separates us from the other animals, but if we don’t speak clearly, we might as well be throwing rocks. Master the STATE method described in this book, and how you communicate in difficult situations will change forever.

Key Takeaways

  1. When communicating, stay focused on your goals to avoid reacting emotionally. 
  2. Create safe conversations by showing the other person you value their opinions. 
  3. Use the STATE method to resolve conflict when it arises.  

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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28. Radical Candor by Kim Malone Scott

Best Books on Leadership #28: Radical Candor

Favorite Quote

“Make sure that you are seeing each person on your team with fresh eyes every day. People evolve, and so your relationships must evolve with them. Care personally; don’t put people in boxes and leave them there.” — Kim Malone Scott

The Book in One Sentence

Radical Candor will teach you how to connect with people at work, push them to be their best, know when and how to fire them, and create an environment of trust and innovation in the workplace.

Why should you read it?

Do you struggle to be open with people, especially about uncomfortable but necessary developments? Try Radical Candor. This book will help you build the transparency you need without offending people, and your results when working in and with a team will soar.

Key Takeaways

  1. To develop radical candor, you must learn to be honest and direct without offending people.
  2. Collaborative leadership is far more effective than just barking orders.
  3. Get to know your employee’s real motivations by having honest conversations.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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29. The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard & Spencer Johnson

Best Books on Leadership #29: The One Minute Manager

Favorite Quote

“The best minute I spend is the one I invest in people.” — Ken Blanchard & Spencer Johnson

The Book in One Sentence

The One Minute Manager gives managers three simple tools that each take 60 seconds or less to use but can tremendously improve their efficiency in getting people to stay motivated, happy, and ready to deliver great work.

Why should you read it?

If you have a practice of giving compliments to coworkers but not telling them when they need to do better, this book is for you. The one-minute practices are easy and elegant. They also allow you to move forward without dwelling on people’s mistakes (or their accomplishments, for that matter). What an efficient way to lead!

Key Takeaways

  1. For each of your employees, set three goals you can review in one minute or less.
  2. Use one minute praise to give your employees positive feedback.
  3. A one-minute reprimand is more than enough to express your dissatisfaction.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Leadership Books About Ethics & Being of Service

30. People Over Profit by Dale Partridge

Best Books on Leadership #30: People Over Profit

Favorite Quote

“Authenticity is the act of telling people what you believe and care about, not telling them what you think they want you to believe or care about.” — Dale Partridge

The Book in One Sentence

People Over Profit evaluates the four stages most companies go through as they mature, moving from honest over efficiency to deception and, if they’re lucky, redemption, ideally helping them to foster seven core beliefs that will allow them to stay honest all the way to the end.

Why should you read it?

Most business books focus on tactics. Some focus on strategies. This is one of the few that addresses philosophy. If you can inspire a spirit of honesty among your first few employees, it’ll automatically become part of your company’s culture. Old employees teach it to new ones as the business grows, and you’ll still lead a virtuous company by the time it’s all grown up. A great read about developing a powerful organizational culture that can last for generations to come.

Key Takeaways

  1. Every company starts as an honest one.
  2. Good companies embrace transparency instead of trying to avoid it.
  3. By making better choices as a consumer, you can do your part to contribute to an honest-business world.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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31. The Second Mountain by David Brooks

Best Books for Leaders #31: The Second Mountain

Favorite Quote

“We think we want ease and comfort, and of course we do from time to time, but there is something inside us that longs for some calling that requires dedication and sacrifice.” — David Brooks

The Book in One Sentence

The Second Mountain argues that the key to living a meaningful, fulfilling, and happy life is not found in the pursuit of self-improvement but instead a life of service to others.

Why should you read it?

This book will show you how to truly put others first — and let everything else follow. Prioritizing those you care about will take care of many of the problems you worry about for yourself. It’s funny how it works, but it does. This book will convince you and show you how.

Key Takeaways

  1. Individualism causes a lack of social connections, which is why people feel adrift as they focus on the first mountain, material success. 
  2. Joy is better than happiness, and we receive it when we scale the second mountain — a life of caring for people. 
  3. Putting the needs of others above your own requires commitment and hard work; love alone won’t cut it.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Leadership Books With Out-of-the-Box Approaches

32. The Myth of the Strong Leader by Archie Brown

Best Books for Leaders #32: The Myth of the Strong Leader

Favorite Quote

“There are many qualities desirable in a political leader that should matter more than the criterion of strength, one better suited to judging weightlifters or long-distance runners.” — Archie Brown

The Book in One Sentence

The Myth of the Strong Leader reveals why being a bold, charismatic leader might not be all it’s cracked up to be, showing that we give way too much credit to “strong” leaders and illustrating the problematic consequences this societal pattern entails.

Why should you read it?

Are you worried about how you’ll lead when you’re neither literally tall nor figuratively larger than life? Don’t fret! This book will dispel the common myth that leaders must be (or at least appear) strong. It’s a cultural phenomenon more so than anything else, and even the best leaders have big flaws, like all of us. An encouraging read for anyone feeling like they’re out of their depth!

Key Takeaways

  1. We have a deeply skewed idea of what it means to be an effective political leader. 
  2. A truly good leader needs to be humble and know how to listen to people. 
  3. The people who become the most influential leaders usually employ a collegial style of leadership.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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33. How to Be a Leader by Plutarch

Best Books for Leaders #33: How to Be a Leader

Favorite Quote

“Leaders, in fact, must be more afraid of inflicting harm than of suffering harm themselves.” — Plutarch

The Book in One Sentence

How to Be a Leader is Greek philosopher Plutarch’s guide to leadership, using practical ideas, historical narratives, and political events to outline the qualities of the best leaders, including serving for the right reasons, speaking persuasively, and following more experienced leaders.

Why should you read it?

This book’s lessons aged like a fine wine. Leadership isn’t new. We’ve been doing it for as long as humans have existed. Plutarch will show you that the basics still apply, and that leadership isn’t rocket science. A fantastic read full of common sense and surprisingly relevant advice, given its age.

Key Takeaways

  1. A good leader wants to lead for the right reasons. 
  2. Persuasive speaking skills are a hallmark of leadership.
  3. We shouldn’t dismiss the strengths of more experienced leaders.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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34. Lead Yourself First by Raymond M. Kethledge & Michael S. Erwin

Best Books for Leaders #34: Lead Yourself First

Favorite Quote

“A critical element of effective leadership is not to let the immediate take precedence over the important.” — Raymond M. Kethledge & Michael S. Erwin

The Book in One Sentence

Lead Yourself First highlights the importance of solitude, sorting your mind, and self-awareness in leading others, recommending strongly aligned goals and an inspiring mission to get others to take initiative on your shared objectives.

Why should you read it?

Leadership is about leading others, but that doesn’t mean to do it well you have to be around people all the time. In fact, the opposite is true! Solitude is necessary to think clearly, recharge, and return to those you hope to guide with renewed energy and motivation. This book will show you how to look inward to better navigate the world outside and help others do the same.

Key Takeaways

  1. Great leaders use solitude to deal with four aspects of their life.
  2. FOMO is a dangerous trap for anyone who is serious about their responsibilities.
  3. Solitude can help you alleviate negative emotions and triggers.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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35. How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald Robertson

Best Books for Leaders #35: How to Think Like a Roman Emperor

Favorite Quote

“The Stoic Sage, or wise man, needs nothing but uses everything well; the fool believes himself to ‘need’ countless things, but he uses them all badly.” — Donald Robertson

The Book in One Sentence

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor combines the story of famous Stoic and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius with lessons from modern psychology to help you become more emotionally resilient and develop the strength to overcome even the most challenging circumstances.

Why should you read it?

If a shy boy 2,000 years ago managed to get through life as an emperor (a life Marcus never would have chosen), then you, too, can show others the way. Inspiring through its story and enlightening through its lessons, this is a fantastic book full of pragmatic wisdom.

Key Takeaways

  1. We come from nature, and we’ll return to it eventually, so it’s only logical to live in agreement with it. 
  2. Life is about constant improvement, which is why we should all work on our virtues every day.
  3. Stoics know there’s no point in worrying over what you can’t control, so best just make your peace with it.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Inspiring Biographies of Famous Leaders

36. A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Best Books for Leaders #36: A Promised Land

Favorite Quote

“Enthusiasm makes up for a host of deficiencies.” — Barack Obama

The Book in One Sentence

A Promised Land is former president Barack Obama’s memoir in which he explains how he got into politics, what it was like for him to be president of the United States from 2009 to 2017, and how he felt during some of his biggest achievements, like passing the Affordable Care Act.

Why should you read it?

If you’re a fan of Obama, you’ll get a lot out of this book. If you’re not, you have to at least give the man credit: He led with composure and clarity, even if not all of his choices were right. Especially if you hope to lead in politics, this will be an enlightening read.

Key Takeaways

  1. Barack wanted to change the world from a young age, and he almost gave up trying to do so by political means.
  2. Once Obama’s popularity began to grow, it wasn’t long before running for president became the obvious choice.
  3. The Affordable Care Act and the assassination of Osama bin Laden are just two of the many notable events of Obama’s presidency.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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37. Becoming by Michelle Obama

Best Books for Leaders #37: Becoming

Favorite Quote

“Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child — What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.” ― Michelle Obama

The Book in One Sentence

Becoming will use Michelle Obama’s life story to motivate you to move forward with your dreams regardless of your circumstances, criticism, or what people think.

Why should you read it?

Whether you’re the woman behind a strong man, charting your own path, or simply wondering how a First Lady deals with all the pressure and attention, this book is for you. Barack’s success can be credited as much to Michelle as to him, and together, they make for an extremely inspiring pair of human beings.

Key Takeaways

  1. Regardless of the changes in your world, you can strive to be your best and learn.
  2. Ignore people who tell you what they think you can’t be, pushing yourself to excel will lead you to people who believe in your potential.
  3. Don’t be afraid to try new things, even if you live in a place as traditional as the White House.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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38. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Best Books for Leaders #38: Long Walk to Freedom

Favorite Quote

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ― Nelson Mandela

The Book in One Sentence

Long Walk to Freedom is the autobiography of Nelson Mandela, South African anti-apartheid activist, national icon, and the first South African Black president, elected in the first, fully democratic election in the country.

Why should you read it?

If you think you’re facing hardship, think again. This man spent more than 20 years in prison, yet still came out ready to forgive his oppressors — and he went on to do great things because of it. One of the most inspiring stories of all time. Highly recommended!

Key Takeaways

  1. Your best bet at finding true freedom is education.
  2. If you want to be remembered, you must learn to challenge authority.
  3. It’s most important that you don’t give up right after your biggest setback.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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39. The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger

Best Books for Leaders #39: The Ride of a Lifetime

Favorite Quote

“Ask the questions you need to ask, admit without apology what you don’t understand, and do the work to learn what you need to learn as quickly as you can.” ― Robert Iger

The Book in One Sentence

The Ride of a Lifetime illustrates Robert Iger’s journey to becoming the CEO of Disney, and how his vision, strategy, and guidance successfully led the company through a time when its future was highly uncertain.

Why should you read it?

Do you dream of being a CEO of one of the world’s most beloved brands? Then this book is for you. Bob Iger was loved as much by his employees as their customers love Disney. He truly is a one-in-a-million example of good leadership, and that’s why his story is worth listening to.

Key Takeaways

  1. Pay attention to what you think is coincidence — it just may end up leading you to success.
  2. Even if an idea you have sounds crazy, try it anyway, because you never know what great opportunities might come from it.
  3. Don’t give up on even the toughest of aspirations, and use your connections to make great things happen.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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40. All In by Billie Jean King

Best Books for Leaders #40: All In

Favorite Quote

“Face your fears; live your passions, be dedicated to your truth.” — Billie Jean King

The Book in One Sentence

All In is the autobiography of tennis and LGBT icon Billie Jean King, the first professional female athlete to come out as homosexual, as well as an astonishing player who won countless matches and tournaments, all while fighting for gender equality in sports up to the point of changing US legislation and significantly reducing discrimination in sports for women all over the globe.

Why should you read it?

Talk about winning against the odds. Billie Jean did it not just in tennis, but in politics too, managing to change the laws of the sport she played. She was also the first professional female athlete to come out as lesbian, and that requires yet another kind of leadership. What an inspiring individual!

Key Takeaways

  1. A combination of talent and hard work turned Billie Jean into a champion.
  2. A good role model can inspire determination and motivate us to push forward.
  3. Billie Jean had a tough romantic life and other significant challenges to face, none of which kept her from achieving her objective.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Conclusion

“When you compete against everyone else, no one wants to help you,” Simon Sinek says. “But when you compete against yourself, everyone wants to help you.” That’s what leadership is about. It’s an attitude of service, of putting others first, and when we do that, the people around us want us to succeed too.

I think most of us aspire to being inspiring, and often, that’s easier than we think. But even when leadership forces you to make tough choices, usually, the hardest decision is the one to lead in the first place. Once we’ve made up our mind to walk into the unknown, even when we’re afraid like everyone else, we’ll find that the path keeps unfolding right in front of us — and now, others can follow in our footsteps.

Whether you want to learn more about the basics of leadership or have 20 years of experience as an executive, we hope our list of the best leadership books will provide the little bit of inspiration you’ll need to keep taking small steps every day. Thank you for doing your best to lead. The world needs it more than you know.


Other Book Lists by Topic

Looking for more of the best books on various topics? Here are all the book lists we’ve made for you so far:


Other Book Lists by Author

Looking for more books by the world’s most celebrated authors? Here are all of the book lists by the author we’ve curated for you:


The 35 Best Philosophy Books to Live Better and Become a Great Thinker

The 35 Best Philosophy Books to Live Better and Become a Great Thinker Cover

I used to think philosophy meant sitting in a college auditorium, reading boring old texts in languages no one speaks anymore. When I was 23, however, I discovered Ryan Holiday and his work on Stoicism. I read his book The Obstacle Is the Way, and I realized I couldn’t have been more wrong. Philosophy is not about analyzing the thoughts of people who died long ago. It’s about how to live a good life, right here, right now — and that’s exactly what philosophy books are for.

We’ve summarized over 1,000 books here at Four Minute Books. Today, we’ll compile the best philosophy titles for you. Whether you’re a beginner or a philosophy expert, we’re sure you’ll find a book on here that’ll teach you something new. Find a strong set of guiding principles, discover where it came from, and adjust it to your own and modern life.

 

As usual, we’ve sorted our list into multiple sub-categories. First, we’ll cover the best philosophy books all around. Then, we’ll get into Western philosophy, Eastern philosophy, important philosophers, as well as books talking specifically about ethics and morality. Finally, we’ll show you some “philosophies of productivity” and other books that present a coherent worldview for our modern world.

Besides a picture of the cover of each title, you’ll find our favorite quote from the author, a one-sentence-summary of the book, and some suggestions on when and why to read the book. We’ve also included three key takeaways, as well as some buttons you can click to read the book’s free summary on Four Minute Books or buy a copy for yourself on Amazon (affiliate links).

Use the clickable table of contents below to quickly jump to any book or category, and start discovering the many wonderful, enlightening philosophies we can use to live a better life!

Here are the 35 best philosophy books of all time!


The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of

Best Philosophy Books Overall

1. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Best Philosophy Books #1: Meditations

Favorite Quote

“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” — Marcus Aurelius

The Book in One Sentence

Meditations is a collection of 12 books written by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, who consistently journaled to remember his education in Stoic philosophy, and whose writings will teach you logic, faith, and self-discipline.

Why should you read it?

If you’re looking for daily comfort, motivation, and wisdom, this is one of the best books you’ll ever pick up. I don’t see why anyone shouldn’t read this. The advice is as sound as when Marcus gave it to himself 2,000 years ago, and the book will benefit you in tough as well as glorious times. Plus, it might even inspire you to start journaling yourself!

Key Takeaways

  1. True “logic” doesn’t always make sense, but everything happens for a reason.
  2. Life is too short to complain.
  3. The only pain you suffer is the pain you create yourself.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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2. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Best Philosophy Books #2: Man's Search for Meaning

Favorite Quote

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” — Viktor Frankl

The Book in One Sentence

Man’s Search for Meaning details holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl’s horrifying experiences in Nazi concentration camps, along with his psychological approach of logotherapy, which is also what helped him survive and shows how you can – and must – find meaning in your life.

Why should you read it?

There are few holes this book couldn’t make you crawl back out from. Beyond inspiring you to rethink meaning and find it wherever you go, however, it will also instill tremendous respect in you for those who’ve come before us. This book is enlightening on both a personal and a historical level, and I think almost anyone would benefit from reading it.

Key Takeaways

  1. Sometimes, the only way to survive is to surrender to death.
  2. Your life has its own meaning, and it’s up to you to find it.
  3. Use paradoxical intention to make your fears go away.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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3. The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday

Best Philosophy Books #3: The Daily Stoic

Favorite Quote

“Control your perceptions. Direct your actions properly. Willingly accept what’s outside your control.” — Ryan Holiday

The Book in One Sentence

The Daily Stoic is a year-long compilation of short, daily meditations from ancient Stoic philosophers, like Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius, teaching you equanimity, resilience, and perseverance via the three Stoic disciplines of perception, action, and will.

Why should you read it?

If you struggle with reading non-fiction at a pace that makes you feel good about your progress, this is the book for you. It’s also one of my all-time favorites. I read it every year for five years in a row. A page a day is so easy to read, you can’t not do it. As a result, you’ll gain a great overview of Stoicism and implement plenty of its tenets in your life.

Key Takeaways

  1. Perception gives purpose to your thoughts, actions, and ultimately everything you do.
  2. We can change the course of our life by actively choosing our actions instead of just reacting to our impulses.
  3. Will is our internal force of perseverance, ready to give us hope when everything else fails.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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4. The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant 

Best Philosophy Books #4: The Story of Philosophy

Favorite Quote

“Civilization begins with order, grows with liberty, and dies with chaos.” — Will Durant 

The Book in One Sentence

The Story of Philosophy profiles the lives of great Western philosophers, such as Plato, Socrates, and Nietzsche, exploring their views on politics, religion, morality, the meaning of life, and plenty of other important concepts.

Why should you read it?

If you’re curious about the origins of philosophy, this is the definitive title to read. Durant and his wife are some of the greatest historians who ever lived, and they fantastically condensed the world’s story, in this case down to 700 pages. If you want to start with something shorter, grab The Lessons of History first, then go deeper on each of history’s most important philosophers in this masterpiece.

Key Takeaways

  1. Ancient Greek philosophers paved the way for philosophy, science, and new forms of societal governance.
  2. Philosopher Spinoza helped decipher the hidden meanings of religion.
  3. Voltaire was partially responsible for the French revolution and the improvement of political systems around the world.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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5. The Republic by Plato

Best Philosophy Books #5: The Republic

Favorite Quote

“The heaviest penalty for declining to rule is to be ruled by someone inferior to yourself.” — Plato

The Book in One Sentence

The Republic is one of the most important political and philosophical works in history, written by Plato, the archetypal philosopher and one of Socrates’ students, in the form of a dialogue about justice and political systems.

Why should you read it?

If you’re in politics, this is a must-read. If not, it’s still a valuable read on what it means to be governed, how to be a good citizen, and why philosophers can be good rulers but don’t necessarily will be. All-around a classic worth picking up.

Key Takeaways

  1. Justice must be looked at on an individual as well as a city level.
  2. Both cities and souls can be divided into three distinct parts.
  3. Philosophers trying to rule others will face lots of difficulty, and rightfully so.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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6. Discourses by Epictetus

Best Philosophy Books #6: Discourses

Favorite Quote

“What else is freedom but the power to live our life the way we want?” — Epictetus

The Book in One Sentence

Discourses is a collection of ancient philosopher Epictetus’ lectures, transcribed by one of his students, helping us make sense of the world and teaching us to accept hardship, change, and life events that feel like setbacks at first but will ultimately make us stronger.

Why should you read it?

Unlike most of the other ancient philosophers, Epictetus didn’t start from wealth. He was a slave, but thanks to his ideas and behavior, he was set free. He lived frugally till the end of his days, and that’s why his lectures are full of common sense. If you want an original take on Stoicism that didn’t come from a point of privilege, this is your best bet.

Key Takeaways

  1. Without life’s challenges, we wouldn’t feel the need to grow and evolve. 
  2. Everything great in life takes time and effort to build.
  3. If you can’t control it, don’t stress over it.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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7. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch 

Best Philosophy Books #7: The Last Lecture

Favorite Quote

“If I only had three words of advice, they would be, ‘tell the truth.’ If I got three more words, I’d add, ‘all the time.’” — Randy Pausch

The Book in One Sentence

The Last Lecture is a college professor’s final message to the world before his impending death of cancer at a relatively young age, offering meaningful life advice, significant words of wisdom, and a great deal of optimism and hope for humanity.

Why should you read it?

Imagine your favorite school teacher or mentor were to give one last lecture before they died. Wouldn’t you attend? Well, Randy Pausch may not be your favorite college professor, but he probably will be if you give his last lecture a chance. The book is full of inspiration, hard-gained wisdom, and memories that will make you smile. Randy also gave the actual lecture, of course, but I recommend reading the book first. It holds more detail and makes the talk feel a lot stronger.

Key Takeaways

  1. If you never give up on your dreams, eventually, some of them will come true.
  2. True satisfaction comes from helping others succeed.
  3. The simplest advice is often the most valuable.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Philosophy Books About Stoicism and Western Philosophy

8. Letters from a Stoic by Seneca

Best Books About Philosophy #8: Letters from a Stoic

Favorite Quote

“If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you need is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.” — Seneca

The Book in One Sentence

Letters from a Stoic is a collection of encouraging moral messages sent by Roman Stoic and philosopher Seneca to his friend Lucilius in order to help him become less emotional, more disciplined, and find the good life.

Why should you read it?

There used to be a thing called “pen pals.” People would commit to writing each other letters on a regular basis. Nowadays, the practice is dwindling. Thanks to this book, however, you can have a pen pal, and not just any pen pal but one of the most famous philosophers in history. If you’d like a friend to send you letters of encouragement, this book is perfect for you.

Key Takeaways

  1. The goal of attaining wisdom is to live in harmony with nature.
  2. Your most valuable possession is your mind.
  3. A wise man doesn’t need friends, but he chooses to make them anyway.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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9. Meditations on First Philosophy by René Descartes

Best Books About Philosophy #9: Meditations on First Philosophy

Favorite Quote

“Dubium sapientiae initium — Doubt is the origin of wisdom.” — René Descartes

The Book in One Sentence

Meditations on First Philosophy is one of the premier works of Western philosophy, written by René Descartes in 1641, prompting us to abandon everything that can possibly be doubted and then starting to reason our way forward based only on what we can know with absolute certainty.

Why should you read it?

Are you a person driven by logic and reason? Then this is the philosophy book for you. Descartes’ approach of starting from what’s 100% true and then going from there is fascinating. If you’d like to test your reasoning skills and aren’t afraid of someone challenging your assumptions, read this book.

Key Takeaways

  1. Your senses don’t always tell the truth.
  2. The fact that you think proves that you exist.
  3. There are three levels of truth in the world.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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10. On the Shortness of Life by Seneca

Best Books About Philosophy #10: On the Shortness of Life

Favorite Quote

“People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.” — Seneca

The Book in One Sentence

On the Shortness of Life is a 2,000 year old, 20-page masterpiece by Seneca, Roman Stoic philosopher and teacher to the emperors, about time and how to best use it to ensure you lead a long and fulfilling life.

Why should you read it?

There are a million talks, books, and celebrities out there telling us that “life is short.” But, honestly, no one ever said it better than Seneca in this short read. You’ll find yourself making highlight after highlight. It’s amazing and, productivity-wise, probably the only book you’ll ever have to read.

Key Takeaways

  1. Chasing leisure, luxury, and legacy is what makes a long life appear short.
  2. You can be busy all your life without ever doing something meaningful, so beware.
  3. Your ability to contemplate and appreciate life will never disappear.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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11. A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine

Best Books About Philosophy #11: A Guide to the Good Life

Favorite Quote

“The easiest way for us to gain happiness is to learn how to want the things we already have.” — William B. Irvine

The Book in One Sentence

A Guide to the Good Life is a roadmap for aspiring Stoics, revealing why this ancient philosophy is useful today, what Stoicism is truly about, and showing you how to cultivate its powerful principles in your own life.

Why should you read it?

If you’re looking for a general introduction to Stoicism, get this book. It covers its historical rise and fall, most important concepts, as well as the best pieces of Stoic advice. A great overview of this resurgent philosophy.

Key Takeaways

  1. The two primary values of Stoicism are virtue and tranquility.
  2. Learn to want what you already have.
  3. Immediately accept things that are outside of your control, and focus on what you can do with what you’ve got.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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12. How to Be a Stoic by Massimo Pigliucci

Best Books About Philosophy #12: How to Be a Stoic

Favorite Quote

“Better to endure pain in an honorable manner than to seek joy in a shameful one.” — Massimo Pigliucci

The Book in One Sentence

How to Be a Stoic is a practical guide for applying ancient philosophy in modern life, covering the principles philosophers like Socrates, Epictetus, and Cato followed to cultivate strength in the three Stoic disciplines of desire, action, and assent.

Why should you read it?

For a deeper dive into Stoicism and its central areas of application, consider this book. Like many other books on the topic, it divides its ideas into three section mapping to the three Stoic disciplines, so even if you’re just looking for advice on one particular field, you can easily skip around and get right to what’s most relevant to you right now.

Key Takeaways

  1. The concept of “preferred indifferents” can help you act in line with your morals without becoming extremist.
  2. In Stoicism, virtue is the highest good, and it’s made up of four values.
  3. You can have useful, pleasurable, and good friendships. The good are the most important.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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13. How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald Robertson

Best Books About Philosophy #13: How to Think Like a Roman Emperor

Favorite Quote

“What matters, in other words, isn’t what we feel but how we respond to those feelings.” — Donald Robertson

The Book in One Sentence

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor combines the story of famous Stoic and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius with lessons from modern psychology to help you become more emotionally resilient and develop the strength to overcome even the most challenging circumstances.

Why should you read it?

If you prefer learning from stories, this is a great book for you. Robertson releases the ideas behind Stoicism slowly, rolling them out alongside Marcus’ life story, adding insight into modern psychology along the way. The result is an effortless read that makes for fantastic insights without feeling like a typical non-fiction book.

Key Takeaways

  1. We come from nature, and we’ll return to it eventually, so it’s only logical to live in agreement with it. 
  2. Life is about constant improvement, which is why we should all work on our virtues every day.
  3. Stoics know there’s no point in worrying over what you can’t control, so best just make your peace with it.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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14. The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday 

Best Books About Philosophy #14: The Obstacle Is the Way

Favorite Quote

“There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.” — Ryan Holiday

The Book in One Sentence

The Obstacle Is the Way will help you endure the struggles of life with grace and resilience, thanks to lessons drawn from ancient heroes, former presidents, modern actors, and successful athletes and how they turned adversity into success thanks to the powers of perception, action, and will.

Why should you read it?

If you think, “Well, all this stuff about Stoicism is great, but what does it look like today?” then this title, and of course Ryan Holiday’s other books, are a great place to start. Ryan can be largely credited with bringing Stoicism back to life, and he does it with countless examples from modern-world leaders, athletes, and celebrities embodying Stoic ideals. The first of three books in his original trilogy on Stoicism, you’ll want to read Ego Is the Enemy and Stillness Is the Key next.

Key Takeaways

  1. Imagine you’re advising yourself as a friend to keep an objective perspective.
  2. Large obstacles have large weaknesses – identify them and use them against them.
  3. Use your will to accept what you cannot change and change the things you can.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Philosophy Books About Eastern Philosophy

15. The Bhagavad Gita by Vyasa

Best Books On Philosophy #15: The Bhagavad Gita

Favorite Quote

“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.” — Vyasa

The Book in One Sentence

The Bhagavad Gita is the number one spiritual text in Hinduism, packed with wisdom about life and purpose as well as powerful advice on living virtuously but authentically without succumbing to life’s temptations or other people’s dreams.

Why should you read it?

You don’t have to be Hindu to appreciate Hindu wisdom. Philosophy works best when you balance multiple perspectives, and though, as readers have told me, it’s very hard for outsiders to fully grasp “the Gita,” it still provides valuable counterpoints worth studying.

Key Takeaways

  1. Living life doing what you were destined to do brings peace, while the opposite breeds pain and insecurity.
  2. Find meaning in the journey and let go of constant anticipation.
  3. Meditation can help you master your thoughts and regain focus.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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16. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Best Books On Philosophy #16: The Art of War

Favorite Quote

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” — Sun Tzu

The Book in One Sentence

The Art of War is considered the definitive text on military strategy and warfare, written in ancient China around 500 BC, inspiring businesses, athletes, and of course generals to beat their opponents and competition the right way.

Why should you read it?

If you’re looking for a highly action-oriented approach to philosophy, this classic might be for you. It’s a book about war, yes, but it’s also a book about business, work, and life. If you metaphorically apply Sun Tzu’s strategies of warfare to your next big meeting, it might go better than you expect. You’ll also pick up plenty of honorable attitudes along the way, as the soldier’s path is, ideally, supposed to be a virtuous one — and it’s walking that path that this book hopes to teach you.

Key Takeaways

  1. Only enter battles you know you can win.
  2. Deceive your competition to make them do what you want.
  3. Lead your team as if you were leading a single man by the hand.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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17. The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

Best Books On Philosophy #17: The Tao Te Ching

Favorite Quote

“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to.” ― Lao Tzu

The Book in One Sentence

The Tao Te Ching is a collection of 81 short, poignant chapters full of advice on living in harmony with “the Tao,” translated as “the Way,” an ancient Chinese interpretation of the spiritual force underpinning all life, first written around 400 BC but relevant to this day.

Why should you read it?

Whereas Western philosophy is focused more on the self and dealing with the outside world, Eastern philosophy promotes harmony and being part of the world. Few books encapsulate this Eastern approach more appropriately than this book. Plus, at 81 short chapters, it’s an easy and quick read full of great life advice. Definitely another one for your must-read shelf!

Key Takeaways

  1. Fully accept whatever the current moment brings. Give yourself fully to reality.
  2. Admit your own faults and mistakes, because ultimately, they might be your greatest source of strength.
  3. Always compete in a spirit of play to stay in harmony with the Tao.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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18. The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu

Best Books On Philosophy #18: The Book of Joy

Favorite Quote

“The more time you spend thinking about yourself, the more suffering you will experience.” — Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu

The Book in One Sentence

The Book of Joy is the result of a 7-day meeting between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, two of the world’s most influential spiritual leaders, during which they discussed one of life’s most important questions: how do we find joy despite suffering?

Why should you read it?

When two globally revered spiritual leaders talk, it’s worth paying attention. When they discuss handling suffering as an essential life skill (because suffering is inevitable), you might want to drop everything else and listen for a while. This one probably works really well as an audiobook too. If you’re looking for more joy in your life, get this one.

Key Takeaways

  1. A life without suffering does not exist.
  2. Since we can’t control suffering, we must practice our response to it.
  3. Compassion and sadness help us alleviate our troublesome responses to suffering.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Books About Important Philosophers

19. Lives of the Stoics by Ryan Holiday

Best Books On Philosophy #19: Lives of the Stoics

Favorite Quote

“There is no better definition of a Stoic: to have but not want, to enjoy without needing.” — Ryan Holiday

The Book in One Sentence

Lives of the Stoics takes a deep dive into the experiences and beliefs of some of the earliest philosophers practicing the four Stoic virtues of courage, temperance, justice, and wisdom.

Why should you read it?

If you’re already on the Stoicism-train but want to know more about the most important Stoic philosophers’ lives, this book is for you. Beyond just the most important Stoic ideas, you’ll also find plenty of anecdotes and details about the lives of Epicurus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and others. If you like biographies, you’ll enjoy this book.

Key Takeaways

  1. Stoicism came about as a result of extreme hardship. 
  2. Not everyone who initially followed Stoicism fully lived up to its standards. 
  3. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor whose practice of Stoicism helped him lead with compassion and humility.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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20. Plato at the Googleplex by Rebecca Goldstein

Best Books On Philosophy #20: Plato at the Googleplex

Favorite Quote

“If we don’t understand our tools, then there is a danger we will become the tool of our tools.” — Rebecca Goldstein

The Book in One Sentence

Plato at the Googleplex asks what would happen if ancient philosopher Plato were alive today and came in contact with the modern world, for example by touring Google’s headquarters, and what the implications of his encounters are for the relevance of philosophy in our civilized, hyper-technological world.

Why should you read it?

Are you skeptical that philosophy still has a place in the modern world? Then this book provides the perfect thought experiment. If Plato were on a speaking tour today, what would he tell us? This book combines the fun of a novel with the insight of a history book, and the result is a trip you’ll never forget! Perhaps, it might even change your mind.

Key Takeaways

  1. Google can answer most questions but not all of them.
  2. No two people are the same, and neither should education treat them that way.
  3. Plato came up with a definition of love that encompasses all human relationships.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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21. Breakfast With Socrates by Robert Rowland Smith

Best Books On Philosophy #21: Breakfast With Socrates

Favorite Quote

“You can’t be free to be right unless you can free to be wrong.” — Robert Rowland Smith

The Book in One Sentence

Breakfast With Socrates takes you through an ordinary day in the company of extraordinary minds, linking each hour of the day and its activity to the core ideas of one of history’s great philosophers, such as Descartes, Nietzsche, or Socrates.

Why should you read it?

If you’re looking for an easy, extremely practical introduction to philosophy, look no further. From breakfast to going to work to falling asleep at night, this book will paint a philosophical backdrop for plenty of familiar everyday situations. Then, it will fill said backdrop with the wisdom of one of history’s great philosophers. What a wonderful concept for a book!

Key Takeaways

  1. Philosophy isn’t about spinning your head all day; it’s about making wise decisions.
  2. Your morning routine is a battle of the egos.
  3. A good way of assessing your happiness is to ask yourself if you’d like to live the same life again.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Philosophy Books About Ethics & Morality

22. The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle

Best Philosopher Books #22: The Nicomachean Ethics

Favorite Quote

“Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.” — Aristotle

The Book in One Sentence

The Nicomachean Ethics is a historically important text compiling Aristotle’s extensive discussion of existential questions concerning happiness, ethics, friendship, knowledge, pleasure, virtue, and even society at large.

Why should you read it?

This one’s for nerds and philosophy geeks like me. Even modern translations still aren’t always super easy to understand, and you’ll have to reread sentences all the time. That said, there is something about reading an original text that makes it feel more special than even the best second-hand reporting. If you want to be able to claim you’ve actually read Aristotle, get yourself a copy of this book.

Key Takeaways

  1. Aim to achieve a state of eudaimonia instead of conventional happiness.
  2. Arete, or virtue, is accomplished through a lifetime of work.
  3. Strive to be magnanimous — someone who does great and honorable things.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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23. The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli

Best Philosopher Books #23: The Prince

Favorite Quote

“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.” — Niccolò Machiavelli

The Book in One Sentence

The Prince is a 16th century political treatise famous for condoning, even encouraging, evil behavior amongst political rulers in order for them to stay in power.

Why should you read it?

In my mind, this book is something akin to a big “BEWARE” sign. You read it. You understand how people in power can easily abuse it. And you’ll be much less likely to become the victim of power schemes in the future. Don’t think of this as an instruction manual, for it’ll only lead you down a dark path. Treat it with care, however, and it will be enlightening.

Key Takeaways

  1. Countries can be easy to conquer but hard to rule or vice versa – and markets are the same.
  2. If a country truly wants to protect itself, it needs its own army, not mercenaries. The same holds true for businesses.
  3. If you want to run a business, you have to assemble your advisors and know when to listen to them.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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24. The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir

Best Philosopher Books #24: The Ethics of Ambiguity

Favorite Quote

“We are having a hard time living because we are so bent on outwitting death.” — Simone de Beauvoir

The Book in One Sentence

The Ethics of Ambiguity explains existentialist philosophy in a post–World War II setting, showing us how we can accept the absurdity of life and use its randomness to create rather than despair.

Why should you read it?

Philosophy, like many other fields and book-writing in general, has historically been dominated by men. How refreshing to get a woman’s perspective. On existentialism, one of the most relevant and, arguably, useful philosophies, no less. If you’re looking for an introduction into existentialism and/or some background on one of history’s best female philosophers, pick this one.

Key Takeaways

  1. You’re freer than you think, and you should take advantage of it.
  2. There is no such thing as a completely neutral perspective.
  3. Abstract ideals aren’t as important as real people, but our governments mess this up all the time.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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25. The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker

Best Philosopher Books #25: The Better Angels of Our Nature

Favorite Quote

“As one becomes aware of the decline of violence, the world begins to look different. The past seems less innocent; the present less sinister.” — Steven Pinker

The Book in One Sentence

The Better Angels of Our Nature proves that we live in the most peaceful time in history, taking us through several major shifts that led to a global reduction in crime, explaining what motivates us to behave violently, and showing that these motivators are far outweighed by our naturally peaceful tendencies.

Why should you read it?

It’s easy to feel depressed. All you have to do is turn on the news. But despite all the bad reporting, when you zoom out on the timeline, the world is doing better than it ever has. If you’re looking for hope, optimism, and more faith in humanity, this is the one to read.

Key Takeaways

  1. Ideologies always start out with good intentions, but they can quickly deteriorate into promoting violence.
  2. The Flynn effect increases humanity’s ability to reason over time, thus making us less violent.
  3. Thanks to the invention of the printing press, humanitarian philosophy could spread, which decreased violence across the board.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Philosophy Books for Productivity

26. Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Best Philosopher Books #26: Essentialism

Favorite Quote

“Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.” — Greg McKeown

The Book in One Sentence

Essentialism will show you a new, better way of looking at productivity by giving you permission to be extremely selective about what’s truly essential in your life and then ruthlessly cutting out everything else.

Why should you read it?

Most productivity books are just collections of common-sense tips. This one offers a fully fledged out philosophy for how to get things done, both in work and in life. That’s what makes this book so refreshing. It also shows you what philosophy looks like when we extend it beyond its usual, often academically influenced confines. All around a fantastic book!

Key Takeaways

  1. Doing nothing and doing everything are both signs of learned helplessness.
  2. Become the editor of your own life with the 90% rule.
  3. Always give yourself a time buffer of 50%.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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27. Deep Work by Cal Newport

Best Philosopher Books #27: Deep Work

Favorite Quote

“If you don’t produce, you won’t thrive — no matter how skilled or talented you are.” — Cal Newport

The Book in One Sentence

Deep Work proposes that we have lost our ability to focus deeply and immerse ourselves in a complex task, showing us how to cultivate this skill again and manage our attention better than ever before thanks to four simple rules.

Why should you read it?

If you struggle to focus and feel like you can barely hold your attention together, read this book. It’s one of few productivity books presenting a coherent worldview, and that’s what makes it one of the best.

Key Takeaways

  1. There are four strategies for deep work, all of which require intention.
  2. Productive meditation can help you work more deeply, even while you’re taking a break.
  3. Stop working at the same time each day. 

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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28. The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

Best Philosopher Books #28: The Power of Full Engagement

Favorite Quote

“We grow the aspects of our lives that we feed — with energy and engagement — and choke off those we deprive of fuel. Your life is what you agree to attend to.” — Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

The Book in One Sentence

The Power of Full Engagement will show you how to manage the only thing worth managing – your energy – by teaching you how to properly maintain the four kinds of energy, accept your limitations, and live a life of purpose.

Why should you read it?

Are you struggling to balance the various areas of life demanding your time and energy? Then this book is for you. It’s also not a philosophy book per se, but it presents a model you can use to navigate all of life. Plus, the energy management concept is just fascinating. Worth checking out!

Key Takeaways

  1. Manage your energy, not your time.
  2. Keep track of all four sources of energy in your life.
  3. Accept your limitations. 

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Philosophy Books for Modern Life

29. Principles by Ray Dalio

Books of Philosophy #29: Principles

Favorite Quote

“The happiest people discover their own nature and match their life to it.” — Ray Dalio

The Book in One Sentence

Principles outlines and breaks down the set of rules for work and life that billionaire investor Ray Dalio, CEO of the world’s largest hedge fund, has acquired throughout his 40-year career in finance.

Why should you read it?

This book is part biography, part career advice, and part philosophical manual. Dalio put everything he had into it, and it shows. It has a lot to offer, and even if you’re not the biggest philosophy nut yet, you’ll gain a lot from Dalio’s vast life experience. The book is also quite moving, so there’s a strong emotional component as well. Check out Ray Dalio’s other books when you’re done!

Key Takeaways

  1. Principles are powerful weapons in the fight against flawed thinking.
  2. Radical truthfulness and transparency are two of Ray’s most important ideas.
  3. Great businesses use principles to create environments where the best ideas win.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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30. 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson

Books of Philosophy #30: 12 Rules for Life

Favorite Quote

“It’s all very well to think the meaning of life is happiness, but what happens when you’re unhappy? Happiness is a great side effect. When it comes, accept it gratefully. But it’s fleeting and unpredictable.” — Jordan Peterson

The Book in One Sentence

12 Rules for Life is a story-based, stern yet entertaining self-help manual for young people laying out a set of simple rules to help us become more disciplined, behave better, act with integrity, and balance our lives while enjoying them as much as we can.

Why should you read it?

Love or hate Jordan Peterson, the man has a way with words. In this case, he uses his calm yet convincing voice to provide essential life advice to young people. The advice makes sense, and the stories are inspiring. All around, this is a book worth peeking into.

Key Takeaways

  1. Sweep in front of your own door before pointing out that the street is dirty.
  2. Treat yourself like a child you’re responsible for.
  3. Aim to do what is meaningful, not convenient.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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31. Minimalism by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

Books of Philosophy #31: Minimalism

Favorite Quote

“You needn’t settle for a mediocre life just because the people around you did.” — Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

The Book in One Sentence

Minimalism is an instructive introduction to the philosophy of less, and how it helped two guys who had achieved the American dream let go of their possessions and the depressions that came with them.

Why should you read it?

Minimalism is one of few modern-day, standalone philosophies. That alone makes this book worth reading. More so, however, it has a chance at making you happier. Caring less about possessions is a wonderful way of making room for what’s truly important in your life, and this book explains this life approach extremely well.

Key Takeaways

  1. Debt goes first. Get rid of your financial crutches to finally feel free.
  2. Use the TARA method to become more accepting of other people in your life.
  3. You are not your job. Don’t let your work define you.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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32. Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Books of Philosophy #32: Digital Minimalism

Favorite Quote

“Focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.” — Cal Newport

The Book in One Sentence

Digital Minimalism shows us where to draw the line with technology, how to properly take time off our digital devices, and why doing so is the key to living a happy, focused life in a noisy world.

Why should you read it?

We have so much more technology than we did even 20 years ago, and yet, no one has updated philosophy to help us acknowledge this fact. Well, no one except Cal Newport. If you struggle to find the line between your screen and reality, this book will provide plenty of tips and tactics but also some powerful arguments as to why spending less time online matters.

Key Takeaways

  1. Digital minimalism centers on 3 principles: clutter is costly, optimization is vital, and intentionality is satisfying.
  2. Plan downtime events as a source of inward joy and deep contemplation.
  3. Quick fixes and “life hacks” might prompt a healthy new habit, but they don’t promote sustainable change.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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33. Kaizen by Sarah Harvey

Books of Philosophy #33: Kaizen

Favorite Quote

“Change is infectious and when success is achieved in one area, you are encouraged to apply the same techniques to another area of your life.” — Sarah Harvey

The Book in One Sentence

Kaizen is the Japanese philosophy of “continuous improvement,” which is often used in business but can also be applied to personal growth, offering us a path to self-improvement that’s less plagued by pressure and anxiety and more marked by small, daily steps adding up to incremental but meaningful progress.

Why should you read it?

If you feel overwhelmed by all the positive changes you’re hoping to make in your life, stop and read this book. This refreshing philosophy gives us permission to take it slowly, to live our lives one day at a time and yet still feel good about them. Everything is going well when you improve a little every day — what a comforting philosophy to live by!

Key Takeaways

  1. Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy centered around incremental growth, and it begins with evaluating your habits.
  2. The best way to reach a big goal is to start with a step so small, you’ll barely notice the difference.
  3. Review your habits regularly to track your progress.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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34. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

Books of Philosophy #34: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Favorite Quote

“Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.” — Mark Manson

The Book in One Sentence

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck does away with the positive psychology craze to instead give you a Stoic, no-BS approach to living a life that might not always be happy, but that will be meaningful and centered only around what’s important to you.

Why should you read it?

Are you tired of the constant prompts to be positive and put on a smile? Then this is the book for you. Manson has managed to evolve nihilism — a philosophy in which nothing matters and that commonly makes people depressed — into something meaningful: a world in which very few things matter, but the ones that do are really, really important. An absolute mega-bestseller of a book, full of humor and sound advice. Definitely a recommended read.

Key Takeaways

  1. Values you can’t control are bad values to follow.
  2. Don’t believe you know anything with certainty; it keeps you from improving.
  3. Trying to leave a legacy might ruin your life.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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35. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle 

Books of Philosophy #35: The Power of Now

Favorite Quote

“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time — past and future — the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.” — Eckhart Tolle

The Book in One Sentence

The Power of Now shows you that every minute you spend worrying about the future or regretting the past is a minute lost, because the only place you can truly live in is the present, the now, which is why the book offers actionable strategies to start living every minute as it occurs and becoming 100% present in and for your life.

Why should you read it?

If you feel like reality keeps letting you down, perhaps you’re not spending enough time in it. Of course we get sad when we constantly think about the past or the future! This book will remedy that problem. If you’re a mindfulness skeptic or feel burned out, this book might provide just the new perspective you need.

Key Takeaways

  1. Life is just a series of present moments.
  2. All pain is a result of resistance to the things you cannot change.
  3. You can free yourself from pain by constantly observing your mind yet not judging your thoughts.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Conclusion

Tim Ferriss once came close to committing suicide. The thing he credits for successfully climbing out of the hole, not returning, and managing his depression a lot better since then? Philosophy! Stoicism, in his case. Tim calls it “an operating system for thriving in high-stress environments; for making better decisions.” 

Thanks to people like him, Ryan Holiday, and others, this set of ancient ideas from a few good thinkers is seeing a resurgence. Whichever particular philosophy you find most helpful in living your life, however, only you can find out. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether we connect more with Stoicism, existentialism, or even the ideals promoted in Star Wars. What matters is that we find a set of life rules that works for us.

I hope our list of the best philosophy books will help you do just that. Pick a title, start learning, and remember what William James said: “Philosophy is at once the most sublime and the most trivial of human pursuits.”


Other Book Lists by Topic

Looking for more of the best books on various topics? Here are all the book lists we’ve made for you so far:


Other Book Lists by Author

Looking for more books by the world’s most celebrated authors? Here are all of the book lists by the author we’ve curated for you:


The 25 Best Sales Books of All Time to Help You Close Any Deal

The 25 Best Sales Books of All Time to Help You Close Any Deal Cover

According to legendary investor Naval Ravikant, every business needs a “builder” and a “seller.” At Apple, for example, Steve Wozniak came up with the tech, and Steve Jobs sold both the vision and the product. While you probably have a stronger natural tendency towards one side or the other, both can be learned. That said, most people would argue selling is the easier skill to pick up, and that’s where sales books come in!

Some people ooze charisma. Think about George Clooney or Penélope Cruz. They could sell you a fridge in the Arctic with nothing more than a smile. But even if you didn’t win the genetic lottery, you can still learn to make convincing arguments, because the process of selling is always the same, no matter how good (or bad) the seller may look. While you’ll need lots of real-world practice, at the end of the day, selling is psychology, and that’s an area we can learn a ton about from books!

So, after summarizing over 1,000 books here at Four Minute Books, today, we’d like to share the 25 best titles about sales with you. They will help you get more comfortable with selling, show you how to network properly, make you a better negotiator, explain the psychology behind why we buy stuff, and teach you how to close any deal.

 

To help you find the exact book you need right now as quickly as possible, we’ve sorted this list into various categories. We’ll start with the best books on sales overall, then go into the psychology of selling and becoming more comfortable with sales. We’ll also cover networking, negotiations, pitching, the value-based approach, and even advertising.

For each book on our list, we’ve included our favorite quote, a one-sentence-summary of the book, why you might want to read it, and three key takeaways. We’ve also added some snazzy buttons so you can instantly read their free summaries on our site or buy a copy for yourself on Amazon (affiliate links).

Simply use the clickable table of contents below to jump to any book or category, and start learning more about sales right away!

Alright, let’s get on board the sales train! Here are the best books about sales!


The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of

Best Sales Books Overall

1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Best Sales Books #1: How to Win Friends & Influence People

Favorite Quote

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” — Dale Carnegie

The Book in One Sentence

How to Win Friends & Influence People will teach you countless principles to become a likable person, handle your relationships well, win others over, and help them change their behavior without being intrusive.

Why should you read it?

This book is both a cliché and a classic, but it gets both labels because it works. Rather than drown you in science-speak, it is a practical book full of everyday tips. The books core message falls along the lines of, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Whether you want to make more friends, build better relationships, or form professional connections without effort, I would recommend this book to almost anyone! For more advice from Carnegie specifically around sales, you can also read The Sales Advantage.

Key Takeaways

  1. You can make a great first impression just by smiling.
  2. To be interesting to others, talk about their favorite topic: themselves.
  3. If you want to convince people, get them to say “Yes” a lot.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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2. Influence by Robert Cialdini

Best Sales Books #2: Influence

Favorite Quote

“Our best evidence of what people truly feel and believe comes less from their words than from their deeds.” — Robert Cialdini

The Book in One Sentence

Influence has been the go-to book for marketers since its release in 1984, delivering six key principles behind human influence and explaining them with countless practical examples.

Why should you read it?

This is the more scientific version of Carnegie’s book, if you will. However, it still offers a simple acronym, CLASSR, which you can use to remember the six principles, and it is packed with real-world examples. If you’re a marketer or salesperson, this is a must-read. Think of it as your onboarding manual — except it’ll be a lot more fun to read than any dry documentation. If you’re looking for a follow-up or slightly more up to date version, check out Pre-Suasion, also written by Cialdini.

Key Takeaways

  1. You can use the reciprocity bias to build up a massive good-karma account.
  2. The scarcity bias works because we hate to miss opportunities.
  3. Make a small commitment to trigger your consistency bias and reach your goal.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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3. The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes

Best Sales Books #3: The Ultimate Sales Machine

Favorite Quote

“Mastery isn’t about doing 4,000 things. It’s about doing 12 things 4.000 times.” — Chet Holmes

The Book in One Sentence

The Ultimate Sales Machine is Chet Holmes’ legacy and gift to salespeople all over the world, teaching them 12 key strategies to relentlessly focus and execute on in order to double their sales and more.

Why should you read it?

Becoming good at sales is one thing, scaling the process at your company is another. This book offers advice on both, so if you want to learn how to train a sales team to succeed, this is your go-to guide.

Key Takeaways

  1. Offer recurring trainings for your sales staff.
  2. Don’t just sell your product, sell the whole store.
  3. Shoot for the moon by targeting decision-makers in big companies.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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4. The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino

Best Sales Books #4: The Greatest Salesman in the World

Favorite Quote

“Do not aspire for wealth and labor not only to be rich. Strive instead for happiness, to be loved and to love, and most important to acquire peace of mind and serenity.” — Og Mandino

The Book in One Sentence

The Greatest Salesman in the World is a business classic that will help you become better at sales by becoming a better person all around.

Why should you read it?

If you want a humble, noble approach to selling, this is the book for you. Inspired by Christian ideals, you’ll find it to be a great manual for being a good person all around — and sell more in the process. The book was written over 50 years ago, so you’ll have to forgive it some of its tone and language, but if you do, you’ll learn a lot!

Key Takeaways

  1. The most productive thing you can do to sell stuff is to love other people.
  2. Never give up, but never proceed unprepared.
  3. Whatever you’re trying to accomplish, do your best to control your emotions.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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5. SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham

Best Sales Books #5: SPIN Selling

Favorite Quote

“My objective is not to close the sale but to open a relationship.” — Neil Rackham

The Book in One Sentence

SPIN Selling is a four-part sales framework, distilled from over 35,000 sales calls and 12 years of research on the topic, which will help you become a sales expert in no time.

Why should you read it?

When you’re just starting out in sales, you can’t handle too much information. You need a simple model you can apply instantly in cold calls, pitches, and other everyday sales activities. This book will provide that model. With four simple mindset shifts, you’ll assess customer’s situations much better and be able to tailor your offerings to their needs.

Key Takeaways

  1. To get more sales, use the SPIN method: situation, problem, implication, and need-payoff.
  2. Know the difference between features and benefits and when to use each.
  3. The only way to become a better salesperson is to practice.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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6. Hooked by Nir Eyal

Best Sales Books #6: Hooked

Favorite Quote

“All humans are motivated to seek pleasure and avoid pain, to seek hope and avoid fear, and finally, to seek social acceptance and avoid rejection.” — Nir Eyal

The Book in One Sentence

Hooked shows you how some of the world’s most successful products, like smartphones, make us form habits around them, why that’s crucial to their success, and how you too can use the four-step framework they rely on to make your product a success.

Why should you read it?

This book feels like it belongs in the forbidden section of the Hogwarts library, but in today’s social-media-heavy environment, it is also required reading. If you’ve ever wondered what makes social media so addictive, you have to read this book. It’ll also help you make your products more sticky, but remember: Knowledge is power, and we must do our best to use our power for good.

Key Takeaways

  1. The most successful products in the world make us form habits around them.
  2. One of the key ingredients of a habit-forming product is having variable rewards.
  3. Ask yourself 2 questions to find out whether your product should be habit-forming in the first place.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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7. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Best Sales Books #7: Predictably Irrational

Favorite Quote

“The danger of expecting nothing is that, in the end, it might be all we’ll get.” — Dan Ariely

The Book in One Sentence

Predictably Irrational explains the hidden processes behind how we make decisions, which are far less rational than we think but can help us stay on top of our finances, interact better with others, and live happier lives.

Why should you read it?

This is a book I would recommend whether or not you’re in sales. As an individual, it’ll help you make better decisions and fight some of the biases in your brain. As a marketer, it’ll help you frame and price your offerings more efficiently. We’re wired to pick an option as soon as we’re presented with more than one, and this idea alone will forever change how you try to convince potential customers.

Key Takeaways

  1. We compare whatever we can, so give people comparisons that make it easy to pick you.
  2. Free is really just another price — but a powerful one.
  3. You overvalue what you own.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Sales Books About the Psychology of Buying & Selling

8. Buyology by Martin Lindstrom

Best Books About Sales #8: Buyology

Favorite Quote

“When we brand things, our brains perceive them as more special and valuable than they actually are.” — Martin Lindstrom

The Book in One Sentence

Buyology will help you spend less money on stuff you don’t need, thanks to revealing the psychological traps companies use to get you to purchase their products without even realizing what’s going on.

Why should you read it?

This book will improve your own money-spending decisions as a consumer, but it’ll also help you see into the minds of your customers. What makes them tick? What do they think before buying? Learn how to resist tempting items on the shelves, and you’ll also learn how to address your customers’ objections.

Key Takeaways

  1. When products are advertised as status-increasing, we are biologically wired to buy them.
  2. If watching an ad makes you scared, it increases the chances you’ll buy whatever it’s selling.
  3. One way that companies get us to buy more is through subliminal messages.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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9. Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

Best Books About Sales #9: Brainfluence

Favorite Quote

“What people really want is the ability to connect to each other, not to companies.” — Roger Dooley

The Book in One Sentence

Brainfluence will help you get more sales by revealing people’s subconscious thinking patterns as well as what motivates them to make buying decisions.

Why should you read it?

We’re all biased. We have a soft spot for babies, cats, and dogs. When we process numbers, we do so in certain ways. Our brains want to cut corners. This book will show you many of those corners and, as a result, you’ll be able to present your products in more persuasive ways.

Key Takeaways

  1. Putting a baby on your ad will make it more effective.
  2. If you’re trying to talk someone into making a purchase, meet in person and speak into their right ear.
  3. The element of surprise is one of the best ways of getting people’s attention.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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10. Brandwashed by Martin Lindstrom 

Best Books About Sales #10: Brandwashed

Favorite Quote

“The fear of failure drives consumers far more than the promise of success.” — Martin Lindstrom

The Book in One Sentence

Brandwashed will reveal the psychological tricks and tactics giant corporations use to hardcode their brands into our brains and thus get us to buy their products without any longer questioning their value.

Why should you read it?

When I say “electric car,” you think “Tesla.” This kind of association is priceless, and while it can’t exactly be bought, it can be manufactured. This book is both a guide to and a guard against branding in all its multi-faceted, powerful ways. Learn to build a great brand, and all of your sales activities will become a lot easier.

Key Takeaways

  1. Fear makes you irrational, and stores use this to get you to purchase things that you don’t really need.
  2. Companies design their products and marketing to prey on your addictive tendencies.
  3. Fake peer pressure is another way vendors trick you into buying.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Sales Books For Getting Comfortable With Selling

11. To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink

Best Books About Sales #11: To Sell Is Human

Favorite Quote

“Anytime you’re tempted to upsell someone else, stop what you’re doing and upserve instead.” — Daniel Pink

The Book in One Sentence

To Sell Is Human shows you that selling is part of your life no matter what you do, and that you can be successful at it if you follow a few practical ideas that will help you convince others in more honest, natural, and sustainable ways.

Why should you read it?

If you feel uncomfortable promoting things, this book is for you. It’ll show you that we all sell, just in different capacities, and that it needn’t feel sleazy or inappropriate. Pink’s work will provide a new perspective on sales, helping you to navigate this world more calmly and effortlessly.

Key Takeaways

  1. Almost half of your time at work is spent in non-sales selling, which is really just trying to move others to action.
  2. Honesty and service are taking over sales because the internet has closed the information gap.
  3. Use “Yes, and…” when talking to customers to make sure they stay positive and engaged.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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12. The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy

Best Books About Sales #12: The Psychology of Selling

Favorite Quote

“Help yourself warm up and prepare mentally by repeating, ‘I feel happy! I feel healthy! I feel terrific!’ It is not possible for you to talk positively to yourself, using words like this, without immediately feeling happier and more confident.” — Brian Tracy

The Book in One Sentence

The Psychology of Selling will help you close more deals by working on a more positive self-image, teaching you a sales process that feels natural and flows from the inside out, using relationships and natural connections to sell without pressure.

Why should you read it?

If you believe in the power of the subconscious, perhaps approaching sales from that perspective will make sense. Tracy will show you that you don’t need a lot of complex vocabulary, just a relentless focus on what’s in it for the customer. Don’t think too business-y, try to help other humans, and your subconscious will do the rest.

Key Takeaways

  1. Use the power of your subconscious to become more successful.
  2. Learn from the right people to make sure your passion and motivation never run out.
  3. Questions are the holy grail of unearthing customers’ needs and addressing them to sell more.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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13. Agile Selling by Jill Konrath

Best Books About Sales #13: Agile Selling

Favorite Quote

“Eat your pride; ask for help earlier rather than later.” — Jill Konrath

The Book in One Sentence

Agile Selling will help you become a great salesperson by learning on the job and adapting quickly, showing you case studies of many successful people who thrive in unusual sales positions thanks to these same skills.

Why should you read it?

This is a book about learning as much as it is about selling, and this is yet another lens we can use to make sales less intimidating. If your goal is to learn and adapt, you won’t worry as much about botched pitches or sales calls where people hang up on you. A wonderful approach to selling that’ll make you less inclined to give up too soon!

Key Takeaways

  1. Let go of your negative attitude and look at things in a new way, even when you fail.
  2. Whenever you start a new job, try to get a confidence-building win as quickly as possible.
  3. Personalize your pitch by improving your communication skills.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Sales Books For Networking & Connecting With People 

14. Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

Best Books for Sales #14: Never Eat Alone

Favorite Quote

“Success in any field, but especially in business, is about working with people, not against them.” — Keith Ferrazzi

The Book in One Sentence

Never Eat Alone is a modern classic explaining the art of networking, full of actionable advice on how you can harness the power of good relationships, become a great networker, and build a career you love.

Why should you read it?

Networking should be as easy as 1-2-3. Most people overthink it. If you do too, this book is for you. Learn how to build more connections in a relaxed, non-forced way, and begin to see coworkers as friends. This looks like a business book, but it’s actually a “life book,” and the result is wonderful: better relationships with much less strain and stress.

Key Takeaways

  1. Relationships aren’t like cake — they’re like muscles.
  2. You must build your network long before you need it.
  3. How you spend time with people is much more important than how much time you spend with them.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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15. How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes

Best Books for Sales #15: How to Talk to Anyone

Favorite Quote

“When you act as though you like someone, you start to really like them.” — Leil Lowndes

The Book in One Sentence

How to Talk to Anyone is a collection of actionable tips to help you master the art of human communication, leave great first impressions, and make people feel comfortable around you in all walks of life.

Why should you read it?

Are you the one quietly standing at the bar grabbing canapé after canapé while everyone else is engrossed in conversation? Then this one’s for you. Use Leil’s icebreakers and dozens of tips and tactics to warm up to and with people, and have better, more smoothly flowing conversations — not just in sales but any setting!

Key Takeaways

  1. A seamless introduction will almost always lead to a smooth chat.
  2. Emulating and empathizing with people makes it easy for them to become your friend.
  3. Praise is useful, but reserve your most specific compliments for family and close friends.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Sales Books For Negotiations

16. Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

Best Books for Sales #16: Never Split the Difference

Favorite Quote

“He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation.” ― Chris Voss

The Book in One Sentence

Never Split the Difference is one of the best negotiation manuals ever written, explaining why you should never compromise, and how to negotiate like a pro in your everyday life as well as high-stakes situations.

Why should you read it?

Once you find yourself in an important negotiation, it is too late to learn how to negotiate. Better do it while you don’t need it — and there’s no one better to learn it from than Chris Voss, a former FBI, high-stakes negotiator. If you feel like you’re often getting the short end of the stick, this book is for you.

Key Takeaways

  1. Build trust through mirroring and using the right tone of voice.
  2. Label the emotions of the other person to position yourself well in a negotiation.
  3. Take things slowly, don’t accept demands, and do not compromise.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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17. Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William Ury & Bruce Patton

Top Sales Books #17: Getting to Yes

Favorite Quote

“People listen better if they feel that you have understood them. They tend to think that those who understand them are intelligent and sympathetic people whose own opinions may be worth listening to. So if you want the other side to appreciate your interests, begin by demonstrating that you appreciate theirs.” — Roger Fisher, William Ury & Bruce Patton

The Book in One Sentence

Getting to Yes is a handbook for successful negotiations, showing how to resolve conflicts of all kinds and reach win-win solutions without either giving up or making the other party unhappy.

Why should you read it?

Would you like to stop viewing negotiating like a competition? Then read this book. It’ll help you create true winners on all sides without compromising what’s most important to you. From big roundtable discussions to deciding what movie to watch, this book will help you reach better agreements with others.

Key Takeaways

  1. When you’re negotiating, always remember you’re doing so with human beings who are just like you in many ways.
  2. Don’t start a discussion with the solution you want; consider all options to reach a win-win outcome instead.
  3. If you are well-prepared, your negotiations will go well too.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Sales Books For Persuasion, Pitching, and Closing the Deal

18. Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff

Top Sales Books #18: Pitch Anything

Favorite Quote

“There are limits to the human attention span, which is why a pitch must be brief, concise, and interesting.” — Oren Klaff

The Book in One Sentence

Pitch Anything outlines tactics and strategies from a field called neuroeconomics to give you an entirely new way of presenting, pitching, and convincing other people of your ideas and offers.

Why should you read it?

If you present a lot, you’ll love this one. Be it for pitch decks, project slides, or telling a friend about a new restaurant they have to try, this book will provide you with new terminology and better ways of showcasing your ideas to other people. Some of it is a bit manipulative, so be sure to only use its lessons in the right context, but this is a great sales book all around!

Key Takeaways

  1. Your pitch must speak to your audience’s neanderthal brain.
  2. Make yourself the prize.
  3. Use multiple so-called “frames” to trigger a gut decision in your favor.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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19. Doesn’t Hurt to Ask by Trey Gowdy

Top Sales Books #19: Doesn't Hurt to Ask

Favorite Quote

“You own every declarative comment that comes out of your mouth, but with questions you have an out. Because of that, questions are perhaps first and foremost the safest route in the art of persuasion.” — Trey Gowdy

The Book in One Sentence

Doesn’t Hurt to Ask teaches persuasion via asking the right questions, explaining that intentional questions are the key to sharing your ideas, connecting with your audience, and convincing people both in the office and at home.

Why should you read it?

If you’re looking for an incredibly detailed read on the power of questions, this is it. Questions make sales a casual affair. You’re not pushing. You’re inquiring. And with this book, you’ll never run out of things to ask!

Key Takeaways

  1. Asking questions is the key to the subtle art of persuasion. 
  2. You can strengthen your argument by measuring your words, repeating yourself, and repackaging your opponent’s claims. 
  3. If you need to cut your losses in an argument, divert, deconstruct, double-down, and play the victim.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Sales Books For a Giver Mentality & Value-Based Approach

20. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk

Top Sales Books #20: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook

Favorite Quote

“While it’s true that you can’t land a solid right hook if you don’t set up the punch with a series of good jabs, it’s also true that no fight has ever been won on jabs alone. Eventually, you have to take your shot.” — Gary Vaynerchuk

The Book in One Sentence

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook is a call to tell your story on social media and do it right, giving three times as much as you ask for and, therefore, actually being heard when you speak up.

Why should you read it?

If you like Gary Vee, this book is a fun, different format of getting the gist of one of his most important ideas. If not, then it might be a better way to sample his work than his high-energy talks and videos on Youtube. “Give three times as much as you ask for,” is a simple but powerful idea, and in this book, Gary drives it home. Especially great for social media power users!

Key Takeaways

  1. If you’re not on social media, you’re going to lose in the game of sales.
  2. Constantly deliver great content that’s custom-tailored to each platform before asking for something in return.
  3. Instagram is your best bet for massive engagement among the masses.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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21. The Go-Giver by Bob Burg

Best Sales Books #21: The Go-Giver

Favorite Quote

“Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.” — Bob Burg

The Book in One Sentence

The Go-Giver paves a path to success in business and at work via being authentic, improving as a person, and delivering as much value to others as possible.

Why should you read it?

This book looks at entrepreneurship from a “go and serve your community” perspective. It’s a powerful read that has the power to transform not just your work and sales relationships, but your personal ones too. Become a go-giver, and it’ll be a lot easier to close deals whenever you really need to.

Key Takeaways

  1. Develop a go-giver mentality to begin your journey to success and find joy in what you do.
  2. Product improvements have limits, but the power of improving customer experience is infinite.
  3. Make authenticity the foundation of your business so that customers will have positive, memorable experiences with it.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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22. Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson

Best Sales Books #22: Free: The Future of a Radical Price

Favorite Quote

“If something used to cost money and now doesn’t, we tend to correlate that with a decline in quality. But if something never cost money, we don’t feel the same way.” — Chris Anderson

The Book in One Sentence

Free: The Future of a Radical Price tells the history of “free” as a price, showing it to now be more than a marketing gimmick thanks to the internet, a truly sustainable business strategy that is already changing how we sell things through free and freemium models.

Why should you read it?

If you’re a hesitant salesperson or marketer, this one’s for you. Perhaps you can take the path of “free!” Learn to attract an audience with free yet awesome work, then begin charging for whatever else they might need. A good book to read for its visionary predictions alone (it was published in 2009), but also a helpful guide to navigating the complex implications of “$0” products.

Key Takeaways

  1. There is no free lunch – free things were originally given away to get you to buy something else instead.
  2. In the gift economy, attention is what we use to value things.
  3. Build an audience with a free product, then figure out what to charge them for.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Sales Books For Advertising

23. Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy

Best Sales Books #23: Confessions of an Advertising Man

Favorite Quote

“Where people aren’t having any fun, they seldom produce good work.” — David Ogilvy

The Book in One Sentence

Confessions of an Advertising Man is the marketing bible of the 60s, written by “the father of advertising,” David Ogilvy, to inspire a philosophy of honesty, hard work, and ethical behavior in this industry.

Why should you read it?

If you need a pick-me-up that’ll make you feel more hopeful, maybe even proud to be a marketer or salesperson, this is it. Even in a time when bad mass marketing was only beginning, Ogilvy already spoke out against it and tried to reverse the trend. An inspiring read with some great tips on how to make great ads to boot!

Key Takeaways

  1. Only market things you believe in.
  2. Advertising is meant to sell, not to entertain.
  3. Use facts, mystery, and the latest research to create good advertisements.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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24. Facebook Ads Manual by Mojca Mars

Best Sales Books #24: Facebook Ads Manual

Favorite Quote

“The guys with the big bucks don’t always win. The smart ones do, no matter the budget.” — Mojca Mars

The Book in One Sentence

Facebook Ads Manual gives you an exact, step-by-step tutorial to create and run your first Facebook ads campaign, allowing you to market your product, page, or yourself to a massive audience for next to no money.

Why should you read it?

If you want to run your first Facebook ads campaign or are running them as part of your job already, this book will serve you well. It is a great start-to-finish guide, simple in its language and instructions, and the rules it suggests are all based on common sense. Get the answers others often don’t provide, like how much to spend on your ads when, and learn to kick ass at Facebook ads!

Key Takeaways

  1. Go through the GRAB² model before every single campaign you create.
  2. Use the 20/30/50 rule to spend your budget most effectively.
  3. Narrow down your target audience to 300,000 people or less, if you can.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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25. Cashvertising by Drew Eric Whitman

Best Sales Books #25: Cashvertising

Favorite Quote

“To understand why people buy, we should know people and have a keen sense of human nature. We should know how people think, how people live, and be acquainted with the standards and customs affecting their everyday lives.” — Drew Eric Whitman

The Book in One Sentence

Cashvertising will turn you into an expert at crafting compelling ads thanks to humans’ eight basic desires, the three parts of a great headline, and plenty of other actionable techniques and advertising strategies.

Why should you read it?

Are you a visual person? Would you like to know why our eyes are glued to some ads but not others? Then this book is for you. Learn to compose masterful ads that keep your customers’ attention with a mix of words and images. Needs some updates here and there, but overall still a solid read about advertising principles.

Key Takeaways

  1. Humans have 8 core desires that you must appeal to for marketing success.
  2. Follow 3 steps to craft a persuasive headline that gets people to click and read.
  3. Writing longer articles won’t scare people away; actually, it is proven to draw them in more than shorter copy does.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Conclusion

The builder. The seller. “The ultimate is when one individual can do both,” Naval says. Case in point? Elon Musk. Musk has enough technical aptitude to judge the ins and outs of what makes a good rocket or car, but his main job is selling the vision of SpaceX and the cars Tesla makes.

Whether you’re a builder hoping to learn how to sell or a seller who wants to get even better at their craft, we hope our list of the best sales books will help you get the job done. Even if you’re a beginner, you’ll find some gradual introduction titles. Pick whichever one most resonates with you, and get started!

Final fun fact: Akira the Don turned Naval’s riff on building and selling into a song, and it’s a great tune to listen to while you pick your next sales read! “Learn to sell. Learn to build. If you can do both, you will be unstoppable.”


Other Book Lists by Topic

Looking for more of the best books on various topics? Here are all the book lists we’ve made for you so far:


Other Book Lists by Author

Looking for more books by the world’s most celebrated authors? Here are all of the book lists by the author we’ve curated for you:


The 22 Best Books About Sex & Sexuality to Improve Your Love Life & Relationships

The 22 Best Books About Sex & Sexuality to Improve Your Love Life & Relationships Cover

It’s a cliché to say that sex is (still) a taboo topic, but in every cliché, there is some truth. Despite tons of groups, websites, tools, bloggers, coaches, and therapists out there, it is still hard for most of us as individuals to admit — especially to our immediate friends and family — that we are, or are thinking about, actually using those resources. That’s one reason books about sex are attractive: You can read them in complete comfort and privacy, and no one will judge you for it.

Another is that books are patient. If you read about a new technique for sex, try it in the bedroom, and it goes wrong, a book won’t nudge you into immediately trying the next thing and possibly trying too hard along the way. You can take a break, pick up another technique — or read another book altogether — then try again!

Some people will say reading books about sex is like learning to swim on land, but there are plenty of exercises for the latter, and sex is about a lot more than moving your hips correctly. Human sexuality is complex. Making love is full of emotions — hence the name. What about gender differences? What about evolution? Why do we desire others, and how can we enjoy the physical time we spend together? Books can help you find answers to these questions.

 

We’ve summarized over 1,000 books here at Four Minute Books. Many of them cover topics like psychology, communication, and human relationships. Some also deal outright with sex and sexuality. Today, we’ll compile the best of those for you. We hope they will remove some of the stigma around sex, help you understand yourself and your partner better, and make for comfortable ice breakers to make sex more of an acceptable topic in your social circle.

We’ve hand-picked a total of 22 books about sex and sexuality for you. Each book comes with our favorite quote, a one-sentence summary, a note about when and why you might want to read it, and three key takeaways. You’ll also find links to read the summary of the book on Four Minute Books (or learn more about it on Goodreads if we don’t have it) or buy a copy of it on Amazon.

To make navigating this list as easy as 1-2-3, use the clickable table of contents below to quickly jump to any book or sub-category.

Alright, let’s get on getting it on! Time to unlock our mojo with some of the best sex books!


Best Books About Sex For Couples

1. Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

Best Books About Sex #1: Mating in Captivity

Favorite Quote

“Love is a vessel that contains both security and adventure, and commitment offers one of the great luxuries of life: time. Marriage is not the end of romance, it is the beginning.” — Esther Perel

The Book in One Sentence

Mating in Captivity shares the best sex advice from a couple-therapist’s 20 years of experience, explaining the barriers killing sexual desire, and what we and our partners can do to remove them to enjoy better emotional and physical intimacy together.

Why should you read it?

If your marriage or long-term relationship feels like it has gone a bit stale in the bedroom, this book is for you. While this isn’t an easy topic to address, a book is a good entry-point, and the professional nature of Perel’s advice will make it easier for you and your partner to discuss how you can reignite the spark in your relationship — and not just between the sheets!

Key Takeaways

  1. How you view sex as an adult comes from experiences you had when you were a child, but you can work through whatever difficulties those may have brought you.
  2. If you have kids and want to remain physically intimate with each other, you have to prioritize sex.
  3. You’re always at risk for infidelity, but acknowledging that makes it easier to protect yourself against it.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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2. Intimacy & Desire by David Schnarch

Best Books About Sex #2: Intimacy & Desire

Favorite Quote

“A solid sense of self develops from confronting yourself, challenging yourself to do what’s right, and earning your own self-respect.” — David Schnarch

The Book in One Sentence

Intimacy & Desire helps couples turn their sexual struggles into a journey of personal, spiritual, and psychological growth that will lead to a stronger bond between them as well as deeper, healthier desires for one another.

Why should you read it?

This book will show you how to keep your sex drive alive by discovering new, attractive aspects of your partner. Even if you feel in a rut right now, the case studies in this book will show you it’s possible to get unstuck from the comfort zone and show you how to do it.

Key Takeaways

  1. Every relationship has a low desire partner and a high desire partner. 
  2. We tend to experiment less and less the longer we are in a relationship. 
  3. The best way to make sure you keep the passion alive is by creating a collaborative partnership when it comes to sex.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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3. Love Worth Making by Stephen Snyder

Best Books About Sex #3: Love Worth Making

Favorite Quote

“Most women will tell you that male confidence is a key ingredient for male sexiness. A man losing his confidence is like a woman losing faith in her power to attract. It’s a very bad thing.” — Stephen Snyder

The Book in One Sentence

Love Worth Making explores how you can create meaningful yet exciting sexual experiences in a long-lasting relationship, all by focusing on feelings instead of techniques.

Why should you read it?

Knowledge is power, they say, and so step one in addressing a flickering connection in the bedroom is to understand the root causes at play. This book will reveal those causes to you, as well as some universal truths about persuasion, desire, lust, and sex appeal, which you can use to make more sparks fly!

Key Takeaways

  1. Embrace your sexual self with openness and a non-judgmental mind. 
  2. Women commonly need (and want to be) pursued with attention.
  3. A relationship implies making the other feel welcomed and fixing problems together.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Sex Books Explaining the Female Body

4. She Comes First by Ian Kerner

Best Sex Books #4: She Comes First

Favorite Quote

“Men need to take the time to learn what most women know intuitively about their bodies — how to listen to and feel them.” — Ian Kerner

The Book in One Sentence

She Comes First is a guide to improving sex with a focus on the female orgasm, leading us through a much needed mindset change and to the right techniques for stimulation, showing us how manual, oral, and other kinds of sex can be just as good as, if not better than, traditional intercourse.

Why should you read it?

If you feel like an impostor in the bedroom, this book is for you. Most of us are sexually illiterate thanks to poor education and societal taboos. This book talks about the anatomy of the female body in a practical and helpful way and will open doors to new heights of pleasure school didn’t even teach you existed.

Key Takeaways

  1. Penetrative sex isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and there are better ways to reach climax.
  2. If you want to have great sex, you need a good understanding of what the clitoris is, where to find it, and how to stimulate it for maximum pleasure.
  3. In addition to foreplay, there are two other stages of the sexual experience that will take your sex life to a whole new level.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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5. Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski

Best Sex Books #5: Come As You Are

Favorite Quote

“Love is having. Desire is wanting. And you can want only what you don’t already have.” — Emily Nagoski

The Book in One Sentence

Come As You Are takes a look at the truth about female sexuality, sexual myths that make us feel inadequate, the hidden science of what turns women on, and how we can use that science to improve our sex lives.

Why should you read it?

If you’re a woman tired of not orgasming but also having no one to talk about this delicate topic with, this book is for you. Learn to feel less inadequate while having more fun in bed, all based on scientifically sound advice.

Key Takeaways

  1. Your sexual personality is as unique as you are, and there’s nothing wrong with that or the needs that follow from it.
  2. Stress kills sexual desire.
  3. If you aren’t careful about the media you consume, they could make your sex life awful.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Books About Sexuality For Education

6. Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein

Best Sex Books #6: Girls & Sex

Favorite Quote

“To me, purity and hypersexualization are flip sides of the same coin.” — Peggy Orenstein

The Book in One Sentence

Girls & Sex identifies how pop culture and societal expectations hurt young women as they begin navigating the realm of sexuality, teaching us how to help girls feel empowered in choosing who they want to be.

Why should you read it?

This is a book not just for women but also the parents of girls around the globe. Whether you’re a dad or a mom, this book will help you empower your child in discovering her own identity, all while making the world a safer, better place for girls and women.

Key Takeaways

  1. Our sexualizing and objectifying media have terrible effects on young women.
  2. Parents must improve at openly talking about sex with their daughters to help them avoid confusion.
  3. Better sex education will lead to fewer teen pregnancies and help young people enjoy their first sexual experience.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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7. Boys & Sex by Peggy Orenstein

Best Books About Sexuality #7: Boys & Sex

Favorite Quote

“At one time or another, every young man will get a letter of admission to dick school. The question is will he drop out, graduate, or go for an advanced degree?” — Peggy Orenstein

The Book in One Sentence

Boys & Sex is the result of two years of inquiry into young men’s sex lives, revealing how stereotypes make their lives harder, why hookup culture destroys relationships, and what we can collectively do to help boys develop healthier sexual views and experiences.

Why should you read it?

If you have a son, read this book. At a certain age, every boy comes in contact with more information about sex than he can comprehend at that time. This book is the guide that will make sure those times don’t turn into chronic problems down the road, be it in the form of bad behavior or erectile dysfunction issues.

Key Takeaways

  1. Society’s stereotypical image of the tough, emotionless male is wrong and harms boys’ mental health.
  2. Hookup culture makes it difficult for young people to connect deeply with others and leads boys to misunderstand consent and often fail to obtain it.
  3. We must get better at talking openly with our boys about sexual matters of all kinds if we want to alleviate the struggles they have with it.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Sexuality Books Explaining Gender Differences

8. 30 Lessons for Loving by Karl Pillemer

Best Books About Sexuality #8: 30 Lessons for Loving

Favorite Quote

“Don’t love each other for wealth or money. You have to love each other because you love them. You feel that in your heart. You don’t care if they get old or if they get sick or if they get wrinkles.” — Karl Pillemer 

The Book in One Sentence

30 Lessons for Loving shares the relationship advice of hundreds of couples who have stayed together into old age, thus teaching you how to have a happy, long-lasting love life.

Why should you read it?

Sometimes, a small gesture is enough to show the person next to you how much you love them. This book is full of ideas for those gestures. A great guide to being an appreciative partner!

Key Takeaways

  1. To find the perfect companion, you need to listen to both your heart and mind.
  2. Your partner isn’t a mind-reader, so don’t assume they know how you feel and be careful about the timing of your conversations.
  3. It’s the little actions of love that keep the spark of romance strong over the years.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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9. The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

Best Books About Sexuality #9: The 5 Love Languages

Favorite Quote

“True love cannot begin until the ‘in love’ experience has run its course.” ― Gary Chapman

The Book in One Sentence

The 5 Love Languages shows couples how to make their love last by teaching them to recognize and communicate in the unique channels each partner uses to feel and give love.

Why should you read it?

If you want your relationship to last, read this book. We all express and feel love differently, and this title will make sure you don’t “broadcast” your love in a channel in which your partner won’t feel its affection. Learn to get on the same page, and your relationship will flourish.

Key Takeaways

  1. As your relationship matures, communication is key.
  2. There are 5 different ways people give and show love.
  3. Identify your and your partner’s love language to deepen intimacy.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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10. Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray

Best Sexuality Books #10: Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus

Favorite Quote

“When men and women are able to respect and accept their differences, then love has a chance to blossom.” — John Gray

The Book in One Sentence

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus will improve your relationships by identifying the key differences between men and women and helping you bridge the gaps.

Why should you read it?

While not everyone conforms to every stereotype, most of us represent at least some of them. This book will help you identify and navigate those stereotypes when it comes to the differences between men and women. Applied with care and selectively, this is a highly useful book.

Key Takeaways

  1. Women want men to listen to them, while men desire solutions to problems.
  2. Men are motivated when they feel useful, women are inspired when they feel loved.
  3. Women and men communicate differently and assign separate meanings to the same words.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Books About Sexual Attraction & Dating

11. The Game by Neil Strauss

Best Sexuality Books #11: The Game

Favorite Quote

“To win the game was to leave it.” — Neil Strauss

The Book in One Sentence

The Game is a seat next to Neil Strauss on his rollercoaster ride through the pickup community, by which he gets hooked, becomes successful in, then gets lost, wins, and fails, only to ultimately arrive at his true self once more.

Why should you read it?

If you’ve ever fallen for some alpha-male dating guru’s crappy advice, this book is for you. Learn to see through the pickup facade, and discover what it truly takes to build good romantic relationships. Neil’s follow-up, The Truth is a good next read if you enjoy this one.

Key Takeaways

  1. Social dynamics can be manipulated.
  2. Pickup is actually about men, not women.
  3. Routines won’t help you find love.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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12. Labor of Love by Moira Weigel

Best Sexuality Books #12: Labor of Love

Favorite Quote

“There is no better life than a life spent laboring at love — exerting effort not because we have to, but because we believe that what we are bringing into being is valuable and we want it to exist.” — Moira Weigel

The Book in One Sentence

Labor of Love illustrates the history of modern dating as we know it, covering everything from its origins in the late 1800s all the way to the modern dating apps we use today.

Why should you read it?

Whatever you’re trying to master, it always pays to learn about a field’s history. Well, this book will teach you the history of dating! Learn how our partner-finding patterns have changed over time, and you’ll have an easier time navigating romantic relationships today.

Key Takeaways

  1. When women started moving to cities during the Industrial Revolution, dating as we know it first began.
  2. There’s a reason you think it’s important what people wear, and it dates back about 100 years.
  3. “Netflix and chill” isn’t new. It goes back all the way to the 50s.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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13. The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene

Best Books About Human Sexuality #13: The Art of Seduction

Favorite Quote

“When our emotions are engaged, we often have trouble seeing things as they are.” — Robert Greene

The Book in One Sentence

The Art of Seduction is a template for persuading anyone, be it a business contact, political adversary, or love interest, to act in your best interest.

Why should you read it?

People are full of patterns. Whoever recognizes them can use them to their advantage. Of course, whether you use persuasion for good or bad is up to how you wield this power — but this book will teach you the ins and outs of convincing people to support you.

Key Takeaways

  1. The most important trait all seducers share is that they constantly surprise us.
  2. Seductive characters fall into nine categories, depending on which seduction technique they primarily use.
  3. There are nine anti-seductive behaviors you should become aware of and try to avoid.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Books About the Science, History, and Evolution of Sex

14. Why Is Sex Fun? by Jared Diamond

Best Books About Human Sexuality #14: Why Is Sex Fun?

Favorite Quote

“Perhaps our greatest distinction as a species is our capacity, unique among animals, to make counter-evolutionary choices.” — Jared Diamond

The Book in One Sentence

Why Is Sex Fun? takes a humorous look at the evolution of human sex life, showing our often odd sexual behaviors are actually essential to our long-term survival as a species.

Why should you read it?

Comedy makes things more approachable. If you want a light entry into the world of sex education, this one’s for you. Get a funny yet enlightening intro to the biology of sex, and learn why we all pursue this activity one way or another.

Key Takeaways

  1. Your dog would think the way you have sex is super weird.
  2. Concealed ovulation developed so that we would stay monogamous.
  3. Menopause helps women live longer.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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15. Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan

Best Books About Human Sexuality #15: Sex at Dawn

Favorite Quote

“The bigger the society is, the less functional shame becomes.” — Christopher Ryan

The Book in One Sentence

Sex at Dawn challenges conventional views on sex by diving deep into our ancestors’ sexual history and the rise of monogamy, thus prompting us to rethink our understanding of what sex and relationships should really feel and be like.

Why should you read it?

Are you taking sex too seriously? Then perhaps, this is the book for you. It is often hailed as the top academic analysis of the topic, and it reveals why it can be so hard to bring our sexual behavior in line with modern society’s expectations.

Key Takeaways

  1. Agriculture marked the beginning of monogamy, and not in a good way.
  2. Women want sex just as much as men, but they are conditioned to play it down.
  3. Our bodies have evolved to thrive in sexual competition.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Sex Books For Improving Your Technique

16. Come Again? by Nat Eliason

Best Books About Sex for Men #16: Come Again?

Favorite Quote

“For some reason, guys are conditioned to not talk about sex, and especially to not talk about their insecurities or things they want to improve — but that doesn’t mean they’re not interested.” — Nat Eliason

The Book in One Sentence

Come Again? is a frank but well-researched guide to better sex for men and their partners, covering everything from foreplay to bondage, including how men can last longer in bed, have multiple, non-ejaculatory orgasms, and truly please themselves and the people they choose to be intimate with.

Why should you read it?

If you’re a man who struggles to last as long in bed as you’d like to, this book is for you. It’ll also show you new ways to achieve more, longer, and more powerful orgasms, all while gaining a better understanding of how to please others in the bedroom.

Key Takeaways

  1. Most sexual anxiety stems from worrying about not being good enough.
  2. The best way to last longer in bed for men is to regularly practice kegel and reverse kegel exercises.
  3. Men can have multiple orgasms too — if only they train themselves for them.

If you want to learn more, you can click below or get a copy for yourself.

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17. Are You Coming? by Laura Hiddinga

Best Books About Sex for Women #17: Are You Coming?

Favorite Quote

“Sex can be satisfying without an orgasm, too. When all you do is focus on the destination, you forget to enjoy the beautiful views along the way.” — Laura Hiddinga

The Book in One Sentence

Are You Coming? is a sex-positive guide to female orgasms, covering 13 types of climax, 8 techniques for heightening pleasure, as well as advice on sexual communication, problems with coming, positions, and even sex toys.

Why should you read it?

If you’re a woman who struggles to achieve orgasm during sex, this one’s for you. Discover the biological and historical origins of this problem, then learn new techniques that will help you reliably come in bed.

Key Takeaways

  1. There are thirteen different types of female orgasms, and if one doesn’t work for you, you can just try another!
  2. The more you stimulate your clitoris before coming, the more powerful your orgasm will feel.
  3. Orgasms aren’t impossible during penetrative sex, as long as you use the right positions.

If you want to learn more, you can click below or get a copy for yourself.

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18. Sex for One by Betty Dodson

Best Books About Masturbation & Solo Sex #18: Sex for One

Favorite Quote

“Masturbation is the ongoing love affair that each of us has with ourselves throughout our lifetime.” — Betty Dodson

The Book in One Sentence

Sex for One is a manifesto dedicated to the liberating power of masturbation, hailing solo sex not as a crutch to be practiced in dark chambers when sex with a partner is unavailable but an entire, completely valid way of practicing self-love.

Why should you read it?

Do you think masturbation is a crutch not to be relied on if you can help it? Especially many men see it as a poor replacement for real sex, but that’s not true! This book will provide the mindset shift you need and show you that “sex for one” still counts as sex — and is a powerful act of self-love, both literally and figuratively.

Key Takeaways

  1. Masturbation is the most consistent, reliable source of good sex in your life.
  2. Couples should continue masturbating by themselves next to having sex together.
  3. Solo sex can be a form of meditation, raising your consciousness and inner peace to new levels.

If you want to learn more, you can click below or get a copy for yourself.

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19. Becoming Cliterate by Laurie Mintz

Best Books About Female Sexuality & Orgasms #19: Becoming Cliterate

Favorite Quote

“If you’re feeling a little awkward or self-conscious, remember there’s no one to judge you except yourself. And you’ve probably done enough of that.” — Laurie Mintz

The Book in One Sentence

Becoming Cliterate explains the cultural, historical, and biological challenges standing in the way of women reaching orgasm as commonly as men do, dispelling myths while providing anatomical, technical, and psychological insights as to how we can achieve orgasm equality.

Why should you read it?

Are you frustrated that men basically orgasm every time they have sex, whereas women must struggle for this natural pleasure? Then this book is for you. Discover how the “orgasm gap” came to be between genders, and what we can do to achieve orgasm equality for all.

Key Takeaways

  1. Studies show there’s a big gap between how commonly men and women achieve orgasm during sex.
  2. One of the most important sex organs is the one that sits between your ears.
  3. Cliteracy is not just for women; men should know their way around the clitoris as well.

If you want to learn more, you can click below or get a copy for yourself.

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Best Novels, Biographies & Story Books About Sex & Sexuality

20. All In by Billie Jean King

Best Books About Sexuality for LGBT Readers #20: All In

Favorite Quote

“Face your fears; live your passions, be dedicated to your truth.” — Billie Jean King

The Book in One Sentence

All In is the autobiography of tennis and LGBT icon Billie Jean King, the first professional female athlete to come out as homosexual, as well as an astonishing player who won countless matches and tournaments, all while fighting for gender equality in sports up to the point of changing US legislation and significantly reducing discrimination in sports for women all over the globe.

Why should you read it?

Even if you’re not a fan of tennis, feminism, or member of the LGBT community, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this great read about a woman as inspiring as they come. Biographies have many benefits, inspiration being only the biggest, but this one will also show you how hard women in sports had to — and still have to — fight to be seen at eye level with men. There’s also a great movie about her story called Battle of the Sexes.

Key Takeaways

  1. A combination of talent and hard work turned Billie Jean into a champion.
  2. A good role model can inspire determination and motivate us to push forward.
  3. Billie Jean had a tough romantic life and other significant challenges to face, none of which kept her from achieving her objective.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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21. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

Best Books About Sex, Romance & Dating #21: Fifty Shades of Grey

Favorite Quote

“There’s a very fine line between pleasure and pain. They are two sides of the same coin, one not existing without the other.” — E.L. James

The Book in One Sentence

Fifty Shades of Grey is the tale of young student Ana falling for a vastly successful, good-looking entrepreneur who harbors some dark, not-just-sexual secrets, all of which Ana finds herself surprised to want to explore.

Why should you read it?

Perhaps, like millions of people around the globe, you already have! If not, this makes for a daring, erotic escape from real-life — but not without holding some very real and valuable lessons about romance, love, sex, psychology, and identity.

Key Takeaways

  1. If something looks and feels too good to be true, it probably is.
  2. The moral flaws we see in others often reflect our own inner demons.
  3. It is never too late to try something new.

If you want to learn more, you can click below or get a copy for yourself.

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22. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

Best Books About Sexual Identity #22: Three Women

Favorite Quote

“We pretend to want things we don’t want so nobody can see us not getting what we need.” — Lisa Taddeo

The Book in One Sentence

Three Women is a true, tell-all account of the complicated yet fascinating sex lives of three American women, based on almost a decade of investigative reporting.

Why should you read it?

This book will provide you with plenty of reassurance that your sexual problems are neither unique nor crazy. By taking a behind-the-scenes look at these three women’s sex lives, you’ll see that we all struggle with sex one way or another, and that, perhaps, your problems are not only not so bad but can even be solved with relative ease.

Key Takeaways

  1. Being in a committed relationship is a choice that must be made over and over again.
  2. When you want something you can’t have, you can make yourself want something different.
  3. You don’t owe anyone an explanation about your sexual preferences.

If you want to learn more, you can click below or get a copy for yourself.

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Conclusion

Sex is a complex topic, and yet, it affects every single one of us. The best thing we can do is talk openly about it and not be afraid to learn more about what we don’t know.

We hope these 22 books about sex will help you find clarity, move forward with your partner, and have better sexual experiences. Pick whichever one feels the most relevant to you right now, and start learning something about an area of life in which we’re all under-educated!


Other Book Lists by Topic

Looking for more of the best books on various topics? Here are all the book lists we’ve made for you so far:


Other Book Lists by Author

Looking for more books by the world’s most celebrated authors? Here are all of the book lists by the author we’ve curated for you:


The 60 Best History Books of All Time (to Read at Any Age)

The Best History Books of All Time Cover

​“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” George Santayana wrote in 1905. As humans, we can only remember our own past, but we’ve also invented a mind-blowing technology: books. Because others wrote down their past right after it happened, we can “remember” a lot more than just what we’ve experienced ourselves. That’s why history books are some of the most interesting, important, and valuable reads of all — and if you’re here for an overview of the best ones, I say come in, take a seat, and get comfortable!

A good history book will transport you to a time and place in which you’ll never live and introduce you to people you’ll never get to meet. Best of all, it’ll drop you off back home safely and in time for dinner! Whether you’re curious, care about society and our planet, or want to be successful, you could do worse than to start with the history section in the library. Ray Dalio, CEO of the world’s largest hedge fund, credits studying history for his great understanding of macroeconomics — reading history books literally made him a billionaire!

So, if you’re ready to explore how humans came to be the dominating species, what pros and cons different political systems have, or which technological innovations have had the biggest impact on humanity, we’ve got just the curriculum for you. After summarizing over 1,000 books, we’ve hand-selected the absolute best titles in the history category for you.

 

In order to make this list easy to navigate, we’ve sorted the best history books into several groups:

  • Best History Books Overall
  • America and the United States
  • India, China, and the East
  • Europe
  • Food
  • Technology
  • Space, Time, and the Universe
  • The Evolution of Humans
  • Economics
  • Global Politics
  • Civilization and Society
  • Nation States and Political Systems
  • Ethics
  • The Evolution of Philosophy
  • Climate Change & Population Growth
  • Best History Books With a Self-Help Angle
  • Important People

For each book, we’ve included our favorite quote, a one-sentence-summary of the book, why you might want to read it, and three key takeaways. We’ve also added links to read the free summary of the book on Four Minute Books or buy a copy for yourself on Amazon. Just use the buttons below each title. Lastly, use the clickable table of contents below to quickly jump to any book or category. There should also be an arrow in the bottom right corner that you can use to come back up here at any time!

Alright, the class is in session! Let’s dive deep into the world’s best history books!


The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of

Best History Books Overall

1. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Best History Books #1: Sapiens

Favorite Quote

“History is something that very few people have been doing while everyone else was ploughing fields and carrying water buckets.” — Yuval Noah Harari

The Book in One Sentence

Sapiens is your guide to becoming an expert on the entire history of the human race as it reviews everything our species has been through from ancient ancestors to our dominating place in the world today.

Why should you read it?

This might be the most comprehensive, all-in-one history book out there. It is jam-packed with fascinating facts and details, making it an essential read for anyone interested in human history.

Key Takeaways

  1. The ability to think gave early humans language, which eventually led to agricultural advances allowing them to grow exponentially. 
  2. Improvements in trade were only possible with the invention of money and writing.
  3. With better economic and communication means, scientific progress gave our race the abilities necessary to get to where we are today.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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2. The Lessons of History by Will & Ariel Durant

Best History Books #2: The Lessons of History

Favorite Quote

“You can’t fool all the people all the time, but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country.” — Will & Ariel Durant

The Book in One Sentence

The Lessons of History describes recurring themes and trends throughout 5,000 years of human history, viewed through the lenses of 12 different fields, aimed at explaining the present, the future, human nature, and the inner workings of states.

Why should you read it?

If you want a concise overview of the causes behind major events throughout history, read this book. It will change the way you view society, politics, culture, and even personal relationships. You’ll learn how to see the world through a different lens and finally understand why things happen as they do.

Key Takeaways

  1. Humans are unequal by nature, fighting that would mean giving up freedom.
  2. The evolution of humans was a social one, not a biological one.
  3. War is a more natural state than peace.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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3. The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber & David Wengrow

Best History Books #3: The Dawn of Everything

Favorite Quote

“We are projects of collective self-creation. What if we approached human history that way? What if we treat people, from the beginning, as imaginative, intelligent, playful creatures who deserve to be understood as such?” — David Graeber & David Wengrow

The Book in One Sentence

The Dawn of Everything uses archaeological evidence to argue the case that human history did not follow a linear path but emerged from a big, complex network of individual, decentralized communities.

Why should you read it?

This book puts history on its head, arguing against much of what is taken for granted in schools and universities across the globe. The last book written before Graeber’s sudden death in 2020, it will challenge your very understanding of history, thus making it a top read in the category.

Key Takeaways

  1. There is no single original form of human society; many different versions have developed independently over millennia.
  2. There are three ways to dominate in human societies: sovereignty, bureaucracy, and politics.
  3. Instead of complaining about inequality, we should ask ourselves how we lost the flexibility and political creativity we once used to have.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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4. The Evolution of Everything by Matt Ridley

Best History Books #4: The Evolution of Everything

Favorite Quote

“The things that go well are largely unintended; the things that go badly are largely intended.” — Matt Ridley

The Book in One Sentence

The Evolution of Everything compares creationist to evolutionist thinking, showing how the process of evolution we know from biology underlies and permeates the entire world, including society, morality, religion, culture, economics, money, innovation, and even the internet.

Why should you read it?

This could almost qualify as a self-help book. The distinction between creationist and evolutionist thinking, and learning how to spot them both everywhere, will change your life and allow you to make progress in almost any situation.

Key Takeaways

  1. Evolutionist and creationist thinking are two opposing views, and creationist thinking dominates the Western world.
  2. Culture, economics, and technology all progress through evolution.
  3. Money changed from evolutionist to creationist subject, and the same might happen with the internet.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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5. Factfulness by Hans Rosling

Best History Books #5: Factfulness

Favorite Quote

“There’s no room for facts when our minds are occupied by fear.” — Hans Rosling

The Book in One Sentence

Factfulness explains how our worldview has been distorted with the rise of new media, which ten human instincts cause erroneous thinking, and how we can learn to separate fact from fiction when forming our opinions.

Why should you read it?

This book will help you fight your many biases. Through easy-to-understand research and engaging examples, you’ll learn to see the truth rather than just the media’s spin on things. If Bill Gates can learn something from this book, I think so can you and I.

Key Takeaways

  1. There is no such thing as “the East and the West.” We only have one world.
  2. Population growth will eventually level off, despite our perception of increasing numbers.
  3. To see the world accurately, you always need multiple perspectives.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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6. Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker

Best History Books #6: Enlightenment Now

Favorite Quote

“There can be no question of which was the greatest era for culture; the answer has to be today, until it is superseded by tomorrow.” — Steven Pinker

The Book in One Sentence

Enlightenment Now describes how the values of the Enlightenment — science, reason, humanism, and progress — keep improving our world today, making it a better place day by day, despite the negative news.

Why should you read it?

This book is a welcome antidote against fake news, media manipulation, and populism. If you need to regain your faith in humanity or want some hope, this title will show you that not everything is as bad as it seems to be in the news.

Key Takeaways

  1. Wealth has increased not just in the West but around the globe, all while decreasing poverty and inequality.
  2. The United Nations bring humanism to a global scale, which has made our lives safer than ever.
  3. We still have problems, such as AI, terrorism, and the environment, but we must face them with reason.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Best History Books About America and the United States

7. A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn 

Best History Books #7: A People's History of the United States

Favorite Quote

“The memory of oppressed people is one thing that cannot be taken away, and for such people, with such memories, revolt is always an inch below the surface.” — Howard Zinn

The Book in One Sentence

A People’s History of the United States will give you a better understanding of the true, sometimes shameful, sometimes inspiring, story of America’s rise to power.

Why should you read it?

Historically, the US has been terrible at being honest about how it got to where it is. Then again, so are most countries. History is written by the winners, as they say. That’s why it’s so important to get the other side of the story, and that’s what this book delivers. Just be careful not to let your anger keep you from focusing on a better future rather than the not-so-nice past.

Key Takeaways

  1. The founding fathers set up the US government to benefit wealthy landowners, who still have power today.
  2. The Civil War wasn’t as much about ending slavery as it was about advancing political interests.
  3. The US has repeatedly used war as a way to improve their economic situation.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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8. Common Sense by Thomas Paine 

Best History Books #8: Common Sense

Favorite Quote

“Time makes more converts than reason.” — Th