I’ve read a bunch of books over the past year and a half. Here are my top 30 by topic. I read a bunch more that in my opinion aren’t worth mentioning.
Also, I did around a thousand lessons at codeacademy.com … It’s fantastic at teaching you the basics of coding but it doesn’t stick. Don’t expect to walk away from it knowing how to build anything.
Start Ups/Venture Capital
Rework by Jason Fried
This was probably my favorite book of them all. 37 Signals guys have a fantastically anti-tech mentality … unlike most in tech, they favor growing slow, never taking investor money, focusing on profitability, delivering simple products to markets that aren’t going anywhere … it’s brilliant. Read it. They also have a bunch of great video content on their website. I blogged about it.
Really good at explaining all of the things you should think about when starting a web business … emphasizes on how much more it is than just a website.
Venture Deals by Feld/Mendelson/Costolo
This book is fantastic if you’re curious about how the VC world works, what all of these rounds of financing mean, and what are the motivating factors for all of the parties involved.
The E-Myth Revisted by Michael E. Gerber
Read this if you’re thinking of starting a business because you like doing something and you think you’d like to do it as a career. Point is this – the fact that you like baking cakes DOES NOT mean that you should open a bakery. They are two very different things.
This post on metrics of a SaaS business is absolutely fantastic. Highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about starting a subscription business.
Principles by Ray Dalio
I’ve read SO many books on organizational culture, how important and productive it is to have a healthy culture, and examples of companies that have great cultures. This is the first framework I’ve seen for actually implementing a great culture. It’s extreme, but I really enjoyed it. Short read.
Great by Choice by Jim Collins
Exhaustive study of organizations over 10 years, what made the great ones great. They basically prove that all organizations fell upon the same amount of luck, and it was characteristics of management that led to steady, compounding outperformance. I wrote a blog post about it.
Pleased But Not Satisfied by D.L. Sokol
This is the guy that worked for Buffett that got in a bunch of trouble a few years back for buying Lubrizol stock right before Berkshire did. Regardless, he has fantastic insights about management, planning, goal setting, and acquisitions/project management.
The Simple Truth by Alex Brennan-Martin
Excellent business book from the Brennan family, which owns a gourmet restaurant dynasty in the south. Slow and steady wins the race. Figure out what your simple truth is, get everyone on the same page to deliver it, and give them a little something extra when they think the experience is over.
Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
Zappos went over the top and spared no expense pleasing their customers. It worked for them. Don’t think it would work for me, but I still liked the book.
Peopleware – Productive Projects and Teams by Tom Demarco
MUST READ if you are about to embark on a significant software development project. Very interesting points and studies on deadlines, work environments, and relative productivity of development-type workers. The best are 10x as good as the bad ones. Only paid 30% more. The key (according to this book) – they are allowed to turn off their phone and lock their office door, therefore can achieve “flow” on a daily basis.
Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan
This falls in the category of a book about culture that talks a bunch about what a healthy culture is, but doesn’t tell you much about how to build one. Still some great reading – it will tell you how screwed you are at your current company culture-wise.
All Marketers Tell Stories by Seth Godin
This book had a very profound impact on me as I was reading it. Godin points out that your entire life, as someone who lives in a wealthy country, no matter who you are, is about the stories you buy in to. What you buy, what you wear, what job you have, what you do with your free time, what religion you believe in, where you travel … the whole world turns nowadays because of marketing, whether you like it or not. It’s short, and I’d recommend it to anyone.
The 100 Greatest Advertisements 1852 – 1958 by Julian Watkins
This was written in 1949 then updated in 1958 and dedicates a page per add with commentary. Good copy never becomes dated. Long form advertisements are not as popular as they once were, but you can get some excellent copywriting ideas from this book to be adapted to today. People back then were dealing with all the same nonsense we are now that they needed solutions for.
These guys have hundreds of free webinars and studies on just about every facet of internet marketing. I don’t think they necessarily have the answers … they are great for getting you thinking about purchase psychology and how the flow of the customer through the buying process should be online.
The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
Good read, very interesting and non-traditional ideas about time vs money and what you should be working for. However, he is a marketer, is trying to sell books, and makes things sound much easier than they actually are.
The Irresistible Offer by Mark Joyner
This book points out every element to creating a truly irresistible offer. It’s basically like getting lectured about why infomercials, despite selling utter crap, make you want what you’re watching. Short read, worth it.
Tap Dancing to Work by Carol Loomis
Every press clipping on Buffett, ever, put together by Carol Loomis, who edits his annual reports. Great read. I think it was probably better than the bios, as you get a couple really long bios along the way, but I didn’t read them, because I’d read so much of his other stuff. 325 pages.
The Tao of Warren Buffett by Mary Buffett
Buffett’s daughters talks about her favorite 150 or so quotes he ever said. They are from personal experience and annual reports, mostly.
Warren Buffett’s Letters to Shareholders – 1977 – 2012
This seemed like a one-stop business school to me when I mowed through them one after another. The amount of knowledge about different industries, securities, accounting, and general business acumen that he shares throughout the letters can’t be topped.
The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
Buffett, and many of the other investment greats, studied under Graham. Excellent book on value investing that will never be out of date. The most recent version has commentary from right after the tech bubble burst in 2001. Very, very good read.
Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham
This is a bit harder to get through than The Intelligent Investor … it’s thick, and reads like a text book. I devoured it. I wish I would have read it before my career on Wall St. rather than after it.
Margin of Safety by Seth Klarman
Klarman studied under Graham as well … he has identical principles.
USA Inc. by Mary Meeker
If you want to learn about how our absurdly bloated healthcare system will most certainly lead to the US selling our entire country out from under our own feet, read this book. By the CBO’s own estimates entitlement spending + interest payments will exceed all government revenues by 2025 … in 15 years! Healthcare is the entire problem. It’s a disaster.
Fooling Some of the People All of the Time by David Einhorn
Fascinating book about the incompetence of the regulatory system, the lending abuse that occurred into the credit crisis, and how nothing has changed since the crisis. Every interaction between Greenlight, the SEC, and the SBA for the entire eight years he was short the fraudulent Allied Capital. A bit on the Lehman spectacle at the end, and how it was basically the exact same thing.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Great book on the life and career of a one-of-a-kind tech entrepreneur.
Losing my Virginity by Richard Branson
Branson lives life on the razor’s edge. Many of his decisions others would consider unsound. He is a one-of-a-kind person and personality, and in my opinion, no one else could go about doing it quite like the way he has. The book made me switch to Virgin Mobile. I love how he just wrecks big incumbents in oligopic industries.
Bargaining for Advantage by G. Richard Shell
Awesome book on the science of negotiation, what type of negotiator you are, and how you should handle negotiations.
Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
Super quick read, amazing book if you’re building a website … basically drives home that under no circumstance should your users have to think about anything at any point throughout the entire experience. Or they will leave.