Top Startup Book List + Top 10 Classic Business Books

Top Startup Book List + Top 10 Classic Business Books

I’m an avid reader and a few years ago a friend and I decided to read 100 books in 2017. Though I haven’t stuck to 100, I love a good read, business, strategy, and a solid dose of historic fiction. And yes, to get to 100, you’ll need Audible, Kindle, and the dead tree versions of the books.

In preparation for a Session with the Global Accelerator Network ( Summit on October 7, 2020. Here are my top Startup books by category as well as my top 10 timeless business books.

If you’d like to see my broader list, you can find it at goodreads. You’ll see how my new book “Trajectory: Startup – Ideation to Product/Market Fit” has been influenced by the editions below.

For a list that includes my non-business reading, you can follow along on Goodreads.


Need some inspiration? I’d start with these books:

  1. Creative Confidence – Tom & David Kelley, the creators of the “d-school” at Stanford University – here’s the course’s reading list
  2. Creativity Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration – Ed Catmull, Pixar’s President
  3. Black Box Thinking: Why Some People Never Learn from Their Mistakes – But Some Do – Matthew Syed
  4. Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets – Al Ramadan
  5. Innovators Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail – Clayton Christiansen. A classic for corporate innovation and why you need to be fast and nimble in your approach to your startup
  6. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action – Simon Sinek that was taken from his original 2009 TED talk in Seattle if you want the 18-minute version

The Lean Series

  1. Lean Startup – Eric Reis. With source work from Steve Blank
  2. Four Steps to an Epiphany – Steve Blank
  3. The Startup Owners Manual and derivative works – Steve Blank and Bob Dorf
  4. The Lean Product Playbook – Dan Olsen
  5. Talking to Humans – Giff Constable – the best short read on customer development
  6. Business Model Generation – Alexander Osterwalder, Value Proposition Design for a business model canvas overview

Head Nod to the Valley

  1. Zero to One – Peter Thiel – the first 2/3rds of the book is great
  2. The Hard Things About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz 
  3. The Innovation Blind Spot: Why We Back the Wrong Ideas – and What to do About It – Ross Baird

Marketing & Sales

This category is a little thin on the current methodology. But the classics are original source materials for some current thinking.

  1. Building a Story Brand: Clarify Your Message So Customer Will Listen – – Donald Miller. The most straight forward marketing book and approach for startup and founders that don’t know marketing
  2. Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business – Gino Wickman
  3. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing – Al Ries and Jack Trout is a classic from the authors of Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind
  4. Influence – Robert Cialdini 
  5. Never Split the Difference – Christopher Voss from below
  6. Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success – Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown


  1. Venture Deals – Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson
  2. Secrets of Sandhill Road – Steven Kupor will give you insights into startup deal structures – for later-stage startups


Culture is a topic you won’t have nailed from the start, and candidly, if you don’t get to Product/Market Fit, the culture won’t matter much because you won’t have a company. Here are some culture books for past PMF.

  1. Radical Candor: How to Get What you Want By Saying What You Need – Kim Scot
  2. Work Rules: that will Transform How You Live and Lead – Laszlo Bock
  3. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t- Jim Collins, from Below
  4. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain
  5. Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs – John Doerr – outlines the basics of OKRs (objectives and key results) for organizations. OKR’s will take discipline and time to implement, but worthwhile

Giving Back

Or as Brad Feld would say #GiveFirst should always be a goal and contributing the startup community is a long game.

  1. Startup Communities and the follow on The Startup Community Way – Brad Feld.

Top 10 Timeless Business Books

Here are some of my top 10 timeless business books, sans startups: 

  1. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t- Jim Collins 
  2. Crossing the Chasm – Geoffrey Moore (though I have to say I loved Diffusion of Innovation By Everett Rogers as well)
  3. Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance – Angela Duckworth 
  4. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – Carol Dweck  
  5.  Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones – James Clear
  6. Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs – John Doerr – outlines the basics of OKRs (objectives and key results) for organizations
  7. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE – Phil Knight
  8. The Checklist Manifesto – Atul Gawande, World Heath Organization surgeon applying checklist to saving lives. If you’re a systems thinker, you’ll like this book.
  9. Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It – Christopher Voss. Great book on negotiating, more than a sales book
  10. How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie one of the best of all times and you can see his influence in future authors

What’s on your list? I’m love to know, add a comments and I’ll put them on my list.

4 Replies to “Top Startup Book List + Top 10 Classic Business Books”

  1. Awesome list Dave. Here’s a couple more that I love…

    The Goal – Eliyahu Goldratt
    Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell
    Hooked – Nir Eyal
    It’s About Damn Time – Arlan Hamilton
    Being Direct – Lester Wunderman
    Business Adventures – John Brooks (a Bill Gates favorite)
    Talking to Humans – Giff Constable

    And soon to love…
    Trajectory: Startup: Ideation to Product/Market Fit – Dave Parker

  2. Dave, that is a great list of books. Thanks for sharing it.

    A few more great books

    Getting to Yes – Roger Fisher , William Ury
    7 Powers: The Foundations of Business Strategy – Hamilton Helmer
    Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts – Annie Duke
    Startup Leadership: How Savvy Entrepreneurs Turn Their Ideas into Successful Enterprises – Derek Lidow
    Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World – Rand Fishkin
    Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth – Gabriel Weinberg , Justin Mares
    The Founder’s Dilemmas – Noam Wasserman

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