Asking Google “why entrepreneurs should read books” gives me more than 90 million results. If you are an entrepreneur, you’ve probably heard it countless times. Reading has many benefits for yourself, but also for your company and overall success in life.
However, as a founder your time is precious – you cannot read every single novel in the bookstore! Find below what I believe you should, and shouldn’t, read to be successful as an entrepreneur.
Do not read: “How to Win Friends and Influence People”
This book appeared almost everywhere in my research for this article. Released in 1936, it’s one of the most successful self-improvement guide of all time. How to Win Friends and Influence People has sold more than 15 million copies, and is cited in every article about entrepreneurship.
Let me tell you: it isn’t worth your time. The book was written more than 80 years ago. At the time, it was targeting predominantly sales-oriented people, to help them manipulate and influence their customers. The underlying message is: “if you want to be successful in life, you should be able to sell anything to anyone”.
As a start-up founder, I’m hoping that you disagree with this idea. In our new era of innovation and social consciousness, we should understand that intensive capitalism and consumerism aren’t working anymore. We must push for a positive and sustainable message.
→ Read: Biographies about people you admire
Instead of learning manipulation, spend your time reading inspiring stories. It doesn’t have to be necessarily the biography of a start-up entrepreneur. Of course, if you are working in the tech industry, it can be interesting to read Elon Musk or Steve Jobs’ biographies. But it can really be anyone you admire – an actor that played well in a movie you watched, a politician or diplomat you admire, an artist that recorded your favorite music… Reading about someone else’s story can have a profound effect on your own life.
My personal favorite is “My Life On the Road“, Gloria Steinem’s memoir. Her life story is simply incredible and inspiring. Reading it has reinforced my desire to work within women’s rights movements.
Do not read: over-hyped productivity books
There are so many examples: The 4-Hour Workweek, Getting Things Done… More often than not, these books spend around 500 pages explaining how to keep a to-do list and telling you not to leave tasks until the last minute. They are not revolutionary, and will not help you stay organised.
Often, these books are not backed by scientific or academic research, but are written from the author’s personal experience. If your work is truly overwhelming, it might be smarter to hire more staff rather than spend a couple of hours learning efficiency and productivity from business people.
→ Read: well-researched academic psychology books
If you are really interested in self-improvement, give scientific books a try. They are not filled with advice on how to be better, but they explain why we do what we do every day; why are we introverted and uncomfortable speaking in public? Why is it so difficult to establish habits over a long period of time?
I have two highlights here. Both are incredibly thorough books, filled with research, psychological examples and academic sources that can help you understand yourself and your employees better.
- “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Cannot Stop Talking” is a wonderful explanation on what it means to be an introvert nowadays. Find my full review of the book here.
- “Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick” is a deep analysis on our everyday habits. The author explains why it is so hard to build positive habits, and to break negative habits.
I believe that understanding the concepts behind our introversion, social anxiety and unproductivity can have a much more positive impact than reading old men’s advice.
What do you think about entrepreneurship books? Do you like reading self-improvement novels? Do they really work?