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5 must-read books for aspiring business owners

Five essential reads for aspiring business owners.

Reading is a pleasure shown to improve social skills, but what about business skills? Here are five essential reads for business owners.

Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray 

“Money has only a different value in the eyes of each.” 

Vanity Fair is a novel celebrating the triumph and ultimate failure of cunning over adversity. Thackeray creates an anti-heroine - poverty-stricken Becky Sharp - to illustrate that anyone can be an entrepreneur. But ultimately, Sharp’s fate is a parable for what happens when people cheat their way to success.

Sharp uses her strong-will and tenacity to make her way through Victorian society and shows excellent business sense throughout: from buying low and selling high, to constantly networking with the right people (including the Prince Regent).

However, Sharp’s other traits, like faking friendships and borrowing heavily, ultimately lead to her demise. When her activities are revealed, she’s left in disgrace. 

Outliers – Malcom Gladwell

“Success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky."

Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers demonstrates how you can take natural gifts and work them hard to achieve success.

Gladwell sees ‘Outliers’ as people who have achieved their success by an unusual set of circumstances. He shows how family, culture, and friendship aid success, and how talent is identified and nurtured is as important as the abilities themselves.

Using real-life examples like Bill Gates, Gladwell believes that greatness in any field can be achieved by practicing a specific task for 10,000 hours (or 20 hours of work a week for 10 years).

A fantastic read with analysis that can be applied to numerous small business set-ups. 

How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

“Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” 

With sales of more than 16 million worldwide, How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of the most successful leadership books of all time.

Using Carnegie's practical advice and techniques, this bopk acts as a guide to navigating life’s social challenges has been used by both business owners and the general public.

Giving readers advice on  how to make friends, gain respect and persuade anyone who may be sceptical of your ideas, his advice can be easily transferred to the business world, helping business owners win clients and customers, become better public speakers and enable them to boost enthusiasm among their workforce.

Losing My Virginity – Sir Richard Branson

“It is only by being bold that you get anywhere. If you are a risk-taker, then the art is to protect the downside.”

This book has something for everyone. Although born into wealth, Branson’s journey from schoolboy to billionaire wasn’t straightforward.  

Branson embodies tenacity, and is winning with his urge to improve business models and the world at large. Owners are shown how important personal ideology is to achievement, and why defying conventional business wisdom made Branson so successful. Branson’s advice on resilience and focus through lean times acts as a soothing balm for the frazzled. 

The E-Myth – Michael E Gerber 

“Contrary to popular belief, my experience has shown me that the people who are exceptionally good in business aren't so because of what they know but because of their insatiable need to know more.”

A conventional business text with a modern spin, The E-Myth examines why naivety and a lack of discipline lead to many businesses failing. Gerber was one of the first to show that a business with longevity must fulfil a customers’ emotional need, rather than try to direct-sell a product or service. 

This book has a heavy emphasis on the value of active workplace systems in that they scale, automate and refine a company in a way that individuals cannot. 

Significantly, Gerber shows how business owners can move from technicians to leaders by acquiring management tools. 

Sophie’s World – Jostein Gaarder 

“Socrates said, 'One thing only I know, and this is that I know nothing.' Remember this, because it is an admission that is rare... The most subversive people are those who ask questions.”

Part-fictional story, part philosophical-tome and can teach the modern business owner a great deal about themselves. It does not offer straightforward tips or biographical insight, instead, it outlines modern philosophy within a fictional story. 

The book follows Norwegian teenager Sophie Amundsen as she receives anonymous letters that simply ask: “Who are you?” and “Where does the world come from?” 

As Sophie begins a correspondence course in philosophy, she is encouraged her to use this knowledge on a detective quest. Business owners can apply medieval philosophy, religion and the works of Sartre to their problems, as this book fires the imagination.  

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Sarah Louise Dean

About the author

Sarah Louise produces content across all titles in the Dynamis stable.


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