As we approach the end of the year, I’d like to share a list with you. It’s a list of books that have inspired me. These books have shaped the way I think about business, people skills, project management and what it means to run a technology company.
Time is such a limited resource that I generally only read books personally recommended to me by people I look up to. Perhaps there is something on this list that will inspire you to do better and greater things.
Let’s get started:
Books on Negotiation and People Skills
Getting to Yes, by Bruce Patton, Roger Fisher, and William Ury
Getting to yes is a thin, small book that I picked up at a book sale once, while dealing with a difficult legal situation. It turned out to be full of great tips on negotiation, closing deals and reaching agreement in difficult circumstances. One to keep around and refer to when the going gets tough.
How to make friends and influence people, by Dale Carnegie
One of the classics. Even so, I only came to it this year. What I like most about this book is that it was published a while back, in 1936, rather than on the back of some content marketing initiative, like many books today. Inside you’ll find fundamental truths about inter-personal relationships. Extremely useful for sales, team management, dealing with difficult customers or staff members, or even resolving personal relationship issues.
Books on Business Strategy
The Personal MBA, by Josh Kaufman
Essentially Josh Kaufman read a ton of business books and condensed the knowledge into his Personal MBA. This is a great one to refer back to when dealing with financial or structural business issues.
This section wouldn’t be complete without the bibles of the startup world. I came to these books after a failed data analytics startup, looking for answers as to why we didn’t get traction even with a great product. I’ve read more lean books but these have stayed with me as my favourites. If you’re running a startup or small business and haven’t heard of lean, read these now, they will open your eyes to a whole new way of doing business.
Lean Startup, by Eric Ries
Running Lean, by Ash Maurya
To balance things out, here is another little book that I absolutely love. It’s author, Amy Hoy, is opposed to lean. It just goes to show – read the books, then develop your own strategy that works for you.
Just Fucking Ship It, by Amy Hoy with Alex Hillman
Books on Company Culture and Product Development
There are only 2 books in this category, and both are from the legendary 37 Signals, the company behind Basecamp. 37 Signals blazed the way for running an effective distributed team and developing a successful online business. They will forever stay in my mind for launching without a payment system because customers would start a 30 day free trial first anyway.
I read these books many years ago and still quote examples almost on a weekly basis. If you’re running a product team these are a must read.
Rework, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
Getting Real, by 37 Signals
And finally a nice little book about setting up and running a product development team:
The Year Without Pants, by Scott Berkun
To be honest, I didn’t enjoy this book particularly, even though it came highly recommended from a trusted friend. It made my list because it has some great tips on setting up development teams. What stays with me and has shaped the way I work the most is the template for running team reviews and personal reviews.
I don’t tend to read entire autobiographies, however these two have stayed with me for some time.
Loosing My Virginity, by and on Sir Richard Branson
Love him or hate him, Richard Branson is one of the most successful entrepreneurs alive today. This is an easy read – and the main thing I take away from it is the fantastically entrepreneurial mindset this man possesses, coupled with a great attitude about living life to the fullest. There is a story how he chartered a plane when stuck at an airport that stays with me to this day.
The Real Deal, by and on James Caan
James Caan gained mainstream fame via the UK’s Dragon’s Den TV show. I include this book for its detailed account of how he started a multi-million £££ recruitment company from a tiny room, basically with a phonebook and a telephone. If you’re stuck and are afraid of getting your hands dirty, this is the one for you!
Books on Productivity and Habits
It seems most entrepreneurs struggle with getting enough done. (If you are, stay tuned for next week’s Tech Hug, which deals with this very issue!).
The following books offer a formula to get you out of the starting blocks. Move away from procrastination and busy work towards working on your goals and accomplishing milestones.
Full disclosure: I haven’t actually read these books myself – they come highly recommended by close friends and I’ve been at the receiving end of courses using their techniques via Phil Dodson, founder of the inspirational AtWorkHubs community in London.
These are well worth a read if you’re looking for a new way of working.
Deep Work, by Cal Newport
The 12 Week Year, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington
The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson – this one is next on my personal reading list
Books on Project Management
Let’s be clear about this: If you’re managing a team of any kind in this day and age, and don’t have a good understanding of Agile Project Management and concepts like Scrum, then put this book on your reading list straight away (recommended to me by my friend and collaborator Bernie J Mitchell):
Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, by Jeff Sutherland
Once you’re ready to learn more, head over to this lovely list of the best books on agile software development and take your next pick (do this even if you’re not running a software development team, the same principles apply to any project).
Books on Scaling and Structuring Companies
There are 2 books that took the world by storm recently and that have massively shaped the way I look at company structures. I’d say these are essential reading if you’re just starting up and essentially reading if you’re thinking of scaling an existing business.
The EMyth Revisited, by Michael E. Gerber
Built to Sell, by John Warrilow
What’s a great product without a marketing effort? Dead in the water. Build it and they will come doesn’t work. Here are some great books on setting up modern-day online marketing efforts:
Master Content Marketing, by Pamela Wilson of Copyblogger fame
These next two follow along in the same vein. Thanks to Tori Bravery, digital entrepreneur and co-working founder of 90 MainYard!
Oversubscribed, by Daniel Priestley
Content Inc, by Joe Pulizzi
Books on Sales
To quote Ruth Chamberlain who heads up Investly: “The Sales Acceleration Formula by the guy from Hubspot is the best sales book ever!”.
The Sales Acceleration Formula, by Mark Roberge
Books on Life and Philosophy
This lovely book talks about how to fold your socks and arrange your closet. And yet, it’s as much a philosophical guide to life as it is about decluttering. I loved the book, it’s changed my life and lifes of people around me, and it’s taught me much about choosing friends, business partners and projects to work on. A joy to read!
The life changing magic of tidying up, by Marie Kondo
Don’t have time to read?
Struggling to fit all these in to your busy schedule? Check out the lovely AchievingConcepts YouTube channel, which offers brilliant short animated versions of popular books.
There must be thousands of books that you value highly that aren’t on my list.
Share your best picks in the comments!