Recommended Books

I need to update my list of recommended books for entrepreneurs. I have several more to add to this list. But here is the list that I made a year or two ago:

The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. Author: Michael Gerber

I listed this first not because it is is the best business book I’ve ever read but because it was the first. And it made a big impact on me. I read it back in 1991 or 1992. It is the perfect book for someone who has started a business of any kind and doesn’t know what he/she is doing. It opens your eyes to the need to work “on the business” instead of working “in the business.” According to Gerber, most people start a business because they have technical skills and don’t want to work for someone else anymore. But until you step back and realize that it takes more than just your technical prowess to run a company, and that you have to design your business around multiple roles, and systematize everything, you are actually a slave to your business, even more than when you thought you were a slave working for your former employer. This is a quick and easy read, and a must-read for new entrepreneurs.

Love is the Killer App. Author: Tim Sanders.

This book has changed my life more than any other business book that I have ever read. Tim Sanders is my hero: he has finally helped me to feel completely whole as a business person. He has taught me how to find joy and happiness at work as well as in my personal life. There are three keys. First, gain abundant knowledge (mostly through reading and marking up great books) and share it freely with everyone who needs it. Second, build your network and share it freely with everyone who needs to know someone you know. And third, show love and compassion in the workplace. Treat people with respect. Look them in the eyes. Shake hands warmly. Genuinely care about others. I have tried to follow Sander’s advice since my friend Jim Ericson recommended this book to me and I read it intensely. I gave away 10 copies of this book in April and will continue to recommend this book and give copies away to people I meet whose lives I hope to touch in a positive way. Highly Recommended!

Net.Gain: Expanding Markets Through Virtual Communities. Authors: John Hagel III, Arthur G. Armstrong

This book inspired our business strategy at Ancestry.com more than any other book. Written relatively early (March 1997) in the internet revolution, the book invited online businesses to consider the role of communities in creating value for company customers. As early as November 1996 I have written records about our plans to build the “Ancestry World Tree” and to keep it free forever–since it was created by the community it would be free to all of our users forever. But the Net.Gain book provided reinforcing arguments and mathematical models to convince us that the course we were pursuing with content, community, and commerce, was a good one. I heard Hagel speak at a Harvard Cyberposium in 1999 and was grateful for his powerful impact on my worldview.

Intellectual Capital: The New Wealth of Organizations. Author: Thomas Stewart.

I love this book and even gave a copy of it to Utah’s Governor Mike Leavitt while he was on a trip to Silicon Valley to form alliances with venture capital firms. He came to ask what Utah needed to do better in order to attract more serious venture capital. In my opinion, all of his questions were answered nicely by Thomas Stewart in this classic book. Intellectual capital, in all its forms, is what matters most in wealth creation. Stewart wrote for Forbes and is currently editor of the Harvard Business Review. For years I have been quietly amassing what I call “personal intellectual capital” in my searchable knowledge-base that now exceeds 120 megabytes. I have used Folio VIEWS, a powerful desktop search engine, to keep track of everything I read, hear, or see, and to organize it into categories. I can literally retrieve my notes from almost any conversation or meeting over the past 10 years in a split second. It’s like having my own personal Google that only indexes my stuff. I’ve considered this my personal core strategic advantage for several years, and promised myself that whenever I speak at business schools I would discuss this valuable asset and how it has helped me. More recently I’ve realized that my social capital (who I know and my reputation) are actually even more valuable than what I always considered my intellectual or “knowledge capital”, but looking at Stewart’s book, I find that he includes networking and social capital as one of his forms of intellectual capital. As a LinkedIn.com fanatic, I admit that social capital is now my favorite personal focus.

Linked. Author: Albert-Laszlo Barabasi.

This is the deepest book I have read in several years. I read it slowly and studied it carefully since it is a deep book written by an outstanding scientist. I don’t understand physics or advanced mathematics very well, but Barabasi takes advanced knowledge and makes it accessible to the masses. The new science of networks really seeks to explain how everything is connected to everything else, how Power Laws affect every network, how hubs emerge, and how understanding networks (as opposed to components of systems) is the science of the 21st century. Highly recommended!

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Author: Robert B. Cialdini

I never took a single computer, business or marketing class in college. I was a Russian major and I did graduate studies in Library Science. I was as “liberal arts” as they come. So certain books that I have read and applied have shaped my worldview and helped me earn my virtual MBA. The most significant book on marketing and psychology that I have ever read is Influence. It is not a how-to book for marketers. But it explains why marketers succeed and how they utilize human nature to get people to buy something they are selling. It cites scores of academic studies which reveal the several traits of human nature that marketers take advantage of. It’s a powerful and scary book. The author claims that he is arming people with knowledge about how to escape being caught by marketers, but he and I both know he made almost all of his money from marketers. One critic called it the most important marketing book of the decade.

The New, New Thing. Author: Michael Lewis.

The author wanted to write a book that profiled high-tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, but in the end he found what he was looking for in one man, Jim Clark, the greatest serial entrepreneur of all time (my words). This book is an amazing portrait of a brilliant and restless visionary, a man who is continually looking for the next big thing. Note: I was disappointed to learn that Jim Clark now lives in Florida and invests in real estate. He is very down on Silicon Valley and thinks that the major technology companies will dominate in the future.

Smart Mobs. Author: Howard Goldstein.

I read this book early in 2004 and was stunned to learn that some of my best ideas about location-based services (which I started to conceive of in 1999 when I bought an Acura with a built-in GPS) had been explored and even prototyped by Apple scientists as early as 1994! This book is an absolute must-read if you want to understand the social impact of portable, wireless, computing and communication technologies. I probably dog-eared 100 pages in this book and underlined 150-200 notable quotes. Howard Goldstein is an excellent writer with a vast personal experience using and observing users of technology. His insights are invaluable and timely.

Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity. Author: Jakob Nielsen.

Jakob Nielsen is in my book the leading expert of web site usability. While many (or most) artistic designers hate him, I have found his common sense approach extraordinarily valuable in practice. I have purchased more than 30 copies of this book for employees and managers at my internet companies and have watched the impact of implementing simple usability techniques. The world wide web is a better place because Jakob was here.

Permission Marketing. Author: Seth Godin.

Unless you’ve read this book, I don’t think you will understand how to do email marketing right. Read this book. Develop a relationship with your prospects and customers. Deepen that relationship over time. Never abuse it. Never spam. Get the permission of your customers before you do anything and then gain more permission over time as you meet their needs and gain their trust. This is a common sense book but it took a luminary like Seth Godin to make it gospel.

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8 Comments

  1. Great list! Thanks Paul. I’ve read Designing Web Usability and loved it and a couple of the other books are on order as we speak.

  2. Straight Outta Utah – a Great Book List for Entrepreneurs

    I’m a regular reader of Paul Allen’s blog. He’s got some great insight into starting and running a business (as well as tech and entrepreneur events in Utah, if you’re headed there).
    The other day he posted an EXCELLENT list of books for entrepre…

  3. Great list, My roommate Richard Miller turned me onto your blog a while ago and I am nearly always impressed. This post in particular will be very helpful for a current project of mine. Thanks. PS I still use a lot of the tools you suggested in a presentation you did a few years ago in one of Steve Gibson’s classes.

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