Reading is the most underrated activity, period. In any discipline (or for your personal well-being), you should be reading. Do so carefully, because there’s a lot of crap out there you’ll want to avoid, but ultimately, if you’re not reading, you’re losing out on an easy and effective way to become a badass, top-tier [insert your goal here].
So, in order of how I read them, here are some of my favorite reads that have helped me in Startup Land.
Editor’s note: The Amazon links are not affiliate links. There’s no connection between this blog and the books listed here aside from the fact that the author enjoys them and wants to spread the good word.
Editor’s note #2: Wait, I don’t have an editor, so that was really just me writing in third person. Does that make me sound douchey? Whatever, just read the damn books below :)
Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk (Amazon)
Gary, a social media pro before there were social media pros, helps you understand how to turn a personal passion into a viable business. It’s practical and pretty inspirational, given Gary’s remarkable story. I turn to this book when I need a boost in my belief that social media tools (and my convictions and personal interests) can help me grow in my career. There are lots of skeptics, so this book helps me refocus sometimes. I’ve read it twice so far.
If you’re new to “Gary Vee,” you’re in for a real treat. This guy is a bit of a social media folk hero (and, as a result, a social media “influencer” with tons of cult-like followers). Gary created Wine Library TV, where he posted wine reviews in real, down-to-earth videos. He’s funny, scathing, swears a lot, and wants to succeed in business to buy the New York Jets.
But he used social media before lots of people knew what it was at all, and he used it to build multimillion-dollar businesses. I’d highly recommend his videos, too.
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries (Amazon)
As I switched from a career in sales to a career, ideally, on the product and content strategy side of the startup world, I desperately needed something to lay the groundwork for thinking about product development. This book is a must-read for all entrepreneurs hoping to build products against all odds. If you have slim resources and/or have to create a product that is new or innovative, read this book.
“Lean” has become somewhat buzzword-worthy. Everything in the startup world seems to be “lean development” or “lean analytics” or “lean ribeye.” (Okay, so I threw one in there, but it’d be great if all of them actually applied.) Regardless of your discipline, there are now tons of meetups and resources to help you succeed and continually innovate in ways that don’t require tons of resources. Head over to the author’s website for more.
You may also find the Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development helpful. It’s a complementary piece to The Lean Startup that condenses a lot of information into a small handbook. Particularly useful if you’re launching a brand new product or company, as it helps you understand the market (consumers) and how to build according to them.
Game Frame by Aaron Dignan (Amazon)
What if you could turn any task, from a meeting you hold to the task a user takes on your website, into something fun? “Game mechanics,” or taking elements from games like badges, progress bars, and points, has become somewhat overused and abused. But this book gave me an awesome, basic understanding of how to truly design for behavior and for fun. It breaks down why “play” is so important to the human experience, and why it’s viewed incorrectly in business as recess or after work activities. It also breaks down a handful of practical applications with supporting examples other companies use successfully every day.
This book is in my top three EVER for books I rely on in my work.
I also wrote a white paper for Dailybreak featuring some of the information from this book. If you want to download the paper (it’s free), visit this page and enter your info, or contact me directly via email here.
The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry (Amazon)
Being ‘creative’ today means creating on-demand. Clients, colleagues, or your own personal goals demand that you come up with something brilliant, innovative, unique, compelling, and exciting for others to consume EVERY DAY. This book outlines some of the challenges facing “creatives” or those doing creative work (anything involving your thought process to solve problems — not just the Don Drapers of the ad agency world). It then addresses ways to structure your days with an eye to creating.
In short, the book is a guide to improving and conditioning your creative rhythm. It’s not just a process of sitting in a room until a lightbulb goes off. Being creative can be fine-tuned. This book is a guide to doing so.
You’re reading this post, so I can safely assume that (A) you know me personally or (B) you’re interested in the topics I post here. Either way, you’re reading something advice-driven or business-driven. But this book really drives home one important fact: you need a multifaceted, diverse, rich view of the world. Being creative means pulling from your experience of the world. What you put into your brain, you will eventually spit out in the form of work or creation. So, stay well-rounded in life, and you’ll stay creative.
Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom (Amazon)
Regardless of your faith in religion or God, your lack thereof, or your confusion on the subjects, one thing remains the same for all of us: we need to have faith in people and occasionally refocus our lives on what’s truly important. Mitch Albom is most widely known for his novel Tuesdays with Morrie and his work as a sports journalist. This book, which I read just a week ago, really hits home for me. It’s VERY easy for me to be always on with my work, between how much I enjoy it and its very nature (startup, creative, etc.).
I loved this book for three reasons: it’s a necessary break from business-related reading; it helps you remember that there’s more to life than just your work; and it bridges all faiths and beliefs, whether those are based in religion or interpersonal relationships.
If you roll your eyes at this concept, I feel truly sorry for you. We need to believe in something in life, whether that’s music or God or the kindness of others. Any consistent pessimism will destroy you, especially as an entrepreneur. You need unrelenting positivity.
If you have any books you’d recommend along these lines, leave them in the comments or send me a tweet! Thanks for reading!