Top 10 Books for Successful Entrepreneurs…

Financial Independence / Philanthropy / Resources and Tools

* Update I’ve added 2 more books that I somehow missed *

I’ve always believed your life is changed by the books you read, experiences you create and the people you meet. One of my earliest mentors (in print & audio) was Earl Nightingale and he said, “If you want to become an expert read for 1-hour per day for 3 years on your given subject. If you want to become a world expert read for 1-hour per day for 5 years.” Well, I took his advice to heart and early-on I wondered what would happen if I read 2 or 3 hours per day?

Today I still strive to get through at least one book/week sometimes more (or sometimes less like when Zoe is screaming her head off). My library is filled with hundreds and hundreds of books. In fact, when we moved houses this summer – getting built-in bookshelves done before we moved in was a top priority.

I agree when Brian Tracy says rich people have big libraries and poor people have big televisions. Though I might amend that to rich people have big libraries that buy them BIG televisions. 😉

It’s always tough when you have so many great books to pick out a handful as the “all-time” best but here goes…

Drum roll please…

“Top-10” Most Essential Business Books for Successful Entrepreneurs:

#1: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Not really a business book but probably one of the biggest influences for top CEOs and entrepreneurs who have cited this numerous times. I’ve read this several times and even threw out calling our daughter Dagny – but Missy didn’t go for that. I loved Atlas Shrugged for instilling the philosophy that productive value should be compensated and revered instead of these individuals being coerced into self-sacrifice because of their talent and other’s “needs”. It really cemented the argument in my mind that the more laissez-faire approach to governing is ultimately best for a free marketplace and productive society. Yes, this is a thick read but well worth it.

#2: Influence: The psychology of persuasion by Robert Cialdini, PhD

I’ve read it at least 9 times and it will truly help you understand the psychological triggers to a sale. Very powerful stuff. Written by a self-proclaimed “sucker” and professor of psychology to help consumers avoid being taken “in” by marketers – this instantly became a classic for us marketers to apply each of the psychological tactics to success. This truly is a power that should only be harnessed for good. If I was to start at zero again and if you stripped away all the knowledge from every book I’ve read – I would start by reading this one and get it all back!

#3: How to Make Millions with Your Ideas: An Entrepreneur’s Guide by Dan Kennedy

Yes, even though this was published in 1996 and some of the new-fangled technology sections like broadcast fax are out-of-date – this is a top ten for sure! I’ve spent probably $150k or more with Dan and every product or resource I buy from him gives me back at least a 10-to-1 return. This is one of my favorite Dan books (along with #7 on the list) but you really can’t go wrong buying any of his books. When I first stumbled onto Dan I was so excited because he finally provided more of the true ‘nuts & bolts’ I was looking for. Sure, he’s grumpy and not the most sociable guy – but his information is priceless no matter what type of business you are in.

Side note: I also strongly recommend getting Dan’s newsletter. You can get a free 3-month trial here. (Fair disclosure – I do write a damn good column for it on Internet marketing each month) 😉

#4: “Tested Advertising Methods” by John Caples

Absolute classic for any direct marketer or anyone that doesn’t want to waste a dime on untrackable ads. Devour this one and also look for Caples’ other books that are out of print. A true professional who generously published his directly-traceable results for everybody to benefit from. Many people might think there’s nothing to be gained from a book written decades ago – WRONG! Everything Caples reveals applies online in spades.

#5: Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins

Yes another “old time” marketing book but the gems in here are absolutely brilliant if applied today. Remember, human nature does not change – just the ways to activate our buying does. This is a short read and available online for free in many places since it’s in the public domain. Hopkins was one of the true advertising pioneers and this little guide really distills the essence of why you cannot use conjecture or opinion but actual tested, scientific methods to discover what your customers/prospects want.

#6: 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

I have to admit it, I love Tim’s book because this is the book I wish I wrote. Tim’s a friend of mine and we met over our love of marketing, living life to the fullest and extreme adventures. There’s a reason this book has literally taken on a life of it’s own and achieved best-seller status so quickly. To me, it’s because the concepts in here are so compelling.

I’ve given away a ton of copies of this book and a lot of people have actually gotten pissed at me for giving to them. One of my hockey teammates said that to me again a few nights ago. He’s gets really mad when he looks at it on the nightstand because he’s not living his life the way it could be using the ideas in this book.

This book is designed to get you to stop and think if you are really putting the right things in the right priority. Tim has a concept of the “New Rich” and that’s people who have time to do the things they want & they’re passionate on. There’s some exciting concepts about life design, dumping the email habit, outsourcing and creating online “muses” that pay for it all.

#7: Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki

A lot of people might say “Rich Dad/Poor Dad” is more influential but I would argue this second book in the series really hits the concepts explained there harder. If you’re looking for a book to shake you or someone who needs it out of the typical 9-to-5 mindset – this will do it. The Cashflow Quadrant is all about creating enough passive income to pay for your needs and truly creating financial independence. It’s a simple concept explained by Kiyosaki’s drawing depicted on the cover.

cashflow quadrant

On the left-hand side are the people who trade time for money. That’s the “E” or employee quadrant and the “S” or Small business quadrant. Then on the right-hand side are the people creating passive wealth by being “I” – Investors or “B” Business owners (who work on in their business not in it). While Kiyosaki’s books are pretty short on specific details – I think the philosophy and mindset is way more powerful and important.

#8: “Magic Words that Bring You Riches” by Ted Nicholas

There are 3 main people I’d give credit for opening my eyes to the enormous power of direct response marketing and helping me achieve financial independence before I was 31. And one of those is definitely Ted Nicholas. I cannot begin to tell you how many dozens of times I listened and read Ted’s material over and over again. He’s one of my all-time marketing heroes. Ted took the guts of his $197/year newsletter on direct marketing and distilled it into this single book. When I checked this morning there were a few used copies available on Amazon but you can now find it as an ebook or real book on Ted’s site.

#9: No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs by Dan Kennedy

Yes, Kennedy makes the list twice. Let’s face it, for entrepreneurs we’ve got no greater asset than our time. And even if you’ve read a 100 other time management books I guarantee you’ll get something out of this one. Here’s Dan’s unique & ruthless approach to time management that might give some people pause. I don’t follow all of Dan’s advice here because I’m a little too nice at times but reading this book will really let you understand that you create the rules at all time. You decide how you want customers to work with you, people to contact you, etc. Fact is, if you don’t set the rules – then someone else will for you by default.

#10: “Winning Through Intimidation” by Robert Ringer

I know the title of this book is a bit off putting and that’s probably why Robert renamed the latest edition. I love the way Ringer objectively looks at other people’s success advice in here. For instance, the advice of “work hard and you’ll succeed”. He asked himself what “working hard” really means since one person’s definition of working hard is a 18-hour shift while someone else might have a totally different notion. Ringer threw out typical advice like this to work on his own theories for figuring out success.

Plus, there is one chapter in here “the Leapfrog theory” that is essential reading. It explodes the myth of “working your way to the top”. Basically this is a waste of time to keep the status quo. You can leapfrog over any competitors by proclaiming yourself at their same level – but you’ve got to be able to back it up with the goods. For some reason people are always waiting to be anointed the “expert” – it doesn’t happen. And Ringer’s book is packed with even more hard-hitting realities for street smart entrepreneurs.

Like I said it’s super tough to pick just 10 so here’s a bonus selection. I kinda cheated since this isn’t a book but an audio program.

Bonus: The Strangest Secret & Lead the Field by Earl Nightingale. I can’t even begin to count the times I’ve listened to these programs. Earl was really the first person who game me ‘permission’ to think and behave differently. He talks about how the top 5% of achievers don’t do the things ordinary people do and that’s why they are extraordinary. Or they are willing to do the things the other 95% aren’t willing to do (like read/listen for hours per day honing my expertise).

#11 Unique Ability: Creating the Life You Want by Catherine Nomura, Julia Waller, Shannon Waller

Not sure how I forgot this one – probably because it’s not on my bookshelf now. (I think it’s somewhere in the dozens of boxes still left to be unpacked) This is my absolute favorite book about simply focusing on what your unique abilities are and then bringing in others who are strong in areas that are not unique abilities. Now “Unique Ability” is different than simply finding your strengths like the book “Now Discover Your Strengths” (which is also quite good for their online test).

Unique ability is not only about something that is a strength for you but something you love and that gives you more energy when you do it! Critical difference. You could have a strength but you don’t necessarily want to keep doing that activity. This book walks you the process of discovering your own unique abilities. Highly recommended. (At some point I’ll do a post just on this concept and share with you my own ‘unique ability’ statement I’ve come up with from this.)

This book is put out by Dan Sullivan’s company “Strategic Coach” and they have an excellent group of other ‘knowledge’ products. If you can find it the CD set “Pure Genius” is remarkable.

#12 – 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management by Hyrum Smith

Another ‘MIA’ book from my bookshelf after the house move so it got overlooked. This book has probably had one of the most profound effects on my inner values starting in 1998 when I got introduced to Hyrum’s company, now-called “Franklin Covey”. This book really made me examine what my value was and most importantly in what order should those values be. I look at them nearly every day when I get up to make sure my decisions are on track with my inner compass. This isn’t a half-hour read and then you’ve ‘got it’. I spent some time really considering what type of values and life legacy I’d like to leave. Excellent exercises.

There you have it. That’s my list updated list– what do you think? What did I leave off? Have you read any of these works and how has it influenced your life? Leave a comment – would love to hear it!

* * Important Charity Help * *

One more thing – I couldn’t imagine not having these books and resources I’ve learned from over the years. The wisdom of the most successful ‘doers’ & experts distilled down into the pages of a simple book. I’m passionate about helping others hopefully discover the joy and excitement of books that change their lives and inspire them to new heights. That’s why I’m proud to be helping my friend Tim Ferriss with his charity project at where teachers request assistance for their teaching projects.

I’ve picked quite a few ‘entrepreneurial’ related projects to help fund and I hope you’ll join me. I’ve committed to donating $10,000 of my own money to support this. Now I’m not expecting a donation that large (we’ll certainly take it) from you but I’m hoping you’ll consider donating $50 or $100 to help fully fund some of the requests from teachers. Here’s the page to donate.


  1. September 26, 2010, 4:57 pm

    book no 4 is my personal favourite,..Great List which you have shared with us

  2. February 15, 2011, 8:59 am

    A very well-calibrated list of highly talented individuals, well done Yanick :)

  3. June 28, 2011, 3:41 pm

    Thanks for the list. I’ve got the first two on the way.

  4. July 19, 2011, 3:10 am

    Ideas are the only tools through which success can be achieved..thanks 4 the list…

  5. Panz
    September 7, 2011, 9:47 am

    I’m a big fan of Stephen Covey. I’ve read his books but more importantly is when you watch his videos and the absolutely smoothness of his delivery and the acceptance by the audience. This delivery is what brings me back over and over. There is just something there that although visible, is invisible as well.

    I have added your books to my favorites list and I’m out there looking for those with audio (perfect for treadmill work) and will get started so I can offer more prospective. Thank you for the list and the time involved setting it up.

    Kindest regards

  6. September 15, 2011, 5:58 pm

    I’ve read most of these- Kennedy, Ferris, etc. I’ve tried to read Atlas Shrugged but found it basically boring and depressing. I wonder what everyone sees in it that I don’t. I guess I’ll wait for the movie…

  7. October 6, 2011, 1:35 pm

    Atlas Shrugged could probably be about 100 pages shorter but to me it was one of the best affirmations of developing a critical philosophy of provided value!

  8. Benson McConkie
    December 28, 2011, 3:20 pm

    Great list!

    My top picks:

    Just about all of Patrick Lencioni’s biz fables (esp. Death By Meeting and 3 Signs of a Miserable Job)

    21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by Maxwell.

    Emyth by Gerber.

    The Knack and Small Giants by Bo Burlingham.

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