My personal recommendations are:
I think these essays were both necessary and sufficient for making our start-up successful (in terms of reading, lol).
http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/startup-lessons-learne... - "Written by Eric Ries, one of BusinessWeek's Best Young Entrepreneurs of 2007, Startup Lessons Learned is a collection of 128 essays originally published at StartupLessonsLearned.com from 2008-2009. Each essay, or blog post, is unmodified and presented chronologically, rather then thematically, so that the reader can see ideas develop over time. Eric Ries provides actionable insight and advice on how to build successful products by listening to and learning from your customers. Startup Lessons Learned is a must-read for anyone trying to build a company in this new economy."
http://www.startupbook.net/ - "Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer's Guide to Launching a Startup"
Check out the Amazon reviews, they're telling:
If you search for Steve Blanks course notes, you can read the first 3 chapters for free. If you buy the book, it comes with handy dandy worksheets (as well as the rest of the book).
It is a series of interviews of the founders of companies like Apple, Paypal, etc about the very very early stages of their start-up before they ever knew they would be successful. It is a great book to read both for motivation and for lessons learned.
You can read some of it here: http://www.foundersatwork.com/
Good luck with your start-up!
In case anyone wants all of these links in one pdf: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/5081628/Y%20Combinator_%20Startup%20...
I went to business school and that book taught me more than 4 years of wasted time.
I've read quite a few and where some are in sightful / useful when scaled or when funded, this book is the best I've read for a typical software developer to have a successful start up business!
It is also written by a fellow HN'er Rob Walling - so you know it'll be full of great information! Check out his blog 'SoftwarebyRob' for a taster.
- Getting Real by 37 Signals http://gettingreal.37signals.com/
- Rework by 37 Signals http://37signals.com/rework/
These are great and really get your mind thinking about alternatives to what most people believe.
- Sarah Lacy's Once your lucky, twice you're good. http://www.amazon.com/Once-Youre-Lucky-Twice-Good/dp/1592403...
This isn't a technical book, but can really get you motivated to succeed reading the stories of previous successes! It also gives a bit of an insight into the internal workings of a start up in the early stages. It highlights networking as an important factor!
- Start up success guide - http://www.amazon.com/Startup-Success-Guide-Books-Profession...
This book was quite good, but felt a bit dated in comparison to Rob Walling's 'Start up book'.
Finally 'Founders at work' is definitely worth a read. http://www.amazon.com/Founders-Work-Stories-Startups-Problem...
Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good - Sarah Lacy
Founders at Work - Jessica Livingston
The Facebook Effect - David Kirkpatrick
I really like this book. It helps put things into perspective, especially for smaller companies.
These books top my list of MUST READ for web startup.
Customers.com is very useful if your web company is more service focused. It teaches you how to target the right customers, own the customers total experience, streamline business processes that impact the customer, provide a 360° view of the customer relationship, let customers help themselves, help customers do their jobs, deliver personalized service and foster community.
Getting Real is more for code monkey making their own stuffs. This one I hope for all my bosses to read it. :P
I created a list in Listiki http://listiki.com/best-startup-books-to-read-before-startin... with most of these titles where they can be kept in one place and be voted upon and ranked.
If you must pick one, Getting Real is all what you need.
Quote: "Everyone can read a book. Everyone can come up with an idea. Everyone has a cousin that's a web designer. Everyone can write a blog. Everyone can hire someone to hack together some code.
The difference between you and everyone else will be how well you execute. Success is all about great execution."
In case you don't know Bob, he's the guy behind the http://www.47hats.com/ blog, which is a great resource for startups and MicroISV's. He also does The Startup Success Podcast.
And outstanding book about running a business.
Purple Cow and The Dip by Seth Godin
The Long Tail and Free by Anderson