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Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read (jasonevanish.com)
140 points by jevanish 2031 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 57 comments

> The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Ok, nothing to see here, move along.

Disclaimer: I am Brazilian and read this book in Portuguese. That might explain why I don't like Paulo Coelho. I see him as a pop version of Herman Hesse, an easy to read cheap mystic. Gave up on these kind of readings a long ago.

i know i know you should never open a "hate" group on facebook, i did so anyway a few years ago after one of his books took two hours of my life that i will never get back.

here is the fb url https://www.facebook.com/groups/40433509545/

i know that this is not very HN, but neither is a "xx books ever entrepreneur should read" linkbaitblogpost on the front page.

here my favorite quotes:

"porn movies has better plot than his books"

"He mixes a couple of diff books in one (but the other two arent his :-)"

"Reminds me something that could be called langue de bois, a suspicious rhetoric that is targeted towards desire of happiness. Too good to be true, to abstract to be examined, too vague to be accomplished. I guess the speeches of early USSR politics could be depicted as a same type langue de bois, that were talking about a perfect society in a loud tone of sentiments and deep emotionality, but created nothing more than utopian abortion."

"in my opinion people who actually like Paulo Coelho have never ever read a real book and are unable to enjoy literature. Paulo Coelho = scary new age pseudo babble for lost middle class brats. It is good news for Paulo Coelho's bank account the world is full of those."

It's fair enough to not like a book. I didn't really care for it either.

When you express this level of hate for something however, I'd venture to say it's more about yourself than you might think. You talk about 2 hours of your life wasted, yet your still burning energy in hating it, and forming a group of all things.

i know i know

nonetheless i made an exception for that guy. if everyone (according to bestseller lists and the linked blogpost above) is an awe of that guy, somebody has to point out "that the king has no clothes" (reference to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Emperors_New_Clothes )

Agree. Friends saw me as a dreamer, and so for several years I received numerous recommendations to read The Alchemist.

I found the story superficial, disjointed, and disappointing overall. I'm not sure what the appeal is.

I can say from my personal experience that this book inspired me to come to the US first and move to Silicon Valley later. Everyone's perception is different. I read it 10 years ago when Coelho was not that popular and while reading it I was not thinking about what other people thought about Coelho, I was thinking about what was written and it related to me deeply.

So I think you might be right that he became too populat, but I disagree that "nothing to see here", I'm sure a lot of people will find inspiration just like I did.

10 years ago Paulo Coelho was already very popular!

Well, I haven't read the book so I can't comment on the rest

"pop version of Herman Hesse" sums him up well. It's intro to spirituality. Paulo Coelho bangs you over the head with his ideas instead of letting them flow naturally from the text.

i think you were looking to get more out of the book than the author put into it. personally, i loved the book - i'm a fan of folk-tale and fairy-tale retellings in modern novel form, and "the alchemist" was, i felt, a very well-done example of one.

I'm just curious - what do you conceder good spiritual literature. Could you give an example - what's worth reading?

yeah, read anything by robert anton wilson and alan watts check this out........ http://freespace.virgin.net/sarah.peter.nelson/lazyman/lazym...

My general advice for entrepreneurs (although I am sure most of them know already) would be to not read books too close to the subject you want to know about. Instead you should read books about subjects around the field of entrepreneurship. (accounting or financing as an example)

If I where to give one recommendation it would be Clayton Christensens "The Innovators Dilemma"

That book isn't specific to entrepreneurs but to business in general. It is however the one book that will give you an understanding of the game you are in.

As en entrepreneur you are trying to find the holes in the cheese or create your own. Not to eat it.

Agreed about The Innovators Dilemma; and from the original list, Founders at Work, Crucial Conversations, and The Design of Everyday Things. Your mileage may vary on The Alchemist; some people find it transformational, others aren't so excited. I haven't read the others on the list so don't mean to be dissing them, just don't have any first-hand experience.

I'd also add

- Sherry Turkle's The Second Self - Geoffrey Miller's Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado (a different Geoffrey Miller than the one in the original list :) ) - Rita McGrath and Ian MacMillan, The Entrepreneurial Mindset

I have never understood why people are so positive about "Design of everyday things".

I guess the book might make you appreciate design and that might affect your sensitivity to design.

But I think you need to have a general affection for design in general to really get anything out of the book.

Otherwise you run the risk of thinking your understand design now that you have read a book about it.

Just my opinion of course.

But I think you need to have a general affection for design in general to really get anything out of the book.

In my experience you don't :-) At least, I've seen it switch many people out of the design == "making things pretty" mindset into something more productive. It's always on my reading list for people who don't get design, or people who understand that they need to get design. Seems be effective with both groups.

I think it has something to do with it not being written as a "design" book per se. Remember the original 1988 title was "The Psychology of Everyday Things". It's up there with "Peopleware" as a book I keep buying for clients :-)

In general I agree.

But I think the question is whether you can be a successful entrepreneur without having some sense or idea about design.

In my experience from working with many many startups the entrepreneurs either get it or they don't. In fact if they don't they wont even entertain the idea that they don't get it.

But yeah our experiences might differ :)

Most skillful people will tend to develop good taste and a sense of design in and around their own field of expertise. The Design of Everyday Things has helped people I know expand that sense beyond its original narrower confines to, as the title suggests, the world of everyday things.

The downside is that now some of them think they can instantly render a well-founded opinion on anything relating to design. Although that may simply be a corollary of the general phenomenon where experts in one field (and programmers and engineers may be the worst) think they possess the master key to critical thinking and problem solving in any and all fields.


Should be Geoffrey Moore.

Indeed. How embarassing. Thanks for the correction!

> The Innovators Dilemma

Good book, but ... can't you pretty much sum it up in a page or two at most?

You mean just like every other business book? :)

Perhaps although I think there are more gems in this book (and Druckers for that matter) than in most other books.

He talks about something less trivial and fundamental about innovation which I don't think most other books I have read do.

You can also listen to this: http://itc.conversationsnetwork.org/shows/detail135.html

A great speech he did a while back which sums up his opinion.

> You mean just like every other business book? :)

Yeah. I had a site doing summaries for those for a while, and the percentage of them like that is fairly high. He's definitely a bright, interesting guy, who seems like the 'real deal', and not just some 'guru' kind of self-promoter. However, that book really can be compressed into a brief summary.

I have the same feeling. This is not somewhat disturbing?

I think it's due to the fact that you can't really sell a 10 page book, so even if the idea would fit in one, you have to fluff it out to make a real book out of it.

The one page summary only works if you already believe it. The rest of it describes the research methodology that led to the disruption theory. He goes through many industries (OTOMH, disk drives, steel mini-mills, and ditch digging machines plus many more) to show how a new, worse technology served some new market, gained a foothold and customer base to build from, then improved to the point where it displaced the incumbent.

Think of PCs vs workstations, the iPhone vs Blackberry (the iPhone was a terrible smartphone according the the market in 2007, i.e. heavy email/business users), etc.

FWIW, I think the sequel, The Innovator's Solution, is a more useful book.

It makes me sad that Peter Drucker is so out of style with you kids. I was recently reading a book about Google and they made a huge reference to Druker's OKR system (outcomes and key results). I found a decent article on it here if anybody wants a summary: http://jephmaystruck.com/how-do-you-measure-your-strategy/

I couldn't agree more. His books are some of the most thoughtful and insightful books I have ever read.

I've found recommendations for Drucker on some entrepreneurial sites. I think if they re-released his books with updated covers (hire whoever does Malcolm Gladwell's covers), they might grab more attention from the "young generation".

I'd highly recommend Nassim Taleb's "The Black Swan", that's a useful tool for reminding you how little you know and how little everyone else knows.

Personally, that's a motivator to build a product without being concerned about what all the other products are doing / how they look. It's also a great reminder of the importance of empiricism in some parts of life, which is great to keep in mind with something as simple as debugging your code or doing customer support...coming at a problem like an experiment, from the position of knowing nothing, means you can get to the answer faster (usually) and with more accuracy and precision.

Here's my tip, stop reading books about it, stop reading the 15 articles published about it daily, just get on with implementing something. No, really.

One that's pretty much always on my list of recommendations is DeMarco & Lister's "Peopleware" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peopleware:_Productive_Projects...

More than twenty years old now—yet still incredibly relevant. If you're new to building/leading/managing teams or project management, and don't have a copy, go get one now.

Curious what books the Hacker News community considers must read?

Thanks for puling this list together...I added it to the bottom of my post so more people can see what you helped assemble. Thanks!

This is great compilation of links. Thank you.

here is a question i started for sci-fi books which got some decent recommendations http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3781486

thank you

I just added these books to my "To Get" list.. Which is already large.

As a broke fresh college graduate, one of the most widely talked about books (and one I actually bought myself) was Eric Ries' The Lean Startup. It really helped me feel like I had a sense of direction instead of "thinking I knew" something,

The public library is your friend, especially if you live in the right area. For example, many California libraries are in a program called Link+ that allows you to borrow books from other libraries, including college libraries.

Even if a book you want isn't in the library's catalog, go talk to a librarian. They can work some magic.

Also check out public libraries with Overdrive (eBooks).

Another thing to do is see if your college will let you keep online or other library access for a nominal fee. I remember (ab)using MIT libraries for a while after leaving.

Founders at work by Jessica Livingston, Rework by Jason Fried and DHH, The Startup Owners Manual by Steve Blank...

To add a few that span outside entrepreneurship, but are of course very valuable to entrepreneurs:

Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love (http://www.amazon.com/Inspired-Create-Products-Customers-Lov...) - The best if not only required reading for product management

Peopleware (http://www.amazon.com/Peopleware-Productive-Projects-Teams-S...) - Great read on managing and understanding people as it relates to organizations

Managing Humans (http://www.amazon.com/Managing-Humans-Humorous-Software-Engi...) - Obviously on management, you can read much on this http://randsinrepose.com/, though the book does a great job of consolidating it

Great call on Inspired. Hands down the best Product book out there...haven't heard any others even in the conversation.

Doesn't anybody realise that affiliate links to amazon.com don't catch users from the UK or Europe. Surely it's not that difficult to install a geotargetting plugin to rewrite those links to amazon.co.uk, .ft .de, etc.

Also a question if any Amazoners are reading this. Why when I click from the amazon.com to amazon.co.uk does it not remember the book I'm looking at. Come on guys it's not the 20th century anymore.

For entrepreneurship some people may say you you committed blasphemy by ommiting Lean Startup and Business Model Generation

Lean Startup fell pretty flat for me. It felt like there wasn't much "there there". Recommended alternatives:

Read it, liked it more than Lean Startup: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0055D7O1U/ref=as_li_ss_tl?...

Started reading it, seems much more thorough than Lean Startup: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0984999302/ref=as_li_ss_tl?... - annoyingly does not have a Kindle version.

Haven't ready it, heard it's good: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006UKFFE0/ref=as_li_ss_tl?...

And of course, my favorite of all, because it's full of real, practical advice, Start Small, Stay Small.

I gotta agree with you. Conceptually Lean Startup was ok, but there was zero content in it that I could easily grasp and apply to a company. It was all too high level. I think most of Clayton Christensen's books are the same way.

Eric Ries is in the consulting business (like Clayton) and he's trying to bring Lean Startup to the mainstream & big companies. I think his book achieves that goal but at the expense of being helpful to startups.

_The Halo Effect_, Phil Rozenzweig: http://www.amazon.com/The-Halo-Effect-Business-Delusions/dp/...

This revisits books from earlier in the decade (like _Good to Great_), and shows that many of the profiled companies failed. It's a great way to learn how to read entrepreneurship books; many theories are based on "Intel is successful; Intel does X; therefore doing X will make you successful".

In general, go read books from ten years ago and see if any of the predictions held up. Likewise, I recommend _Founders at Work_ because so many of these (currently) successful companies were launched with opposing philosophies, and all of them worked. Open plan? Works! Offices? Also works! Deep funding? Works! Bootstrapping? Also works!

This is part of what makes The Innovator's Dilemma so great and believable-a lot of the predictions the author makes turned out to be correct over the next 15 years.

>How to Win Friends and Influence People OR "How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age" by same Author

In case anyone is wondering how Dale Carnegie wrote a book on "How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age", the actual author for the current edition of both books is credited to "Dale Carnegie & Associates"

I must admit, that was a head-scratcher... an amazing accomplishment when they're still crediting an author from the 30s.

High Output Management by Andy Grove

Jack Welch: Straight From the Gut

The Innovators' Solution.

I'd add "Reality Test" by Guy Kawasaki.

I'd add Poke the Box by Seth Godin.

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