We’ve put together a collection of the top 50 books on business for your enjoyment and we’ll lend them to you free of charge. Have a look down the list, there’s definitely something that’ll take your fancy. If you do see one you like, let us know and we’ll send it to you free of charge. That’s right, free.
You can borrow any book you see here for a month (or longer if you let us know) completely free of charge and then return it by post, or just give it to your accountant when you see them next. Go on, it’s free!
Pretty much every successful person in the world has had to begin at the same place: Self Management. Getting Things Done is a practical, no nonsense guide to productivity focussing on relaxation as the key to unlocking creative potential. Allen teaches the ‘Do it, Delegate it, Drop it, Defer it’ strategy to help you clear your inbox and beat that rising sense of panic that comes from having too much on your plate.
Best-selling guide to starting up a business from scratch and raising capital using little or none of your own money. $1m investment and a Rolls Royce? Not bad for a beginner…Allen introduces us to the idea that you don’t need a business degree to be successful in business and gives a clear step by step approach to startups from inception through raising capital to stability and growth.
A paradigm-bending look at the new economics of the 21st century. The ‘Long Tail’ is that portion of the total output of an industry (film, tv, literature etc) that misses the mainstream but is still widely accessible to consumers over the internet. He encourages us to ignore the ‘hits’ of our time and scour the fringes for the innovation that will produce a profit without following the crowd.
Classic management text with near-cult status, the One Minute Manager teaches that you don’t need a lot of time to get your point across and get results. It’s a book that’s hugely popular in the US and Japan and has a lot to say about the power of good communication has to change behaviour. Blanchard and Johnston are extremely successful authors in their own right and have sold over 25million books between them.
Wide-ranging book about running a larger business that works to link together what Bossidy and Charan consider the 3 core aspects of an organisation (people, strategy and operations) and illustrate them in the context of the broader aspects of the modern economic climate including growth, competition, politics and risk. At it’s heart, it’s a book about making things work, cutting a path through whatever obstacles lie between your organisation and success.
Sir Richard Branson is one of the word’s most successful businessmen. He has built 8 billion dollar companies from scratch and Virgin Mobile USA recently became the fastest company in history to generate more than a billion dollars in revenue (Google? Facebook? Microsoft anyone?) This book gives the inside track on some of his most spectacular deals and an insight into the mind of this remarkable man.
Classic business thriller detailing the struggle for control of RJR Nabisco in the Autumn of 1988. The story has since become on of the most talked about corporate takeovers in American history and this book offers a fast-paced full-frontal portrait of the excesses of 1980s Wall St. As relevant today in the climate of financial uncertainty as it was then, Barbarians at the Gate is a gripping and informative read.
Cult best-seller in business and self-help circles alike, How to Win Friends and Influence People gives lively practical advice for speaking and acting persuasively. The focus is on, not so much what you say, as the way in which you say it, and how you perceive yourself and your audience as you speak. Carnegie’s style is informal and approachable, giving easy-to-follow techniques for creating enthusiasm and support for your ideas amongst the people around you, whoever they might be.
Endorsed by the likes of the late Steve Jobs, The Innovator’s Dillemma deals with issues surrounding so-called ‘disruptive’ innovation, that is, innovation that significantly alters the way in which a particular business is done. Simply put, the dilemma lies in the balance between too much innovation, which can leave a company vulnerable to collapse, and too little which can result in even the largest, most established companies being pushed aside by smaller, more agile competitors.
Built to last takes a well organised, in-depth look at eighteen of the world’s most enduring and remarkable companies and asks the question ‘what makes them different?’ The book is the result of a 6 year university-led research project and aims to provide a roadmap for building a successful company. An enjoyable read in its own right as it follows these exceptional companies from their inception to their current position of international dominance.
Acclaimed author of ‘Built To Last’ Jim Collins takes an in-depth look at 11 companies that, in his view, have managed to make the transition from good to great. The list, whittled down from over 1400, includes household names like Gilette and Collins’ analysis takes the same kind of rigorous approach that has made his previous work so popular. The results are surprising: He downplays the usefulness of a particular CEO, product or marketing strategy in favour of creating and encouraging a culture of discipline.
As much a ‘self-help’ book as it is a guide to the aspiring or developing entrepreneur, the 7 habits of highly successful people aims to pare down our thoughts and behaviour to their essentials and provide simple rules, not just for success in a material sense (though this is certainly a part of its message), but for personal growth. Don’t read this book expecting to find a scheme to ‘get rich quick’ but rather see its suggestions as the first step on the path towards success of a richer, fuller, more lasting kind.
Building on the success of his 1989 book ‘the 7 habits of highly successful people’ (above) Covey introduces us to the 8th habit, a roadmap for personal greatness. The world, he argues, has changed. We now have unprecedented amounts of freedom and autonomy and find ourselves at risk of losing fulfilment an losing passion as we thrash around trying to discover ‘what we should do.’ In this book, Covey encourages us to seek out the ‘inner voice’ that leads us towards a truly meaningful life.
Previous winner of the Rhone-Poulenc prize for science writing, this book takes a sweeping look at human civilisation and attempts to identify common themes that have lead to the downfall of all great societies prior to our own. With this in mind, Diamond takes a look at our own precarious existence and wonders whether our buildings too will one day lie in ruins. As intensely relevant to business as it is to everything else we encounter in our lives, this book may help your business avoid the pitfalls that have plagued us in the past.
Peter Drucker is one of the most highly acclaimed and well respected business writers of all time and this, his autobiography, provides an unprecedented and personal view of some of the most important events and personalities of the 20th century. Giants of modern civilisation like Sigmund Freud and Buckminster Fuller whom Druker met, are vividly and colourfully drawn, their stories interweaving with a frank and well-informed discussion about the politics and economics of our time, and Drucker’s own life story.
The final decade of the 20th century, and the first two of the 21st, have been characterised by rapid and, at times, catastrophic change and in this wide-ranging and inspirational volume, world renowned business writer Peter Drucker (see above) tackles the question of why. He identifies four main drivers of change within the current geopolitical system and brings to his writing a characteristic blend of wisdom and authority.
Introductory text designed for new students of business and economics by one of the most well-respected business writers of the 20th century. The text is well pitched for individuals new to the subject and leads easily to a discussion of the most important theories by way of interesting and colourful examples. The newest edition also includes sections dealing with aspects of entrepreneurship that are more relevant today: sustainability, social responsibility and the like.
With sections covering ‘Understanding Business’, Opportunity and Performance, this book by one of the foremost business writers of the 20th century is a comprehensive and practical guide to ‘what you should do’ in order to develop and manage a successful business. Although some of the examples are now a little dated (the first edition was published in 1964) it still provides a unique and powerful perspective on modern business.
What hasn’t already been said about Bill Gates is probably not worth saying here. A giant of 20th and 21st century business, whatever you might think about him, and his products, this man is probably worth listening to. The central idea here is the generation and implementation of IT networks that function more like the human brain and merge seamlessly with it. Not a revolutionary idea today, perhaps but a revealing insight into the mind of one of the world’s greatest businessmen.
A lively and insightful memoir by the former CEO of IBM who was largely responsible for transforming the fortunes of the company in the late 90s. Gerstner tells his story with wit and directness, giving a wonderful insight into the mess that he inherited from his predecessors and the approach he took to transforming the business from the inside out, rebuilding a hugely successful corporate culture in the process.
A seminal book on the theory of information spread through populations which in many ways anticipates the current trend for ‘big data’ research. Gladwell likens the spread of ideas and the popularity of particular products over others of the same type to the spread of a virus or an epidemic. He explains concepts like the ‘stickiness’ with clear language and entertaining anecdotes.
Popular and easy to read book by a renowned business writer which builds on his previous book ‘The Purple Cow’ to develop the concept of ‘new’ marketing. The central idea is that customers want to buy into a story about a particular product that supports their own worldview and meets their preconceived ideas. Contrary to the implication of the title Godin supports stories and ideas that are genuine and honest as these, he says, produce the best results.
Blockbuster fiction from bestselling writer John Grisham. When Mitchell McDeere lands his dream job at Law firm Bendini, Lambert and Locke he’s obviously delighted; but things quickly take a sinister turn when he discovers secret files and a trail of money leading all the way to the mob. It doesn’t take him long to realise it’s going to take everything he’s got to get him out alive.
First published in 1937, this book was built to last and is frequently referred to as ‘the greatest motivational book of all time.’ It divulges the money-making secrets of some of America’s all-time wealthiest from Roosavelt to Rockerfella and beyond and distils their wisdom into a simple formula for success. The new version also contains a description of ‘the ultimate truth’ underpinning all success which is alluded to in earlier versions.
This short little book is one of the gems of business and self-help literature. It tells the story of four characters: Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw who are stuck in a maze in which they spend their time looking for cheese. It’s a parable that represents our different responses to the challenges we face in getting what we want out of life and teaches us to embrace change as an inevitable part of our existence.
Historian Jill Jonnes paints a gripping and detailed portrait of three giants of the electrical revolution: Edison, Tesla and Westinghouse. She documents the struggles between them at the turn of the last century as they fought to realise their dreams of a world connected by cheap and plentiful electric power in a story that takes in the cut-throat world of 19th century wall-street and the world’s first execution by the electric chair.
A book for any businessperson who also loves sport. Keidel analyses business organisations in relation to the differing strategies inherent in (american) football, baseball and basketball, and the different qualities that these sports embody. It gives a sweeping, top-down view of business with a style as witty and fast-paced as it is engaging.
Lensioni’s innovative approach to getting his message across makes this book extremely enjoyable to read. Rather than being didactic and laying out his ideas in sequence as many business writers do, Lensioni, in this his third book in the same vein, tells the story of Kathryn Petersen, CEO of the fictional Decision Tech who has a terrible team on her hands. Through the story he gradually reveals his secrets to the functioning of an effective team.
This classic marketing text, still going strong after 30 years in print gives big ideas for small businesses. The new edition tackles internet and technology-based strategies and, although criticised at times for being ‘Too American’, contains essential guidance around how to think about marketing on a budget. The author has been vice president and creative director at several large US-based advertising firms.
A gripping read for sports fans with an eye for business. Moneyball tells the story of Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A’s, a major league baseball team who built a league winning side with a tiny budget and a squad of misfits. It teaches a powerful lesson about making the most of what you have and using unconventional thinking to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
A heady (true) adventure story of the rise and rise of the author through the profligate offices of Salomon Brothers in New York and the excesses of Wall Street in the 1980s. For a long time used as a ‘how-to’ guide by ambitious stockbrokers everywhere, Liar’s Poker now offers a starling insight into the recent history of the industry that we love to hate.
Freakonomics caused a sensation when it was first published in 2005 and Steven Levitt’s perspective has been making waves ever since. It focusses on the motivations that, according to the author’s ways of thinking, really underlie seemingly unrelated phenomena. Actions and behaviours that we might otherwise dismiss as ‘free will’ or ‘common sense’ are rigorously analysed from the perspective of economic theory with surprising results.
Small but perfectly formed, this book by Og Mandino blends mythology, spirituality and sales technique… who’d have thought it possible? He tells a story set in a time before Christianity and conveys a powerful message that in order to be effective, a salesperson must first believe in themselves and the work that they are doing. At once practical and philosophical this is an important book for anyone involved in sales.
Blue Ocean Strategy is all about creating new marketplaces through innovative product design and marketing, rather than competing with everyone else for a slice of the same old pie. It’s authors are the undisputed champions of this ’21st century business’ and have something to teach every existing company and budding entrepreneur out there.
A breathtaking and in-depth look at the fall of Enron, once the darling of the US economy. The collapse revealed that for years Enron had been trading nothing but fantasy and everyone in the industry knew it. This painstakingly researched and brilliantly written account asks big questions about Wall Street and the financial system as a whole.
Focusing on a detailed case study of Cisco, dealing with Darwin takes an evolutionary perspective on innovation in business. Widely recognised as a masterpiece of writing for managers, it likens the struggle that a business faces for survival amongst market forces and hostile competitors to the evolutionary struggle and advocates a system of ‘smart-thinking’ for innovation on-the-go.
Ancient Futures tells the story of Ladakh, a town in the Himalayas which has seen unprecedented change in recent years as a result of industrialisation, most of it for the worse. Using this as a central example Norberg-Hodge goes on to discuss in wider terms the notion of progress and the root causes of the so-called malaise of industrial society.
Kenichi Ohamae has been voted by the Economist as one of the top 5 strategic thinkers in the world and this book captures a significant portion of his own insight into management strategy, and that of the Japanese business community as a whole. It’s full of case studies from a country that still remains largely impenetrable to Western minds, and interesting stories that illustrate his deeply perceptive position.
Daunted by Adam Smith’s ‘The Wealth of Nations?’ At 1264 pages of olde English, who wouldn’t be? But don’t worry, PJ O’Rourke, the author of this hilarious and irreverent book has done the hard work for you. He’s not only read the thing, not to mention its even weightier prequel, but he’s even worked out why it’s so important and presented his findings in this easy and enjoyable form.
Alex ‘Sandy’ Pentland is widely regarded as the ‘father’ of the new discipline of Social Physics, which considers human behaviour in terms of social networks behaving as physical systems rather than as a collection of individuals behaving rationally – as does the conventional economic model. His insights are startling and, in the current era of ‘Big Data’ technology, essential for everyone looking to get ahead of the curve.
Dr Steve Peters, psychologist to the gold medal-winning GB cycling team presents a neuroscientific approach to understanding the way your brain is working both to help and hinder you in everyday life. ‘The Chimp’ here is the emotion-centred limbic system that helps you to respond quickly to danger but in situations where careful consideration is required may be more trouble than it’s worth.
Seminal management text and ideal introduction to the subject by former professor of business at the Harvard Business School, widely considered to prefigure the ‘positioning’ movement (see below). The book contains sections on analysis of industry types, strategies within those types and finally how to implement those strategies in a practical way, an ideal starting point for those interested in management.
A profound and far-reaching novel and the foundation of the branch of philosophy now known as Objectivism which underpins the entire neo-liberal approach to capitalism. Dagny Taggart – a businesswoman in charge of the new transcontinental railroad is pitted against her adversary (or so she thinks), the enigmatic John Galt who has ambitious plans to ‘stop the motor of the world’.
The début novel by the author of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ (see above) deals again with the author’s Objectivist philosophy and celebrates the ability of self-interest to produce the kind of creativity which makes us human. Howard Roarke is an uncompromising architect who battles over 20 years against an eclectic crew of rivals to defend his right to build the way he wants to.
In the age of mass media, getting your message across to an increasingly sceptical public is difficult. Positioning approaches this problem emphatically. Well written by industry experts who lay out a revolutionary new approach to occupying ‘space’ within your market such that your message gets heard, competitors find it difficult to get in behind you, and even repositioning your rivals in order to expose their weaknesses.
An introduction to starting up small, agile companies that are able to survive and out-perform their larger rivals through continuous innovation and attention to what the customer really wants. Eric Reis is an entrepreneur in-residence at Harvard Business School and the founder of 3 successful startups, so he certainly knows a thing or two about it.
Part of the pantheon of books that approach success in business from the perspective of self-improvement. Robbins gives practical real-world strategies to help you take control of your mental, emotional, physical and financial life. He focusses on decisions over resolutions, highlighting the difference between those who think about change and those who actually commit to it.
World famous 18th Century text that forms the foundation of the modern study of economics. It’s difficult going but if you can stick it out you’ll be rewarded, not just with a dazzling display of economic insight which, when taken in the context of the time, is nothing short of genius, but also a generous helping of psychology, sociology and philosophy as well. Try O’Rourke’s witty and irreverent digest (above) if that all seems like a bit too much.
Part autobiography, part historical account and part business textbook, this seminal work published originally in 1964 charts the thinking of a man widely recognised to be amongst the first to think systematically about the management of large corporations. A must for everyone interested in business and economic history.
Classic text of Chinese military strategy dating from the 4th century BC. Widely adopted as an approach to handling conflict of all kinds, the wisdom of Sun Tzu is as applicable to modern business today as it was to the battlefields of ancient China. Unlike many populist re-renderings of the text, this version contains useful analysis and commentary as well as a full, unabridged translation of the original work.
Originally published in 1963 by a former CEO of IBM, this book was initially taken as an historical account of how a great company managed to endure the first great technological shift of the digital age and built its reputation as an organisation without compromise. 50 years on it takes on a new importance as a discussion of corporate identity and the roles and responsibilities that large businesses carry in wider society.