21 Books to Read Before Starting Your Online Business


Books are an amazing source of inspiration. Offering some insights into practical real-world survival tips, non-fiction books have always been at the helm as the source of inspiration for entrepreneurs. Even the busiest of the successful entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates make sure that they cater some time daily for reading books. These non-fiction books make it easy to draw inspiration from some of the most experienced and insightful in the industry. While entrepreneurship is not just about doing one specific task perfectly, it is a combination of a multitude of skills, knowledge and domain understanding. Since the required domain knowledge is hard to gain without gaining some entrepreneurial experience in your niche, that void is filled by non-fiction books.

Non-fiction books are often read by some of the top entrepreneurs like Warren Buffett, Richard Branson, and many more! While there are hundreds of non-fiction books, which of these would help you get the most out of your next business venture? Starting your online business in a sense is not much different than venturing into a new startup. Although Online businesses operate somewhat differently, the core concepts and the ideas are usually retained. Here, we have compiled the 21 Must-read books before you start your online business.

21 Must-Read Books to inspire the Entrepreneur in You

The entrepreneur in you requires some kind of inspiration to stay on track in this competitive enterprise world. Below are 21 of the best must-read books to inspire the Entrepreneur in you. Read and take on the world!

“The Art of the Start” by Guy Kawasaki

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The Art of the Start is one of the most popular business books. Written back in 2004, many of the tips in the book are still valid a decade later! If you are more interested in the very recent version, Guy Kawasaki has also released The Art of the Start 2.0 if you choose to go with it. Focusing on entrepreneurship, bootstrapping your way to success, starting your online business, pitching ideas to investors and much more, The Art of the Start has a lot to offer for inspiring the entrepreneur in you.

“The next time you think that there’s something that you “can’t live without”, wait for a week and then see if you’re still alive or not” ― Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki walks through the process and shows us what it takes to turn an idea into a venture. An evangelist for Apple in the 1980’s, Guy Kawasaki pours all of his experience and background in the industry into The Art of the Start. Easily one of the must-read books before you start your online business.

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“The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries

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While Lean manufacturing is one of the most famous concepts, originated by Ford early on and worked upon by Toyota and Motorola later on, it is one of the concepts still put to use even to this day. There is a lot to lean manufacturing that it is pretty amusing startups and entrepreneurs do not make the most of its techniques and minimize costs while working on improving returns. Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup establishes a method on how startups and entrepreneurs could make the most of the lean manufacturing and bring it to their startups.

[Tweet ““The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.” ― Eric Ries”]

Creating a stable startup culture under uncertain economic conditions is hard to beget and this book will guide you through the process. Concepts such as rapid prototyping, validated learning, rapid scientific experimentation, and others are introduced in the book, which drives their inspiration from lean manufacturing.

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“Rework” by Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson

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As quoted by Businessman and Investor Mark Cuban, “If given a chance of investing in someone who reads Rework or one with an MBA, I would invest in Rework every time!” Such is the impact this book has on entrepreneurs worldwide. This book is also actively endorsed by Seth Godin as one of the must-reads for entrepreneurs. This book should appeal to both managers and employees alike in making business plans and the need for speed in plan chalking.

[Tweet ““What you do is what matters, not what you think or say or plan.” ― Jason Fried”]

This book promotes the necessity of the focus on one thing at a time and opposes the multi-tasking approach. Rework is a must read book for every entrepreneur and Seth Godin was quoted as saying, “Ignore this book at your own peril!”

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“The Six-Figure Second Income” by David Lindahl and Jonathan Rozek

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Starting and maintaining a steady flow of income through  online mediums is easier said than done. But if you are looking to build upon your existing online business or looking forward to venturing into a new online business, this is a must-read. This book holds the secrets to successfully starting your online business and growing the business even when you have everything against you.

Get no-nonsense, practical tips to succeed in your online venture and how to succeed even when you have time, money and other factors working against you. Although anyone these days with a computer and an internet connection can start online businesses, operating a successful online business is an altogether new thing.

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“Think Big, Act Bigger” by Jeffrey W. Hayzlet

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Thinking big and thinking different tell just one side of the story. It has more to do with actually working on your ideas rather than just dreaming big. While aiming big and setting big goals is definitely the best way to get off to a positive start to your business, getting things done is more important. This book talks about how to own yourself as a leader and a company, setting and defining long-term goals, and finally fearlessly working on the plans.

Obstacles are one of the most common elements that any startup or entrepreneur has to face, but this book equips you with the skills and the techniques needed to steamroll under such situations. Easily one of the best must-read books for entrepreneurs of all kinds, and now just those seeking an online venture.

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“Disrupt You!” by Jay Samit

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Given the volatility of the online marketplace, innovation and creativity extend out of traditional brick-and-mortar businesses to the online ventures. Innovation, creativity and finding your unique voice has become so much essential for online startups, just as much as it is important for any Fortune 500 corporation.

[Tweet ““No obstacle is so big that one person with determination can’t make a difference.” ― Jay Samit”]

A specialist in digital media marketing, author Jay Samit has to offer a lot of insider tips and tricks to make the most of your unique voice and flourish at both a startup and individual level. Learn more about how personal transformation could help you and your online venture reap entrepreneurial benefits in this must-read book before you start your own online business.

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“The $100 Startup” by Chris Guillebeau

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Turning ideas into businesses or streams of income effortlessly is what author Chris Guillebeau is capable of. Learn from him in his book how having a huge investor money in your bank is not always needed to succeed as an entrepreneur. He teaches about opting out of the traditional employment strategies and how to make the most out of your ideas, act on them to build a steady flow of income for yourself.

“Never despise small beginnings, and don’t belittle your own accomplishments. Remember them and use them as inspiration as you go on to the next thing. When you venture outside your comfort zone, wherever the starting point may be, it’s kind of a big deal.” ― Chris Guillebeau

In this book, you’ll find the invaluable experience from people who have built a business with little to no financial backing. You also don’t need an MBA degree to succeed in business and the exact real-life skills and techniques needed to tackle entrepreneurial challenges are covered in this must-read book.

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“How to Blog for Profit: Without Selling Your Soul Book” by Ruth Soukup

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Blogging is all the new rage in the online world! Be it as a blog for a business entity or at an individual level, blogging has become all essential to creating your own voice and brand online. In this book, author Ruth Soukup offers solid, practical advice on how to find your voice online and build a profitable and authentic online blog.

Leveraging on your unique assets and offerings is the key to finding success as an online blogger and many of the key aspects of successful bloggers are discussed in this book. Creating compelling content, active participation in social media, and diversifying income streams are some of the many topics covered by this book. Definitely a must-read for entrepreneurs wishing to start their own online business.

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“Million Dollar Consulting” by Alan Weiss

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Global consulting has been taken to an altogether new level and consultants are the hottest thing on the market. You get to decide on which projects to work on, you decide your own pay rate and you get to decide on your working hours. Offering complete work satisfaction and flexibility, professional consultants are valued for their skillset and expertise. So how do you become one? Well, this book is just about all of that!

[Tweet ““You grow based on exploiting strengths, not by acclimating to weaknesses.” ― Alan Weiss”]

Profiting in a troubled market, Leveraging blogging, social media, and marketing, and delegating labor are some of the key concepts covered in this must-read book for online entrepreneurs.

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“Will It Fly?” by Thomas K. McKnight

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How do you know even before you are getting started if your business idea will take off or not? Will it Fly, is an amazing book that tries to drive from your intuitive and analytical abilities to analyze your startup idea if it has the potential to take off successfully! Assessing your new startup’s product, competition, pricing strategies, finance, operations and even an exit strategy are essential and this book covers those nitty-gritty’s in complete depth.

The only major drawback of this book is that it assumes you already have a business plan in place since it doesn’t go through the process of building one! A must-read book for serious aspiring online entrepreneurs.

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“The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael E. Gerber

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What are some of the myths that you have heard of before starting your own venture? Well, there happen to be many and you need to keep yourself away from these pitfalls. The e-myth revisited tries to nullify all of the myths surrounding your next online business.

“Contrary to popular belief, my experience has shown me that the people who are exceptionally good in business aren’t so because of what they know but because of their insatiable need to know more.” ― Michael E. Gerber

The e-myth revisited is a must-read book for online entrepreneurs looking forward to growing their business in a productive fashion.

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“The Barefoot Executive” by Carrie Wilkerson

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Everyone wants to become their own boss! Who doesn’t love the idea of working on your patio, in your pajamas, at the point of the day you’re the most productive. This kind of flexibility does not come easy and a lot of work has to be put in to enjoy that kind of flexibility in your work and life.

It is essential that you are in it for all the right purposes and not just for the advantages that it comes packed with. This book will help you rediscover your true beliefs and demands and help you become a successful freelancer or consultant, with the much needed practical examples and advice. Achieving a discipline towards your work and work-life balance are also some of the few topics that this book covers for online entrepreneurs.

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“Start Your Own Business: The Only Start-Up Book You’ll Ever Need” by The Staff of Entrepreneur Media

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This is one of the best books for Startup entrepreneurs and it comes directly from Entrepreneur Media and the vast expertise that they bring along with them. This book covers everything about starting a new venture as a startup entrepreneur and walks you through all of the processes of a startup initiation.

From choosing a business, working on a business model, choosing partners to work with, getting funded, managing taxes and employees are some of the key topics that this book covers. This book is easily one of the best books for startup entrepreneurs to invest their time, money and efforts in a best possible way.

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“The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company” by Steve Blank

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Coming from a renowned silicon valley expert, Steve Blank is the author who is recognized as being a catalyst for the ‘Lean Startup’ movement. The outlines of this book are followed by The National Science Foundation to train new startups and is easily one of the best books for entrepreneurs.

[Tweet ““Rule No. 1: There Are No Facts Inside Your Building, So Get Outside.” ― Steven Gary Blank”]

Over 100 charts or diagrams, and over 70 checklists help you form a structural guideline to guide your startup in the right way. Online businesses tend to fall into the traps and myths of the business and this book would make sure that you are not making this most common mistakes.

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“Entrepreneur: How to Start an Online Business” by Lucy Tobin

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Creating a startup on the world wide web has become easier than ever before! Writing an evening column for The Evening Standard, Lucy Tobin has profiled many successful online business owners who have made it. In her book, you get the stories of the different online startups, their challenges and how they went on to overcome them.

With engaging interviews and a lot of practical first-hand recollection of the challenges faced by successful online entrepreneurs, this is a book with a wealth of knowledge and insights.

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“Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion” by Gary Vaynerchuk

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Gary Vaynerchuck is easily one of my favorite non-fiction authors. Crush It! is another masterpiece from this author on how to leverage your passions to make a stream of income from it. A hobby or an obsession that keeps you up at night is something you ought to pursue full-time.

[Tweet ““Love your family, work super hard, live your passion.” ― Via @garyvee”]

This book teaches you to make the most of your unique personality, skills and expertise to leverage it on building your personal brand. Harness the power of the internet and this book to make your entrepreneurial dreams come true.

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“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

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Successful entrepreneurs are the ones who have mastered the art of influencing people and making friends effortlessly. One of the oldest books in this list, it is definitely a goldie to cherish for a long time to come! The time-tested advice in this book has been said to help now-famous people climb up the ladder of success.

“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” ― Dale Carnegie

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“Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality” by Scott Belsky

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An idea in itself is nothing powerful. Only when these ideas are acted upon, they start to make sense and reap yourself entrepreneurial benefits. This process of getting from the ideation phase to actual reality is something that many entrepreneurs fear of. Well, this book just shows you how it’s done!

[Tweet ““An idea can only become a reality once it is broken down into organized, actionable elements.” ― Scott Belsky”]

Coming straight from the founder and CEO of Behance, there is a lot of inputs to take away from this amazing book. While coming up with new ideas is a great way to get started with a business, it is more in making your ideas happen that matters at the end of the day. Become a doer and achiever with this book.

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“Contagious: Why Things Catch On” by Jonah Berger

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Named the Best Marketing Book of 2014, Contagious! is a must-read book for entrepreneurs. What makes certain things catch on easily by the crowds is something people wonder all the time! This book will teach you the reasons and factors that cause a few ideas to catch on instantly while some tend to fade away with time.

“People don’t think in terms of information. They think in terms of narratives. But while people focus on the story itself, information comes along for the ride.” ― Jonah Berger

The book follows groundbreaking research with real-life case studies so you get to better understand the reason some ideas catch on and what you could do in your power to do the same.

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“The Culting of Brands: Turn Your Customers into True Believers” by Douglas Atkin

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Attracting the masses is what some of the companies like Apple, Google, Nike seem to achieve effortlessly. But there’s more to it behind the scenes than what is perceived at a consumer level. Get an entirely new perspective on cultivating a personal and startup brand to stand out from your competitors and attract the crowds.

Managing workflow, and allowing marketers to align themselves with the market expectations and demands are some of the key topics that this book covers.

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“Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy” by Martin Lindstrom

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Buyology is one of the most amazing books to better understand the buying patterns and behaviors of customers. This knowledge and insights could help you better cater to your customers. If you are planning on an online business where you intend to sell or resell products, this is a must-read for you!

The author, who was voted as one of the TIME magazine’s influential people in 2009 offers you the research and expertise to help you better understand how and why people buy and what makes them tick?

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So, as we come to the closure of this exhaustive article, which are your most favorite books from the above list? Could think of any amazing book which would help online entrepreneurs? Feel free to shout out your thoughts and comments below.

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Authored By
A Shouter whose articles got mentions from the likes of The New York Times, Kissmetrics and AllTopStories. He writes articles, novels and poems; spends most of his time reading everything he could get his hands on. Srikanth is currently pursuing his Masters from The University of Illinois and holds a Bachelors in Electronics Engineering from the University of Mumbai. He is a programmer, a motivational writer and speaker.

16 thoughts on “21 Books to Read Before Starting Your Online Business”

  1. david mark

    thanks Harsh those book will be very useful, i think i have read (The Art of the Start)_before

  2. Emenike Emmanuel

    Thanks Harsh for sharing.

    I must say these are amazing books. But I was also expecting to see “DotComSecrets and Cycle of Profit” here.

    What do you think about these books? Don’t you think every online entrepreneur who’s new to the business will need them?

    Emenike Emmanuel

  3. Maurer Lajos

    +The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
    Well, flexible work hours are one of the chief points that drive individuals to begin their own businesses. This book explores the opportunities that you can get when you decide to take the plunge. And the way the author relates the points in a fun and motivational manner makes it all the more interesting.

  4. Sammy

    The Start-Up Playbook can also be a good addition to the list!

  5. kamal

    i bought The E-Myth Revisited book from amazon. its superb

  6. Sanket

    “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel is not in this list. That’s also awesome book for startup. Currently I am reading it.

    This is a nice list of books. After comleting reading of “Zero to one”. I will read a book from this list.

  7. Prabhu

    i dont agree of the fact that we have to read these books before starting anything but it is a nice addition. i believe in starting right away of what you have in mind and then figure out in the journey. if you want to plan stuff then that is not worth it and there is no fun is what i feel like.

  8. Swapnil Sahare

    I always buy new books as soon as one gets completed and I thought I read many. But by seeing this list, I think I missed many, some are already in my collection. There is one called “eventual millionaire” , I think you should include this too in the list.


    Great list of book. Only One I have from above list now time to buy

  10. mod apk

    Good list, well curated with a few surprises. Nice work and thanks for sharing. Thanks.

  11. Brian Robben

    Literally added every single book on this list to my future reading list! If I were to add to this list, I’d include Advertising Secrets of the Written Word by Joseph Sugarman (great for learning copywriting) and How To Make Millions With Your Ideas by Dan S. Kennedy (excellent for seeing all the different ways to monetize).

  12. Guy Perl

    Hi, a Great List of Books. I would also recommand “Blue Ocean Strategy” & “The Long Tail” for Business Strategy.

  13. Marshall

    Good list, well curated with a few surprises. Nice work and thanks for sharing.

  14. minal

    Thanx for your suggestion. I never knew such wonderful books for entrepreneur existed..!!!

  15. akshaykattam

    Hi Srikanthan,
    It was a awesome post and the book collection is superb, although you mentioned 21 books, i think it would be tough for any one to read all the books on the same topic, i have already completed reading startup owners manual and i have to choose the other from the listing, thank you for sharing.

  16. kimani

    This are realy inspiring books. Especially Think big act Big.

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