If you need pragmatism, inspiration, and business all wrapped into a single book, I cannot recommend more highly The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It .
This book has done more for my business than any single business book. I read about one to two dozen business books per year for the last 4 years, but this is a rare gem that I re-read every year.
The main concept of the title is continual business development to achieve a well-documented, repeatable franchise business model. This book has completely transformed they way I develop and manage my own business; a paradigm shift if you will.
I run a manufacturing company. Everything has become a well-documented process that is part of a highly-tuned system. All the docs are in the company wiki where they can be easily updated, including pictures of how jigs are supposed to be positioned on the drill-press, etc. Now it's effortless to bring in new employees and have them hit the ground running. The best thing is now that every step is documented the system does not rely on a particular human's skill-set or knowledge, especially me as the founder. I try to think of my business as the McDonalds of the manufacturing world.
Regarding inspiration, the author presents a case-study throughout the entire book (usually at the end of each chapter to reinforce the chapter material). It is essentially a conversation between the author and a struggling bakery owner and how she overcomes adversity.
The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
It's not just about the business but also about military thinking, business tactics, and beyond.
The little engine that could. I read it when i was really young.
"Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days"
http://www.amazon.com/Founders-Work-Stories-Startups-Early/dp/1590597141 Lots of interesting interviews of major Startups' founders.
Guerrilla Marketing, 4th edition: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business Jay Conrad Levinson
is a great book full of short lessons from alot of the techstars mentors and funded companies through the program
I have really enjoyed Good To Great by Jim Collins. It uses cases studies of large companies and tries to pull out the things that they have in common in an empirical way. Are those common factors what made them successful? Hard to say. Some of the companies profiled in book can't be considered successful anymore, Circuit City for one. But are they no longer successful because the methodology of the book is flawed, or did they stop doing to the things that made them great? Again, no easy answer.
The thing I try to remember whenever I read any business book is that it is not THE answer. Building your company using the fad business book of the moment as your infallible sacred text is probably not the best strategy.
Building Wealth: The New Rules for Individuals, Companies, and Nations in a Knowledge-Based Economy [Paperback]
Lester C. Thurow
I have a hardcover that I reread every year.
Infact I have every book Lester Thurow has written.
Fortune Favors the Bold: What We Must Do to Build a New and Lasting Global Prosperity [Paperback]
Lester C. Thurow
Think Big and Kick Ass - Trump
The best book I have read is "How to get Rich" by Felix Dennis. This is the best book I have ever read, and I am following his tips to the letter. He gives sold, business advice to anyoone who wants to start their own business, its very practical and down to earth. Why would you start a business? To create wealth of course.
Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money Rabbi Daniel Lapin
For a quick, fun read that may give you perspective on why teams hit problems, try "Management Fleas & Leadership Flies." Just a bite-sized book.
Then for one of the great business thinkers, for me the person who most consistently inspires me to challenge 'common sense' and universal praxis is Charles Handy. If you want one of his books to start you off, I suggest "The Age of Unreason."
Winning Through Intimidation by Robert J. Ringer I searched through used bookstores for years before finding this 1970's-era paperback. Don't let the provocative title turn you away - it's really about how not to be intimidated by others.
Among Ringer's gems is that there are only three types of people in the business world...
Pessimistic? For sure, but also very pragmatic.
I think the best books are the ones that teach you a lot. (Maybe it’s just me but i don’t like to read books with a few nuggets of useful information or rebranded/reworded think and grow rich books) A book im reading right now has taught me a lot about business it’s called "Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers “Written by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur. Its easy to read it has clear explanations with examples. I Like it so much that i will read it again.
What a great reading selection we have here. I'll add one of my favorites, Small Giants by Bo Buckingham. It chronicles entrepreneurial companies like Steam Anchor Beer and others who run their businesses by an entirely different set of values. That book inspired me to seek clients who share my values of being collaborative.
Three books I highly recommend:
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield (Paperback - Apr 1, 2003)
Eric Sink on the Business of Software
and of course Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days by
if you are in UK then I would recommend the "The Financial Times Guide to Business Start Up 2011"
Best book for teaching you the really practical issues surrounding the creation of a new business irrespective of the type
I'm halfway through "The Ultimate Sales Machine " by Chet Holmes.
It's not what you think.
Yes, the book does tell you how to be a better salesperson, but it does so with an holistic perspective - the organizational advice is practical and will help your entire team function better.
Time management, people skills, even marketing - many subjects beyond sales are covered here, and done in an easy-to-read, pithy way. I've enjoyed it, and I highly recommend it.