Here's a good list of books I follow, from different areas of doing business:Business Creation
Newbies on this site can only post one link per comment so I created this blog post listing the 10 books I think every entrepreneur should read:
As an entrepreneur, my most valuable resource is my time. Which means that I need to make sure I get the most out of the books I do read.
In general, I find that most business books have a few good ideas, and a lot of irrelevant text. To get the most out of business books, I recommend either skimming through them or reading book summaries.
There are lots of different summaries providers, most provide some free trial of their books.
As for the books themselves, it depends on which stage you are currently on, and what you are looking to learn. If you are looking for business strategy books, I recommend Blue Ocean Strategy and Judo Economics. Wikinomics is too boring and long to read, so skimming though the book summary might work. The long tail also has some interesting ideas.
If you are looking for a book that will get you started after you have your general direction and business strategy, I recommend the Art of the Start. If you are looking for time management advice, I recommend Getting Things Done. If you are looking for a book on negotiations, I recommend Bargaining For Advantage (Getting To Yes is also good, but too simplistic for the real world in my opinion). If you need to know about product design, I recommend Product Design and Development. It is incredibly boring, but has some very good information in it.
There are tons of books on every subject, from marketing to finance to self help. Most of the books are not good, but once you start skimming through them or their summaries, you should spot the good ones very fast.
Also, universities usually have agreements with barns an nobles so that they have special sections in their websites where you can find which books are required reading for which subjects. If there is a subject you are interested in, you can see what the professors recommend, you would read without having to pay the tuition and spend the time doing any homework.
First, you need some inspiration for actually wanting to start a business, and then never give up once you face some hurdles.
Hackers & Painters is a great choice.
Next, business is all about people and connections so I'd go with these two:
Some Seth Godin books are a must to start you on marketing:
For the more strategic minded, these two are a must:
Many more, but you have to do some work, not just read all day.
My bookshelf as of now is a mix of business, design and programming books. I'll focus this answer on the business books:
Many years ago I read the first half of "You need to be a little crazy", which made me realize that I wasn't ready to be an entrepreneur, saving me a lot of time and pain.
When I was ready to start up, I would say Crossing the Chasm, The Art of the Start, Erik Sink on The Business of Software and Micro-ISV, from vision to reality are the ones where I got the most value out of. Founders at Work was also good to learn that a) there's no such thing as first mover advantage and b) your first idea is usually not what you end up doing, so just start with whatever you have.
Growing a Business is one of my favorites.
To be honest, after reading so many business books and being in the business for a long time what I realized is:
If you don't know what you are looking for, none of the books will help.While good books always expands your thinking and horizon, but no recipe for success.
Its just your passion defines you and your company in the long run.
The books that are best summarized tend to be ones that are perhaps not worth owning if you have a limited budget - they're the ones that take a core idea that could be described in a brief article and try and drag a book out of it.
In any case, some of my favorites:
It covers the economics of many high tech goods, which is timeless information - it will still be valid even if the underlying technology changes.
In Search of Stupidity: Over Twenty Years of High Tech Marketing Disasters
This looks at a lot of failures, rather than just "rah-rah" success stories.
Founders at Work is good because it covers so many different types of success and company (well, they're all high tech, but still).
Paul Hawken's Growing a Business is old, but gold. It says a lot of what you can find in other, later books in a very approachable way. Also, the fact that he's not talking about high tech, and yet his advice still rings true makes it a good read - it's passed the test of time.
I have read many business books, and two that sticks in my mind are:
E-Myth by Michael Gerber
Getting Things Done by David Allen
The first one is about growing from one person to employing staff, and all the problems in between, about trust, delegation, etc. Just look at the reviews on Amazon, you will see it's a must read.
Getting Things Done (GTD) really helped me with getting organized, especially with the flow of emails I receive every day, and the 500 tasks that always seem to crop up on you when you start a business.
If you are less concerned about business start-up books, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely was an excellent book that looked at emerging thought in the area of behavioral economics that helps readers understand why customers buy.
One excellent book that is missing in the answers above is Jerry Kaplan's Startup (a Silicon Valley Adventure). It is a horrible, vivid retelling of the story of Go Computers, how the founders worked like madmen, how Jerry more or less missed out on his Fathers death because he was so busy saving his company, and how the company eventually went bankrupt.
This book tells you about the 'other side', how bad things can go -- don't ever let that demotivate you, but stay aware of it and make smart decisions.
A couple come to mind:
The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley, Jonathan Littman (About IDEO): Great look at a truly creative company.
The No Asshole Rule by Robert I. Sutton: Brilliant advice on dealing with difficult people.
Managing Humans by Michael Lopp: Wonderful stories and insights into a Silicon Valley Software Manager.
Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark: If you blog, this is a must. Great tools for making your prose effective.
Other books not included in that list:
For more of a "case study" type of story, I suggest reading Jerry Kaplan's book, Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure. He chronicles his time as cofounder of Go Corporation. It's a lesser known story, but involves a lot of the famous silicon valley moguls who made it big. I think of it as a behind the scenes tale of what went on in other valley companies while everyone was enchanted with Microsoft and Apple.
Jerry's book has inspired me because it is told from his point of view as a genuine entrepreneur and gives a lot of the gritty details of what really goes on in the meeting room. Also really interesting to hear what guys like Bill Gates were like back in the day.