Be it fiction, biography, or self-help, any genre of the book can give you a more well-rounded point of view, which is especially important when you’re leading a business.
With so many great options to choose from, we asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council for their top suggestions. Below they share their recommendations for 31 summer-reading books that can help you build a happier, more successful, and more influential life.
1. Man’s Search for Meaning
Hands down, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl is the book I recommend. Frankl was a psychologist and a Holocaust survivor. On his journey through the concentration camps, he synthesized his observations on the nature of happiness and suffering, and he went on to pioneer an approach to psychotherapy that focuses on the human search for meaning. This book changed my life.
2. The Book of Joy
The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World is great book—an “invitation to joy” with great teachings and perspectives on happiness from Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama, and Desmond Tutu, the Archbishop.
3. The Daily Stoic
Don’t be fooled. The only thing you can truly control in life is yourself. The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman is a simple guide to stoicism that will help you take control of (and improve) your life at work and at home. It’s not an abstract, lofty, theoretical book. It’s a practical guide to quickly and easily apply one of the most powerful philosophies in the world.
4. The Effective Executive
The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by the legendary Peter Drucker does a great job helping modern-day workers better organize and manage their day. Most of the way we think about work is archaic, going back to the days where manual labor was the main form of work. Drucker’s book helps you think of your work as a white-collar worker and addresses actionable improvements to make you more effective and efficient.
5. The Inner Game of Tennis
We all have an inner critic or judge and we have a tendency to over-value it. So often our conscious ego gets in the way of our natural abilities and what we are trying to accomplish. The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance by Timothy Gallwey helps us understand that mental process and provides the motivation and practical advice on how to master our inner voice.
6. The Big Leap
The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks is a must-read for those seeking to expand their mindset and break down limiting beliefs. Breaking limiting beliefs about yourself, your business and the world around you is essential to building abundance and creating more satisfaction within your life.
7. Authentic Happiness
Martin Seligman is a psychologist who argues that happiness comes from focusing on personal strengths instead of weaknesses. In his book Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, Seligman suggests that everyone has strengths in different areas and we can use those to improve every part of our lives. He also provides resources for readers to use so they can put his principles into practice.
8. Start With Why
Behind every successful company, every hobby, passion and interest, is the “why.” The why stands for the vision and goal—why we want it. More often than not, we drift into the what, or the mechanics of a company—the answer to why we do our 9-to-5s. The downward spiral begins from there. Simon Sinek’s Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action has truly and fundamentally made me happier because it gave me a real, practical perspective.
9. The Purpose Driven Life
The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren is life changing. Our lives nowadays are full of DIYs and we tend to do things on our own, finding answers within. Where does that leave us? A stronger pursuit of earthly things that are empty and temporary. Once you understand that you are here on Earth for a deeper and more meaningful purpose, you add more value to your life.
Hustle: The Life-Changing Effects of Constant Motion by Jesse Tevelow was designed to help people progress forward through small, consistent progress. This is important as distractions and inconsistency are growing among younger generations that are addicted to dopamine rushes. Hustle teaches people to become successful through perseverance and consistency, something all of us can do. The same recipe applies to happiness.
11. Your Extraordinary Why
The one book I would recommend is Your Extraordinary Why: Living a Successful Life of Significance by Brett Pyle. This book helps people find the “why” behind the “what.” The discovery that a deeper meaning is behind your goals helps unleash your full potential, which energizes your life and business. Especially as the pandemic rearranges so many businesses and lives, it is a must-read for anyone feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.
Chris Bailey nails the necessary components for being productive in his book Hyperfocus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction. He details the two different types of work (creative work and systematic execution) and offers practical insights on how you can be more productive, getting done the work that matters most.
13. The Tipping Point
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell is essential reading for anyone interested in learning how to become more successful, influential and impactful. It is also an extremely enjoyable read. I highly recommend it.
The stories inside Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell are a quality read at any point in your entrepreneurial journey. You can finish it in one sitting and bring the stories with you everywhere you go.
15. Maximum Achievement
Maximum Achievement: Strategies and Skills that Will Unlock Your Hidden Powers to Succeed by Brian Tracy is a pretty in-depth read but is presented in clear and concise verbiage. It talks about the relationship between your conscious and subconscious mind and ways that they can be manipulated to bring about happiness and success in your life. It includes tips and strategies on parenting and relationships as well, so it’s a pretty well-rounded work.
16. Good to Great
Are you looking for a book on leadership? If so, I highly recommend Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins. The book takes a look at how some companies are able to find success and why others remain stagnant. I think that this is important for new business owners so they can start thinking about how they want to shape their industry.
17. Shoe Dog
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike is a memoir that chronicles the path of the founder of Nike, Phil Knight, from struggle to success and everything in between. The greatest lessons can be learned by the successes and failures of others, and this book offers those lessons firsthand.
18. The 48 Laws of Power
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene is one of the best books for influence, power and a successful life. It’s a great way to spend your summer, especially for all the young entrepreneurs out there. It’s filled with historic stories and instances that are really eye opening, and it also gives you insights, techniques and psychological tactics for everyday life.
19. The Slight Edge
The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olson walks you through daily choices you can make to give you a slight edge in life, which ends up giving you more overall happiness and fulfillment. It’s a book that takes what you’ve learned from all other self-help books and teaches you how and why to implement those tips.
20. The Secret
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne has changed my life, my mentality and my perspective on many things. This book is about the power of our thoughts and desires, and the law of attraction. Through it, one can learn how to be happier through positive thinking and succeed in visualizing oneself as someone who is. I believe that by combining this book with effort and action, you’ll find the results to be incredible.
21. Positive Intelligence
We often sabotage ourselves without even realizing it. In Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential AND HOW YOU CAN ACHIEVE YOURS, Shirzad Chamine explains how our survival coping mechanisms become relentless voices in our heads. You’ll learn how to recognize them and how to replace them with wiser, kinder and more helpful perspectives. I also love his techniques for being more present and mindful.
22. The Art of Happiness
Dr. Howard Cutler is a psychiatrist who interviews the 14th Dalai Lama in the book The Art of Happiness, sharing his principles of Tibetan Buddhism. It teaches you that you hold the key to your own happiness and can’t look to anyone else for inner peace and contentment. So many people think that happiness comes from external sources, but you come to learn that this isn’t true at all.
23. The Art of Possibility
The brilliant book The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life was written by husband-wife duo Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander: a prominent conductor and therapist. It will help you understand that life has more opportunities and options than we think. The book will help you see past man-made standards and explore a life full of possibilities. I love the real-life stories interspersed along with advice from a more art-like perspective.
24. The Magic of Thinking Big
I think The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz is one of the most important books I’ve come across over the years. There are a ton of exciting concepts that help people—especially younger people—think outside the box. Despite the age of this book, there are plenty of lessons to learn and actionable strategies you can use to improve your life by changing the way you think.
25. Think and Grow Rich
I highly recommend Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill because it’s one of the best books on money and life. Hill builds suspense for the readers by identifying the “secret” for success in any calling in life with different real-life evidence. Each chapter revolves around the most influential people like Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and many others.
26. Atomic Habits
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear will completely adjust how you view goal setting while laying down a foundation for creating a life you want to live. Success is rooted in the small habits we create every day, and for most, the struggle is breaking the unwanted habits and creating positive replacements. Utilize this book as a guide to create a more successful and goal-oriented life.
Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations by Dan Ariely gives you a clear explanation of what really motivates people. Motivation is key to business, and this includes motivating yourself, your employees and your customers. Ariely is part of a field called behavioral economics, which is all about understanding what drives our decisions and behaviors. I recommend this book as a good introduction to this topic.
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