12 Books Every Tech Entrepreneur Should Read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In today’s world, where knowledge is so accessible, it’s crucial to learn from others’ mistakes, draw inspiration from philosophers and stay informed about scientific breakthroughs without stepping into labs, libraries or universities. Failing to leverage this opportunity would be a disservice.

Literature, in its varied forms (and not just business-oriented), can significantly enhance an entrepreneur’s management skills. Here’s my personal must-read book list for tech startup founders.

Related: The 25 Essential Books for Every Entrepreneur’s Library

1. Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert Sapolsky

The principles of brain function will help you better understand your main working tool — your brain. Stanford University professor Robert Sapolsky uses an unconventional interweaving of biology and political history to explain the motives of human behavior. This comprehensive approach to the topic gives entrepreneurs many insights.

2. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

This book is the foundation for the decision-making system. It will help you develop critical thinking skills, which are so necessary in business. Knowing that cognitive errors exist is not the same as being able to notice them in yourself. But to start noticing them, I recommend reading this book.

3. When Nietzsche Wept: A Novel Of Obsession by Irvin Yalom

Irvin Yalom teaches us that everyone chooses how much truth they can bear. This book is the key to understanding the complex life questions faced by entrepreneurs.

4. Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

Pratchett shares his vision of the meaning of life, the path of a person and his place in the social environment with its intricacies. True English humor and irony are included. This book, combining an unusual proportion of sensuality, realism and fantasy, will help you look at the world in a new way. Note how easily the text rhymes with modernity and has no shades of the past or future, as it is relevant at all times. Perhaps this will inspire you to create just such a company — one that will be in demand for many years.

5. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

This is not just a classic but also the best textbook on strategic management. It will teach you to think globally. One of the main thoughts for a manager: Life is long enough, and if you want your idea to be realized, then the decision must be born, mature and formed. You cannot implement a project if it goes against the logic of life. For example, Andrey Bolkonsky did everything tactically right but lost strategically, while Pierre Bezukhov did just the opposite. Think about this.

Related: 5 Books That Will Change The Way You Think About Being an Effective Leader

6. Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations by Ronen Bergman

There is a possibility that studying such a complex organization as Mossad will give you more ideas for reflection than analyzing successful companies. This fundamental work is the story of the conflict in the Middle East, the tactics of fighting on both sides, stories of personalities and the role of the individual in history. It is important to note that the author impartially describes events and does not lean towards any side.

7. The Ark 47 Librae by Boris Stern

This book shows that not only an individual but also an entire society can dream. It will inspire you to achieve extraordinary results. The science-fiction novel is about the colonization of a lifeless planet 60 light-years from Earth, and it develops within the limitations imposed by the laws of astrophysics — it will only be possible to reach the planet after many thousands of years. Overcoming interstellar distances turns out to be the most difficult task, not only in the technological but also in the moral and social sense: No one will see the results of their labor, which took up a large part of their life.

8. Charlie Chaplin: A Complete Biography

Autobiographies are not my favorite literary genre, but the life of Charlie Chaplin is an amazing story that will inspire any entrepreneur. Chaplin shares his experience of overcoming difficulties and achieving success. The starting conditions would have broken almost anyone — the insanity of his mother, childhood in a workhouse, time spent on stage as a child — and despite all of this, he saw great success, behind which lies a lot of effort and years of hard work.

9. What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture by Ben Horowitz

I think the name Ben Horowitz is familiar to most technology entrepreneurs, but not everyone has read his books. In What You Do Is Who You Are, Horowitz shows how important corporate culture is for attracting and developing human capital. The main idea: Culture is not a set of rules, but what we follow in our work when we make decisions.

10. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

A book about the future, written 30 years ago, in which the role of the courier in society was divinely described with incredible accuracy and irony. Authors capable of this are more than worthy of study and careful reading. By the way, Stephenson is called the author of the “Metaverse,” which is another reason to read this book if you haven’t already.

11. The Whale at the End of the World by John Ironmonger

If you suddenly want to go to a super marathon of a famous info businessman who will tell you all the secrets about “successful success,” read this book. If such harmful thoughts about info businessmen do not arise, then this book is all the more for you. By the way, it was written six years before the Covid-19 pandemic. But it’s not really about the pandemic — it’s about the feeling of support from ordinary people.

Related: 7 Books Every CEO Should Read

12. The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal by William Burns

If you are an entrepreneur who wants to become a monopolist, and if a cynical capitalist approach to domination does not seem unacceptable to you, then learn from the best in this business. It’s a frank story about international politics and strategy from one of the most successful diplomats who served in the U.S. State Department under five presidents and ten secretaries of state.

Bonus: Poetry

And of course, we can’t overlook poetry. Yes, I’m serious! I advise entrepreneurs to read poetry occasionally, as it is a true source of wisdom and concentrated emotion. Consider poets like Walt Whitman, Rainer Maria Rilke, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe or Boris Pasternak. Of course, it depends on the languages you know, but ultimately, beautiful poetry can be a great stimulus to learn another language.


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