25 Best Business Books Ever

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Business Books to read

What makes a business book the “best”? Best-selling? Most influential? Timelessness? Categorical relevance?

Business Pundit sifted through numerous categories and resources to come up with this list of the 25 Best Business Books Ever. We didn’t concern ourselves with categories (management, sales, etc.) or timeliness of subject matter. Instead, we focused on the following question: Based on prominent reviews, academic use, and popularity, which business books would be considered “classics?” Of those, which are the best?

We think that really smart, successful businesspeople know that their education is lifelong and diverse. Nevertheless, while many corporate leaders will cite Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince as invaluable business tomes, we stuck with books written for a business-minded readership.

Also check out: The 50 Best Business Books (2012 Edition)

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How to Be Better at Networking Even If You’re An Introvert
  • Normally, I enjoy reading this blog, but:

    “If we removed Good to Great from the list based on BP’s prior post, we’d have to remove a whole bunch of other books, too.”

    Doesn’t that mean that a lot of the “lessons” included in a management book are generally rubbish–more like one-off observations that only vaguely fit the situation’s context?

    I think a big problem with many popular business books is that authors too often confuse correlation of events with coincidence.

    In the case of Good-to-Great, the general idea is valid–that it takes a lot to improve marginally when you’re already a good company. Still publishing the book with an example such as Fannie Mae (who had a nasty accounting scandal recently, not to mention creation of many of these mortgage backed securities, leading to a bailout) is simply irresponsible!

    A book like this could easily be rewritten every five years with more topical examples. Maybe they could evaluate what caused the fall from “greatness” of other companies?

  • Jenna

    Speaking of The World Is Flat – his publisher, FSG, is giving away the book online this week in anticipation of his new book Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution — and How It Can Renew America.


  • Drea,

    A very interesting list. “In Search…” and “Reeingineering…” have largely been discredited, and I think a few others *cough*flat*cough* will not be remembered a few years from now.


  • Stuart Finlay

    I would be interested to know how many people actually change their habits or do anything different after reading these types of books. They can often spark a person to ponder or think of ways of doing things differently, I just wonder if ultimately they ever make a real difference.
    Not intended as a cynical question, I recently published a book called What Would Churchill Do? Which analyses the skills Churchill used to help win WW2 and applies them to modern business? After selling 000’s of copies online and signing 000’s of copies on a recent book tour of the UK, I get lots of great feedback about how much people enjoyed my book, I just wonder that other than fattening my bank account and giving people an entertaining read do people actually change/improve as a result.

  • You’ve bitten off a large chunk to chew on, but after reading your list, I recommended the readers of my blog to come to BusinessPundit.com and check out your list. I also exhorted them to dust off their library cards and run to the nearest branch and check some of these out for end-of-summer reading! Thanks for the great selections, Drea!

  • A good list. But I found a better one recently. The 77 Best Business Books in print.

    They break the list down by categories. For example, innovation or entrepreneurship. I found it to be a very comprehensive and useful list.

  • I wonder if Blue Ocean Strategy (Kim&Mauborgne) should be here instead, for instance, than In Search of Excellence. I have had the opportunity of talking to both Mr Peters and Ms Mauborgne (and also Mr. Porter) and I do think these kind of books get prestige according to the prestige the companies that follow the models these books describe may sustain themselves as leaders of their markets. I cannot remember at least one of the firms Peters mention in his first BS that mainteins its domain role; Kim&Mauborge analize this phenomenon, and concludes that it is not about the companies but the products where the excellence should be searched…

  • Jack

    I’m sure that these books contain something worth learning or imitating BUT very few of us can change or improve greatly. Why? Because we simply can’t become someone else. Because we can’t change our destiny that was given to us at birth. Stop for a while to think of what I just said and you’ll understand. Still confused? Please write to me.

  • Stephen Partridge

    Interesting list – I might quibble about a few but that’s what these lists are for. I agree with the previous comment about Blue Ocean Strategy deserving a place – if only for the strategy canvas tool. That said – I haven’t found anything brilliant in the book that wasn’t already in the (very brilliant) HBR articles.
    I would also add the best business book I’ve read this year – “The Momentum Effect” by J C Larreche who teaches at the same school as Kim and Mauborgne. Unlike many management books (eg BOS) which are really a couple of good articles stretched to fill a book, this one is full of intelligent, and convincing arguments synthesised into a simple framework that can be applied to virtually any business. It definitely makes my top 25, maybe even top ten.

  • Julie

    Jack, Why can’t we change the destiny that you say was given to us at Birth? Don’t you think that there are many individuals in the world that wrote their own destiny as they went along? We change when we change. All of the books listed have no doubt many many useful ideas for change, the real fundamental problem is not reading an inspirational book and hoping for change it is reading an inspirational book and ACTING upon what you have learned in order to move toward change or your goals. Most people get stuck at the motivation it takes once the book has been put down and it is time to act.

  • Stuart Finlay


    One thing is certain the business book I have written is not going to make it onto this list.

    However it has had some great reviews one I have attached a link for.

    My book is called What Would Churchill Do? – Business advice from the man who saved the world. It takes Churchill’s talent for managing the events of WW2 and applies them to modern business.

    Whilst it wont make it onto the list it will make you think.

    Review Link

    You can listen to me reading it on You-Tube

  • Hello,

    Thanks for this list. I personally started a crazy project : read 52 of the best businesses books in 52 weeks in an attemp to pass the Personal MBA (a MBA for less than 1 500$) in one year ( see my blog http://www.books-that-can-change-your-life.net/2008/my-crazy-project-read-52-of-the-best-business-books-in-52-weeks-and-post-a-weekly-review-here-on-my-blog/ )

    The Personal MBA is a comprehensive list of 77 books (93 with the supplements) in 12 categories that is intended to deliver the 20% of the knowledge given in an MBA that give 80% of the results.

    Only a few books are common between your liste and the PMBA one, so i think it is a great complement. Thanks for that :)

  • james

    Interesting list… on the usefullness front, i have just bought a book, thats never leaving my shelf – BusinessBrief from http://www.knowledgebrief.com – overviews of business concepts, quality.

  • Bud

    “The Four Filters Invention of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger” ( amazon.com/dp/0615241298 ) is a business book that examines each of the basic steps they perform in “framing and making” an investment decision. This book is a focused look into this amazing invention within “Behavioral Finance” that has been underappreciated by both the business and academic communities. The genius of Buffett and Munger’s four filters process was to “capture all the important stakeholders” in a “multi-variable” equation or formula. Imagine…Products, Enduring Customers, Managers, and Margin-of-Safety… all in one mixed “qual + quant” formula. In rolling two die for double-sixes, the gambler’s odds are 1/36 and the house odds are 35/36 or 97%. When Buffett and Munger make a bet, they do so with house odds. http://www.youtube.com/v/isB6geS_OQE

  • I agree, Blue Ocean Strategy deserves a spot. Another book which has for some reason evaded the publicity it deserves is Millionaire Manager (http://www.amazon.com/Millionaire-Manager-Carole-Symonds/dp/0963105647/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1229365488&sr=8-1). One promising review comes from the Harvard Business Review–but seriously, I think more people should have their hands on this invaluable resource.

    This book is a business MUST-HAVE. It totally transformed my view of finance and profitability–making these fundamental ideas clear, simple and easy to understand. Also a quick and delightful read.

  • Sumit

    While I realize that narrowing down the top business books to a mere list of 25 is a difficult task, another book that should be included is “The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari”. An earlier reply mentioned “very few of us can change”. Well, I partially agree with this statement. I feel very few actually change, but most people have the potential within them to change. That’s why I feel this book should be added to the list. Most business books focus largely on historical research, changing environment, strategy, etc…While all this is very important, without actually taking these businesss tools and adapting a sustainable philosophy of living, all these principles and theories go in then out. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it. It’s an easy read, written very straightforward in a way most can relate to. Simple, but very deep. Nonetheless, great list overall! I’ve currently read about a dozen or so of the books on your list and will check out some others. Thanks!

  • ru

    i dont like these books. dry, boring, out of date

  • M.Rafiq Alam

    I really appreciate u on this precious kn0wledge u people gave me . thanks alot , it d0ne really alot to me. thanks

  • Tom

    Walonline, you do realize that Good to Great was produced well before the downfall of Fannie Mae right? Not to mention that the base of his research of that company was on a different CEO whom had a very selfless agenda. The funny thing that people whom “know what they are talking about” are not quite understanding in this fiasco with bailout companies and their bonus structure is that these bonuses are commissions. No, they are not tax dollars from bailouts. No they are not being given to those whom do not produce. They are simply based off of the percentage of profits that a certain employee rakes in for the company and that company must honor that commission percentage as it is legally bound in contract. In other words, if we have 10 executives and 3 make $10,000,000 profit for the company each (which has been the case for these so called tyrants), and the executive is bound to a contract to receive 25% of the profit as a commission… do the math. Were they to not produce, then they would simply be booted by shareholders at little to no cost. Those tax dollars are going toward a different cause than to pay commission based execs. It’s called research…

  • YH

    Good list. I will add them to my site: Best Business Book

  • Dan

    “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change”

    -Probably one of the worse books ever. Common sense put into over 100 plus pages of dry & hard to read material. I would put “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, “Freakanomics”, “Hot Flat & Crowded” & “Buffetology” definitely above most these books.

  • Anthony Spencer

    I always look for great business books as many are not really written in a “human friendly” language. Just recently I read “Digimarketing” which I enjoyed for its current examples and the fact that most of us need a little help keeping up with the digital world. Another book that I enjoyed recently was “A Journey with Mac: Rediscovering the Fundamentals of Business” that made me really think of my own business, I reconnected with the very basics that I forgot a long time ago. Reading it triggered some great ideas that I was able to implement in my two businesses. Unfortunately, many great business books do not even make it on fancy lists unless they are written by prominent authors.

  • Wisdom of the ages.
    Best stuff ever!!!

    I have benifited from many of these books.
    Out of the Crisis revoultionized my world in the 80s……..really.

    One minute manager in the 90s & Built to Last inthe new century. All a complete diruption to the current path.

    I love them all!

    The previous writer who said these books were boing and out of date is blind and should switch over to the Marvel or DC site.

    This is a “Business” site

    Thanks for the list

  • Ndengo S.T

    have appreciated the list no 5 can tress it as most best book, also i will like to add yes you can by Jack Collis

  • Vic

    Great list. I’ve been searching for this list for sometime in the web world. But I think business books that are more theoretical and inspirational should also be listed since they are the fundamentals, and they are the first application before we decide and act anything related in business.

  • Very impressive and useful list. This list of course has to be edited constantly every 6 months atleast since the top list always changes as new books keep coming up in the market.

    Some of the books like Age of Nations, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and How to Win Friends will remain timeless classics.

    We would like to inform readers from India that a lot of these books are availble on http://www.bookadda.com.

  • Some great books there. Thanks for that list. I’ve got a number of additional ones on my best business books list. http://blog.freedoma.com/2009/06/12/the-best-10-business-books-to-read/- enjoy ;)

  • Interesting book review. As a Fisher Investments employee, I think another must-read investment book is by Philip Fisher’s son, Ken Fisher, called The Only Three Questions that Count. In it, Ken outlines the important questions investors should be asking themselves prior to investing in the market. It was well received by both independent investors and people in the financial services trade.

  • Great review. http://www.YoungEntrepreneurCoaching.com will be releasing our TOP 10 BOOKS FOR YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS shortly!

  • I would consider Wired for Thought (by Jeffrey Stibel and published by Harvard in September). It just came out but the central thesis is that technology evolves and business needs to follow suite. it is specific to the Internet but in many ways it is applicable to a broader spectrum of businesses.

  • Irwin Gray

    Please include in your list, the “father” book that, in 1916, laid out management (from the top down) as a process consisting of planning, organizing, coordination, commanding, and controlling. This process is exercised through people (the workforce of the firm) to get the work done. The exercise of the process is done according to the 14 points laid out by the author (including such items as, discipline, esprit de corps, and others) which are by now so familiar we completely forget from where they came. I am referring to: Henri Fayol, General and Industrial Management now in a revised edition that I produced for IEEE Press and others. This is your true origin of the process of management.

  • RazViSiONa

    A good list, but in my opinion there is one book missing in here… “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter :)

  • opadoyin kayode

    I was just thinking about rich dad poor dad and I read you post RazViSiONa. I think you are very right. Robert has a wonderful idea and well presented in that book. Thanks.

  • What about Running with the Bulls? isnt that considered a Business Book? Really liked it.

  • Pretty good list but the problem with many of the books in the list is they all expound theories. In my opinion the book with the single most profound result and impression on my business life is Dale Carnegies’s masterpiece ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People’

    Peter Drucker maybe good but he’s a boring writer.

  • whoknows

    what about “who moved the cheese”

  • Well it looks like I have about 12 more books to read, thanks for that Drea! LOL Actually based upon the responses to the list I think Drea did an admirable job of listing 25 books that no doubt are worthy of taking time to read and execute with. (Nicely done) I also appreciate the insights of everyone who was compelled to comment in giving me additional books to investigate. Thanks goes to all for a worthwhile topic.

  • There’s a new book out from Fisher Investments CEO, Ken Fisher: “Debunkery: Learn It, Do It, and Profit From It”. In the book, Ken Fisher debunks common investing fallacies. I’m a Fisher Investments employee and for more on Debunkery use the following links:
    Ken Fisher’s Debunkery official website: http://www.ken-fisher-debunkery.com
    Ken Fisher’s Debunkery Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ken-Fishers-Debunkery/159215550768209

  • Jay ~

    Would somebody please provide a brief insight on the book, The Tipping Point (Serial 13)?

  • What can you say about “Acres of Diamonds” by Russell H. Conwell? I think this is the best one. For those who want to emigrate…

  • Rami

    Hi all,

    Nice list, im a person who is very intrested in management, and obtained several certficates in management(Businees, HR, Building and leading a team).
    Do you know any good book to start the career with, as a manager or officer in the field of HR, please advice me, and also what books i need to have a good insight into business.
    Thanks in advance.

    Could’nt be an better list, we are 1 group who are very intrested in management, and obtained some major certficates in management(Businees, HR, Building and leading a team, risque management etc. in that courses).
    Do you know any good book to start the ‘conform-the skills within, as a manager or officer in the field of HR/CRM/SERV/LEADING, please advice us, and also what books sources we need to have a good insight into/above business.
    Thanks in advance in the name of our companies RSC (research center) http://www.mgtgroup.com + http://www.ymggroup.com + http://www.paidpiper.co.uk + http://www.ramo.ch.pn.

  • Latesh

    Good list guys, I think one must also include “The Goal” by Eli Goldratt. A must read for all the managers.

  • My top ten (in no particular order) would be the following:

    1. Undercover Boss by Lambert & Holzman.
    2. The Trustworthy Leader by Amy Lyman.
    3. The Performance Pipeline by Drotter.
    4. Twitter for Good by Claire Diaz-Ortiz.
    5. Visual Meetings by David Sibbet.
    6. Business Model Generation by Osterwalder.
    7. The Dragonfly Effect by Smith & Aaker.
    8. Markets Never Forget by Fisher.
    9. John Adair’s 100 Greatest Leadership Ideas.
    10. The Great Workplace by Jennifer Robin.