Top 10 Classic Business Books You Must Read

What makes a business book so exceptional that it becomes a classic? Is its popularity alone or how many times people mention it in their conversation? Is it how it impacted the way we do business? Or is it because it has become such a reference that other authors use it as a pillar to build and develop their own theory. Since there are many great business books which already stood the test of time, picking only 10 books for our list isn’t an easy task, so forgive us if your favorite business book didn’t make the cut.

Top Ten Best Business Books of All Time

1. The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino

The inspirational author Og Mandino, a former World War II US Army fighter pilot and insurance salesman, overcame alcoholism, wrote 19 books and headed Success Magazine. The Greatest Salesman in the World is a story about an ancient merchant and his 10 mystical scrolls, each bearing a spiritual precept that is applicable to sales success. The author’s works have sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.

2. The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

This book is a collection of tips for people who wish to start businesses, or even, as author Guy Kawasaki claims, other sorts of projects, including nonprofit organizations. Kawasaki got his start in marketing at Apple Computer and went on to found several high tech businesses. He currently runs the venture capital firm Garage Technology Ventures.

3. In Search of Excellence by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr.

This book presents the results of a research project that authors Tom Peters and Robert Waterman conducted from 1979 to 1980. They investigated the qualities common to the best-run companies in America. After selecting a sample of 43 companies from six major industries, they examined the firms’ practices closely. Although they did this study more than 20 years ago, their results provide a model of eight core principles for excellence that are still true for companies today.

4. Success Built to Last by Jerry I. Porras, Stewart Emery and Mark Thompson

From 1996 to 2006, Jerry Porras, Stewart Emery and Mark Thompson interviewed more than 200 “enduringly successful people,” seeking their personal insights as a follow-up to Porras’ bestselling book Built to Last. The authors began each interview with an open-ended question designed to provoke an unstructured conversation about the meaning of success. The authors drew from these highly personalized revelations to extrapolate the qualities that high achievers share, particularly a driving desire to have meaningful impact.

5. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu was ancient China’s most renowned general. His classic text on strategy survived through the centuries and is still as applicable to war, politics and economics today as it was when Sun Tzu first drafted it. Many translations of Sun Tzu’s manuscript are available, but this one is both attractive and focused. General Tao Hanzhang supplements the actual text with his commentary. Sun Tzu has inspired countless generations of writers and businessmen including best –selling author Richard Greene who wrote “The 48 Laws of Power” and “The 33 Strategies of War

6. Competitive Advantage by Michael E. Porter

Michael E. Porter – the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor in the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at the Harvard Business School – is an international authority on strategy. His book is as fresh and relevant today as when it was first published more than a quarter-century ago. “Competitive Advantage” has been taught to many generations of MBA students and it is the framework of reference that executives used to formulate their strategic plan.

7. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

In the book that gave birth to the self-help genre, writer and lecturer Dale Carnegie spells out his plan for getting what you want from other people by changing your behavior. He expounds on the fundamentals of dealing with people and becoming a great leader. Carnegie developed these principles by drawing from examples of persuasive people in history, such as Abraham Lincoln, and from his own experiences.

8. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

This book is a wonderful collection of tips that range from the practical (how to prepare a resume) to surprisingly New Age-like mystical talk about the infinite powers of the universe. Author Hill was a former newspaper reporter, and he studied law and worked for Andrew Carnegie, whose ideas are reflected in Think and Grow Rich. Hill advised numerous prominent people, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi and Thomas Edison.

9. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey

This book was a publishing phenomenon in the early 1990s, and it deserved to be. Stephen R. Covey managed to repackage an ethical and moral tradition thousands of years in development and make it meaningful to a late twentieth century, secular audience. Most of what you find in this book you will find in Aristotle, Cicero, Benedict, Tillotson and their heirs. Covey adds a few references to psychology, a twentieth century science, and many to Viktor Frankl, a sage of the Holocaust.

10. The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

As an author and an intellectual, the late Peter F. Drucker was a true business sage. Recognized as the father of modern management, Drucker forecast numerous pivotal trends, including decentralization, privatization and the development of the information society. He introduced the concept of the “knowledge worker,” a term he employs widely in this fascinating book. No top ten business book list would be complete without at least one Drucker tome.

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