Sources from Bill Gates to Lifehack agree that reading business books can help small-business owners succeed. There’s even a website dedicated to helping you choose the best business reading that provides summaries of the key points of each book so you only have to read titles you find relevant.
Business books can certainly prove useful, but you can also find powerful business insights from books in other genres. Here are six thought-provoking titles to put on your reading list for the year.
The Art of Peace (Morihei Ueshiba, translated by John Stevens)
You might remember a time in the 1980s when it was popular to apply the concepts found Asian military classics like The Art of War and Book of Five Rings to business. The Art of Peace, a brief treatise written by the man who created aikido, is another take on conflict that allows for victory without violence. It’s a must-read for those whose management or negotiation style is more win-win than win-lose.
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (Jamie Oliver)
Chef and nutrition activist Jamie Oliver wrote this cookbook/lifestyle guide to encourage people to cook even though they think they’re too busy. It combines simple recipes that take little time with solid nutrition tips and advice. Put another way, it’s a treatise on taking the most important elements of a project and applying them in simple ways to produce excellent results, even when you don’t have all the resources you want … which is pretty much the job description of every small-business owner, everywhere.
The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)
An epic tale of adventure, The Lord of the Rings tells a story of courage, loyalty, and sacrifice for a common goal with a specific focus on how different members of a team make valuable contributions. While some of the heroes in the tale are mighty wizards and fierce warriors, others help win the day simply through kindness, hope, and love. Fantasy author Terry Pratchett famously wrote that all fiction is simply thinly-disguised philosophy (and now has a scholarly treatise on the philosophies hidden in his work). The philosophy of this famous trilogy goes right to the heart of how teams succeed.
Outliers: The Story of Success (Malcolm Gladwell)
In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell looks at outstanding people and what it takes to become one. From different angles, he explores factors such as heritage and upbringing (the hockey rule), the importance of culture (the 10,000 hours rule), and being in the right place at the right time (the Bill Gates factor), among many others. It’s not exactly a field guide to becoming the next big thing, but it’s pretty close.
Hope: Entertainer of the Century (Richard Zoglin)
Bob Hope was a household name and entertainment brand before either of those terms were even buzzwords. This respectful biography details his life, including all of the struggle, hardship, and deprivation he experienced on his way to become the iconic comedian we remember. Frank Farwell, former president of WinterSilks, writes in The Huffington Post that “biographies like this should be a core part of any business owner’s library” because they inspire and instruct by telling the full story of the people we hope we can be someday.