5 life-changing books for aspiring entrepreneurs (+ 30 BONUS tips)

Niels Janszen
12 min readJan 20, 2021

Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama.. many successful entrepreneurs and self-made millionaires spend at least 30 minutes every day on reading and self-education. Bill Gates even reads a whopping 50 books per year!

And you?

To be completely honest: a few years ago, my book total was 0.

Zero. None.

In fact, I never liked reading books. I always felt distracted and I found it hard to focus. Still, I’m a pretty curious human being. Deep inside something was itching. A hunger for insights, new perspectives, and self-improvement.

At some point, I gave listening to audiobooks another shot. I was HOOKED. I loved to just go for a walk and listen to the narrator’s voice. Even better: I never realized that (audio)books could have such a tremendous impact on my life.

From that moment on, reading and audio education were deeply rooted in my daily routine. It has, without a doubt, completely shifted my view on mindset, limiting beliefs, habits, money, and entrepreneurship.

Cultivate a daily reading habit

Why should you adapt the habit of reading more books? Especially if you already have a busy life?

As Bill Gates says:

“Reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding”.

Reading business and self-help books helps you to discover new perspectives, find answers, and create a more sophisticated and broader mindset. This could be a broad range of topics such as about: beliefs, habits, finance, entrepreneurship, investing, passive income, and so much more.

In my humble opinion, a daily reading habit is a fundamental piece to a long-lasting, thriving business.

The reading habits of successful people

In his book Change Your Habits, Change Your Life, author Tom Corley wrote about his 5-year study on the daily habits of self-made millionaires.

His conclusion: reading is a key factor to their success.

A few more facts:

  • 63% listened to audiobooks during their commutes to and from work.
  • 85% read two or more self-improvement books per month.

In his book, Tom Corley dives into a five year study on self-made millionaires. Tom’s conclusion was that a major part of their success was because of their reading habits.

88% of the people he researched mentioned that they, at least, spend 30 minutes on reading and self-education.

5 must-reads for aspiring entrepreneurs

I believe that reading doesn’t necessarily have to mean to read a physical book. I am an advocate for audiobooks, I LOVE THEM!

Audiobooks are such a convenient and user-friendly way to gain more knowledge and insights when you are doing other things at the same time. Audiobooks help you to be a true multi-tasker!

A cheeky tip for choosing audiobooks: Always listen to a preview first. It really depends if you like the narrator’s voice. If you do, go for it! If you don’t, consider buying it as a physical book.

Here are my 5 highly recommended books for you to read:

1. Tim Ferris — The 4-hour work week

A classic and a must-read for every new entrepreneur living in the ‘information age’. This self-help book will help you build a business as smart as possible.

2. Robert Kiyosaki — Rich dad, Poor dad

A bestseller that changed my view on ‘working for money’. Get ready to level up your financial literacy and learn how to build wealth through investing into (digital) assets.

3. James Clear — Atomic Habits

Change can be hard. But it doesn’t have to be. The powerful book is about building small habits, and repeating them consistently, in order to reach your goals with ease.

4. Jen Sincero — You’re a badass at making money

This book will definitely change the way you think about money. The book will give you insights into your financial goals, taking action, investing, and most of all not giving up.

5. Marie Forleo — Everything is figureoutable

This vibrant lady can help you to fight imposter syndrome, come back stronger from failure, deal with criticism, and strive for progress instead of perfection.

BONUS: 30 books recommendations by established entrepreneurs

Not only do I want to share my own favourite books. I also believe in the power of portraying different people’s preferences.

That is why I jumped on HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and asked a group of entrepreneurs what kind of books they thought were influential and had changed their mindsets.

I had zero expectations. But the result was remarkable.

I got over 200 emails with book recommendations from established entrepreneurs from all over the world. I scanned through them and selected 30 books that I think are worth mentioning.

Here’s the list:

Here’s the list:

Grit — Angela Duckworth

“Starting your own business requires optimism and hope. This book burned a fire inside me when I learned that grit depends on a different kind of hope.” Sarah Hollingsworth, Founder & CEO at Poppylist

Untamed — Glennon Doyle

“When I read this book, I was inspired to run after the life I envisioned for myself and my family. Daydreaming about my own business didn’t serve anyone, and this book helped me feel like I was truly capable of putting my ideas into action.” Sarah Hollingsworth, Founder & CEO at Poppylist

Millionaire fastlane — MJ DeMarco

“It’s an excellent book for any aspiring entrepreneur who wants to maximize their earnings.” Biron Clark, Founder at CareerSidekick

Become your own boss in 12 months — Melinda E. Emerson

“At the center of every new startup are a big idea and an individual (or individuals) with the thought of being his or her own boss. Laid out in a streamlined and step-by-step fashion, it will take you from office grunt to understand your domain in 12 months.” Dusan Stanar, Founder & CEO at VSS Monitoring

The One Thing — Gary Keller

“The book emphasizes that creating a business does not happen overnight. In most cases, it will take years before seeing success.” Matt Bonestroo, Founder at Phoenix Mobile Home

The $100 Startup — Chris Guillebeau

“Starting a business can be a scary venture, especially in uncertain times. I found one book to be particularly helpful when beginning my business.” Ben McLaughlan, Founder at Easy Mode Media

The 7 habits of highly successful people — Stephan Covey

“An ideal self-help book for fresh entrepreneurs.” Marcus Clarke, Founder at Searchant

The E-myth — Michael Gerber

“I mention this book as I believe that too many entrepreneurs fall sick either from overwork or from the pain of abandoning their dream — both of which could be remedied by reading & implementing the advice in the short but powerful book.” Dr Ceppie Merry at HealthyButSmart

Company of One — Paul Jarvis

“There are SO many opinions out there about how a company should grow over time. He poses a lot of important questions that I believe every entrepreneur should consider as they are starting and growing their business.” D. Channing Muller, Founder at DCM Communications

Big Magic — Elizabeth Gilbert

“Big Magic was so, so helpful for me. It has been a great resource to read and re-read during moments where I feel as far away as possible from a creative entrepreneur.” Becca Hawkins, Founder at brands by bex

The seven spiritual laws of success — Deepak Chopra

Every day is a new beginning, a new opportunity to become better than we were yesterday. This book reminds me that we all have our power within us; that we should doubt ourselves less, but love it more.” Charles Vallena, CEO at Cuppabean

The startup owner’s manual — Steve Blank and Bob Dorf

“For me, Steve laid out all of the pre-work that was needed to be done before a company should even be started. He gave me the confidence and the reasoning to get the ball rolling on becoming an entrepreneur.” Gene Caballero, Co-Founder at Yourgreenpal

Start with why — Simon Sinek

“Unlike most other self-help books for entrepreneurs, this one doesn’t revolve around practical tips and tricks. Instead, its main message is that all the technical know-how of running a business is futile without a sense of purpose, which starts with the leader and gets instilled into every bit of their business.” Mark Coster, Owner at STEM

Mapping Innovation — Greg Satell

“It is a simple and engaging read that goes deep into the major disruptors of our time and how they got to be who they are.” Ashwin Sokke, Co-Founder at WOW

Happy go Money — Melissa Leong

“Melissa does a great job of combining human psychology and finances in order to provide a recipe for a happy life that doesn’t solely depend on money. She focuses on giving actionable tips for getting the most out of the available money while enjoying life to its fullest.” Sharon Van Donkelaar, CMO at Expandi

One click: Jeff Bezos and the rise of Amazon — Richard L. Brandt

“The book offers slight insight into Jeff Bezos’s childhood, his preferences in youth (astronomy & programming), and shows in more detail how he started his impressive career in his early 20s.” Brack Nelson, Marketing Manager at Incrementors

An Oasis in Time — Marilyn Paul

“The book describes the importance of taking an actual break. No phones, no email, no computers. While it may sound counter-intuitive, I’ve found that taking dedicated oasis time has helped me to work smarter, creatively problem solve, and come at projects with an increased sense of energy and focus.” Chelsea Kane, Founder at First Cup Morning Series

The Audacity to be queen — Gina Devee

“It truly changed my mindset about the possibilities for my business. For someone who’s looking to start their own business, this book will give them the tools they need to combat negative thoughts and really get started on a path of happiness and earning potential!” Melanie, Founder at VIP Digital Content

Wired this Way — Jessica Carson

“As a new entrepreneur in the therapy world, this dive into the intersection of where the entrepreneurial spirit melds with one’s own psychological, intellectual, and spiritual gifts has allowed me to gain clarity into what I need to do to maintain my well-being as I build my business.” Leah Rockwell, Counselor at Rockwell Wellness

The Intelligent Investor — Benjamin Graham

“The Intelligent Investor helped me to form principles to guide my investments and business. These are principles that I use in trading and investing that has helped me become more successful and consistently profitable” Desmoine Boyd, Founder at NextBarbecue

The 5am Club — Robin Sharma

“Winning the morning, winning the day! Getting up earlier in de morning has helped me to boost my productivity levels during the day. The 5am club has helped kickstarting this new habit for me, the book inspired me to get up earlier!” Ellen Stofmeel, Founder at Ellenstofmeel.com

“It helped me get into a highly productive routine. It makes for an easier and lighter way of getting accross sentiments and strategies that can be useful given today’s hectic lifestyle surrounded by technology.” Rohan Mark, Founder at Diamonté Jets

How to win friends and Influence People — Dale Carnegie

“The main message is basically the golden rule, treat others as you want to be treated, and you will win friends and clients. This is so important if someone is in business.” Fran Banting, Founder at Dreampath Consulting

Essentialism, the disciplined pursuit of less — Greg McKeown

“Every CEO and entrepreneur needs to read Essentialism by Greg McKeown because it’s a life saver to anyone who finds that they’re just too busy. My favourite line: What if we stopped celebrating busy as a matter of importance?” Carla Williams Johnson, Marketing Consultant at Carli Communications

The last Lecture — Randy Pausch

“This book emphasizes the “importance of overcoming obstacles and enabling the dreams of others” and about living your best life along the way.” Michelle King, Founder of Local Angel Co.

The obstacle is the way — Ryan Holiday

“Although it’s not specifically aimed at entrepreneurs it helped me so much with my business. I own a company that was very negatively impacted by COVID. When I felt frustrated and like things were hopeless, this book helped to change my mindset, find new sources of revenue and save my business.” Laurel Robbins, Founder at Monkeys And Mountains

Never split the difference — Chris Voss

“This book is incredible, and is jam packed with actionable lessons you can apply immediately.” Brian V. Folmer, Founder at FirstLook

The compound effect — Darran Hardy

“I have read and listened to The Compound Effect multiple times during the year to engrain the key message into my mind; sticking to habits that focus on the right activities and behaviors, even if small and insignificant, creates momentum leading to amazing results in the long-term.” Ryne Lambert, Co-Founder at Sell My House In Wisconsin

Think and Grow Rich — Napoleon Hill

“It’s the blueprint for success if you ask me. One quote I love from the author is “whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve” and that one has become my life motto.” Erwin Wils, Mindset coach at Millionaire Life Strategy

Stop checking your likes — Susie Moore

“Having a social media presence is important for a new entrepreneur but it is easy to get caught up in likes and followers. Susie Moore’s Stop Checking Your Likes reminds you to remember your why when serving your audience and to stop second-guessing your actions based on others.” Renae Gonzalez, Creative Strategist at Subboxcreative

Zero to one — Blake Masters

“If you’re looking to better understand your mission as an entrepreneur and build a valuable company, then Zero To One by Blake Masters and Peter Thiel is a winner. This is one of my favorite business books, and I’ve read hundreds.” Brian Robben, CEO at Robben Media

Profit First —Mike Michalowicz

If you’re just starting out, reading Profit First is simply a must. This will save you years of faulty thinking and hardship. As for me, within 6 months of reading the book, I’ve completely turned my business around and for a change look forward to the end of the month and dealing head on with money matters! Michelle Minnaar, Founder at GreedyGourmet

From ‘that sounds great!’ to implementation

Now that we have established the necessity of the importance of reading frequently, let’s come up with a plan to implement this habit into our daily lives.

Let’s follow the 4-step approach from James Clear, author of the best selling book Atomic Habits:

  • Step 1: Make it obvious (place a book in sight)
  • Step 2: Make it attractive (make reading a book rewarding)
  • Step 3: Make it easy (optimize the book reading environment)
  • Step 4: Make it satisfying (increase the odds that you’ll do it again)

That’s it. If you’re not a reader yet, remember to keep things simple. One chapter per day will do. Reading one page is more than reading none.

A few additional tips that will help you to become a more frequent reader:

> Free up time. Set App Time Limits on your phone. People spend an average of 3 hours and 15 minutes on their phones. Millennials even 5.7 hours per day!

> You can challenge yourself with the ‘I am a reader challenge’, find 10 books you want to read this year, purchase them all and start reading! Make a list you can tick once you have finished the books you want to read.

> Try to adopt fast reading techniques (read this blog for more information) or download an app that will help you get the knowledge in a shorter time such as the app: 12min, storyshots, and the headway app. You can also check out the Swedish Investor on YouTube, where books are briefly explained in a YouTube video.

> Make it a habit to discuss your books with friends, family, colleagues, and co-workers. Discussing the topics you’ve read about will help you remember them better. And you might even get more insights by discussing these topics with others!

And remember to have fun with it. Your future self will thank you for it.

Originally published at https://www.nielsjanszen.com on January 20, 2021.



Niels Janszen

Helping new entrepreneurs to build a business they love and run it from anywhere in the world. See my coaching programs at https://www.nielsjanszen.com