Eight Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read This Summer

Most entrepreneurs won’t spend these dog days of summer relaxing at the beach; you might instead find them hard at work refining their business plans and investor pitches, developing new customer acquisition strategies or adjusting sales and strategic marketing tactics.

But while entrepreneurship can be a 24/7 job, it’s important to take some time to relax and recharge both the body and the mind, soaking in a little sun and recharging the brain with new ideas and perspectives. At the University of Michigan’s Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, we show young entrepreneurs that new perspectives on entrepreneurship’s greatest lessons can begin between the pages of a good book and then be applied to their own businesses.

To stay sharp over the summer and hone new skillsets that will propel a venture forward, consider these recommended reads from the Zell Lurie Institute’s entrepreneurs-in-residence (EIRs):

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, by Kim Scott (2017)

“Being a successful entrepreneur requires strong management and leadership skills,” says Jim Price, a serial entrepreneur, business educator and author, in addition to ZLI entrepreneur-in-residence. “In her book Radical Candor, Google and Apple veteran Kim Scott offers us truly useful coaching advice. Her model for being an effective boss calls for being empathetic and caring about the individual while at the same time being blunt, challenging and direct. It’s an approach that’s been shown to help leaders build a strong, results-oriented team with a culture of encouragement and constructive feedback.”

Pacific, by Simon Winchester (1991)

“In addition to being a great writer, Winchester captures some of the common reasons for startup success in his chapter about Sony entitled, Mr. Ibuka’s Radio Revolution – so much so, that I assign this chapter to my students to prepare for the first session of the class,” says Rashmi Menon, EIR and a lecturer in entrepreneurial studies and business administration. “Although Sony was founded many decades ago, its growth and success were due to many factors which are still relevant today, including creating a founding team with complimentary skills (Ibuka brought technical knowledge to the team, while Morita brought marketing expertise and funding from his family); determining how to create products people want by leveraging technology disruption (the transistor radio); and exploiting pure luck – the chapter discusses the PR bump which Sony received when the theft of their radios from a warehouse became the largest electronics heist in history at the time.”

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Daniel H. Pink (2018)

Mike Johnson, EIR, lecturer and faculty managing director of the Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund, recommends this title from Daniel Pink, who “offers a compelling look at how we can better structure our time to get better results. Pink identifies patterns in daily life and work, and advice on how to improve timing. Entrepreneurs, who are always looking to improve efficiency and decision-making, will find good tips.”

Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People, by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald (2013)

“While we’re seeing growing awareness in the startup and VC communities of the crying need to improve gender, racial and cultural balance in the workplace, there remains plenty of debate as to how to achieve progress. In Mahzarin and Greenwald’s powerful yet eminently readable book, they help the reader understand how s/he might be carrying and communicating unintentional biases, their impact, and how to address them.” – Jim Price

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing (1959)

“Shackleton led an expedition to Antarctica in the early 1900s, which proved to be a failure as an expedition. His plans to be the first team to cross the continent by foot were destroyed when their ship became ice bound and ultimately destroyed. However, his success lay in the fact that he managed to eventually return his entire crew to safety – an epic journey covering over 850 miles and multiple years using few resources and undertaken in brutal conditions. He was able to do this through his ability to lead and manage his team – breaking down the stratified class structure of the time (officers on ships had better meals, facilities, etc., than the crew) – to generate a positive team culture which desired the success of all working towards a common goal. The techniques Shackleton used to motivate his team would be useful for any startup founder or CEO today.” – Rashmi Menon

The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that Will Shape Our Future, Kevin Kelly (2016)

“The world is changing faster than ever before. Futurist Kevin Kelly has a great track record, and now he lays out the technological and societal changes shaping our future. Anyone starting a company should understand how the world is changing; this is a good place to start.” – Mike Johnson

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building Businesses When There Are No Easy Answers, by Ben Horowitz (2014)

“Based on his popular Ben’s Blog, Andreesen Horowitz cofounder and startup guru Ben Horowitz offers up invaluable and timeless advice here that’s just as likely to provide real traction to experienced entrepreneurs as to first-timers.  While we hear so much about the thrill of launching a business, Horowitz uses a humorous-but-blunt approach to talk about how tough it is to run and grow a startup.” – Jim Price

When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chödrön (1996)

“Entrepreneurship can bring great joy, fame and fortune to founders, but even the most successful startups suffer failures and losses – even Steve Jobs was asked to leave Apple at one point. It is important for entrepreneurs to build techniques to manage these negative situations to build resilience and compassion for themselves and others. This book helps readers think through what to do when things don’t work out the way you expected.” – Rashmi Menon

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