We’ve interviewed dozens of small business owners and entrepreneurs, and one thing is consistent across the board: they all have a book (or a few) that has impacted the trajectory of their career. In order to start and build a business, research is essential. Reading, with its access to new perspectives (and similar ones as well) can also be a source of inspiration and support.
And sometimes, reading the right thing at the right moment has a special effect: it can change your thinking entirely, challenge your old habits, and lead to an innovation that sparks a new idea or better practice. Besides these literally life-changing benefits, reading is also therapeutic. Learning about other’s experiences can help you understand customers, cultures, and even yourselves. There’s something oddly reassuring in realizing that you aren’t alone; your struggle to start something of your own is shared by many.
For the third edition of our Bond Street Book Club (here’s the first and second), we’ve gathered book suggestions from a diverse group of entrepreneurs, including restaurateurs, architects, a butcher and yogis. Between them and the unique book recommendations—from business 101 to tales of death-defying adventure—there is a wealth of knowledge that is indispensable to all.
Recommended by: Lisa Hackwith and Erin Husted (Hackwith Design House)
Gladwell delivers a classic meditation on the idea of “outliers”: those who achieve the most success and get the most attention. In great Gladwellian style, Outliers contains nuanced storytelling that is not only a thrill to read, but also deeply educational about various business stories, from throughout the world and across time. The stories suggest that we look at context as a major factor for success, and not just an individual’s intelligence, resources, and ambitions.
Recommended by: Erin Ozer (Knot & Bow)
The task of designing of workplace is a job unto its own. With so many elements and possibilities—and just as many constraints—it’s good to have a guide for building a workplace. The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace was written by award-winning psychologist Ron Friedman, who delves into various fields, from behavioral economics to the study of motivation.
The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned from Patagonia’s First 40 Years - Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley
Recommended by: Aimée Wilder
Patagonia is one of the most respected clothing companies in the world. With a deep commitment to environmental stewardship and to the quality of its product, Patagonia is a case study in great companies. In this tome, Yvon Chouinard—the founder and owner—and Vincent Stanley, co-editor of Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles, explore their 40-year history and the responsible business best practices of today.
Recommended by: Sadie Kurzban (305 Fitness)
Guy Kawasaki is the legendary marketing executive from Apple and a storied entrepreneur. The Art of the Start is a great, bare-bones manual for “anyone starting anything.” It breaks down business practice into its essentials: how to form a pitch, how to materialize action from concept, how to raise money. It’s a practical guide, but contains plenty of irreverence and adventure, both of which are required for starting a small business (or anything, really).
Recommended by: Brent Young (The Meat Hook)
The Power Broker tells a decidedly darker story of American business. Plotting the story of Robert Moses, this Pulitzer Prize-winning book details Moses’ dealings with a wide gamut of New York society: from architects to bankers, politicians to clergymen. Unlike many of the other stories of business success on this list, The Power Broker is a cautionary tale, a reminder that besides success, one should strive for good.
Recommended by: Matt Murphy (Kids in the Game)
This book by Dan Harris hones in on the #1 most important aspect of business: yourself. Harris had a panic attack while on live television, and realized that he needed a change in his life. Stress, specifically in the form of the voice in his head, had been growing. This constant inner-dialogue which drives many of us can also be a source of great anxiety. Throughout the book, Harris describes the many methods for calming and relaxing the mind.
Recommended by: Stephen Conte and Carolina Escobar (StudiosC)
A lively work in the form of short essays, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism questions some of the accepted wisdom about the current forms of globalization. The book by acclaimed writer Ha-Joon Chang, a professor of economics at Cambridge, delivers an entertaining series of treatises on the value and pitfalls of capitalism, and how we might use it for more humane goals.
The Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe: Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, and Science - Michael S. Schneider
Recommended by: Krissy Jones and Chloe Kernaghan (SKY TING YOGA)
This suggestion is meant to inspire ideas totally outside the universe of business (ideas which can then, of course, be used constructively). A romp through the mathematical nature of the universe, the book takes readers on a journey from plants to architecture, revealing the patterns that occur within everything.
Recommended by: Viraj Puri (Gotham Greens)
Heroism is a necessary component in doing great things that haven’t been done before. One of the most captivating stories of such heroism is when Ernest Shackleton attempted to cross Antarctica, a feat not yet accomplished when he set out. Alfred Lansing wrote a bestselling account of this daring trip, giving insight into the tenacity and courage of a crew facing (supposedly) unbeatable odds.
Recommended by: Donna Moodie (Marjorie)
Bo Burlingham, writer for Forbes magazine, wrote a book about “companies that choose to be great instead of big.” Burlingham delivers affirmation that constant growth need not be the mantra of a successful business, and shows proof of this in stories of privately-owned companies that decided to be extraordinary instead of giant. The book tells of 14 business that decided to go against the grain and follow their gut, rather than the perceived wisdom of growing as fast (and as large) as possible.