I love books. I make it a point to read as many books as possible each year and I’m known for setting ambitious reading goals on Goodreads.
In 2021, I read 25+ new business books and revisited some of my all-time favorite business books.
Earlier last year, I tweeted my picks for the 10 best business books I read in the first half of 2021:
10 best books I’ve read in 2021 (so far):
1. The Almanack of Naval Ravikant
2. The Psychology of Money
3. Building a StoryBrand
4. Everybody Writes
5. The 1-Page Marketing Plan
6. The Millionaire Fastlane
7. Hacking Growth
8. Mini Habits
9. Masters of Doom
10. The 80/20 Rule pic.twitter.com/OdJivjvk6E
— Sandeep Mallya (@sanmallya) July 12, 2021
Fast forward 6 months, I have had time to read a few more business books. So it’s not going to be easy to condense this list down to just ten of my favorite business books of 2021.
But I’m going to give it a shot. Here are the 10 best business books I read in 2021. If you’re looking for more book recommendations, you’ll find them at the end of the list or you can simply check out my list of 85+ Best Books for Entrepreneurs and Business Owners.
Table of Contents
- 10 Best Business Books of 2021
- 1. The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson
- 2. The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel
- 3. Billion Dollar Loser by Reeves Wiedeman
- 4. Masters of Doom by David Kushner
- 5. Company of One by Paul Jarvis
- 6. Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown
- 7. Mini Habits by Stephen Guise
- 8. The Antisocial Network by Ben Mezrich
- 9. Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
- 10. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
- Final Thoughts
10 Best Business Books of 2021
Starting this list off with the best business book I read in 2021 — The Almanack of Naval Ravinant by Eric Jorgenson. This book is essentially a compilation of Naval’s philosophy on two of his most explored topics: wealth and happiness.
Collected from different sources like Naval’s tweets, blog posts, podcast interviews, and more, this book delves deep into Naval’s unique philosophy. It’s full of lessons, mental models, anecdotes, and advice for entrepreneurs from all walks of life.
The book works as a guide you can read at any time for advice on specific topics. You can expect gems like, “The most important skill for getting rich is becoming a perpetual learner,” and, “At the end of the day, you are a combination of your habits and the people who you spend the most time with.”
The book also has a recommended reading section where Naval lists down his favorite books from different categories.
If you prefer to read this book online, you can read the entirety of it for free at navalmanack.com.
Recommended reading: 50 Best Naval Ravikant Quotes to Inspire You
2. The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel
This book changed my perspective on money, investing, and saving. It’s the best investing and personal finance book I’ve ever read since The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham.
Morgan Housel’s The Psychology of Money features 19 stories that reveal the strange ways people think about money and teaches you how to better manage your money. Housel also does a phenomenal job explaining the fundamental roles of compound interest and long tails in financial success.
Here are a few key takeaways from the book:
- Doing well with money has little to do with smartness and a lot to do with behavior.
- Focus less on specific individuals and case studies and more on broad patterns.
- Controlling your time is the highest dividend money pays.
- The price of investing is not dollars, but volatility, fear, doubt, uncertainty, and regret.
3. Billion Dollar Loser by Reeves Wiedeman
I’m fond of business thriller books and Billion Dollar Loser is hands-down the best business thriller I read in 2021. The book documents the rise and fall of WeWork and its founder, Adam Neumann. It neatly deconstructs how Neumann duped wealthy investors into thinking his real-estate business was a revolutionary technology company right until its disastrous IPO.
The narrative structure of this book reminded me of Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, my favorite business thriller book, which tells the story of the rise and fall of Theranos and its devious founder, Elizabeth Holmes. There’s also a ton of similarities between the two disgraced founders despite being from completely different backgrounds and industries.
You have to read this book to learn about the sheer insanity that took place at WeWork. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable read that is hard to put down.
4. Masters of Doom by David Kushner
A few years ago, I had read Console Wars, another video game book that details the history of console games in the 90s and the intense rivalry between Nintendo and Sega. Masters of Doom is similar in terms of evoking nostalgia, but it documents the history of PC games in the 90s and focuses mostly on the games developed by id Software and its two founders.
Dubbed the Lennon and McCartney of the video game industry, John Carmack and John Romero founded id Software and developed iconic video games such as Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake. Video game journalist David Kushner offers a behind-the-scenes look at how these games were developed, the various conflicts and controversies that arose, and the role played by Carmack and Romero in shaping the video game industry.
A must-read book for video game nerds and entrepreneurs alike.
5. Company of One by Paul Jarvis
I wish this book was around at the time I launched my agency. It’s chock full of insights and lessons for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
In Company of One, author Paul Jarvis reveals how you can stay small on purpose while avoiding the pitfalls of growth at each stage. It’s for entrepreneurs who are focused on getting better rather than bigger.
If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to run a successful business on your own terms, this book is for you.
6. Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown
Hacking Growth is a must-read book for marketers, growth hackers, and entrepreneurs. Why? Because it reveals the secrets behind some of the most successful startups and it’s written by the key architects of the growth hacking methodology and the founders of GrowthHackers, Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown.
The book is divided into two parts — the first part introduces you to the growth hacking techniques and shows how to set up growth teams that produce quick and powerful results. The second part is essentially a growth hacking playbook with individual chapters dedicated to acquiring, activating, retaining, and monetizing users.
The book is filled with interesting case studies and examples that illustrate how growth hacking works and how you can achieve consistent, data-driven growth by implementing the techniques explained in the book.
7. Mini Habits by Stephen Guise
This is the best productivity book I read in 2021. In Mini Habits, Stephen Guise explains how we can achieve great things and lasting change by implementing mini habits — habits that involve “stupid simple” steps and are “too small to fail.”
Guise also reveals why it’s better to use willpower exclusively and ignore motivation altogether when it comes to building new habits.
If you enjoyed reading Atomic Habits by James Clear, you’ll love this book.
Here are a few key lessons I picked from the book:
- Doing a little bit every day has a greater impact than doing a lot on one day.
- Unlike motivation, willpower can be strengthened like a muscle.
- Being mindful is the difference between living purposefully and going through the motions.
- The difference between winners and losers is that the losers quit when things get boring and monotonous.
The GameStop short squeeze was one of the biggest news stories in 2021. Essentially, a small group of private investors, spearheaded by the WallStreetBets subreddit, took down one of the biggest hedge funds on Wall Street by initiating a short squeeze of the stock of GameStop, a struggling video game retailer.
Authored by Ben Mezrich, who also wrote The Accidental Billionaires which was later adapted into the Academy Award-winning film The Social Network, The Antisocial Network offers a detailed account of the GameStop short squeeze and introduces us to the different characters that were involved during one of the most volatile weeks in financial history.
9. Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
The book is based on a simple premise: Originality is overrated. All creative work builds on something that came before and is a sum of influences. So to unlock our creative potential, we have to embrace influence instead of running away from it.
Having said that, the book clearly states the difference between plagiarism (bad theft) and copying (good theft). As Kleon writes, “Plagiarism is trying to pass someone else’s work off as your own. Copying is about reverse-engineering. It’s like a mechanic taking apart a car to see how it works.”
Kleon proceeds to share 10 principles to unleash your artistic side and build a more creative life.
Here are a few key lessons I learned from the book:
- All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.
- Don’t ask a question before you Google it. You’ll either find the answer or you’ll come up with a better question.
- Our failure to copy our heroes is where we discover where our own thing lives. That is how we evolve.
- Practice productive procrastination.
10. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
Authored by the marketing veteran Ann Handley, Everybody Writes is a guide for marketers to create content that cuts through the clutter. As Handley argues in the book, in our content-driven world, writing matters now more than ever.
Whether you own a blog or write for a major publication or create social media content, Handley offers expert guidance and insight into the process of content creation and production that’s designed to get results. Filled with practical information, examples, and anecdotes, the book explains why most content doesn’t work, while offering actionable advice on how we can go about fixing it.
Read it for insights like, “If writing were a sport, it would be a tennis match played against a brick wall, or a solo game of tetherball. You can do it, but it’s a little lonely,” and, “Your number one goal is to be useful to your readers or listeners — so make sure you are an advocate for them, and get what they need.”
So these were the 10 business books I enjoyed reading in 2021.
Here are some more books that didn’t make the top-10 list, but were just as interesting and filled with practical advice:
- The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco
- Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller
- 30 Second Thrillers by K.V. Sridhar
- The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch
- The 1-Page Marketing Plan by Allan Dib
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
- Business Made Simple by Donald Miller
- How to Write Better Copy by Steve Harrison
- Cashvertising by Drew Eric Whitman
- Do the Work by Steven Pressfield
Now I’d like to hear from you. What are your picks for the best business books you read in 2021? I’d love to see your recommendations in the comments section below.