Recommended Reading: The Best Books

Sandeep Mallya's Recommended Reading - 99signals

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” — Marcus Tullius Cicero

I’ve always enjoyed reading. I make it a point to read at least 50 books a year. Before I became an entrepreneur, I used to mostly read fiction. Now it’s mostly non-fiction, but I still enjoy reading fiction from time to time, especially books by P.G. Wodehouse.

Sandeep's Bookshelf

I also like to reread business and philosophy books that have left an impact on me. Naval Ravikant once said, “I would rather read the best 100 books over and over again until I absorb them rather than read all the books.” This statement really resonates with me and I revisit my favorite books often.

In this section, I list down my favorite books. You’ll find books in different categories based on countless hours of reading. It’s my sincere hope that you find these book recommendations useful.

Happy reading!

Best Entrepreneurship Books

Best Books for Entrepreneurs

  • The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson – A collection of Naval’s reflections on topics like wealth, entrepreneurship, and happiness from different sources like tweets, transcripts, essays, blog posts, and podcast interviews. It’s full of lessons, anecdotes, and advice that every entrepreneur will cherish as a guide to lead a more fulfilling life. The entirety of this book is free to read at navalmanack.com.
  • Mindset by Carol Dweck – The book delves deeper into two mindsets that dominate our lives — fixed mindset and growth mindset. While we are all a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets, it’s only when we truly embrace our growth mindset that we are empowered to take up new challenges, learn new things, and confront obstacles.
  • Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier – This is one of the best books on startups that I keep revisiting from time to time. It’s a quick read with hundreds of amazingly simple rules to run your business, broken down into bite-sized chapters. A must-read business book for aspiring as well as experienced entrepreneurs.
  • Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin – Rand Fishkin (founder of Moz) provides a compelling and transparent account of his experience of starting and running a successful SaaS company. Fishkin is brutally honest about the startup ecosystem and business culture. A great startup guide for budding entrepreneurs.
  • Company of One by Paul Jarvis – This book offers a refreshing approach focused on staying small on purpose and questioning growth every step of the way. A must-read book for entrepreneurs who’d like to learn the secrets behind scaling up profitability and customers while staying small, lean, and agile.

To see my complete list of recommended books for entrepreneurs, check out 85+ Best Books for Entrepreneurs.

Best Productivity Books

Best Productivity Books - 99signals

  • Atomic Habits by James Clear – If there was only productivity book I could recommend, it would have to be this. This book will help you gain a new perspective on how to build new habits and get rid of the really bad ones.
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg – Duhigg explains in detail how habits are formed and how we can change them, both on an individual and on an organizational level. Filled with interesting findings and anecdotes to elaborate the claims, this book is a must-read for all entrepreneurs who are looking to cultivate good habits.
  • Mini Habits by Stephen Guise – This book 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.” The author also reveals why it’s better to use willpower exclusively and ignore motivation altogether when it comes to building new habits.
  • Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy – Your “frog” is basically the toughest, most difficult task on your to-do list. As the author suggests, by completing the most challenging task on your list first thing in the morning, you’ll have a sense of achievement that will help you power through the rest of the day. In the book, Tracy shares 21 rules and principles to tackle challenging tasks, combat procrastination, and reach higher levels of performance and productivity.
  • Drive by Daniel Pink – For decades, we believed that our motivation was powered by two main drives — biological drive and any action performed in anticipation of a reward or fear of punishment. This book introduces a third drive — wherein the joy of the task has its own reward. When our motivation is powered by the third drive, we are driven by the human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to better the world.

Best Marketing Books

Best Marketing Books

  • Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath – The goal of this book is simple: to help you make your ideas stick. It introduces the arch-nemesis of sticky messages — the Curse of Knowledge and how it can be overcome by following the six principles of stickiness. A must-read business book for entrepreneurs and marketers who’d like to master the art of storytelling and create compelling marketing content for their products or services.
  • Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin MaresTraction is growth and the pursuit of traction is what defines a startup. The book reveals nineteen different traction channels and presents the Bullseye framework to help you figure out which channels will work best for your business. Filled with examples and case studies, the book features several lessons and takeaways for founders of early-stage startups.
  • Hooked by Nir Eyal – Reveals the secrets habit-forming companies use to link their products to their users’ daily routines and emotions. This book is more like a how-to guide for building better products. It’s mandatory reading for entrepreneurs who’d like to learn the art of building habit-forming products or services. Here are 7 crucial marketing lessons I learned from the book.
  • Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy – Though the book was published way back in 1983, Ogilvy’s principles of advertising still hold true and as such, should be required reading for anyone who wants to learn the basics of advertising.
  • Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown – a growth hacking playbook by the founder of GrowthHackers that all marketers should read; one of the best business books I read in 2021.

Best Philosophy Books

Best Philosophy Books - 99signals

  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius – Thoughts, reflections, and musings of perhaps the greatest Roman emperor of all time. I keep this book close to me at all times. A recurring theme in the book is the acceptance of our mortality and that really resonated with me deeply.
  • The Book of Life by Jiddu Krishnamurti – Jiddu Krishnamurti has had a huge influence on shaping my worldview. All his books are a compilation of his talks. While I’d recommend all his books, The Book of Life is a good primer on his philosophy.
  • The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday – A great introduction to Stoicism. It includes a compilation of quotes from Stoic philosophers like Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus, and others. This book pairs well with other Ryan Holiday books on Stoicism – Lives of the Stoics, The Obstacle is the Way, and Ego is the Enemy.
  • Letters from a Stoic by Seneca – Seneca is a part of the big three philosophers in Stoicism. The book is essentially a collection of Seneca’s wisdom from letters he wrote to a friend.
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl – This is psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir as a Holocaust survivor. From describing his harrowing experience in a concentration camp to his quest to find meaning and hope in unimaginable circumstances, Frankl’s book is a must-read for everyone.

Best History Books

Best History Books - 99signals

  • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari – Explores the history of the human species. This is a book that will always be in my reread list. It is packed with lessons, mental models, and observations that will change the way you view human history. The book pairs well with Harari’s two other books, Home Deus and Lessons from the 21st Century.
  • The Death of Democracy by Benjamin Carter Hett – An underrated book which presents a detailed account of how Hitler’s Nazi party came to power and the political climate of Germany at the time which allowed him to do so.
  • Kohinoor by William Darlymple and Anita Anand – I’m a huge fan of William Darlymple’s work and I consider Kohinoor to be his best book. This well-researched book offers a comprehensive history of the most coveted diamond in the world.
  • An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India by Shashi Tharoor – Inspired by the reception he got for a speech he gave at Oxford Union, Shashi Tharoor’s An Era of Darkness is a detailed account of the atrocities committed by the British Empire in India. It’s a riveting read that captures the true horrors of British imperialism. As Tharoor writes, “The sun never set on the British empire, an Indian nationalist later sardonically commented, because even God couldn’t trust the Englishman in the dark.”
  • The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer – A definitive account of the birth, rise, and fall of the Nazis. It explores how the Nazis seized power in Germany and how they plunged the world into the most devastating war of the 20th century.

Best Business Thriller Books

Best Business Thriller Books

  • Bad Blood by John Carreyrou – Chronicles the rise and fall of Theranos and its enigmatic founder Elizabeth Holmes. This book is an absolute page turner. John Carreyrou was the first reporter to investigate Theranos and its astonishing claims, and his book provides the full inside story of what happened behind the scenes at Theranos.
  • The Big Short by Michael Lewis – This book tells the story of four outsiders in the world of high-finance who predicted the credit and housing bubble collapse before anyone else. It was later adapted into a movie in 2015, directed by Adam McKay.
  • Billion Dollar Loser by Reeves Wiedeman – This 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. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable read that is hard to put down.
  • Conspiracy by Ryan Holiday – This book recounts the tale of how the controversial media outlet Gawker Media was secretly taken down by billionaire investor Peter Thiel with the help of an unlikely ally, Terry Bollea, better known as the wrestling legend Hulk Hogan. I consider this book to be Ryan Holiday’s best work. The book explains how Thiel masterminded the whole scheme, his reasons for doing so, presents the whole facts of the case, and the events that caused Gawker’s downfall.
  • The Antisocial Network by Ben Mezrich – The GameStop short squeeze was one of the biggest news stories in 2021. This book 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.

Best Biography and Autobiography Books

Best Autobiographies and Biographies - 99signals

  • Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin – This book dives deep into Abraham Lincoln’s political career and accomplishments, and also of his chief political rivals who later became an integral part of his administration. It’s as much a political thriller as it’s a lesson in leadership; a testament to the brilliance of Lincoln’s strategy to stabilize America in one of its toughest times.
  • Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger – As a 90s kid I grew up watching and idolizing Arnold and devoured his movies. If you’re an Arnold Schwarzenegger fan, then grab his autobiography right away. But the book also has several key takeaways and lessons for entrepreneurs. What resonated most with me is how he’d set super specific goals for every aspect of his life.
  • Wise Guy by Guy Kawasaki – Wise Guy is an autobiography by Guy Kawasaki, a Silicon Valley icon and a widely respected figure in marketing and entrepreneurship. In the book, Kawasaki reflects on his life and career, sharing a wide range of experiences, including the eventful years he spent at Apple as the company’s chief evangelist.
  • Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins – David Goggins is a Retired Navy SEAL and is the only member of the U.S. Armed Forces to complete SEAL training, the U.S. Army Ranger School, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training. He did all this while overcoming insurmountable odds. In his autobiography, Goggins shares his extraordinary life story and reveals techniques to overcome fear and reach your full potential.
  • Iacocca: An Autobiography by Lee Iacocca – Recognized as one of the greatest American CEOs of all time, Lee Iacocca is best known for the development of Ford Mustang and Pinto cars, while he was at Ford in the 1960s, and then later for reviving Chrysler Corporation as its CEO in the 1980s. In this autobiography, Iacocca recounts his thirty-eight years in the automotive industry.

Best Finance and Investing Books

Best Investing Books - 99signals

  • 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. The book features 19 stories that reveal the strange ways people think about money and teaches you how to better manage your money.
  • Coffee Can Investing by Saurabh Mukherjea- A book for Indian investors, but the principle of coffee can investing can be applied by anyone, anywhere.
  • Bulls, Bears, and Other Beasts by Santosh Nair – Another book for Indian investors, Bulls, Bears, and Other Beasts provides a comprehensive account of the Indian stock market over the last 25 years, while offering sound investment advice.
  • The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco – If you’re seeking financial freedom or would like to start your own business, this book is highly recommended.
  • The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham – Graham’s widely acclaimed book was first published in 1949 and has been revised several times. The latest revised edition of the book includes updated commentary by noted financial journalist Jason Zweig, whose perspective incorporates the realities of today’s market and gives readers a deeper understanding of how to apply Graham’s principles.

Best Fiction Books

Best Fiction Books - 99signals

  • Everything by P.G. Wodehouse – It’s hard to pick one or even five because everything written by Wodehouse deserves a special mention. I revisit The Code of the Woosters and Blandings Castle every year to lift up my mood.
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez – The author most associated with magical realism. I’d recommend all books by Marquez, but this one’s my favorite.
  • Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – I’d recommend all Dostoyevsky books if you’re into heavy reading. Notes from Underground is my favorite Dostoyevsky book, closely followed by The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert – Dune is my favorite sci-fi novel of all time. If you end up liking this sci-fi epic, do go on to read all the books by Frank Herbert in the Dune series.
  • The Silmarillion by J.R.R Tolkien – This book tells the story of the creation of Middle-earth and the events that took place in the First Age. If you’re a fan of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy (and Peter Jackson’s brilliant adaptation of the books), then The Silmarillion is a must-read.

If you’d like more book recommendations and book summaries, check out our Business Books archive. For weekly business book recommendation, join our weekly “Business Book of the Week” newsletter.

Sandeep Mallya's Recommended Reading - 99signals