Need a growth hacking book? Bootstrapping book? Here are 31 of the best startup books around.

Looking for some good books to up your game? I did some digging to find out what indie hackers and other founders are reading. Lots of books were mentioned. Here are the ones that came up again and again.

Startup books

  • Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or how to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters (4.17/5): "The great secret of our time is that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. In Zero to One, legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create those new things." Note: This is the single most recommended book that I've found on Indie Hackers, and that's saying something.
  • Rework by DHH and Jason Fried (3.96/5): "Rework shows you a better, faster, easier way to succeed in business. Read it and you'll know why plans are actually harmful, why you don't need outside investors, and why you're better off ignoring the competition. The truth is, you need less than you think."
  • The Lean Startup by Eric Reis (4.10/5): "Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, it relies on "validated learning," rapid scientific experimentation, as well as a number of counter-intuitive practices that shorten product development cycles, measure actual progress without resorting to vanity metrics, and learn what customers really want."
  • The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman (4.09/5): "Josh Kaufman has made a business out of distilling the core principles of business and delivering them quickly and concisely to people at all stages of their careers... In The Personal MBA, he shares the essentials of sales, marketing, negotiation, strategy, and much more."
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz (4.23/5): "[Ben Horowitz] draws on his own story of founding, running, selling, buying, managing, and investing in technology companies to offer essential advice and practical wisdom for navigating the toughest problems business schools don't cover."
  • The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Startups That Win by Steven Gary Blank (3.93/5): "The essential book for anyone bringing a product to market, writing a business plan, marketing plan or sales plan. Step-by-step strategy of how to successfully organize sales, marketing and business development for a new product or company."
  • The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber (4.03/5): "Gerber walks you through the steps in the life of a business… and shows how to apply the lessons of franchising to any business, whether or not it is a franchise. Most importantly, Gerber draws the vital, often overlooked distinction between working on your business and working in your business. The E-Myth Revisited will help you grow your business in a productive, assured way."

Maker Books

  • The Maker Movement Manifesto: Rules for Innovation in the New World of Crafters, Hackers, and Tinkerers by Mark Hatch (3.81/5): "The Maker Movement Manifesto takes you deep into the movement. Hatch describes the remarkable technologies and tools now accessible to you and shares stories of how ordinary people have devised extraordinary products, giving rise to successful new business ventures. He explains how economic upheavals are paving the way for individuals to create, innovate, make a fortune--and even drive positive societal change--with nothing more than their own creativity and some hard work."
  • The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield (3.99/5): "Steven Pressfield delivers a guide to inspire and support those who struggle to express their creativity. Pressfield believes that “resistance” is the greatest enemy, and he offers many unique and helpful ways to overcome it."
  • Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It by April Dunford (4.32/5): "Obviously Awesome shows you how to find your product’s “secret sauce”—and then sell that sauce to those who crave it. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, marketer or salesperson struggling to bring inventive products to market, Dunford’s insights will help you find your awesome, so that your customers can too.

Marketing and Growth Hacking Books

  • This Is Marketing by Seth Godin (4.00/5): "Godin offers the core of his marketing wisdom in one accessible, timeless package. At the heart of his approach is a big idea: Great marketers don't use consumers to solve their company's problem; they use marketing to solve other people's problems. They don't just make noise; they make the world better. Truly powerful marketing is grounded in empathy, generosity, and emotional labor."
  • Growth Hacking: Silicon Valley's Best Kept Secret by Raymond Fong and Chad Riddersen (3.87/5): "Raymond and Chad's framework, the ASP(TM), is an easy to understand blueprint that empowers any business to apply growth hacking… If you're looking for creative, cost-effective ways to grow your business, then ASP(TM) is the answer."
  • ​​Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares (4.12/5): "Traction... provides startup founders and employees with the framework successful companies have used to get traction… We then cover every possible marketing channel you can use to get traction, and show you which channels will be your key to growth. This book shows you how to grow at a time when getting traction is more important than ever."
  • Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers by Geoffrey A. Moore and Regis McKenna (4.00/5): "Here is the bestselling guide that created a new game plan for marketing in high-tech industries. Crossing the Chasm has become the bible for bringing cutting-edge products to progressively larger markets."
  • Badass: Making Users Awesome by Kathy Sierra (4.22/5): "Our goal is to craft a strategy for creating successful users. And that strategy is full of surprising, counter-intuitive, and astonishingly simple techniques that don’t depend on a massive marketing or development budget. Techniques typically overlooked by even the most well-funded, well-staffed product teams."

Bootstrapping Books

Validation Book

Productivity Books

  • Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal and Julie Li (3.74/5): "In Indistractable, Eyal reveals the hidden psychology driving us to distraction… Eyal lays bare the secret of finally doing what you say you will do with a four-step, research-backed model. Indistractable reveals the key to getting the best out of technology, without letting it get the best of us."
  • Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport (4.18/5): "In Deep Work, author and professor Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite. Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four "rules," for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill."
  • Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear (4.36/5): "No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for improving — every day. James Clear, one of the world's leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results."
  • Just Fucking Ship by @amyhoy and @alexhillman (4.19/5): 21 principles for getting off your butt and finally beating procrastination.
  • It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, by Jason Fried and DHH (4.03/5): "The authors broadly reject the prevailing notion that long hours, aggressive hustle, and "whatever it takes" are required to run a successful business today… Destined to become the management guide for the next generation, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work is a practical and inspiring distillation of their insights and experiences. It isn’t a book telling you what to do. It’s a book showing you what they’ve done—and how any manager or executive no matter the industry or size of the company, can do it too."

Miscellaneous Books

  • Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek (4.08/5): "In studying the leaders who've had the greatest influence in the world, Simon Sinek discovered that they all think, act, and communicate in the exact same way—and it's the complete opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with WHY."
  • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth (4.06/5): Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her landmark research on grit, Angela Duckworth explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success. Rather, other factors can be even more crucial such as identifying our passions and following through on our commitments."
  • Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (4.07/5): Taleb stands uncertainty on its head, making it desirable, and proposing that things be built in an antifragile manner. Extremely ambitious and multidisciplinary, Antifragile provides a blueprint for how to behave — and thrive — in a world we don't understand and which is too uncertain for us to even try to understand.
  • Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam M. Grant (4.06/5): Give and Take highlights what effective networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation, and leadership skills have in common. This landmark book opens up an approach to success that has the power to transform not just individuals and groups, but entire organizations and communities."
  • The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master by Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas (4.32/5): "Straight from the programming trenches, The Pragmatic Programmer cuts through the increasing specialization and technicalities of modern software development to examine the core process — taking a requirement and producing working, maintainable code that delights its users. It covers topics ranging from personal responsibility and career development to architectural techniques for keeping your code flexible and easy to adapt and reuse."

Let me know if I missed any must-reads!

Up next for me: Antifragile 😍

  1. 5

    Ive actually read like 90% of these books, and they are all good. If you have time to only read 1 of these books I recommend Zero to Sold. Its very comprehensive and has everything you need to know about launching a business.

    1. 1

      That's what I've heard — a LOT of founders recommend it. I'll have to check it out.

  2. 3

    The Navalmanack by Naval Ravikant should be added to this list somewhere.

    1. 1

      Yeah, I saw that one mentioned a couple of times — sounds like a good one!

  3. 3

    I’ve read many of these books and they are all great. I would also add two more:

    Marketing: When Coffee and Kale Compete: Become great at making products people will buy

    Bootstrapping: Embedded Entrepreneur by @arvidkahl

    1. 2

      Plus one on Embedded Entrepreneur book. I am currently at 100 ideas listing chapter so just started reading this book @itsmebozzy

    2. 1

      Thanks for weighing in!

      Never heard of the Coffee and Kale book — sounds interesting! And yeah, good call on Embedded Entrepreneur, I've heard good things.

  4. 3

    I would add a section for startup biographies. My top 3:

    1. Shoe Dog from Nike
    2. That'll never work from Netflix.
    3. A cloud dream? by Salesforce.
    1. 1

      Yeah, good call. I saw a lot of founders talking about Shoe Dog — seems to be highly recommended.

  5. 2

    Thanks @IndieJames for this beautiful collection. I've read 5 in the list and I highly recommend reading E-Myth Revisited before reading the others because it sets the foundation for an entrepreneurial journey. A book also by the name TRACTION: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman comes highly recommended if you want to move from solopreneur to a structured company. Finally, in the Miscellaneous Section, the one book that is missing in my opinion is 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Meanwhile thanks @iqbal125 for recommending Zero to Sold; I've put it in my reading list.

    1. 1

      Yeah, I've heard good things about 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Thanks for weighing in!

  6. 2

    Duuude, thanks for this! Been meaning to pose a question along these lines on here.

    'The mom test' seem to be another one that comes up quite a bit.

    1. 1

      Glad I could help :) Yeah, The Mom Test is definitely a must-read for indie hackers!

  7. 2

    I can't believe you left out Built to sell!

    1. 1

      Hah, yeah I know 🤔 Maybe it should be in there. I did see it mentioned a few times in my research but it just didn't quite make the cut. Maybe I'll give it read after all.

  8. 2

    Wow thats a pretty good list
    Read not a few hear absolutely important books each of them

  9. 2

    Love this! A big reader myself - read a bunch of these already but came across a few new ones that I'm excited to dig into. One that wasn't on the list that I'd say is a must-read is Principles by Ray Dalio. Highly recommend it!

    1. 2

      Nice, never heard of it. Thanks for the tip! 💪

  10. 2

    Great post thanks for sharing @IndieJames

    Something that I have been struggling to find are books on reaching Product/Market fit and Scaling a company.

    One that I liked was Scaling Up from Verne Harnish, it's super practical.

    But I haven't succeeded in finding other similar books... Any advice? :)

    1. 1

      Yeah, I've heard a lot about Scaling Up — seems to be one of the best for scaling. I guess it depends on what stage you're at, but I think some of the books I mentioned above could help. For example, I'd probably look into the The E-Myth Revisited, Traction, Crossing the Chasm, and Growth Hacking. Here's a Quora post that might help too.

      As far as Product/Market fit, I bet The Mom Test could help you out. Also, The Four Steps to Epiphany. And here's another Quora post that might help.

      Good luck 😃

      1. 2

        Oh wow! Thanks for the elaborate reply :)

        Lots to chew on, I'll take a look

  11. 2

    Traction definitely gets my vote as number one for growth marketing - super practical tips.

    1. 1

      Thanks for weighing in! Yeah, I haven't read it cover-to-cover but I've dabbled and found it helpful. It's a go-to for many founders.

  12. 2

    Up next for me: Obviously Awesome - One I've not heard of before, but perfect for where I'm at in my business journey. Thank you for sharing.

    1. 1

      I haven't read it either but it sounds like a good one. Had some glowing reviews. Enjoy 😃

  13. 2

    Super helpful. Just added this link to the sticky notes.

  14. 2

    Woah! this is insane dude, thank you!

  15. 2

    Nice list, get some new positions to read! Also the classics The four hours week and Getting things done there are must to read.

    (Edited) This week I started The Almanack of Naval Ravikant and by now looks pretty good too.

    1. 1

      For sure, those are good suggestions 🙌

  16. 1

    Fantastic list. For those who want to purchase some or all of the books, here's the link that will allow you to purchase them from Amazon with little hassle: https://share-a-cart.com/get/02MPF

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