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I regularly get asked some variant of “what books would you recommend to an entrepreneur.” I typically send a quick email answer along with a link to the list of all the books I’ve read in the past few years.
Earlier this week, Fred Wilson forwarded me and Jerry Colonna (his old partner at Flatiron Partners) an email exchange he had with an entrepreneur. The question in the email was:
“i’m looking for some book recommendation that have made an impact in your life, or books that you would recommend that would benefit me in a beginners life of entrepreneurship.”
Fred’s answer included two of my top three books for entrepreneurs. My top three, along with a brief reason, follow:
Atlas Shrugged : While I’m not an Ayn Rand fanatic, every entrepreneur (or aspiring entrepreneur) must read this book to better understand the morality of self-interest (which is at the root of Rand’s Objectivism philosophy). I find the contrast (and conflict) between “producers” / “founders” and “looters” / “moochers” to be a powerful characterization that will meaningfully impact any young entrepreneur. This is a very long book that should be read slowly and carefully, especially John Galt’s speech near the end.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values : Robert Pirsig’s first book is a brilliant essay on quality. I’ve never been particularly good at reading classical philosophy – Zen and the Art was one of the first philosophy books that I actually felt like I grokked (assuming you don’t include Stranger in a Strange Land in the philosophy genre.) While Zen and the Art isn’t as long as Atlas Shrugged, it should also be read slowly and savored.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: I didn’t read this until a few years ago and it was the second Michael Chabon book that I read (after The Yiddish Policemen’s Union – also a fantastic book.) While this book is a fictionalized account of the creation of the comic book industry it really is a treatise to entrepreneur as superhero. Chabon is an incredible storyteller and he takes the philosophy-fiction genre to a new level.
All three of these books are on my “must read” list for entrepreneurs of any age. As the dog days of summer wind down, pick one and go for it. I just inspired myself to go reread all three (five!) of them.