Pivotal Book Recommendations From 20 Leading Entrepreneurs

April 8, 2013

Books have been a huge game changer for me. Looking back over all the books I’ve read, there are many which have influenced me in a powerful way.

However, there are a select few that impacted me on an even greater scale. These are the ones I reread and refer back to over and over again. I call them my pivotal books. One these is Zig Ziglar’s classic, See You At The Top.

As someone who is relatively new to the world of entrepreneurship and business, there are many leading entrepreneurs I look up to. I decided to ask a few of them to share a pivotal book recommendation and why it made such an impact in their lives.

Here is the recommended reading list I received from 20 leading entrepreneurs.

sethSeth Godin  sethgodin.com

Pivotal book: The Republic of Tea by Mel Ziegler and Patricia Ziegler

“It exposed the long hard road for what it is… a journey worth taking.”



Derek Sivers – sivers.org

Pivotal book: Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield

“It was the right message at the right time for me. About facing fears, eliminating excuses, losing your ego, and getting back to work.

He kept calling himself an author, but had never finished a book. So he rented a cabin in the woods, and vowed to finish it. My favorite quote: ‘I didn’t talk to anybody during my year of turning pro. I didn’t hang out. I just worked. I had a book in mind and I had decided I would finish it or kill myself. I could not run away again, or let people down again, or let myself down again. This was it, do or die. I had no TV, no radio, no music. No sex, no sports. I didn’t read the newspaper. I was truly productive, truly facing my demons, and truly working my [stuff]. That year made me a pro.’

That’s what I’m doing now, partially because of this book.”

lewis_howesLewis Howes – lewishowes.com

Pivotal book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“The Alchemist really helped me to understand that it’s not about reaching some big goal right now, rather it’s important to strive for big goals but appreciate the entire process along the way.”


MitchMitch Gordon – gooverseas.com

Pivotal book: Influence by Robert Cialdini

“Robert Cialdini’s book influenced me in a meaningful way. Startups test and measure tangible metrics on a daily basis. However, it’s also important to understand how your users/clients think. Cialdini does an excellent job of giving the entrepreneur insight into what influences the decisions we all make, both from a practical and evolutionary perspective.”

chris-guillebeauChris Guillebeau – chrisguillebeau.com

Pivotal books: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl and Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

“Among others, I especially appreciated Man’s Search for Meaning and Mountains Beyond Mountains. Both of these books helped me understand that serving others is not only necessary, but it helps us find our own fulfillment and place in the world.”

ForbesForbes Riley – forbesriley.com

Pivotal book: The Artist Way by Julia Cameron

“The book required that you write each morning 3 pages called “morning pages” which is a random outpouring of your thoughts on paper and I was so impressed how big a difference it made on mind and my thoughts. The second piece of work the book required was to “take yourself on a date.” For me as a young woman, I had never considered treating myself the way I would treat others. I found myself going to movies, parks and museums and spending countless hours self-reflecting and dreaming. You read each chapter for one week and by the time I got to week 7, my life had changed.

Another book that profoundly changed my life was Og Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman in the World – I devoured this book and have reread it more than 100 times. It’s an eye-opener, the teachings practical, useful and doable. And apparently with more than $2 Billion dollars in sales of health and fitness product – it must have worked!”

chrisbroganChris Brogan – chrisbrogan.com

Pivotal book: Business Stripped Bare by Richard Branson

“Business Stripped Bare by Sir Richard Branson was the first business book where I felt like Sir Richard had built his company out using the same frame of mind that I would use. I clearly have a much smaller enterprise, but the mindset I employ is very similar.”


yaro-starakYaro Starak – entrepreneurs-journey.com

Pivotal book: The Perfect Store: Inside eBay by Adam Cohen

The Perfect Store: Inside eBay, was one of the most influential books for me, especially back ten years ago when I read it. I was just beginning my foray into online business and the eBay startup story was inspiring and educational.

One of the most important concepts I learned from in it was the principle of “many-to-many”, where a business can service many customers by using technology to link them to many suppliers (like with online auctions). If you control the technology that manages the transaction, you have the potential scale as big as you can without actually providing the product or service yourself, which I really liked.

I still recommend the book today because eBay is one of those companies that has stood the test of time as a true internet success story.”

Derek Weber.jpgDerek Weber – goBRANDgo.com

Pivotal book: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

The Lean Startup put a roadmap and structure to a loose collection of ideas I had in my head and turned me on to do additional research on Toyota’s Lean Manufacturing. Armed with this fundamental information, we were able to retool our entire web design and development process cutting production time by nearly half, increasing the quality (and therefore price) of our sites, and having happier more engaged clients…a win, win, win.”

chris-duckerChris Ducker  chrisducker.com

Pivotal book: Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk

“For me one of the books that really made me DO SOMETHING from recent years was Crush It, by Gary Vaynerchuk. The whole personal branding thing just really resonated with me, and I ran with it – big time!”


jaime-tardy-660x330.jpgJaime Tardy – eventualmillionaire.com

Pivotal book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“The most pivotal book I ever read was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It was a book about purpose, and how nothing should stop you from achieving your aim. It’s a short read, and fiction, but it put so many things into perspective. I highly recommend it.”

Brenton-Hayden-204.jpgBrenton Hayden – renterswarehouse.com

Pivotal books: ReWork by Jason Freid and David Hansson and Traction by Gino Wickman

“I have two books, and really only two I really, really believe in. ReWork written by Jason Freid and David Hansson. It is written as a software self-help book, but I use the same principles in my property management business and in many of my other entrepreneurial ventures. I even read the book cover to cover with my advisory board, and they too enjoyed it. I especially enjoyed chapters; emulate drug dealers, and be more like chefs. Obviously the titles are catchy, but the chapters are full of easy use and intuitive advice that every entrepreneur can use and learn from.

The other book I really stand behind is Traction by Gino Wickman. I first heard about the book from my CEO club, Entrepreneurs Organization. Nearly all 78 CEO’s I was involved with all raved about this book. As a newbie to the group, it was hard to ignore that sort of endorsement. So I read the book, and immediately hired their high price consultants to put it into play with my entire team. At first I was struggling to justify the expense, however now I feel it was one of the best moves I made in 2012 was to implement what they teach in the book.

This books teaches you to get organized and measure your business’s growth in more than one way, and on top of that, they will teach you to grow as well through their Level 10 meetings.”

Dane Maxwell.jpgDane Maxwell  thefoundation.com

Pivotal book: Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz

“It taught me about how Self Image is the driver for all of my decisions and how to shape mine so I can be unstoppable.”



Guy-Kawasaki.jpgGuy Kawasaki  guykawasaki.com

Pivotal book: If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland

“If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland was pivotal for me. It encouraged me to write books when few people, including myself, thought I was capable of writing books. It changed my life.”


Amy Applebaum.jpgAmy Applebaum – amyapplebaum.com

Pivotal book: Loving What Is by Byron Katie

“Byron Katie’s book was pivotal because it taught me to question whether my beliefs about life, business, everything are true. We spend so much time blindly believing things/ideas that limit us from our potential without questioning. “I can do this, I can’t do that because of X.” Time to say, “Is that even true?” My whole life and business changed when I started to question.”

patrick roche.jpgPatrick Roche – thinktankportland.com

Pivotal book: Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

“This may seem a bit antithetical, but Siddhartha by Herman Hesse continues to be a seminal book in my life.

Not only as a human being experiencing life as a journey, but also as a business owner who strives to put human capital first. As the founder and director of Think Tank Coworking, I’m in the business of encouraging collaborations and cultivating a social workspace that brings great minds together for big ideas and big ventures.

My hope is that those ventures will be built around core values of meaningful, sustainable growth and common decency, not just capital gain.

There’s a chapter in Siddhartha, “Among the Child People” that recounts the Buddha’s time spent as a wealthy merchant – a time ultimately devoid of public service. My hope is that as I continue to build this business (and others) that I can do so in an equitable, fair and ultimately uplifting way…”

SteveKamb.jpgSteve Kamb – nerdfitness.com

Pivotal book: Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson

“My pivotal book would have to be Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson. Highly entertaining, well written, and [very] inspiring. It took me from thinking ‘hey, this is a pretty fun little company and community’ and shifted my thinking to ‘how can I change the world with my company?’ Thanks Mr. Branson!”

Aaron SchwartzAaron Schwartz  modifywatches.com

Pivotal book: Peak by Chip Conley

“Chip Conley is the founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels and a student of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In Peak, Conley shares insights into how to unlock the higher-order “needs” of customers, investors and employees. It’s very easy for entrepreneurs to worry about the bottom line; and we all take pleasure from building a big strategy and executing it.

Peak opened my eyes to think much more about how to create happiness – and meaning – for all of Modify’s stakeholders.”

john saddington.jpgJohn Saddingtonjohn.do

Pivotal book: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson changed my life because it not only planted a seed for a future product and trajectory for one of my ventures, but it also gave me a new perspective on how I even pick and choose between opportunities that appear often.

The book helped declutter my mind and helped me focus on the things that mattered the most which directly resulted in quitting a dozen or so half-baked projects and refining my attention on the really good stuff that had real potential to change the world.

jon daleJon Dale – jondale.com

Pivotal book: Tribes by Seth Godin

Tribes by Seth Godin changed the way I think about business and launched me into a new career helping organizations apply the principles in the book.



avatar_blank.jpg_1.jpgWhat about you?

What has been a pivotal book for you and why?

Leave your response in the comments. I’d love to know!


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  • Reply Joe Lalonde April 8, 2013 at 6:12 am

    I’m going to have to say 48 Days To The Work You Love by Dan Miller. It changed my way of thinking about work and the possibilities out there. It’s kindled my passion for work I love and fits around my ideal life.

    • Reply Michael Good April 8, 2013 at 7:45 am

      Joe, Dan’s Material has been invaluable to me as well. That one is high on my list too!

  • Reply Alana Mokma April 8, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Michael, what a neat idea to ask these leaders for their personal recommendations!

    I am currently reading two books that I can tell are going to be game changers for me:

    1). The Passion Test by Janet Attwood and Chris Attwood. They have an exercise in this book that helped me to FINALLY pinpoint my top 5 passions. I’ve been focusing on these for two weeks and already movement is beginning to take place where things have been stagnant for months or years.

    2). Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. This one is a game changer for me because it is giving me permission and grace to be the real me. She mentions in her book that she is pretty shameless, and if anything, her shame comes from being TOO shameless. I can relate. There are parts of my Story I have not shared because it may be viewed as inappropriate or taboo. This book is giving me the courage to share and I have realized one of the gifts God has given me is the gift of “openness.”

    Between finally realizing my passions and knowing it is okay for me to be “me”, I am going to be pretty darn unstoppable. 😉

    • Reply Michael Good April 9, 2013 at 3:14 pm

      Love it, Alana! I’ve heard about both of those. I heard an interview with the Attwood’s on a recent success CD; what they’re doing sounds very cool. That’s great to know you liked and benefited from their test. The response to it has been very positive. I’ll have to check it out!

      Keep on rocking, Alana! It sounds like you’re making great progress!

  • Reply char April 8, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    What an awesome post!! I loved reading over this list! One of my all time favorites is How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Such a good classic that I read several years ago and I think act on things I learned in this book several times a week. Easy read that everybody should read!

    • Reply Tom Dixon April 8, 2013 at 9:11 pm

      I second this one…I’ve read that Carnegie book a dozen times. This is a great list – I’ve added a few to my already too long “to read” list!

      • Reply Michael Good April 9, 2013 at 3:16 pm

        Tom, my reading list is getting pretty long as well! Lot’s of great books out there. Carnegie’s book has truly stood the test of time and influenced millions of people. One of my favs too!

  • Reply steven April 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    thank you for introducing me to your inspiring blog, first to say.

    thank you, next, for this incredibly useful book list, and last, but not least, letting me get to know new persons and their great websites!

    during my recent work, i stumbled upon a scientific paper that proves again helpful to me, after so many years; i do highly recommend to read it.

    it’s called “ironic processes of mental control”, by daniel m. wegner, dating from 1994.

    the paper is an immersely inspiring read, even though it’s filled with references i don’t all understand, well, at least to me.

    you can download the pdf for free here:


    if you right-click on the first link on the page called “Wegner, 1994”, download the file to your desktop, add a name like “wegner.pdf” to the downloaded file (it’s important to add “.pdf”, or your computer might not be able to open it correctly). then, you should be able to open, and read it.

    i hope you will find this “book” as useful as i did!

    again, thanks so much!


    • Reply Michael Good April 12, 2013 at 3:58 pm

      Sounds very interesting, Steven. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Brian Lawrence April 10, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Michael, I agree with the others who have commented.. great post and blog!

    I have also read many books that have fundamentally changed the way I think.. Here are a couple that are MUST reads:

    1. Rich Dad Poor Dad – What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money-That the Poor and the Middle Class Do Not! – Robert T. Kiyosaki – This led to a defining moment in my life, that literally changed the direction I have been going for the better!

    2. The Magic of Thinking Big – David J. Schwartz – Very inspirational book that must be on your list!

    So many great books to read!!! Ahhhhhh 🙂

    • Reply Michael Good April 11, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      Thanks, Brian! The Magic of Thinking Big was a big one for me too. I first read it about two years ago and then reread it last month like I mentioned to you. I got even more out of it the second time. Great read!

      I want to hear about your defining moment sometime!

  • Reply jasonvandehey April 11, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    Interesting list. Maybe some more reading material here. “Man’s search for meaning” has been on my list for a while. The Alchemist shows up more than once… Hmmm…

    • Reply Michael Good April 13, 2013 at 7:09 am

      Same here with “Man’s Search For Meaning,” Jason. It seems to be one of the greats and I haven’t read it yet.

  • Reply Michael Wright April 14, 2013 at 9:26 am

    Michael, like you “See You At the Top” was a biggie for me. It was my first “growth” book I ever read and is still a favorite. Wild at Heart was one that I’ve read multiple times and resonates with me. I was enjoy seeing books that impacted others, so appreciate this post.

    • Reply Michael Good April 15, 2013 at 7:19 am

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Michael. And that’s great that you too found See You at the Top influential as well. I love the classic Zig stuff.

  • Reply Joe Bruno April 16, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Two books influnced me.
    1. The Godfather by Mario Puzo – which gave me the impetus to write.
    2. Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block which showed me the way to getting where I needed to be, techically.

    Both books are just as great a read today as they were a generation, or two back.

    • Reply Michael Good April 16, 2013 at 9:14 pm

      Thanks for the input, Joe. I saw on your facebook page you’re an author. That’s great; what are some of the books you’ve written?

  • Reply Peg Fitzpatrick April 16, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    Hi Michael,

    I love this article idea and books! A few for me that haven’t been mentioned yet:
    Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki
    How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

    • Reply Michael Good April 16, 2013 at 9:11 pm


      Thanks for the input. How to Win Friends is a great book and one I read. I haven’t read any of Guy Kawasaki’s stuff yet. I see you contributed to a few of his books. That’s great, I’ve have to check them out!

  • Reply Keith Rose November 3, 2013 at 6:27 am

    The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

    • Reply Michael Good November 4, 2013 at 8:07 am

      Great book, Keith. Thanks for the input!

  • Reply Kendall October 12, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    This one might just be personal, one of my top inspiring books was Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer. Chris McCandlesses story gave me the courage to live an unconventional life and to throw myself into uncomfortable and unsafe environments for the sake of pursuing truth, growth, and adventure.

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