12 Books That Every CEO Should Read

Updated: Feb 20

This list can help you to continue building a successful business with your own blood and sweat. It's the ultimate list to motivate, push and guide you with advice through series of stories, studies, and lectures of successful people who've been through the same struggles.

"Mistakes are inevitable but what to take from them is comes with maturity."

1. Hard Times Create Strong Men: Why the World Craves Leadership and How You Can Step Up to Fill the Need by Stefan Aarnio

Book cover: Hard Times Create Strong Men

Rating: Amazon_4.8/5, Apple Books_4.8/5

Published: 2019

Pages: 432

Hard Times Creates Strong Men examines what it means to be a man in the modern world relative to money, sex, religion and politics. This book examines what worked and what doesn’t work based on proven history instead of feelings. This book is raw, real and politically incorrect, it will threaten and challenge your ideas of what does it mean to be a man and how to better serve your purpose.

“The power of fasting to rebalance a man is usually combined with prayer and was used by powerful men such as Aristotle, Socrates, Jesus, Mohammad, Ghandi, Moses, Marcus Aurelius, and many others. These men would fast for up to 40 days on just water, and this was a major source of their spiritual power, clarity, and reasoning.”

2. Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business by Wickman & Winters

Book Cover: Rocket Fuel

Rating: Amazon_4.7/5, Goodread_4.1/5, scribd_5.0/5

Published: 2015

Pages: 208

Rocket Fuel details the integral roles of the Visionary and Integrator and explains how an effective relationship between the two can help your business thrive. Offering advice to help Visionary-minded and Integrator-minded individuals find one another, Rocket Fuel also features assessments so you're able to determine whether you're a Visionary or an Integrator. Visionaries have ground-breaking ideas. Integrators make those ideas a reality. This explosive combination is the key to getting everything you want out of your business. It worked for Disney. It worked for McDonald's. It worked for Ford. It can work for you.

“Without an Integrator, a Visionary is far less likely to succeed long-term ,and realize the company’s ultimate goals—likewise, with no Visionary, an Integrator can’t rise to his or her full potential.”

3. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight

Book Cover: Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

Rating: Amazon_4.4/5, Goodread_4.5/5, Flipkart_4.5/5

Published: 2016

Pages: 390

Today, Nike's annual sales top $30 billion. In an age of start-ups, Nike is the ne plus ultra of all start-ups and the swoosh has become a revolutionary, globe spanning icon, one of the most ubiquitous and recognisable symbols in the world today. But Knight, the man behind the swoosh, has always remained a mystery. Now, for the first time, he tells his story. Candid, humble, wry and gutsy, he begins with his crossroads moment when at 24 he decided to start his own business.

“But that’s the nature of money. Whether you have it or not, whether you want it or not, whether you like it or not, it will try to define your days. Our task as human beings is not to let it.”

4. Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't by Jim Collins

Book Cover: Good To Great

Rating: Amazon_4.5/5, Goodread_4.1/5, audible_4.5/5

Published: 2001

Pages: 320

The findings of the Good to Great study will surprise many readers and shed light on virtually every area of management strategy and practice. Built to Last, the defining management study of the nineties, showed how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the very beginning. But what about the company that is not born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness?

“A company should limit its growth based on its ability to attract enough of the right people. Letting the wrong people hang around is unfair to all the right people, as they inevitably find themselves compensating for the inadequacies of the wrong people.

5. Traction: Get A Trip On Your Business by Gino Wickman

Book Cover: Traction

Rating: Amazon_4.6/5, Goodread_4.2/5

Published: 2007

Pages: 246

In Traction, you’ll learn the secrets of strengthening the six key components of your business. You’ll discover simple yet powerful ways to run your company that will give you and your leadership team more focus, more growth, and more enjoyment. Successful companies are applying Traction every day to run profitable, frustration-free businesses—and you can too.

“You just need to capture the basic steps in the process, because the real problem is that people are skipping steps, and not always on purpose.”

6. Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle by Senor & Singer

Book Cover: Start-Up Nation

Rating: Amazon_4.5/5, Goodread_4.1/5, audible_4.6/5

Published: 2009

Pages: 336

How is it that Israel-- a country of 7.1 million, only 60 years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with no natural resources-- produces more start-up companies than large, peaceful, and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada and the UK? In a world where economies as diverse as Ireland, Singapore and Dubai have tried to re-create the "Israel effect", there are entrepreneurial lessons well worth noting.

“The most formidable obstacle to fluidity is order. A bit of mayhem is not only healthy but critical.”

7. The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman

Book Cover: The Personal MBA

Rating: Amazon_4.6/5, Goodread_ 4.1/5

Published: 2010

Pages: 464

True leaders aren't made by business schools-they make themselves, seeking out the knowledge, skills, and experiences they need to succeed. 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. His blog has introduced hundreds of thousands of readers to the best business books and most powerful business concepts of all time. In The Personal MBA, he shares the essentials of sales, marketing, negotiation, strategy, and much more.

“Whoever best describes the problem is the one most likely to solve it.”

8. 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Book Cover: 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People

Rating: Amazon_4.7/5, Goodread_4.1/5

Published: 1989

Pages: 432

Named the #1 Most Influential Business Book of the Twentieth Century.

One of the most inspiring and impactful books ever written, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has captivated readers for 25 years. It has transformed the lives of presidents and CEOs, educators and parents—in short, millions of people of all ages and occupations across the world.

“If I really want to improve my situation, I can work on the one thing over which I have control - myself.”

9. Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets by Al Ramadan & Peterson

Book Cover: Play Bigger

Rating: Amazon_4.5/5, Goodread_3.9/5, audible_3.0/5

Published: 2016

Pages: 250

In this farsighted, pioneering guide, the founders of Silicon Valley advisory firm Play Bigger rely on data analysis and interviews to understand the inner workings of “category kings”— companies such as Amazon, Salesforce, Uber, and IKEA—that give us new ways of living, thinking or doing business, often solving problems we didn’t know we had. While this discipline defines the tech industry, it applies to every kind of industry and even to personal careers.

“Winning today isn’t about beating the competition at the old game. It’s about inventing a whole new game.”

10. If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future by Jill Lepore

Book Cover: If Then

Rating: Amazon_4.4/5, Goodread_3.8/5

Published: 2020

Pages: 432

The Simulmatics Corporation launched during the Cold War, mined data, targeted voters, manipulated consumers, destabilized politics, and disordered knowledge—decades before Facebook, Google, and Cambridge Analytica. Jill Lepore, best-selling author of These Truths, came across the company’s papers in MIT’s archives and set out to tell this forgotten history, the long-lost backstory to the methods, and the arrogance, of Silicon Valley.

“The company played with almost everything and found immense success, so much so that the People Machine, a program Simulmatics created for predicting and tweaking human behavior, is credited with installing John F. Kennedy as the President of the United States in 1960.”

11. Expert Secrets: The Underground Playbook to Find Your Message, Build a Tribe, and Change the World by Rusell Brunson

Book Cover: Experts Secrets

Rating: Amazon_4.6/5, Goodread_4.4/5, audible_4.8/5

Published: 2017

Pages: 270

Founder of Click Funnels, Russell Brunson shares how he’s sold close to $400 million by building a mass movement of entrepreneurs who paid to hear his message. It doesn’t matter what message, product, or service you are selling online, if you don’t build a mass movement of people who will pay to hear your message, it’s unlikely you will achieve success.

“Robert G. Allen, the great real estate investor and coach, once said that he made millions DOING real estate, but he made hundreds of millions TEACHING it.”

12. Building A StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller

Book Cover: Building A StoryBrand

Rating: Amazon_4.7/5, Goodread_4.3/5

Published: 2017

Pages: 240

Seven proven elements of powerful stories that will dramatically improve the way you connect with your customers and drastically grow your business. Whether you are the marketing director of a multibillion-dollar company, the owner of a small business, a politician running for office, or the lead singer of a rock band, Building a StoryBrand will forever transform the way you talk about who you are, what you do, and the unique value you bring to your customers.

“Simply put, we must show people the cost of not doing business with us.”

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