books for entrepreneurs

As fall replaces summer, I know I become tempted to curl up with a window view of the falling leaves, a cup of tea, and a good book. It’s a great way to enjoy some “me time.”

At the same time, I occasionally like to feel like my relaxation is also productive, or the things that interest me in my professional life filter into my personal life. When that happens, I like to turn to books that are not only engaging, well-written, and interesting, but also happen to be about business.

I asked my coworkers at Palo Alto Software for book recommendations for entrepreneurs to read this upcoming fall. Here at Palo Alto, we champion the value of investing in books for employees. My colleagues did not disappoint. These five books make up a fall reading list for every entrepreneur this year.

1. Life Is Not a Game of Perfect: Finding Your Real Talent and Making It Work for You by Bob Rotella

My colleague Alyssa Powell, a digital media marketing specialist, recommended “Life Is Not a Game of Perfect: Finding Your Real Talent and Making It Work for You” by Bob Rotella, a throwback book on growth mindset. “Quality advice that still rings true today,” she says, “with themes comparable to the ones in “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell.”

In the book, Rotella calls for people to learn to enjoy the process of improvement as much as they look forward to goals and end results.

“Rotella brings up character as a big part of real talent in life,” Powell says. “Often I forget that character is as strong of a tool and skill set as intelligence, strength, and more. Character is a solid stepping stone to help you develop and work on new talents. It also helps with grit, determination, and perspective.”

Having acted as director of sports psychology at the University of Virginia for 20 years, Rotella also wrote the book “Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect.” He draws upon the lessons he learned from the game for the material in “Life Is Not a Game of Perfect.”

“I also liked the book’s simple, cut-through-the-clutter approach to sharing how perfection isn’t a true determination of success,” Powell says. “It was light, easy, and straightforward to read with clear takeaways to action.”

2. Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin

Jonathan Michael, resident engagement marketing manager, praised Lost and Founder, a brand-new book from Moz and SparkToro founder, Rand Fishkin.

“’Lost and Founder’ is a brutally open and honest recounting of Fishkin’s unlikely path to launching his own software company, and then stepping away from it after it grew to be a multimillion-dollar business,” Michael says. “Filled with transparent discussions about bootstrapping, VC funding, acquisition offers, and what it takes to grow a fledgling company, this book is a self-described list of ‘cheat codes,’ presented thoughtfully, to help startups navigate the murky waters of starting and running a successful business.”

Michael says that among stories about young entrepreneurs dropping out of college and then experiencing a meteoric rise to success, ‘Lost and Founder’ stands out as a book about carefully, slowly building one’s company and reputation over the better part of two decades.

“By highlighting the good, bad, and ugly of running a business, one thing shines through: Fishkin cares about the people involved,” Michael says. “He owns his mistakes, champions others’ successes, and provides plenty of talking points to pull the flashy veneer off of ‘entrepreneurship.’”

3. The Startup Checklist by David Rose

Palo Alto Software and Bplans founder Tim Berry recommends “The Startup Checklist” by David Rose. It goes beyond strategy to list the concrete steps an entrepreneur can take to get their business up and running.

“It’s a practical collection of tips, suggestions, and myth-busting from a prolific and very well known and experienced angel investor, head of a group of New York angel investors,” Berry says. “It’s an instant introduction to the high-end tech startup and angel investment scene. And, by the way, a collection of real answers to real questions.”

4. Body of Work by Pamela Slim

Body of Work” by Pamela Slim is another recommendation from our founder, Tim Berry, written by the celebrated author of “Escape from Cubicle Nation,” Pamela Slim.

Slim tackles how we can benefit from the shifting world of work in which we now flit between and mix startup gigs, freelancing, big company work, and countless volunteer stints and side projects.  

“Pam Slim is the ultimate career coach for today’s rapidly changing world,” Tim says. “This is a warm, wise, and realistic guide through the whole gamut of career options with an emphasis on doing and finding your own thing. It’s for everybody from the cubicle worker to the entrepreneur, expert, startup founder, business professional, and manager.”

5. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Andrew Lee, my fellow intern on the software development end of things at Palo Alto, recommended New York Times bestseller “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight, the shoe mogul who basically bankrolls my hometown of Eugene, Oregon. Knight finally discloses the story of his titanic rise in this book about his determination to build a business importing low-cost, high-quality shoes from Japan.

“My number one takeaway from the book surrounds how Phil Knight traveled the world before founding Blue Ribbon,” Lee tells me. “It’s so counterintuitive to wander the world while one tries to think of business opportunities. His travels helped me think differently about the path to success and where to find inspiration.”

The book also details the hurdles Knight faced in his trajectory, from fierce competitors to hostile bankers. “I liked any excerpts on his hustle and scrappiness,” Lee says. “Any time he described moments of making the most of the little he had, such as selling shoes out of his trunk, I loved.”

Looking for more?

So now you have some new books to add to your fall reading list. There’s plenty to enjoy here, from thrilling stories to incisive tips, from the human spirit to business savvy. Whether you are reading for leisure or hoping to spark your next entrepreneurial move, you should be in good company. No time for reading? Try the audio versions of these books so you can keep moving while you listen.

And if you speed through these picks or want more options, check out some of the other curated reading lists on Bplans. We even have a list of business books that empower women (that members of any gender should read), as well as unconventional books about business for any entrepreneurial bookworms out there.

Find your small business loan today!

AvatarSarah Hovet

Sarah Hovet is a senior English and journalism major and creative writing minor at the University of Oregon Clark Honors College. Currently, she is a content marketing intern at Palo Alto Software, where she writes SEO-researched articles for Bplans. You can learn more about her research and skills at