Book Review Friday: My Top Ten Favorite Business Books

Rather than reviewing one book this week, I thought I would share my favorite business books. I get asked this question regularly, most recently when I was lecturing at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Business School earlier this week.

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Photo courtesy of ©

I have blogged on this topic previously. However, it has been almost two years. Since that time, my list has changed. Only four of the previous ones are on the new list. However, all twenty (the previous list and this one) are excellent.

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Here are my current top ten favorites (Note: these are all Amazon affiliate links). They are listed in alphabetical order, but with no specific priority:

Again, I purposely did not include any Thomas Nelson books. I don’t want to get into the politics of why I included one author and not another. As I said previously, I read everything by John C. Maxwell. He is my friend and my mentor, and I highly recommend anything he has written. If you are new to his work, start with The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

Question: What are your favorite business books? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • W. Mark Whitlock

    A Resilient Life by Gordon MacDonald has changed the way I’ve looked at everything–including business. I believe it is one of the most important books every written. (Note: It IS a Thomas Nelson title)

    The most dog-eared book in my collection of business titles is The One-Page Proposal by Patrick Riley. To me, it does for business writing what Twitter does for concise thought. By going through Riley’s process, your thinking crystallizes, your sales strategy becomes more focused, and your call to action becomes louder. After reading and using the principles in the book, I bought two more copies so I can loan them out to others.

    • Tom Pryor

      I too cherish my read of A Resilient Life by MacDonald.

  • John

    wow, thanks for sharing this!

    going to put some of these on my wishlist.

  • Christopher

    Thanks for the great list Michael.

    I was planning on spending a few hours again with Godin today but, I may have to make a quick run to the bookstore.

  • Scott

    I found Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy to be quite helpful.

  • Tommy

    Great list, Mike. I have Getting Things Done. I’m going to add a couple of these books to my library, espcially the John C. Maxwell book.

  • Doug Emerson

    We share many of the titles on our respective lists of the best business books and I’d point to
    “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill as one of my favorites.

  • Chris Marlow

    Thanks for the list.

    My favs:

    1. Good To Great
    2. Mavericks @ Work
    3. Tribes
    4. Made To Stick.


  • Douglas Schultz

    Great List! Thanks for sharing. My Amazon Wish List just got longer….I always ask for books at Christmas.

  • Rhonda Kemp

    Thanks for a great list. I loved Tribes. @DocKemp recommends Ken Blanchard’s Raving Fans to all his business owner friends.

  • Jason Grubbs


    Thanks for sharing. I’ve read (and re-read)several of these, but I’m excited to check out some of the others. Thank you again for sharing your insights on business and life.


  • Denis McCarthy

    Thanks for the list.

    As somebody who is starting up a business my list is a little different.

    The Art Of The Start by Guy Kawasaki
    Make meaning says Guy. A great book for people starting up because of the focus on decency, hard work and providing value for your customers. He also provides you with a road map which is helpful with the confusing times (which are all the time)

    Peak by Chip Conley
    Chip write about what is important. People and why they do things.

    The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber

    Tribes by Seth Godin
    A manifesto for the digital age.

  • Larry Carpenter

    My favorite business book is still The Greatest Management Principle in the World by Michael Leboeuf. It came out in 1985 but I have never read a better book on what motivates people and how to structure your organization to encourage and reward optimal performance.

  • Juno Suk

    How timely! I just finished Stress for Success yesterday. I’ve read many, many business and self-improvement books… and have to agree that this is right up there among the best. Pleasantly surprised – the book had so many gems – and not only in the first few chapters like many books do, but held my rapt attention all the way to its end. Only a handful of books have done that for me.

  • Wanda Brewer

    Doug I am with you, books are my most favorite gift to give and receive! Michael, thanks for sharing, agree 100% about John C. Maxwell, I am excited to dive in to your list. Malcolm Gladwell is one of my faves–”Tipping Point” helped me create effective ads, “Blink” made me aware of how we think and thus perceive things. Another is “Blue Ocean Strategies” by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, taught me about creating my own market rather than think I just have to compete.

  • Bubba Smith

    Hey Michael,

    This is random – but I would love to see a post or two on lessons you’ve learned from John Maxwell. To be mentored by him must be so a privilege. I love reading your stuff! Thank you for choosing to add value to people!


  • Matt Price

    In the past two years I’ve read and gained insights from Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner; The Six Sigma Way by Pande, Neuman, and Cavanagh; Microtrends by Penn; and a bio of W. Edwards (sic) Deming, The American Who Taught the Japanese About Quality by Aguayo. It’s interesting to me that 15 years ago a dialogue like this would have included Faith Popcorn. She seems to have dropped off the map.

  • Anne Lang Bundy

    ~ Book of Proverbs
    ~ Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke

    These contain business principles proven to succeed, whether implemented by faith or savvy.

  • Hannah

    Anne, your favorite business books made me smile. Proverbs never ceases to amaze me.

    Besides the principles in God’s Word, my favorite book related to business (I guess it’d correctly go under “marketing”) is “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath. I haven’t read many other business books (I’m eighteen, so maybe that’s normal.) I’m glad to see some recommendations on where to start reading. Definitely want to pick up “Tribes” now. ;)

    • Eccle0412

      and Love is the Killer App for an 18 year old. solid foundation. along with proverbs

  • Steve Duncan

    FYI – the link for slide:ology points to the wrong book.

    I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of “Beyond Bullet Points” It doesn’t work for everything, but it improves most presentations.

  • Michael S. Hyatt

    @Steve: Thanks for the heads-up. I have now fixed the link. I enjoyed Beyond Bullet Points, too. Also, Presentation Zen is excellent.

  • Stephanie Zonars

    Thanks Mike…I appreciate the practical nature of all your posts, this one included. I love The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Following its principles brought healing and unity to a team I was on a few years back. I use the exercises it offers frequently when I facilitate team building. Not rocket science, but a great tool to improve any team.

  • Fran Toolan

    I haven’t read too many on Mike’s list. Good To Great is my favorite of his. Jim Collins is my favorite business writer.

    But, my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE business book of all time is The Art of Profitablity by Adrian Slywotzky.

    Written in a parable form, it’s 250 pages packed with practical lessons. I have re-read this book at least 6 times, and pull it out once a month to review things!

  • John Gallagher

    Impossible for me to make the list without my favorite Maxwell titles, as well:
    1) 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – Maxwell
    2) Today Matters – Maxwell
    3) Good To Great – Collins
    4) The Simple Church – Rainer & Geiger
    5) The Toyota Way – Liker
    6) Becoming a Coaching Leader – Harkavy
    7) Winning Every Day – Holtz
    8) Jack: Straight from the Gut – Welch
    9) Profit From the Core – Zook
    10) Execution: Discipline of Getting Things Done – Charan & Bossidy

  • Scott Schwertly

    Thanks for sharing. That’s a great list.

    Here are some of my favorites:

    Story – Robert McKee
    The Back of the Napkin – Dan Roam
    Made to Stick – Chip Heath and Dan Heath
    Slide:ology – Nancy Duarte
    Presentation Zen – Garr Reynolds
    Reality Check – Guy Kawasaki
    A Whole New Mind – Dan Pink
    A New Brand World – Scott Bedbury

  • Lorraine

    Oldies but still goodies:

    1. A basic: “How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life” by Alan Lakein (The only time management book I’ve read that does not waste my time by repeating itself in chapter after chapter (Lakein manages great advice in only 136 pages in paperback.)

    2. “The Art of Japanese Management” by two American professors whose names I’ve forgotten, but not what they wrote.

  • David (Marketing Integrity)

    I like many of the ones you included. I would also endorse:

    The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott

  • chip

    GETTING THINGS DONE is one of my favorites, and I loved YOU ARE THE MESSAGE. But…no FREAKONOMICS? No TIPPING POINT? Two books that really offered big-picture insight.

    Bobb Biehl’s BOARDROOM CONFIDENCE is a classic book on shared leadership. I just re-read it and it did’t feel dated at all.

  • Jenni Catron

    Some of my favorites are on your list as well.

    My favorite John Maxwell is “The 21 Most Powerful Minutes in a Leaders Day”. I gift this book all the time. I love that it takes his laws of leadership and makes application to Biblical examples.

    Also just read “The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership” by Steven B. Sample. A great book for challenging traditional thinking.

    • Eccle0412

      i have peaked at your blog, and will add your recommendations to my list to read also. Thanks Jenni

  • Dr. David Frisbie

    More a leadership book than a business book per se: “Let Your Life Speak” by Parker Palmer. I keep a copy of this on my desk and refer to it often.

  • Mary Wang

    I am reading a book named “Strategies for sucess” by jim dornan this week.
    Really very good,enjoy it.

  • Joe Sheehan

    An engineer’s top business books:
    In no particular order

    Bossidy/Charam – Execution
    Kotter – Leading Change
    Blue Ocean Strategy
    Liker – Toyota Way

    I also once read a fantastic and unique book on Lean product development (told in the form of a story lasting 1 week long) but i’ve since forgotten the title.

  • Janet BIrkey

    I always love your lists, but then I have to add to that never-ending list of what to read next. My checkbook doesn’t love that part so much!

  • Michele Miller

    Great list, Michael. I really appreciate how varied the list is – there is definitely something for everyone here, no matter what their area of expertise/work. Love the fact that you included Slide-ology. As a presenter, it’s my new favorite reference guide.

  • 800-CEO-READ Blog

    The CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers Picks 10

    Michael Hyatt, President & CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, has updated his ten favorite business books. They are: Focus: The Future Of Your Company Depends On It by Al Ries, HarperBusiness Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by…

  • Annette Tarpley

    It’s hard to beat John Maxwell whether in print or audio. I recently have read, “25 Ways to Win With People” by John Maxwell and Les Parrott. It has great tips that pertain to business as well as our personal lives.

  • Terry Locke

    Leading Change and The Heart of Change both by Kotter. That’s all we deal with and these are timeless classics.

  • Travis Stark

    I think Winning by Jack Welch is a must Read, also I would all the black swan.
    You should post this to my buddy’s site or anyone can make their own at

    • Jay Oza

      I agree. “Winning” is a must read from one of the top CEO of all time.

  • David Ballard

    Great list of books! I have read a few, but not all. Seth Godin is one of my favorites. I’m seriously considering his latest offer on Squidoo:
    Quite an interesting proposal. Michael, keep doing what you do best and so many people will be the benefactors of your passion and expertise. Thanks!

  • Mary

    I wish you would consider adding your “real” list of ten even if it includes books from TN.

    I asked our highest manager for such a list and got a blank stare. I appreciate your list because I often wonder if the advice given in business books is the advice real business leaders would like their employees to follow. It’s hard to go wrong with Maxwell but when I was younger, I read some books that offered terrible advice! Unfortunately, I didn’t have the wisdom to know better.

  • Olivier


    Thanks for this list. I personally started a crazy project : read 52 of the best businesses books in 52 weeks in an attemp to pass the Personal MBA (a MBA for less than 1 500$) in one year ( see my blog )

    The Personal MBA is a comprehensive list of 77 books (93 with the supplements) in 12 categories that is intended to deliver the 20% of the knowledge given in an MBA that give 80% of the results.

    Only a few books are common between your liste and the PMBA one, so i think it is a great complement. Thanks for that :)

    • Doug Crandall

      If you read 52 business books in 52 weeks, then I’m guessing you took away 120% of the knowledge acquired by your average MBA. (And I have an MBA).


  • Leslie

    Only one other person mentioned this so I feel compelled to bring it up again.

    Napoleon Hill’s Think & Grow Rich (Wikipedia link) is the grand daddy of the modern business book.

    Due to “get rich” books that flood the market the title might throw you off. This isn’t a “get rich” quick book at all.

    It was published in 1937 at the tail end of the Great Depression. You can see the influence of Hill’s work in a lot of popular modern authors.

    Also, I endorse just about everything ever written by Peter Drucker, the grand daddy of marketing.

  • Michael Sandifer

    What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School – Mark McCormack

  • Pingback: Book Notes: The E-Myth Revisited | Michael Hyatt

  • Dan

    I love this list. Check out my top 10 leadership/business books and my top 5 spiritual books for my answer

  • Haydee

    Michael, I want to read them all too.

  • Peter_P

    Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Whats-his-name.

    Best business book I've ever read.

  • gcprice2

    Good to Great impacted my ministry significantly. The whole idea of a Level 5 leader is incredible.
    Also, Our Iceberg Is Melting, by John Kotter is very relevant for the church as is Jim Collins new book, Why the Mighty Fall
    Though difficult to process, his concepts are powerful. I was impacted by Deep Change by Robert Quinn.

  • http://link Sad53

    Yet teachers are seldom asked to study the language they teach or how its form carries its message. ,

  • @SWMackey

    The 5th Discipline Peter Senge
    My recent post My 10 favorite things about Valentine’s Day

  • Nick

    Great list. Mine are:

    The Proverbial Crackerjack by Dale Henry
    The Wizard of Ads Trilogy by Roy H. Williams
    The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
    The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille
    Punk Marketing by Richard Laermer and Mark Simmons
    Spiritual Leadership by Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby
    Bible by various authors on every subject under the sun and heaven :D