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The 25 Best Business Biographies You Should Read in 2023
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Entrepreneurs and founders must constantly adapt and learn from every possible source, and books are no exception.
This is especially true for business biographies, as they tend to be personally written by the most powerful and game-changing people in the business world.
Below there’s a list of the best 25 business biographies, carefully picked to satisfy everyone’s taste.
25 Best Business Biographies
1) alibaba: the house that jack ma built.
Name of book : Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built
Description of the book : This excellent entrepreneur biography tells the ultimate story about the world-famous Chinese entrepreneur and founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma.
The author, Duncan Clark, was an early advisor to Jack Ma in early 1999 when Alibaba was founded. You can read everything about Jack Ma, his breakthrough idea, and the impact it made in the e-commerce sector.
Entrepreneurs can also read about the humble beginnings of Alibaba, how Jack overcame his Silicon Valley rivals, and the story of Alibaba’s domination, with 80% of the market share.
Author : Duncan Clark
Length : 304 pages
Notable quote : “Customers first, employees second, and shareholders third.”
2) Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul
Name of book : Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul
Description of the book : Onward is an excellent entrepreneur biography that presents the story of the popular coffee brand Starbucks and how they managed to stay on ‘top of their game’ during the 2008 crisis.
The former CEO Howard Schultz describes his return after 8 years and the methods he implemented afterward.
The biography offers a deep look at how Howard overcame all odds during the most challenging economic times in history and how Starbucks saved its soul and regained its profitability without sacrificing anything.
Author : Howard Schultz and Joanne Gordon
Length : 350 pages
Notable quote : “Beverages have to be created. And they’re created by looking at what trend is in, say, the fashion industry – what color’s hot right now.”
3) Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography
Name of book : Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography
Description of the book : Steve Jobs is a well-presented entrepreneur autobiography regarding one of the most influential founders ever. The book is based on over 40 interviews with Steve Jobs, his family members, and colleagues.
You can see how Steve Jobs got his ideas and how he rose above the challenges throughout time. Walters shows how Jobs revolutionized multiple industries, including music, animated movies, phones, and tablet computers.
As an entrepreneur, you will undoubtedly find this book quite helpful as it shows Steve's methods and work ethic during his journey and how to maintain your sanity during extreme times.
Author : Walter Isaacson
Length : 627 pages
Notable quote : “You should never start a company with the goal of getting rich. Your goal should be making something you believe in and making a company that will last.”
4) Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE
Name of book : Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
Description of the book : Nike’s CEO and founder Phil Knight decided to open up and tell his story behind one of the most iconic brands today, Nike.
His idea to sell high-quality and cheap-priced shoes imported from Japan was born in 1962. Knight shares all details from his journey, including obstacles he overcame, risks he took, and the sacrifices made for Nike to become what it is today.
You can also read plenty about the first partners and relationships with his employees, proving to us that everything is possible through teamwork and loyalty.
Author : Phil Knight
Length : 400 pages
Notable quote : “Let everyone else call your idea crazy... just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where ‘there’ is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.”
5) Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
Name of book : Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
Description of the book : Have you ever wondered how Rockefeller gained his reputation and wealth? Well, award-winning biographer Ron Chernow explored that subject and wrote a book about it, too.
Titan shows the impressive story behind the most controversial family in the US and their place in history. Chernow tells us a detailed story about John D. Rockefeller, Sr, and his ruthless methods and ethics that made him the world’s first billionaire.
You can clearly see how Rockefeller founded the most powerful and feared monopoly in American history, Standard Oil , all the way to his demise at the behest of President Teddy Roosevelt.
Author : Ron Chernow
Length : 832 pages
Notable quote : “Success comes from keeping the ears open and the mouth closed”
6) Made in Japan: Akio Morita and Sony
Name of book : Made in Japan: Akio Morita and Sony
Description of the book : Made in Japan takes you on a journey behind Sony Corporation , from its co-founder, Akio Morita.
As one of the best entrepreneur biographies, you can take a deep look at Japan’s business techniques and methods and how the Japanese think, which can be priceless information for founders.
The story narrated by the authors is centered on how Sony was built, from its humble beginning after World War II to its meteoric post-war rise as the most influential company for music entertainment, and multimedia.
Author : Akio Morita , Edwin M. Reingold and Mitsuko Shimomura
Length : 352 pages
Notable quote : “Curiosity is the key to creativity.”
7) The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
Name of book : The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
Description of the book : The Everything Store is the definitive biography of Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos. Brad Stone narrates the story of Jeff Bezos’s corporate culture and the methods he implemented at Amazon .
You will read what it took for Jeff to build this company and how he changed how we shop and read... Forever!
Author : Brad Stone
Length : 384 pages
Notable quote : “Some of these investments will pay off, others will not, and we will have learned another valuable lesson in either case.”
8) Sam Walton: Made in America
Name of book : Sam Walton: Made in America
Description of the book : This is considered one of the greatest entrepreneur biographies because it describes the origin story of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club . You will read how Sam founded the biggest retail stores in history and the largest private employer in the world.
The authors clearly state what it took for Sam to create Walmart and what techniques he used in that process. Also, you will read about all methods regarding the planning and hiring process that attracted many workers. Today, Walmart is the largest corporation in terms of revenue.
Author : Sam Walton and John Huey
Length : 346 pages
Notable quote : “Great ideas come from everywhere if you just listen and look for them. You never know who’s going to have a great idea.”
9) Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
Name of book : Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
Description of the book : Ashlee Vence presents the detailed life of Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX . It gives you a deep look into Musk’s ideas and innovations about the future he envisioned. Everything changed when Elon sold PayPal and shifted his focus on future investments, like clean automobiles and space programs.
Musk’s story is used to explore the question: can inventors still compete in today’s fierce global competition?
Author : Ashlee Vence
Length : 392 pages
Notable quote : “Good ideas are always crazy until they’re not.”
10) The Snowball; Warren Buffett and the Business of Life
Name of book : The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life
Description of the book : The Snowball presents the story of Warren Buffett, one of the most successful investors in history and the founder of Berkshire Hathaway Holdings.
Alice Schroeder narrates this well-read CEO biography about the life of Warren Buffett and the idea to create a holding company that owns stocks in multiple famous corporations like Coca-Cola, American Express, and Apple.
As an entrepreneur, you will find important information about Warren’s secrets despite living in privacy for most of his life.
Author : Alice Schroeder
Length : 960 pages
Notable quote : “Time is the friend of the wonderful business, the enemy of the mediocre.”
11) Morgan: American Financier
Name of book : Morgan: American Financier
Description of the book : One of the best business biographies, Morgan gives you a never-before-seen insight about J. Pierpont Morgan, one of the greatest investors in US history.
In this book, you will read how Morgan reorganized the nation’s railroad and appointed himself as a one-man central bank. The author also guides the reader into Morgan’s life outside his business.
Author : Jean Strouse
Length : 816 pages
Notable quote : “No problem can be solved until it is reduced to some simple form. The changing of a vague difficulty into a specific, concrete form is a very essential element in thinking.”
12) Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles
Name of book : Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles
Description of the book : Here, There and Everywhere is one of the best business biographies regarding The Beatles chief engineer, the man responsible for their unique sound.
Geoff Emerick describes his journey from the start of The Beatles in 1962, all the way to their meteoric rise to the top. In the book, you will find out how Geoff pioneered innovative recording techniques and how he achieved the sound of their most famous songs that changed rock music forever.
As an entrepreneur, you can learn that starting at a young age can be the best move you can make - just like Geoff did when he was 15 years old!
Author : Geoff Emerick
Notable quote : “It was down to me—not George Martin, not anyone else—to turn the Beatles’ new vision into a reality.”
13) Bloomberg by Bloomberg
Name of book : Bloomberg by Bloomberg
Description of the book : Bloomberg by Bloomberg is the origin story of Michael R. Bloomberg, the founder of Bloomberg L.P.
Written by Michael himself, this book takes us deep into Bloomberg’s life and his idea of creating his own company after he got fired at the age of 39.
Throughout the book, readers will learn more about his creative mind and the challenges he faced at Wall Street , all the way up to founding the fastest-growing media empire on Earth.
Author : Michael R. Bloomberg
Length : 272 pages
Notable quote : If you're going to succeed, you need a vision, one that's affordable, practical, and fills a customer need. Then, go for it.”
Name of book : Carnegie
Description of the book : Carnegie takes us on a journey into the life of Andrew Carnegie, one of the major figures in American history.
Peter Krass describes the origin story of the titan who made his fortune through the steel industry and how he used the wealth upon his retirement.
The readers can take a look at how Andrew influenced the world’s political stage and the way he founded the largest and the most profitable steel industry on the planet. As a founder, you will learn how Andrew became one of the biggest philanthropists in the world, despite his notorious reputation.
Author : Peter Krass
Length : 612 pages
Notable quote : “The poor enjoy what the rich could not before afford. What were the luxuries have become the necessities of life. The laborer has now more comforts than the landlord had a few generations ago.”
15) Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company
Name of book : Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company
Description of the book : Every manager must understand that eventually everything changes. This is the critical point in Only the Paranoid Survive by former Intel CEO Andrew Grove.
The charismatic innovator narrates his story in Intel and how he helped the company to remain the largest chip producer. Readers will discover the strategic inflection points or SIPs Andrew faced in his career and how he beat the Japanese competition.
Only the Paranoid Survive can be the ultimate lesson about leadership skills, which you can benefit almost instantly.
Author : Andrew S. Grove
Length : 224 pages
Notable quote : “Only the Paranoid Survive.”
16) iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It
Name of book : iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It
Description of the book : Take a deep look into the creation of Apple and the first personal computer, brought to you by the charismatic Steve Wozniak.
In iWoz , you will read about the early starts for Wozniak and the idea behind Apple . Narrated by Steve himself, he presents details about his personal life like never before and describes his groundbreaking idea to combine the first real personal computer named Apple I .
Authors : Steve Wozniak and Gina Smith
Length : 313 pages
Notable quote : “The world needs inventors--great ones. You can be one. If you love what you do and are willing to do what it really takes, it's within your reach. And it'll be worth every minute you spend alone at night, thinking and thinking about what it is you want to design or build. It'll be worth it, I promise.”
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17) My Life and Work: Autobiography of Henry Ford
Name of book : My Life and Work; Autobiography of Henry Ford
Description of the book : Published in 1922, this entrepreneur autobiography gives you the slightest details regarding Ford’s beginnings, the strategies he used to revolutionize the automotive industry, and how he got into the business.
Henry Ford guides the reader through his history and his own business philosophy used to create Ford Motor Company.
Author : Henry Ford
Length : 204 pages
Notable quote : “There is no disgrace in honest failure; there is disgrace in fearing to fail
18) Commodore: The Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt
Name of book : Commodore: The Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt
Description of the book : This is the detailed story about Cornelius Vanderbilt, the forefather of modern American business.
Readers will find out how Cornelius built his fortune and his vision to turn New York into the financial capital we see today. This book sheds light on Cornelius’s private life from previously unreleased articles.
Author : Edward J. Renehan Jr.
Length : 364 pages
Notable quote : “Never tell anyone what you are going to do till you have done it.”
19) Jack: Straight from the Gut
Name of book : Jack: Straight from the Gut
Description of the book : Many readers would agree that this book is one of the best business biographies. The authors will introduce you to the life of former General Electrics Chairman and CEO Jack Welch.
You will find out how Jack managed to run one of the biggest corporations of our time in a robust economic era in the US.
Authors : Jack Welch , John A. Byrne , and Mike Barnicle
Length : 496 pages
Notable quote : "There is no straight line to anyone's vision or dream."
20) Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose
Name of book : Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose
Description of the book : Written directly by former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, this entrepreneur biography contains detailed information and tips on how to manage your company.
Entrepreneurs and founders will read about Tony’s early start and learn the creativity he used to run Zappos to the top of its industry.
Author : Tony Hsieh
Length : 246 pages
Notable quote : “I had decided to stop chasing the money, and start chasing the passion.”
21) Iacocca: An Autobiography
Name of book : Iacocca: An Autobiography
Description of the book : Let’s dive into the automotive world once again. Lee Iacocca, the former legendary President at Ford and Chairman at Chrysler, is the man behind this book .
In this entrepreneur biography, Lee guides the reader from his humble beginnings and working at Ford and how he saved Chrysler Corporation from bankruptcy during the 1980s.
Lee presents his vision and how he came up with the idea to create the Mustang , one of Ford’s famous models.
Authors : Lee Iacocca and William Novak
Length : 357 pages
Notable quote : “Get all the education you can then go out and do something - do anything.”
22) American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company
Name of book : American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company
Description of the book : American Icon gives us a magnificent story about Ford Motors and its turnaround of the leadership from its CEO Alan Mulally.
The book explains how Alan managed to save the company in the 2008 crisis, upon rejection of financial help from the government.
Alan implemented the methods he used in Boeing , reorganized Ford’s management, and turned the corporation into the largest automotive producer during those difficult times.
Entrepreneurs can read this book and see what plans Alan used to prevent Ford’s collapse.
Author : Bryce G. Hoffman
Length : 432 pages
Notable quote : “You have to expect the unexpected, and you have to deal with it.”
23) The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Rev olution
Name of book : The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution
Description of the book : The Man Who Solved the Market is a best-selling book about mathematician Jim Simons and his pioneering algorithm-driven approach to investing.
The book follows Simons’s path to success, starting with his early years, education at MIT and work at IBM, and finally, his late-life acclaim as the founder of Renaissance Technologies.
The is a great entrepreneur biography for those wanting to learn more about finances, teamwork, and professional collaboration.
Author : Gregory Zuckerman
Length : 359 pages
Notable quote : “Any time you hear financial experts talking about how the market went up because of such and such—remember it’s all nonsense.”
24) The Animated Man: A Life Of Walt Disney
Name of the book : The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney
Description of the book : Michael Barrier is the man behind one of the best business biographies, the origin story of Walt Disney. In this book, readers will discover important details from Walt’s life and how he got the idea to make cartoons.
Michael recorded countless interviews with Disney’s partner and friends to write this book.
You will see what challenges Walt overcame and how he battled out of the disaster that occurred in 1941.
Author : Michael Barrier
Length : 393 pages
Notable quote : "I am not a literary person. As far as realism is concerned, you can find dirt anyplace you look for it. I'm one of those optimists. There's always a rainbow. The great masses like happy endings. If you can pull a tear out of them, they'll remember your picture.”
25) I’d Like the World to Buy a Coke: The Life and Leadership of Roberto Goizueta
Name of the book : I’d Like the World to Buy a Coke: The Life and Leadership of Roberto Goizueta
Description of the book : I’d Like the World to Buy a Coke takes us on a journey in the life of Roberto Goizueta, one of the longest-serving and highest-paid CEOs in history.
The book explains Roberto’s arrival from Cuba in the 1960s and his rise while working in Coca-Cola. You will find out how Roberto reorganized Coca-Cola, the leader in the soft-drink industry, and his marketing strategies that made Coke the most popular beverage on Earth.
Author : David Greising
Length : 334 pages
Notable quote : “Not to take risks is the biggest risk.”
What Business Biographies Did We Miss?
So there you have it!
25 of the best entrepreneur biographies out there that can undoubtedly give you some sort of inspiration as you prepare yourself for the next ‘big’ step.
All of these biographies are written with the purpose of helping entrepreneurs, as many of them come from groundbreaking founders and investors that reshaped the business world.
Just like always, if we missed any biography that deserves a spot on our pretty list , don’t forget to send us an email - we’re more than happy to update our list with more and more entrepreneur biographies.
Questions About Business Biographies
What are business biography books.
Business biography books tell the behind-the-scenes stories of the greatest minds in the business industry, including Walt Disney, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos.
What Are The Best Business Biographies?
The best business biographies are Alibaba, by Duncan Clark, Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson, and Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight.
What Are The Best CEO Biographies?
CEO biographies are a segment of business biographies, which share the stories of the CEOs of the biggest companies. Only the Paranoid Survive, by Andrew Grove, Jack, by Jack Welch, and Delivering Happiness, by Tony Hsieh, are the best CEO biographies.
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Home — Collections — 13 Best Business Biographies That Will Show You the Struggles of World’s Biggest Entrepreneurs
13 Best Business Biographies That Will Show You the Struggles of World’s Biggest Entrepreneurs
Table of Contents
Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others – it’s what Otto von Bismarck used to say . And what other better way to do that than by reading the biographies of those you admire?
Some of the most popular entrepreneurs admitted that they attribute their success to reading memoirs of the people they admire. Here’s a list of the best business biographies recommended by them (is there something missing, any book that we absolutely-definitely-must add to this list? let us know !). There’s also one entrepreneur biography – or more – sprinkled in there, as well, so have a blast!
Oh, but before that, did you know we have a really good weekly newsletter where we write about things that make us better business people, better entrepreneurs, better professionals. So go HERE and see an example and subscribe!
1. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
Elon Musk mentioned in multiple interviews that he learned a lot from reading biographies. Well, same thing is true regarding his biography. Published by Ashlee Vance in 2015, it’s a must-read for everyone who wants to shoot for the stars the same way he does.
“ Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future ” serves a great lesson on the sacrifices you’ll need to make when you have ambitious, almost impossible plans, and nobody believes in you.
Richard Branson , the founder of Virgin Group, recommended this book, saying that “ Elon Musk is a man after my own heart: a risk taker undaunted by setbacks and ever driven to ensure a bright future for humanity. Ashlee Vance’s stellar biography captures Musk’s remarkable life story and irrepressible spirit. “.
2. The Everything Store
Another fascinating biography, if you want to read all about how Jeff Bezos and Amazon conquered the world. Even though Jeff’s wife gave it a 1-star review on Amazon, you can still draw lots of lessons from it, especially about management, leadership and inovation.
Written by Brad Stone after he conducted tens, perhaps even hundreds of interviews with Amazon employees, Jeff’s former colleagues and family members, this is the most comprehensive book you’ll find about how Amazon became the everything store.
3. Alibaba – The House That Jack Ma Built
And speaking of Amazon… If you want to know more about its main competitor, how Jack Ma built the giant empire we now know as Alibaba, read this biography published last year by Duncan Clark.
Jack managed to get past China’s political obstacles and turned Alibaba into one of the biggest companies in the world.
This is what Sir Martin Sorrell , CEO of WPP, had to say about this book: “ Anybody who thinks the Chinese just copy or steal technology from the West should read this book and think again. Jack Ma is part Bill Gates, part Steve Jobs, part Larry Page, part Sergey Brin, and part Mark Zuckerberg, all rolled into one “.
4. Steve Jobs
This book probably needs no introduction, as I’m confident it’s the most popular biography from this list. Based on more than 40 interviews conducted by Walter Isaacson over 2 years with Steve Jobs , as well as hundreds of interviews with his family members, friends, colleagues and so on.
Jobs cooperated for this book and encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly, saying that: “ I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of, such as getting my girlfriends pregnant when I was 23 and the way I handled that, but I don’t have any skeletons in my closet that can’t be allowed out. ”
5. Creativity, Inc
And since we mentioned Steve Jobs, here’s another book that might interest you: Creativity, Inc. is the story of Pixar Animation and its co-founder, Ed Catmull . If you want to learn great lessons on leadership and management, check it out.
Mark Zuckerberg is one of the CEOs who read and recommend this book.
6. Iacocca: An Autobiography
In his podcast with Tim Ferriss , Ramit Sethi mentioned that he read Iacocca: An Autobiography every few years for the last 20 years.
Lee Iacocca’s best selling autobiography was originally published in 1984 and follows his career in the auto industry, first with Ford, and afterward with the Chrysler Corporation. Iaccoca’s considered an American legend, a businessman who turned around Chrysler when the company was facing a crucial point.
7. Empire State of Mind: How Jay Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office
“I’m not a businessman – I’m a business, man.” – This book follows Jay Z and how he climbed from the ill famed streets of Brooklyn, where he spent his childhood, to the heights of the business world.
Ryan Holiday recommended this biography, saying that: “ This is a biography that also functions as a business book. It shows how Jay applied hustling techniques to the music business and eventually built his empire “.
8. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
This is probably one of the best biographies published in the recent years. Shoe Dog follows Phil Knight’s memories, from the times when he was just a young boy, lost and with no idea what to do with his life, until he built the giant sports brand that we know today as Nike.
Bill Gates wrote on his blog about this book: “ […] is a refreshingly honest reminder of what the path to business success really looks like: messy, precarious, and riddled with mistakes. I’ve met Knight a few times over the years. He’s super nice, but he’s also quiet and difficult to get to know. Here Knight opens up in a way few CEOs are willing to do. I don’t think Knight sets out to teach the reader anything. Instead, he accomplishes something better. He tells his story as honestly as he can. It’s an amazing tale. ”
9. Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller
This is one huge biography, with more than 800 pages filled with the life and story of John D. Rockefeller. Considered to be the Jekyll-and-Hyde of American capitalism, Rockefeller “ was known as both a rapacious robber baron, whose Standard Oil Company rode roughshod over an industry, and a philanthropist who donated money lavishly to universities and medical centers “.
10. Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger
This book is recommended by Warren Buffett , who co-founded Berkshire Hathaway together with Charlie Munger. It’s a collection of his speeches and talks.
11. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!
I’ve been bumping into this book for a long time, as it’s one of the most recommended books by entrepreneurs. Filled with stories and memories of Richard Feynman, winner of the Nobel Prize for physics, who was always questioning the status-quo and testing assumptions. In this book he recalls all the experiences he conducted, but also his pranks and adventures (even the ones he pulled in the years he was working on the Manhattan Project).
Google’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin , are among the fans of this book. Noah Kagan , founder of Sumo, even said that he if you ever meet him in person, he always has an extra copy, “ because it’s just that amazing “.
I have to agree – I finished it recently, after a few nights of reading Feynman’s adventures until 4 AM (yes, it’s just that addictive!).
12. The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life
We couldn’t mention Charlie Munger without bringing up his partner’s biography. Lots of books were written about Warren Buffett , the “Oracle of Omaha”, but this was written with his cooperation and is considered to be the best.
13. Losing My Virginity
And last but not least: the autobiography of the famous entrepreneur Richard Branson . If you want to find out more about how he built the business empire Virgin Group, this is a good place for you to start.
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18 Best Business Biographies to Read in 2023
You found our list of top business biographies .
Business biographies are narratives that tell the stories of entrepreneurs and the birth and growth of influential companies. These works deal with topics such as childhood influences, education and early career, business founding, and the evolution of entrepreneurial empires. The purpose of these books is to provide further context and insight into the personal factors that contributed to the creation of companies, and to inspire and educate current and future entrepreneurs.
These works are a subset of business books and are similar to entrepreneur books and CEO books .
This list includes:
- autobiographies of business founders
- biographies of business leaders
- entrepreneur biographies
- business biographies about women
Here we go!
List of business biographies
Here is a list of biographies of business leaders that shed light on how to launch and nurture legacies and empires.
1. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Shoe Dog is one of the most popular autobiographies of business founders of all time. This memoir has received endorsements from the likes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.
In his own words, Nike founder Phil Knight recounts the journey of founding the sneaker company and its ascent into a top athletic wear brand. Knight gives a peek into his early life and influences, as well as insights into his leadership and business philosophy. Shoe Dog is a masterful illustration of tenacity, vision, and the business lifestyle.
Notable Quote: “Beating the competition is relatively easy. Beating yourself is a never-ending commitment.”
Read Shoe Dog .
2. Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire by Brad Stone
Amazon Unbound is Brad Stone’s followup to the bestselling book, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. This latest biography about the founder of Amazon charts the company’s rise to global titan status and chronicles Bezos’ evolution as a leader within the past decade. The work includes the company’s development of cloud technology, Alexa, and Prime Video, as well as acquisitions of Whole Foods and The Washington Post . The book continues the narrative of the story of Amazon and its founder and lays forth the next chapter in the saga of the e-commerce giant.
Notable Quote: “Jeff is master of ‘this isn’t working today, but could work tomorrow.’ If customers like it, he’s got the cash flow to fund it.”
Read Amazon Unbound .
3. Iacocca: An Autobiography by Lee Iacocca
Iacocca: An Autobiography is a firsthand account of the life of the legendary auto executive. Lee Iacocca’s life is a prime example of the American dream– raised by immigrants, he rises up the ranks in corporate America and dominates the auto world. In the course of this journey, Lee Iacocca revolutionized the automobile industry and earned icon status. The autobiography traces the highlights of Iacocca’s illustrious career, from his part in creating the Mustang and ascent to president of Ford, to saving the Chrysler brand, and defeating hurdles along the way. Iacocca: An Autobiography is a motivational read and a rallying call for resilience.
Notable Quote: “In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product, and profits. People come first. Unless you’ve got a good team, you can’t do much with the other two.”
Read Iacocca: An Autobiography .
4. Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
Titan traces the life of legendary businessman John D Rockefeller. This biography aims to examine Rockefeller through a new lens. Many other accounts either overly-glorify Rockefeller as a hero or condemn him based on The Standard Oil Company’s later scandals. Ron Chernow angles to lift the veil on and gain insight into the notoriously private Rockefeller by compiling a comprehensive account of his full life. The book follows John Rockefeller Sr from his childhood to death. In doing so, the author not only recounts the moves and deals that helped build a business and charity empire, but also shares stories and quotes that more thoroughly flesh out the figure behind the great deeds.
Notable Quote: “Rockefeller equated silence with strength: Weak men had loose tongues and blabbed to reporters, while prudent businessmen kept their own counsel.”
Read Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
5. The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution by Gregory Zuckerman
The Man Who Solved the Market is a bestselling book about Jim Simons, the mathematician who pioneered an algorithm-driven approach to investing that achieved unheard-of market returns. The book unpacks Simon’s backstory by tracing the codebreaker’s early adolescence, education at MIT, early career, and finally the late-life acclaim and founding of Renaissance Technologies. Gregory Zuckerman connects Simons’ story to the broader current climate and notes the influences the discovery had on the wider world. The Man Who Solved the Market also holds lessons about teamwork and professional collaboration.
Notable Quote: “Scientists and mathematicians are trained to dig below the surface of the chaotic, natural world to search for unexpected simplicity, structure, and even beauty”
Read The Man Who Solved the Market .
6. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big is equal parts amusing and profound. In this book, Dilbert comic creator Scott Adams traces his career, paying special attention to the flops, setbacks, and disappointments. By focusing on failure, Adams explains how he was able to transform losses into lessons and eventual opportunities. The author’s signature wry sense of humor elevates the underdog narrative beyond motivational fluff and into actionable advice.
While telling his own tale, Adams drops tidbits such as:
- Goals are for losers. Systems are for winners.
- The most important metric is to track your personal energy.
- Conquer shyness by being a huge phony (in a good way.)
While this book is structured more like a self-help guide than a traditional biography, it is full of personal anecdotes that provide a much more rounded picture of the famous cartoonist.
Notable Quote: “Failure always brings something valuable with it. I don’t let it leave until I extract that value.”
Read How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big .
7. The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder
The Snowball provides a personal portrait of the Oracle of Omaha. In this exclusive biography, Warren Buffet allows Alice Schroeder and the readers intimate access into his inner life by way of years of one-on-one interviews with the author. The book reveals previously non-public details about Buffet’s childhood, career, and relationships, and sheds light on the investor’s inner-drivers, values, and areas of personal growth. The Snowball shows Warren Buffet’s human side and gives extra context to the magnate’s extraordinary accomplishments.
Notable Quote: “Intensity is the price of excellence.”
Read The Snowball .
8. Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things That Last by Wright Thompson
Pappyland is a tale of familial entrepreneurial duty and legacy preservation. The book tells the tale of Julian Van Winkle III’s battle to save his father and grandfather’s lifework and the reputation of the family whiskey business. The work chronicles Van Winkle’s early struggles to keep the business afloat in leaner years to the eventual rise to several-hundred-dollar-a-bottle prestige, and the resulting need for innovation and reinvention that stayed true to the company’s roots. Few entrepreneur biographies touch so heavily on themes of family devotion and obligation, making Pappyland a moving and relatable read as well as a practical business study.
Notable Quote: “That’s the work of adulthood. Sorting out the good and bad within.”
Read Pappyland .
9. The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger
The Ride of a Lifetime is a self-penned profile of Disney executive Robert Iger. The book recounts Iger’s rise from entry-level employee at ABC to head of the most powerful media company in the world. Iger reflects on the industry changes that he saw and had a hand in during his long and lucrative career, and highlights the keys to his professional success. While the book is not strictly a memoir, Iger structures this guide with personal details that give context to his business behaviors. The Ride of a Lifetime provides a direct look at the philosophies of the man behind the mouse.
Notable Quote: “Ask the questions you need to ask, admit without apology what you don’t understand, and do the work to learn what you need to learn as quickly as you can.”
Read The Ride of a Lifetime .
10. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Walter Isaacson’s official profile on Steve Jobs ranks as one of the best biographies of business leaders. Drawing on over 40 interviews with Jobs and hundreds more with family and friends, colleagues, and rivals, Isaccson weaves a thrilling account of the icon’s life. The result is a comprehensive collection of life events that shaped the subject told from multiple perspectives. From childhood to college, inventions and product launches, collaborations and clashes, career setbacks and redemptions, and roller-coaster relationships, Steve Jobs paints an appropriately complex portrait of a larger than life figure with undeniable human flaws.
Notable Quote: “One way to remember who you are is to remember who your heroes are.”
Read Steve Jobs .
11. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
Ashlee Vance’s Elon Musk is a profile of a monumental current businessman. This biography retells Musk’s extraordinary story of overcoming childhood adversity in South Africa only to become one of the most influential figures in Silicon Valley and modern industry. The book touches on Musk’s early pursuits in PayPal, the founding of Tesla, as well as the eventual decision to set sights on space and enter the aerospace frontier. The book is an exploration of Musk’s character and vision, charting his life through his innovations and ideas.
Notable Quote: “Good ideas are always crazy until they’re not.”
Read Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future .
12. Sam Walton: Made In America by Sam Walton
Sam Walton: Made in America is the story of Walmart and the man who made Walmart the behemoth that it is today. This autobiography reveals how Walton grew a single dime store into a retail giant. The book explores how Walton built his foundations, structured his business, grew the company, bounced back from missteps, and kept control over his mission even as his empire expanded around the country and the world. Sam Walton: Made in America is a book about big business world ambition paired with small-town values, and is a distinctly American tale of commercial success and the achievement of a distinct vision.
Notable Quote: “Great ideas come from everywhere if you just listen and look for them. You never know who’s going to have a great idea.”
Read Sam Walton: Made In America .
13. Empire State of Mind: How Jay Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office by Zack O’Malley Greenburg
Empire State of Mind is a love letter to Jay Z’s business acumen. This biography recounts the rapper’s meteoric rise from ghettos to boardrooms. The book highlights some of the key points in Carter’s career, including the inception of Roc-a-Fella records, marriage to Beyoncé, birth of Roc Nation, and expansion into the streetwear, alcohol, and streaming spaces. Viewing Jay-Z as a businessman above all and hailing his hustler mindset, Empire State of Mind spins a tale of entrepreneurship, self-creation, and re-invention.
Notable Quote: “One of the main reasons for this success is Jay-Z’s ability to build and leverage his personal brand. As much as Martha Stewart or Oprah, he has turned himself into a lifestyle.”
Read Empire State of Mind .
14. Authentic: A Memoir by the Founder of Vans by Paul Van Doren
Authenti c is one of the final projects of Vans founder Paul Van Doren. The memoir tells the tale of how a high school dropout went on to helm one of the most beloved shoewear brands in the world. This autobiographical account charts Van Doren’s journey of working in a rubber factory as a teenager to creating the renowned skateboard shoe company, to preserving the legacy throughout the decades. The book examines the decisions that made the foundations of the empire and the elements that rocketed the company to fame. The story also deals with the personal and professional obstacles that threatened and informed the work. Authentic is a parable for following passions and staying true to style and vision even in the face of change.
Notable Quote: “What I’ve accomplished comes down to one thing: my knack for identifying and then solving problems. What I do better than anything else is cut out distractions. If a system isn’t working efficiently, I can see where it’s jammed, eliminate the problem, and find a way to keep everything moving forward.”
Read Authentic: A Memoir by the Founder of Vans .
15. Believe IT: How to Go from Underestimated to Unstoppable by Jamie Kern Lima
Believe IT tells the life story of Jamie Kern Lima, founder of IT Cosmetics and waitress-turned-entrepreneur who overcame the odds to build a company worth a billion dollars and to become the first female CEO of a L’Oreal brand. The book lays out defining events such as Lima learning of her adoption in early adulthood, and shows how the authors’ life hardships prepared her to face the adversity of a beauty industry that constantly told her she would not succeed. Believe IT is part manifesto and part memoir, and full-throttle motivational read.
Notable Quote: “How we react to times of uncertainty, and whether we make decisions based in love or fear, can change the course of our life. Champions aren’t made when the game is easy. In any area of life.”
Read Believe It: How to Go from Underestimated to Unstoppable .
16. The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It by Tilar J Mazzeo
The Widow Clicquot is a historical business biography, and is one of the most fascinating business biographies about women. The book tells the tale of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, a businesswoman who gained control of her family’s business and revolutionized champagne. The biography describes how Clicquot Ponsardin turned misfortune into fortune and made a mark on the world at a time when opportunities for women were limited. The Widow Clicquot is an empowerment message and fascinating historical story wrapped into one riveting account.
Notable Quote: “Widowed at the age of twenty-seven, with no formal business training and no firsthand experience, Barbe-Nicole transformed a well-funded but struggling and small-time family wine brokerage into arguably the most important champagne house of the nineteenth century in just over a decade.”
Read The Widow Clicquot .
17. Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way by Richard Branson
Losing My Virginity is billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson’s first autobiography. The book pinpoints the most essential events and influences in Branson’s life. As most business biographies do, the work starts with the executive’s upbringing and moves through his life chronologically. Branson’s many adventures include professional forays into the music and airline industries, as well as personal exploits such as trying to circle the globe in a hot air balloon. Alongside his colorful stories, the businessman shares his personal and professional philosophies, chiefly the belief of working hard yet having passions and wins beyond work. Losing My Virginity advocates for living a full and rounded life and taking control in both personal and business spheres.
Notable Quote: “I can honestly say that I have never gone into any business purely to make money. If that is the sole motive then I believe you are better off not doing it. A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.”
Read Losing My Virginity .
18. Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built by Duncan Clark
Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built is a striking profile of the founder of one of the most expansive eCommerce companies in China and the world at large. The book highlights Ma’s humble beginnings as an English teacher as well as his late start to the world of entrepreneurship, and explores how the businessman rapidly climbed from running a company out of an apartment to securing a record-setting multi-billion dollar IPO. Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built provides a comprehensive history of Jack Ma’s life and professional journey and Alibaba’s evolution.
Notable Quote: “Today is brutal, tomorrow is more brutal, but the day after tomorrow is beautiful. However, the majority of people will die tomorrow night.”
Read Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built .
Founders, CEOs, and industry leaders are so often mythologized and painted as larger-than-life, that it can be easy to forget that these figures are humans with backstories and deeply personal lives. Business biographies provide perspective and additional insight into the motivations and influences of these legends and help flesh out more fully-formed profiles of these grand personas. These memoirs also portray the history of major companies and can paint fuller portraits of organizations’ origins and growth. By reading biographies on business leaders, professionals can be more mindful and in-control of their own work aspirations.
For more reading recommendations, check out this list of books on leadership or these business books by women .
FAQ: Business biographies
Here are answers to common questions about business biographies.
What are business biographies?
Business biographies are narrative nonfiction works that follow the lives of industry leaders and chart the launch and growth of important organizations. These books often draw from interviews and mix facts and history with philosophy.
What are the best business biographies?
The best business biographies include Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, The Snowball by Alice Schroeder, and Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.
Author: Angela Robinson
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Saturday 4th March, 20:49:42
The business autobiographies you’ll actually learn something from
Penned by figures from the chiefs of Nike and Starbucks to one of the best advertising minds in history, these page-turners are also lesson-learners
Words: Jonathan Wells
There’s undeniable fun in business memoirs — and we’re not talking the quaalude-popping, Lamborghini-crashing, midget-tossing tittle-tattle you’ll find in some self-congratulatory autobiographies. No, we’re after a different kind of thrill. We want to read those knife-edge accounts of late nights in the office, the eureka moments when a logo design just clicks or the blow-by-blows of high-stakes boardroom bust-ups.
That’s the real entertainment of entrepreneurs; the tales worth telling, and the stories worth learning from. So, to help any budding businessmen out there, we’ve wheedled out the best autobiographies from professionals across many different industries, from car racing to countrywear, that are as exciting as they are engaging. Who knows, you might even learn a thing or two…
Shoe Dog, Phil Knight, 2016
Subtitle: ‘A Memoir by the Creator of Nike’
Best story: Surely the story behind the Swoosh. “I don’t love it,” Knight told graphic design student Carolyn Davidson when she sketched it for just $35, “but I think it will grow on me”. Boy, did it — today, the logo alone is worth more than $26 billion.
What you’ll learn: So, so much. But the key takeaways from Knight’s life story are simple. Start before you’re ready, because things will always find a way to come together if you work hard. It pays to be a hands-off leader and admit where your expertise ends. And you shouldn’t be chasing a career; you should be looking for a calling.
iWoz, Steve Wozniak, 2006
Subtitle: ‘From Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, co-founded Apple, and had fun doing it’
Best story: Surprisingly, not one which mentions Steve Jobs. Instead, it comes early on — when Wozniak was cheated out of the top award at the Bay Area Science Fair. The school hosting the fair awarded the top three prizes to its own students — until Apple’s future co-founder showed the top judges how he’d switched from resistors to diodes to solve the nonworking problem in the electronics of a gate (no, us neither) and scooped the top prize at the twelfth grade fair. He was in eighth grade.
What you’ll learn: It’s an easily digestible autobiography; with his story told in short vignettes. But a common theme is patience. Whether Steve Jobs was scamming Wozniak out of money — something the late entrepreneur did frequently — or Wozniak himself was taking time to properly develop ideas he could have easily rushed through, Wozniak’s tale will teach you that good things come to those who wait.
Let My People Go Surfing, Yvon Chouinard, 2005
Subtitle: ‘The Education of a Reluctant Businessman’
Best story: Patagonia’s founder is passionate about the environment, so the hardest-hitting passage in this autobiography comes when he describes a trip to the San Joaquin Valley in 1994. “We could smell the selenium ponds, and see the lunar landscape of cotton fields,” he writes. We hear Chouinard’s thoughts, feel his pain and live through the moment he decided, on that trip, to only use 100 percent organic cotton from that moment on.
What you’ll learn: To be flexible. The title of the book itself refers to Chouinard’s flexible workplace, where “we shut down whenever the waves were six feet, hot and glassy”. Patagonia has always allowed employees to work flexible hours, as long as the work gets done. And the founder’s leap of faith in his workforce proves that we should all have a little more trust in our employees.
Pour Your Heart Into It, Howard Schultz, 1999
Subtitle: ‘How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time’
Best story: The former CEO and now chairman emeritus of Starbucks is not the company’s founder. But, from 1987 onwards, he built the company into the caffeinated conglomerate it is today. His most heart-warming anecdote? The letters of thanks he received from mothers and children from his old underprivileged neighbourhood, Canarsie, Brooklyn, telling him that his success story had given them hope for a brighter future.
What you’ll learn: To never forget your roots. Even if you ‘escaped’ an old life thanks to your success, Schultz will remind you to go back and help others. There’s a particularly poignant passage about his old school football team — a group that the businessman financially supports because he sees potential, not to mention his younger self, in the players.
Losing My Virginity, Sir Richard Branson
Subtitle: ‘How I’ve Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way’
Best story: There’s a great part, where Richard Branson seems to be in crisis and the hippy Virgin Records is failing to sign any artists from the new aggressive wave of punk bands. In part-frustration, part-savvy spur-of-the-moment business decision, the entrepreneur runs to a barber on Portobello Road, and gets about a foot and a half of his long hair lopped off. He no longer looked like a hippy, and signed The Sex Pistols mere months later.
What you’ll learn: To follow Branson’s famous mantra: “Oh, screw it, let’s do it.” Like the hair-snipping story above, there are a lot of gasp and grimace-inducing moments in this autobiography. But you’ll discover that, despite it looking like the tycoon was rushing into many of these sketchy situations, most of the time he won big by following his instincts.
Iacocca, Lee Iacocca, 1984
Subtitle: ‘An Autobiography’
Best story: Like the subtitle above, Iacocca’s best stories are simple. The American automobile exec doesn’t even make a joke about writing an ‘auto’-biography. He does, however, pay deference and show admiration of many of his colleagues — most notably in a story about Chrysler’s ex-boss John Riccardo, whom he observes was “sacrificing himself to save the company. He blew himself out of the water to bring Chrysler back to life. And that is the test of a real hero”.
What you’ll learn: To appreciate those you surround yourself with. The story above shows Iacocca’s capacity for admiration, and a recurring theme throughout the autobiography is humility. “I hire people brighter than me,” says Iacocca, “and then I get out of their way”.
Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain, 2000
Subtitle: ‘Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly’
Best story: Definitely the passage in which Bourdain outlines when his ‘future’ began; namely, the first time he ate an oyster. “That one moment, still more alive for me than so many of the other ‘firsts’ that followed,” he writes. “First sex, first joint, first day in high school, first published book. I attained glory.” His writing shows raw passion, and will set you hunting for that one elusive thing which makes you feel the same way.
What you’ll learn: That how you approach and enter a new profession or professional sector will set the stage for your success. Bourdain warns that if you don’t have a masochistic, irrational dedication to cooking, you won’t survive in the restaurant world. Know what you’re getting into; and prepare accordingly.
Confessions of an Advertising Man, David Ogilvy, 1963
Best story: In Ogilvy’s seminal memoir, every word is written like advertising copy — and it has become recommended reading for most English-speaking advertising university courses around the world. The best story centres around the power of compliments. During the entire time Ogilvy worked as a chef for one Monsieur Pitard, he was paid just a single compliment by the restaurateur — while preparing frogs legs. But, as Pitard paid it to him in front of all the other cooks, Ogilvy appreciated it more so than he would have regular one-to-one praise.
What you’ll learn: What won’t you learn? Key messages include: dishonesty is short-sighted, and never profitable; alway avoid copy-catting; ensure there is no incompetency within your ranks; don’t shoot for mediocrity; fearful people can’t produce great work. Take your pick.
Peter Thiel, Zero to One, 2014
Subtitle: ‘Notes on startups, or: How to build the future’
Best story: Perhaps the part that focuses on the importance of uniqueness and originality in truly world-straddling businesses. “Our task today is to find singular ways to create the new things that will make the future not just different, but better,” Thiel (who founded PayPal and Palantir, among other behemoths) writes. “The essential first step is to think for yourself. Only by seeing our world anew, as fresh and strange as it was to the ancients who saw it first, can we both re-create it and preserve it for the future.” This, he says, is how we might begin to go from “zero to one.”
What you’ll learn: Almost everything in Thiel’s now-famous series of lectures for his S183 class on startups at Stanford University back in 2012. It’s a self-help book for entrepreneurs written with lightning-bolt clarity and freshness, yes — but it’s also a meditation on what it takes to be successful in the modern age, the process of building something from nothing, and capitalism-at-large in the twenty-first century. Political, theoretical, and wonderfully quotable.
Oliver Shah, Damaged Goods, 2018
Subtitle: ‘The Inside Story of Sir Philip Green’
Best story: The book starts memorably enough, with Green threatening to throw author Oliver Shah, then the Sunday Times business editor, out of a window. And the rollercoaster romp just rolls on from there. But it’s the passages that reflect on Green’s monstrous ego and lavish appetites that resonate most poignantly today, as the onetime King of the High Street’s empire lies mostly in tatters. “If there is one common trait in every entrepreneur it is that he’s a thoroughly insecure animal whose main drive is vanity and whose main passion is a worship for prestige,” Shah concludes.
The gaudy, queasy details of the mogul’s three-day 50th birthday bacchanalia in Cyprus, and his gifts including a solid gold Monopoly game from Asprey, a red Ferrari Spider and a Harley Davidson with licence plate PG50, read now like haunting portents from some long-departed era. It is telling that, on the final day of the revelry, a decadent toga party is held — allowing Green to parade himself around the party like some corpulent, latter-day Emperor Nero. What could go wrong?
What you’ll learn:
That pride comes before a fall. And that if you’re going to withdraw a £1.2 billion dividend from your business — the biggest in British corporate history, by the way — you better pay it to your wife who happens to live in Monaco.
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The best business memoirs of all time.
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Former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca doing a TV commercial for his cars. (Photo by Ted Thai/The LIFE ... [+] Picture Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)
If you’re looking for inspiration and actionable insights from the successes and challenges of great entrepreneurs and executives, each book on this list tells an eye-opening story in the words of the person who was its catalyst.
This gives every title, some of which are recently published, some of which are classic, essential value for anyone planning, managing, or growing or a business. Or an empire.
Some Stories: Lessons from the Edge of Business and Sport by Yvon Chouinard
Some Stories by Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia)
You would expect that the charmed life of Yvon Chouinard–climber, environmentalist and founder of Patagonia–to be so distinct from the rest of us that it would naturally offer inspiration and wisdom when in print. Some Stories , which was released earlier this year, certainly offers plenty of that, but the thoughts and the example set by Chouinard may also upset the equilibrium of any reader who has become stuck in their work or in how they spend their days. It's a n essential read and a worthy successor to Chouinard’s previous work, the well-known Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman .
Yes is the Answer! What is the Question? by Cameron Mitchell
Cameron Mitchell Restaurants has been in business for more than 25 years with some 60 restaurants in its portfolio and employs somewhere north of 5,000 people. Yes is the Answer! What is the Question? takes you on a ride with Mitchell from his early days as a runaway and small-time drug dealer to where he and his company are today. Along the way, he spells out his belief in “culture first” and in support for employees as the company’s North Star.
My Father's Business: The Small-Town Values That Built Dollar General into a Billion-Dollar Company , by Cal Turner, Jr. with Rob Simbeck
My Father's Business by Cal Turner Jr. (Center Street)
The Dollar General of today is a publicly-traded company with 15,000 stores across America. Few realize that it’s a multi-generational business whose roots go back to the Depression. That’s when author Cal Turner, Jr.’s grandfather started buying and liquidating bankrupt, small-town general stores one by one. Taking us from there to today, Turner reveals the often-stressful dynamics of family involvement in a business, his own need to evolve his leadership style along the way, and the unique realities involved in becoming a prominent, publicly traded firm.
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (Scribner)
Ask any aspiring or established entrepreneur, including Bill Gates, and they'll have Shoe Dog somewhere on their list of favorite business books. In his memoir, Phil Knight details how he went from selling sneakers out of the trunk of his car to building Nike, which would become one of the most globally recognized brands. The memoir by the creator of Nike not only follows the history of his career and company but offers valuable startup lessons, including the difference between being a manager and being a leader and how company culture can make or break your company.
The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade by Thomas Lynch
The Undertaking by Thomas Lynch (W. W. Norton & Company)
Thomas Lynch is principal of a family-owned funeral home in Milford, Michigan. He’s also a National Book Award finalist and a poet of renown. Combining his gorgeous prose style with a unique, emotion-laden subject makes The Undertaking , which also spawned a PBS special, an extraordinary read about a business niche that is rarely discussed in the general business press.
Growing a Business by Paul Hawken
Growing a Business by Paul Hawken (Simon & Schuster)
This may be the most flat-out encouraging business memoir you’ll ever read (and re-read; it’s worth more than one time through)—particularly if you’re in the early days of building a company. Paul Hawken takes you step-by-step through his founding of Smith & Hawken Tool Company: from the beginnings, when he had to shoot his own catalog photos (because there was no money to hire a pro) through the company’s ultimate, runaway success on a national level.
Hawken discusses the nitty-gritty of making payroll, the near-impossibility of getting a loan when you actually need it, and why too much capital, as opposed to too little, is the bigger danger for a company that’s just getting started.
Personal History by Katharine Graham
Personal History by Katharine Graham (Vintage)
You can watch Meryl Streep play Katharine Graham onscreen or you go straight to the source and read her autobiography. When Graham became president of The Washington Post , it was just a small family-owned newspaper. By the early ‘70s she would become CEO and one of the first women to lead a major U.S. paper. In addition to publishing the Pentagon Papers, she supported investigations into the Watergate scandal, which of course lead to the resignation of President Nixon. By the time Graham stepped down as CEO in 1991, The Washington Post would grow into a media conglomerate with newspaper, magazine, television and cable businesses. But Graham's autobiography is about so much more than her career. The trailblazer is brutally honest about her life as a dutiful daughter and wife to Phil Graham, who suffered from depression and ultimately committed suicide. The following decades would usher in more first-female CEOs of major companies, including Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard and Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo.
Rising to the Challenge: My Leadership Journey by Carly Fiorina
Rising to the Challenge by Carly Fiorina (Sentinel)
Speaking of the first wave of women to lead major corporations, Carly Fiorina becme the first woman to lead a company listed in the Dow Jones Industrial Average when she became CEO and president of Hewlett Packard in 1999. Her first memoir, the bestselling Tough Choices , tracks her journey from the secretary for a small real estate office to the leader of a major Fortune 50 company—but it wasn't a smooth ride to the top. She had to deal with a storm of criticism that her male peers never had to face. Fiorina took the helm at HP during dotcom bubble of the '90s yet managed to steer the company toward a period of revenue growth and innovation. Her more recent memoir, Rising to the Challenge , packs more insights and takeaways for other women aiming to reach their fullest potential. It also explores aspects of her life beyond HP, giving the reader a deeper look into her life as a philanthropist, women's rights advocate and political activist.
Setting the Table by Danny Meyer
Settting the Table by Danny Meyer (Harper Perennial)
Setting the Table is both a business memoir and one of the best treatises ever written on customer service, or what Danny Meyer prefers to call “hospitality.” The s ubjects that Meyer, the founder of the Union Square Hospitality Group and a restaurateur renowned in New York (and internationally via Shake Shack, a development that postdates this book), touches on range from the very personal (what it took for his marriage to survive the death of their twin infants) to the nuts-and-bolts practical to the soaringly inspirational. While an obvious must-read for those in the restaurant business, it’s equally essential for anyone who’s aspiring to improve their interactions with and treatment of customers.
Iacocca: An Autobiography by Lee Iacocca
Iacocca by Lee Iacocca (Random House)
Lee Iacocca had at least two great acts: First, he led the Ford Motor Company and then swept in an era of great innovation for Chrysler in the 1980s. In addition to saving the auto giant, he was also credited for rebuilding Ellis Island. The autobiography of arguably one of the best executives of the 20th century also touches on his life as a philanthropist and activist. While Iacocca was the bestselling business book of both 1984 and 1985, his leadership lessons still ring true today. M ake a trilogy out of it and pick up Talking Straight , in which he lists his ten rules for good management, and, his last book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone? in which he outlines tough questions leaders must address to help restore America.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
There has never been another entrepreneurial/political/diplomatic/inventing/publishing career like Ben Franklin’s, and there’s no other business autobiography like this one. You’ll want to read it both for the extraordinary life it describes and for Franklin’s sometimes bluntly practical tips for getting ahead (one key to his ascension in the printing business was to forgo drinking at lunch, even though this made him an outcast among his fellow printshop workers, whom he describes as “beer guzzlers").
In one particularly telling moment in The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin , he sets up an elaborate roadmap for how, with daily effort, he'll cure himself of all his vices and replace them with virtues. Unfortunately, one of these intended virtues is “humility,” which Franklin ultimately gives up on achieving. Why? Because even if achieved, he calculates, he would then be proud of his newfound humility.
Instead, he settles for the appearance of humility. His strategy for achieving this is brilliant and served him throughout the rest of his public life, including his famous stint as ambassador to France: “I made it a rule to forbear all direct contradiction to the sentiments of others, and all positive assertion of my own,” as well as “the use of every word or expression in the language that imported a fixed opinion, such as certainly , undoubtedly , etc., and I adopted, instead of them, I conceive , I apprehend , or I imagine a thing to be so or so, or it so appears to me at present. ”
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A biography is the story of a person’s life in the words of another person, while an autobiography is the story of a person’s life in his own words. A biography is typically written in third person, while an autobiography is typically writt...
A biography must cover the accounts of a person’s life in the third-person. The biography can cover the subject’s entire life or a distinct portion.
There’s really nothing wrong with wanting to memorialize one’s personal or family history through self publishing a memoir or biography. But many of these "legacy" authors don't understand what they're about to attempt. I explain. Heidi Tho...
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