22 Books Every Ambitious Business Owner Should Have on Their Bookshelf

By Kristian Thaulow

I have to be honest. I'm the embodiment of a stereotypical book nerd. I went from never reading a single book to reading 50 + books every single year. And it's not just me. Some of the world's top CEOs and executives read 4-5 books per month. So today, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to share some of my all-time favorite books with you.

To make the list easy to read, I've divided all the books into four categories, so you can easily find the books you want to read:

1. Personal development
2. Psychology
3. Leadership
4. Miscellaneous

Personal Development

1. The Obstacle is the Way - The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage by Ryan Holiday

This book draws on the ancient Greek philosophy, "Stoicism." Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor, said this almost 2,000 years ago: "What stands in the way becomes the way." The book shows you how some of the world's most successful people encountered difficult and almost impossible situations. And why their success was less about their intelligence, their talent or luck, but more about how they chose to handle stressful situations.

2. The Power Of Now - A Guide To Spiritual Enlightenment Of Eckhart Tolle

This is probably THE BOOK to read if you want to discover how to live more in the present and be present in everything you do. With that said, you need to be very open to the slightly more spiritual element in it - spiritual, not religious. It can be a bit "heavy" in some places, but once you pull out the essence of it, it's a fascinating and thoughtful read.

3. The Way of the Seal - Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed by Mark Divine

The book was written by former Navy SEAL, Mark Divine. He dives into how you build real mental toughness. The book has different exercises to help you turn the techniques into a regular part of your everyday life. Don't let the title scare you away. The book is packed with practical techniques and philosophies that'll make you more focused and more mentally strong.

4. Unbeatable Mind - Forge Resiliency and Mental Toughness to Succeed at an Elite Level by Mark Divine

Yes, yet another book from Mark Divine. The difference between "Unbeatable Mind" and "Way of the SEAL" is that U.M. focuses more on the mental toughness aspect. Look at the description: "The book teaches you to cast out your fear, overcome negativity and connect with a deeper and increased sensitivity to what is happening around you. You want to wipe out the emotional blockades and become the leader you know you were created to be. "

5. The 5 Second Rule - The Surprisingly Simple Way to Live, Love, and Speak With Courage by Mel Robbins

The book gives you an interesting technique that helps you break the different patterns which keep you from doing the things you want. The book has a ton of great stories, examples, and a solid tool you can use. Mel Robbins also has a great TEDx Talk if you want more material from her.

6. Extreme Ownership - How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

This book... This book is nothing short of amazing! Since I bought it last year, I've been through it 5+ times. Whether you're the CEO, a manager, even if you're a parent, you can use the principles from this book. This is by far my favorite book out of the hundreds of books I've read. The audiobook read by the authors is probably one of the best ones, too.

7. Awaken the Giant Within - How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny by Anthony Robbins

If you haven't heard about Tony Robbins, you're in for a treat. Tony is known as "the father of the coaching industry." He has personally helped people like Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Nelson Mandela! If there were no Tony Robbins, I wouldn't be here either. Tony is one of my most influential mentors.

8. 59 Seconds - Think a little, change a lot by Richard Wiseman

Here's something you might not know: A lot of the self-help industry "guru" uses different examples of studies to make their point. But, no matter how interesting they are, most of them never existed. This book takes a critical view of the self-help industry, and instead gives you some ultra-specific ways to get more motivated, enjoy your life, and much more.


9. The Psychology of Winning: Ten Qualities of a Total Winner by Denis Waitley

Denis Waitley studied the different qualities (mindset, thoughts, focus, etc.) world's top athletes and business people have compared to others who struggle through life. It gives you a clear picture of what you can do to overcome the difficult times that life will inevitably throw at us.

10. The Power of Habit - Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

If you've ever struggled with a bad habit and don't know how to get rid of it... read this book. This is by far the best book about how to take control of your habits. You discover why we have them, how they're created, and, more importantly: How you change them.

11. The Checklist Manifesto - How To Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

Here's a universal truth: A checklist can save your life (just ask any pilot). Atul Gawande, surgeon and New York Times bestselling author, gives you an insight into how to use checklists to streamline all aspects of your life and business.

12. Influence - The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

This book is a mastodont of a book. "Influence" is the book that thousands of other books refer to when it comes to understanding human psychology. There are decades worth of research boiled down to a few critical principles that will help you understand the science of influence and how you can influence others and yourself.

13. Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss

I LOVE this book! If you've ever struggled with negotiation, or if you just want to take your negotiation skills to the next level, you should read this book. Chris Voss was the international hostage negotiator for the FBI. He's taken his vast experience and boiled it down to step-by-step principles you can use today in ANY negotiation.


14. Creating Magic: 1 0 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney by Lee Cockerell

Lee Cockerell shares the leadership principles he discovered during his time with Walt Disney World Resort - a multibillion-dollar company. This sentence pretty much sums up this fantastic book: "It's not the magic that makes it work; it's the way we work that makes it magic."

15. It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy by D. Michael Abrashoff

Leadership and management are difficult in any business. But management in a rigid, top-down hierarchy like the U.S. Navy is something else. Yet, Abrashoff still managed to take the USS Benfold, the worst-performing ship in the navy, and transform it into the "best damn ship in the navy." The book is an excellent practical guide that will turn you into an even better leader.

16. The TRUST Method: 10 Leadership Strategies That Build Genuine Trust and Influence Anyone to Take Action

Ahh, yes, by far, my most FAVORITE book on this list. (Hey, it's my list, there should be some benefits, right?). In the book, you'll discover EVERYTHING you need to know about how to build genuine trust and influence anyone to take action. You'll get ten modules in a hyper-specific, step-by-step program that holds nothing back on the most effective leadership principles.


17. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

The primary reason I read "Ender's Game" was because it's one of Mark Zuckerberg's favorite books. Fortunately, I was more than pleasantly surprised by the exciting story of Ender and his development in the military as a child. If you like science fiction books, this is a great read.

18. The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream by Paulo Coelho

The title says it all: The Alchemist is a story of having the courage to pursue your dreams. The book centers on the boy, Santiago, a shepherd who dreams of traveling the world and its treasures. The book has sold over 65 million copies and holds a Guinness World Record for the most translated book by a living author.

19. Way of the Peaceful Warrior - A Book That Changes Lives by Dan Millman

Honestly, I usually read this book twice a year. The book is based on Dan Millman's real experiences with his mentor "Socrates." It has great life lessons, stories, and philosophies that you can directly implement into your own life.

20. The One Thing - The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller

Most of us probably know the feeling of being overwhelmed by all the different things we want to achieve - losing weight, growing our business, getting a new car. "The One Thing" takes the complete opposite approach. You learn how to cut through the noise, achieve better results in less time with less stress... just by focusing on one thing: The most important thing.

21. Tools of Titans - The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Timothy Ferriss

In this book, Tim Ferriss took over 200 podcast episodes - with people like Jamie Foxx, Arnold Schwarzenegger - and boiled them down to the most significant insights and into some simple tools you can use to become the best version of yourself.

22. The 4-Hour Workweek - Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich of Timothy Ferriss

The last book on the list and another book by Tim Ferriss and a modern classic. This book is for you if you want to live life on your terms (i.e., more time between your hands), and this book shows you exactly how to do it.

Honestly, all these books can change your life. So here is my recommendation for you:

Don't debate with yourself whether to buy a book or not. Buy the book, no matter what. If you only get one new idea or new insight from the book, it could potentially change your life and business. At that point, it's already worth a lot more than the few dollars you invested in it.

If you want to discover how to 2x your sales and get more clients for your business, my free online training session is a great place to start. You'll learn how to use the old-school principle of "Infotainment" to write emails that people LOVE to read. Including: How to write stories so compelling they immediately draw customers in - even if you're not a professional writer... and much more. You can get FREE instant access to the training, right here: Kristian Thaulow