Excel in Business: 16 Must-Reads for the Busy Executive

https://pixabay.com/en/tie-necktie-adjust-adjusting-man-690084/I do a lot of reading throughout the year, but it’s largely content from the web. But late November through December each year I make it a point to catch up on all the books I wanted to read. I thought I would share some of my favorites from the last few years.

The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business

by Josh Kaufman

This is the closest thing I have to desk reference. It’s not something you read cover-to-cover (I guess you could), but rather explore to find solutions to problems. It really is an MBA in book form.


by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

This is an odd book. It’s more a series of 2-3 page “posts”, and it has what you might call edgy language. But, if you can get past that, you’ll find this full of little nuggets you can start applying tomorrow.

E-Myth Revisited

by Michael E. Gerber

I first read this book just out of high school, and it changed my world view just as the first tech bubble was taking hold.  Years later and I still come back to it for management advice.

Reality Check

by Guy Kawasaki

This doesn’t produce any ground breaking ideas, but it packages well known business ideas into such a digestible form. Being able to recall the ideas is just as important as the idea itself, and for that reason I recommend Reality Check to everyone.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

Another book that reaches beyond basic business how-to. Made to Stick is all about crafting communications that resonate with people, but it delivers this by delving into the how we think, and why some stories stick.

How Will You Measure Your Life

by Clayton M. Christensen & James Alworth

Probably not the Clay Christensen book you expect to see on a reading list. But in many ways I find this more profound than his other works on disruption. You might call this a self-help book, but it’s so much deeper.

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail–but Some Don’t

by Nate Silver

Using data to predict future results is a powerful tool. But it’s also so very difficult to execute on. Signal and the Noise attempts to make predictive analytics approachable and applicable. I think it succeeds and that makes it a great read.

Inspired: How to Create Products Customer Love

by Marty Cagan

Without question the best book on product management. But, don’t be fooled, it’s about so much more than that. Like Hooked, Inspired contains a ton of applicable ideas on making things people love.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products

by Nir Eyal with Ryan Hoover

Creating user engagement can seem like mumbo jumbo. Hooked combines sounds behavioral science and the authors personal experience into a highly applicable framework. If you are at all involved in sales, marketing, or product development, I think you’ll find this book easy to read and immensely helpful.

Making It Right: Product Management For a Startup World

by Rian van der Merwe

Don’t let the title full you. This is not just for start-ups. It is for anyone responsible for a product, whether or not you carry the product manager title. It’s so full of practical advice I keep a copy at my desk.

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business

by Gino Wickman

Marketing is way more complicated than it used to be. If you’re a small business it can feel overwhelming. I loved Traction because it broke down the various tactics into digestible pieces and made it feel normal to try and fail at some. Eventually, you’ll find some that work for your business.

Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization 

by Leonardo Inghiller & Micah Solomon

Service, and by extension customer loyalty, has rapidly become one of the key ways to differentiate your business. More importantly it has become one of the key ways to be profitable. If you want loyal customers, read this.

Implementing Value Pricing

by Ronald J. Baker

Determining prices is one of the most challenging activities for any business. Whether you sell services or widgets, getting this right can be the difference between growth and failure. I found value pricing the most logical method, and this book a practical approach to moving toward it.

Content Strategy for the Web

by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach

Fundamentally, the web is about content. As the web has come to infiltrate so much of business, content has become increasingly critical. But most don’t have an overarching strategy. I find Kristina’s approach easy to understand and apply.

How to Make Sense of Any Mess

by Abby Covert

This is a top 5 book for me, because it takes this complex, academic discipline of information architecture, and breaks it down into applicable concepts. I warn you, once reading this, you’ll begin to organize everything around you.

The Design of Everyday Things

by Don Norman

If you are at all involved with design, you know this book. If you’re not, take my word for it this will be one of the best books you read this year. It’s worth picking up just for his analysis of a juicer.