The 20 Best Business Books of the Last 20 Years

best business books

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When I was in college, I had no idea what the business world was actually like. Even now being ten years into my working career, I’m still learning every day.

And to fully understand money and the economy, you need to understand business. That’s why, although I write about personal finance, I am regularly reading books on business.

There’s a more significant connection you can make between all this stuff. In this article, I’ll share my picks for the best business books of the last twenty years. Be sure to add all these to your reading list.

1. “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs

The self-titled biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson is a must read for anyone in the business world. From leadership skills to team building and critical thinking, Steve Jobs possessed numerous talents that others often try to emulate.

Steve Jobs was a co-founder of Apple Inc. and directly involved in the creation of some the most innovative products. He was a perfectionist and a skilled salesman who helped change the way billions of people access the internet, communicate, and listen to music.

He was also frugal and saved his money.

You probably know Apple as the company behind Mac computers, iPods, iPads, and iPhones. According to the statistics website, Statista, Apple became the world’s largest company in May 2018. This was primarily due to the success of the popular Apple products and Steve Jobs’ vision.

This authorized biography provides insight into Steve Jobs’ upbringing, philosophy, and way of thinking. His approach to business may give you some inspiration, whether you are a manager or business owner.

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Steve Jobs
6,647 Reviews
Steve Jobs
  • the life and times of Steve Jobs
  • Walter Isaacson
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster

2. “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Extreme Ownership

Leadership is the key to success is a common thread that runs throughout many business books, including Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. It offers a firsthand account of the U.S. Navy SEALs actions in Iraq and how they overcame adversity to help secure Ramadi.

The authors stress that leadership was integral to whether teams succeeded, which is a lesson that may apply to other areas, such as business.

As you read through the book, you will find chapters covering topics related to how U.S. SEAL teams operate. These chapters explain how you can implement the principles and strategies used in combat in your world.

A big focus of the book is helping you understand how to build a capable team. If you want direct, actionable steps on how to succeed in business, Extreme Ownership is a must read.

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Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win (New Edition)
2,392 Reviews
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win (New Edition)
  • Jocko Willink, Leif Babin
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Edition no. 1 (11/21/2017)

3. “This Is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn to See” by Seth Godin

This Is Marketing

When your current marketing approach does not offer the results that you want, This Is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn to See from Seth Godin is a great choice. The author provides a detailed look at a revolutionary marketing strategy.

Instead of focusing on the needs of your customers, Seth Godin encourages you to show customers what they need. The author does not rely on traditional techniques, such as email sales funnels or carefully crafted ads. He promotes the idea of building meaningful connections with customers.

The book also covers some of the reasons that traditional marketing and advertising methods are no longer useful. No matter what industry you are working in, these new strategies may help you change the way you look at marketing.

This marketing guide is easy to read and offers numerous examples and anecdotes that you may learn useful lessons from. You may also find these lessons beneficial to other areas of your life, as the author believes that marketing is present in every aspect of life.

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This Is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn to See
101 Reviews
This Is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn to See
  • Seth Godin
  • Publisher: Portfolio
  • Hardcover: 288 pages

4. “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” by Travis Bradberry

Emotional Intelligence 2.0

Did you know that your emotions play a vital role in your success in life and work? That is the main point of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry.

This book on emotional intelligence explains why your emotions affect every aspect of your job performance and ability to get ahead. You can learn how to deal with your feelings in a creative way, instead of letting them get in your way.

At 281 pages, it is a short read. However, inside the book, you will find 66 strategies for increasing your emotional intelligence. These strategies are based on more than a decade of research and include practical tips that you can start using today.

The definitive guide to emotional intelligence is an essential read for anyone in the business world. It was first released almost a decade ago and remains a top seller. With this simple guide, you may gain better control over your emotions in the workplace, allowing you to address challenges subjectively and effectively.

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Emotional Intelligence 2.0
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Emotional Intelligence 2.0
  • Emotional intelligence test
  • Self awareness
  • strategies to increase emotional intelligence

5. “Principles: Life and Work” by Ray Dalio

Principles

Ray Dalio is the founder and CEO of the largest hedge fund, which makes him a credible source for business tips. With Principles: Life and Work, Ray explains the principles that helped achieve his goals. By using some of these principles in your own life and work, you may gain more significant success.

The first half of the book is primarily an autobiography. Ray offers you his life story, explaining how he went from being broke in 1982 to build a hedge fund valued at over $150 billion.

The second half discusses the principles that Ray used to succeed. These principles guide you through a five-step process to achieve almost anything that you want in life. From building a successful company to leading a successful home life, you gain a roadmap to your dreams.

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Principles: Life and Work
762 Reviews
Principles: Life and Work
  • Ray Dalio
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Hardcover: 592 pages

6. “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S. Dweck

Mindset

If you have a fixed mindset, you likely believe that your talents are set and incapable of change. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success challenges you to grow from your experiences and challenges.

In her book on the psychology of success, Carol S. Dweck presents the benefits of developing a growth mindset. With a growth mindset, you take your setbacks and criticisms as opportunities for real growth.

As explained by ICAS, an organization that includes more than 20,000 Chartered Accountants, a growth mindset is beneficial to your success. It requires you to adopt a new way of thinking about challenges.

One of the most valuable lessons that you will learn from this book is how to focus on learning instead of achieving. Your achievements should not be your primary focus. By learning from challenges and struggles, you develop your natural talents.

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Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
2,475 Reviews
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
  • Ballantine Books
  • Carol S. Dweck
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books

7. “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek

Start With Why

If you inspire your team by focusing on business processes and operations, you may be missing out on a key ingredient to success. In Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek explains that the most significant leaders inspired others by focusing on the purpose instead of the process or the product.

Steve Jobs is a great example. He helped give Apple a purpose and direction. Great products and processes flowed from the vision that he outlined. By reading this short guide, you may find out how to inspire those around you.

This is not the first business book written by Simon Sinek. He is a trusted author on leadership skills and mindsets. With this latest book, he wants you to build your business framework around the “why” before moving on to the “how” or “what.”

These are the same methods used by Fortune 500 companies and leaders in various industries. If these strategies worked for them, they might work for you.

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Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
2,226 Reviews
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
  • Start with Why How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
  • Simon Sinek
  • Publisher: Portfolio

8. “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and Slow

In business, there are times when you need to think fast and times when you need to think slow. That is the concept promoted in Thinking, Fast and Slow by Nobel Prize-winning author Daniel Kahneman.

Kahneman is a renowned psychologist and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In his latest book, he explains how you think. He discusses the two primary systems that control your decisions.

The first system involves fast thinking and results in emotional, intuitive decisions. The second system is slower and analytical. It allows you to think logically about the correct actions.

Determining which system is best for each situation is often a challenge. Overcoming this challenge is one of the main focuses of the book. By the end of this read, you should gain more insight into how your thinking impacts your decision making and leadership skills.

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Thinking, Fast and Slow
3,010 Reviews
Thinking, Fast and Slow
  • Thinking Fast and Slow
  • Daniel Kahneman
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

9. “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth

Grit

In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth explains that the secret to success is a combination of passion and perseverance, which is called grit.

Grit is not a new term. However, Angela Duckworth suggests that it is a trait that many people have forgotten about. When you do not give up on tasks and let your grit carry you through, you are much more likely to succeed.

The book does not offer direct steps or processes that you can implement. It includes anecdotes that help illustrate how a strong drive to succeed has allowed people in various walks of life to achieve their goals.

Duckworth tells the stories of cadets struggling at West Point and teachers facing difficulty in their school systems. She also provides examples from history and interviews dozens of successful business leaders to help drive home her points.

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Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
1,106 Reviews
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
  • Angela Duckworth
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Edition no. 0 (08/21/2018)

10. “Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs” by John Doerr

Measure What Matters

With his new book, Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRsJohn Doerr presents a technique used by the leading companies in every sector. This is a technique used by Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation. If it worked them, perhaps it will work for you.

The technique requires you to use objectives and key results (OKRs) to set challenging goals and then track the progress.

OKRs are proven to be effective. In a noted study first published in 2010 and available on Wiley Online Library, researchers found that setting challenging goals helps increase employee engagement, which helps improve their level of success.

With this book, you learn the benefits of OKRs and how to implement them in your business. While the focus is on setting objectives and key results for your teams, these same techniques can be applied to your own goals.

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Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs
157 Reviews

11. “Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity” by Kim Scott

Radical Candor

Being a boss requires you to challenge your staff. You may even need to provide important criticism to help your team improve. In Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, Kim Scott discusses why these steps are critical to effective leadership.

Kim Scott was an executive at several major companies, including Google and Apple. She earned a reputation for her no-nonsense leadership style, which she discusses in detail in her book.

Through a series of anecdotes and lessons, Kim Scott teaches you how to develop a framework for building stronger relationships in the workplace. Whether or not you are a manager, you can use these suggestions to improve your leadership and communication skills.

The lessons in the book teach you how to give and receive constructive feedback. With these lessons, you may become a better leader while gaining the respect and trust of those that you work with.

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Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity
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Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity
  • St Martin s Press
  • Kim Scott
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press

12. “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” by Patrick Lencioni

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

With this third book in a trilogy of fables about the business world, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership FablePatrick Lencioni tells a story about the positive and negative effects of group behavior.

By reading these fictional stories, you gain insight into the importance of trust and accountability for a successful team. The stories are entertaining and easy to understand and implement.

The five dysfunctions discussed in the book include an absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of communication, lack of accountability, and lack of attention. These are the most common reasons behind the failure of a project.

You do not need to be a manager to benefit from the insights provided in this book. Anyone that works with others in a team setting can use these lessons to avoid the five dysfunctions that plague unsuccessful groups.

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
  • English
  • hardcover

13. “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers

Malcolm Gladwell is a best-selling author of numerous books on the way people think. With Outliers: The Story of Success, he examines common threads between the most successful people. He explores their upbringing and experiences to determine if these details are what makes successful leaders different.

Instead of being born with an innate talent, Malcolm Gladwell believes that the most successful individuals achieved their success due to the opportunities and advantages that they experienced growing up.

The idea is that you do not get to the top on your own based on your own merits. Your background directly influences your current abilities. It is an exciting book that may change the way you perceive talent and success.

While the book does not include actionable steps or suggestions, it does offer an entertaining look at why various famous people made it where they have based on their unique background or upbringing.

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Outliers: The Story of Success
5,078 Reviews
Outliers: The Story of Success
  • Back Bay Books
  • Malcolm Gladwell
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books

14. “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High” by Kerry Patterson

Crucial Conversations

When an employee makes a mistake or does not meet your expectations, you may need to have a difficult conversation. If you struggle to address these issues, Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High may be the perfect book for you.

The crucial conversation tools discussed in this book are designed to help you deal with difficult conversations. The author presents a seven-step approach to handling these exchanges without either party feeling angry or getting their feelings hurt.

Kerry Patterson developed these steps based on her own training seminars. The techniques may help lower defenses and build mutual trust and respect, which are needed for a constructive conversation. It is a short read with a straightforward structure that makes it easy to digest.

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Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition
1,597 Reviews
Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition
  • McGraw-Hill
  • Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education

15. “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit

In his latest book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg explains how to break bad habits that may be keeping you from succeeding in business. His ideas are based on proven science. According to a detailed paper added to the US National Library of Medicine, the human brain is built to form habits.

Charles Duhigg refers to the neurological pattern as the habit loop. It starts with a trigger, which is followed by a routine and a reward. By understanding these three components, you may find ways to stop the loop and replace a bad habit with a good habit.

The book also provides the Golden Rule of Habit Change, which allows you to replace the routine, instead of trying to replace or avoid the trigger. These lessons are presented in a series of chapters that provide detailed tips on overcoming bad habits.

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The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
4,739 Reviews
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
  • Power of Habits
  • Charles Duhigg
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks

16. “The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter” by Michael Watkins

The First 90 Days

The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter is a guide for getting up to speed after you assume a new role in an organization. By reading this book, you can discover techniques for creating a smoother transition when accepting a new position.

During your first few months in a new position, your performance will be closely monitored. The mistakes that you make may stick with you for years to come. To help ensure that you have the information and knowledge to work with new staff and understand your role, the book provides a series of lessons.

The lessons include checklists, tools, and self-assessments that you can use. Whether you are being promoted or starting a new job, these invaluable tips may help you manage your transition.

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The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, Updated and Expanded
730 Reviews
The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, Updated and Expanded
  • Harvard Business School Press
  • Michael D. Watkins
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press

17. “The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich” by Timothy Ferriss

The 4-Hour Workweek

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich offers a mixture of tips, strategies, and advice for simplifying your life and achieving success. The author has created simple, practical steps for working less so that you can get more fulfillment from your life.

The tips and case studies included in the book offer a wide variety of solutions for streamlining the way you get things done. For example, you can learn how to outsource tasks to overseas virtual assistants and eliminate half of your tasks by using strategies developed by a long-forgotten Italian economist.

The 4-Hour Workweek is an exciting read and one of the best business books, due to the variety of content included. Along with tips for reducing the amount of work that you perform, the book consists of real-world templates that you can use to get what you want and improve your negotiating skills.

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The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
5,582 Reviews
The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
  • Crown Publishing Group NY
  • Timothy Ferriss
  • Publisher: Harmony

18. “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” by Phil Knight

Shoe Dog

In his memoir, Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike, Phil Knight provides an unfiltered look at his path to creating one of the most successful shoe companies. While Nike is now a major brand with annual sales that exceed $30 billion, success did not occur overnight.

“Shoe Dog” is a fast-paced read that details some of the biggest mistakes, challenges, and triumphs that Phil Knight encountered.

Why should you consider reading this memoir? Inspiration is the most significant benefit that you may get from this book. Phil Knight’s story shows that creating a successful company requires perseverance and hard work, which is a common theme in the best business books.

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Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
2,534 Reviews
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
  • Phil Knight
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Edition no. 0 (05/01/2018)

19. “The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life” by Shawn Achor

The Happiness Advantage

The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life is a detailed look at the importance of using happiness to fuel success. The author, Shawn Achor, spent over a decade at Harvard University conducting research and giving lectures on the topic.

According to research shared in the Harvard Business Review, happiness can raise a variety of business outcomes. One study found that increasing staff happiness can lead to a 37% increase in sales and provide a 31% boost to productivity.

The book elaborates on these benefits, using case studies and real stories taken from the author’s work with thousands of executives and managers. You also receive seven actionable principles that you can start using today to boost your performance.

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The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life
1,152 Reviews
The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life
  • Shawn Achor
  • Publisher: Currency
  • Edition no. 0 (06/05/2018)

20. “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Daniel Pink

Drive

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, the fourth book by Daniel Pink, offers a new approach to employee motivation. The author argues that paying an employee too much produces an adverse effect that equals the negatives of paying them too little.

Based on studies conducted at MIT and other institutions, the author concludes that people are often motivated by rewards and fear of punishment. These motivations do not encourage creativity and quality decision-making skills.

To boost employee performance and motivation, you should try to give employees three factors. These factors include autonomy to direct their own actions, mastery to improve their skills, and purpose to provide desire for better performance. The book offers detailed steps for implementing these practices in your organization.

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Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
1,128 Reviews
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
  • Riverhead Books
  • Daniel H. Pink
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books

Conclusion

Whew. Well, there you have it.

The best twenty books on business from the last twenty years. These picks will help you understand not only business but the economy and money as well.

Remember, though, that these are only those that have been released in the last twenty years or so.

There are plenty of business books to discover that are older. These books offer advice to help you think about your money and our economy differently.

One great example is How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Check that one out for sure.

Now I want to hear from you:

What are your favorite business books? Please share in the comments directly below!

Last update on 2018-12-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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