It’s that time of year again.  Below you’ll find our list of favorite reads of 2016. Some were published this year, some many moons ago. Some are business-focused, others flagrant fiction. So, without further achoo, here’s our list of Essential Reading for the Small Business Owner.

Must Read Books for Small Business Owners – 2016 Edition

Books Good for Your Business

decisive-book-cover*** Our Top Pick ***

by Chip & Dan Heath
Willpower is a muscle that must be fed, exercised and rested. “Decision Fatigue” has inserted my regular lexicon of business vocabulary.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (Charles Duhigg) … hat tip to James Clear for recommending this gem. More than any other advice I’ve received this year, The Power of Habit transformed how I plan and execute my days and my life. It’s even affected my parenting, helping build structure into my autistic daughter’s life using habit stacking.

The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King (Rich Cohen)… Sam Zemmurri was willing to start actual WARS to grow his business. The best biography I’ve ever read, hands-down. From poor man, to businessman, to kingpin, this guy’s story includes all of the do’s (and don’ts) for true entrepreneurs.

Re-read: Pitch Anything (Oren Klaff) … had a chance to work with Oren last month. A master class in presentation and negotiating.

Re-read: The 10X Rule (Grant Cardone) … loudmouth, aggressive AND a Scientologist. What’s NOT to love about this guy? For serious though, weed through the bombastic ego rambles, and there’s some mega-valuable stuff in here for anyone who wants to really GROW their business.

Re-read: The Art of War (Sun Tzu) … I find myself regurgitating his advice to clients almost weekly. Specifically, the importance of not engaging in ‘fair fights’ with your competition and the critical role of agility in business models.

Re-read: The Obstacle is the Way (Ryan Holiday) … well, big surprise – I am (now) an unapologetic Stoic.


Books Good for Your Sanity

something-more-than-night-coverSomething More Than Night (Ian Tregillis) … an angel posing as a noir gumshoe in modern ‘merica. Need I say more.

How to live safely in a science fictional universe (Charles Yu) thought I was getting a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy spin-off. Instead a tribute from a son to his father seen through the lens of a world where time traveling machines spurred an entire new class of blue-collar repairmen with daddy issues.

The Searcher (Simon Toyne) … this guy writes like I wish I could. A classic story of a small town that turned to drugs to survive, that needed a mystical something to save them. Reminiscent of that 90’s TV Show the Pretender, just way better and set in a scary beautiful desert.

Dark Matter (Blake Crouch) – didn’t think it was possible to write a love story about multi-dimensional travel. This one got me thinking about love, life and quantum physics.

Angelmaker (Nick Harkaway)… about a clockmaker who saves the world. I think.

Tigerman (Nick Harkaway) … Nick Harkaway is the only writer to show up twice in my list. And for good reason – he is GOOD. I found this gem on the recommended shelf at the semi-ghetto Butte County Library here in Chico. Semi-retired military man semi-stranded on a semi-populated island surrounded by semi-sane residents and a local volcano that spurs the semi-hero into action.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass (Jim Butcher)… I’ve been a lover of steampunk ever since Billy Gold introduced me to it via one of my first product launches (Otaku Tea) many moons ago. Air pirates, giant spiders, romance, c’mon!

Welcome to Nightvale (Nightvale Presents) This podcast and its sibling members of the Nightvale Presents family are consistently weird, creepy, and entertaining. If you like dark humor, or you just want to hear Charlie Day’s version of Macbeth, you’ll find a lot to love. Not actually a book, though there are some Welcome to Nightvale books available.


level-up-your-lifeBlogs, Newsletters, Shorts

These are the only newsletters we subscribe to anymore:

Honorable Mentions

The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need – Iannarino, Anthony
The man behind one of my favorite newsletters has assembled his body of knowledge into a little red book. A bit on the dense, academic side, however, it is essential reading for anyone that finds themselves thrust into a sales role (which happens to EVERY small business owner at one point or another). The “chain of commitments” chapter is absolute gold.

… here’s the 2015 version

Must Read Books for Small Business Owners

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers. Essential reading for those struggling with merging their business and their lifestyle with minimal mental, emotional and/or fiscal injury. Calling this book life-changing would be an understatement. Here’s a great piece by Derek to give you a taste of his refreshing approach to business. And while you are at it, read Kevin Kelly’s frequently stolen quoted philosophy on 1,000 True FansNotably this book is the only one that has made an appearance in all of our reading lists.
Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff. Frame control, the psychology of decision making and the importance of sequence in sales … boom!
Sell or Be Sold by Grant Cardone.  He’s an unapologetic hustler, sales phenom and Scientologist. But don’t let that scare you away. The advice Grant drops in this book is CRITICAL to anyone with a product or service to sell – I learned (and now teach) his core tenet of prioritizing activities with massive impact. The audio version is entertaining as f*** too.
The Fish That Ate the Whale by Rich Cohen. This biography of Sam Zemurray (the ‘banana king’) can easily be THE playbook for dominating an entire industry. His hustle and persistence is as inspiring. His moral flexibility (financing multiple wars to sell more bananas) horrifying. A good companion piece to the Obstacle is the Way, highlighting the upsides and downsides of Stoic business practices.
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. I’ve been sharing Simon’s “Golden Circle” TED talk with damn near everyone I know. He takes that same approach and tackles the subject of leadership. His explanations of the happiness chemicals blew me away.
The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday. A primer on the Stoics dressed up for modern readers by marketing badass Ryan Holiday (Trust Me I’m Lying).  The idea of framing obstacles as opportunities complements Warren Buffet’s ‘moat’ concept beautifully.
BONUS: this article by Robert Bruce helped pull me out a serious bout of small biz owner depression, and helped me learn to love my job again – Why Everyone Hopes You’ll be The Hero.
DOUBLE BONUS: Seth prefers more fictional and, um, weirder books than what you’ll typically find me reading. Here’s his short list, fiction and non-fiction, and why:
The Maddaddam Trilogy  by Margaret Atwood. I needed a bit of listening material for our 4000+ mile road trip this summer, and Seth insisted the audio books for this series would be worth the asking price. Let’s just say that between the spooky near future apocalypse and fictional hymns sung by the narrator, these kept me wide eyed, alert, and my driving companion David mildly alarmed for a majority of our summer mileage.
Reality Hunger  by David Shields. Haven’t read this one yet, but Seth swears by this manifesto as a benchmark for great writing and great appropriation of the writing of others. Has the experience of this odd gem drastically affected his copy writing? If you’re familiar with the book and follow our newsletter, you will easily identify the growing influence this book has had on his writing over time. Not every business owner needs to invest time in developing their writing skills, but for those that do or wish to, Seth really wants you to read this one.

Must Read Blogs & Newsletters for Small Business Owners

CodeinWP – Transparency Reports – it is so rare to see a company reveal the epic fails (and associated fixes) in their business. CodeinWP’s Transparency reports have helped us (and by proxy our clients) to shift towards more data-driven business, versus just winging it.

The Sales Blog – “boring gets results” “move the big rock” “sales is a series of commitments” … These phrases have become part of my daily vocabulary because of S. Anthony Iannarino’s daily blog. Some of his stuff is focused a bit on corporate sales, but the vast majority of the content applies perfectly to small business owners.
James Clear – “incremental gains” is my favorite takeaways from this writer / productivity expert’s weekly essay. His essay on Sisu (a.k.a. grit) is incredible.
Nerd Fitness – I’m not even a nerd (more of a geek), but this newsletter is just so damn enjoyable to read. The benchmark for building a human community via digital channels.
Uncensored Advice for the Small Biz Owner – Seth has transformed our boring little newsletter into a sweeping epic of hard earned advice punctuated by epic (and sometimes public) fails. “Happiness is a Warm Bun” is my current bookmarked fave.
BONUS: New Poems on The Page, various authors. According to Seth, poetry is the study of words in their most memorable combinations. That’s not the definition of poetry I’ve heard so he probably made it up. Want your product name, slogan, website copy or label copy to be memorable? According to Seth, you should read some poetry sometime. The Page is a blog where you can find links to new poems by today’s modern masters of the craft.

… here’s the 2013 version

I’m a flagrant plagiarizer.

Violently pulling other people’s witty quotes into conversations, sales pitches, training calls, emails, job posts and articles, my filthy habit has been catching up to me:

“Nate, I loved that bit about not leaving any interaction on the table.”

“Oh really?”

“Yah, it really helped me pull it all together. You know, like glue”

<awkward pause ………… guilt sets in and I start sobbing uncontrollably … on the inside>

“IT’S NOT MINE. I totally stole it from Gary Vaynerchuk. I know, I know. I’m a FRAUD!”

Then a few weeks later I resume my thieving habits until guilt once again gets the better of me. So I’m gonna do something about it – publish my reading list, my fountain of inspiration. I’m sure I’ll slip up a bit, but I can always salve my conscience by letting folks know,

“Yah, I wrote about my unknowing mentors on my blog” and sleep well that night.

Anyways, enough rambling. Here ’tis (disclaimer: none of the links are affiliate – an unwillingness to drop a few bucks for a few centuries of collective knowledge is ridiculous. If you are really hard-up I can use the Amazon Kindle Loan program to let you read my e-copy. Just shoot me an email and ask nicely. I’ll certainly give you shit for being a cheapskate, but I’ll still hook you up):

Gary Vaynerchuk’s Keynote @ the Inc 500 conference – it’s long but worth watching all the way through – twice. And if you are hungry for more, snag a copy of his book The Thank You Economy, which directly inspired my oft-used  (and proudly un-plagiarized) principle – INJECT HUMANITY BACK INTO YOUR BUSINESS.

Anything You Want ($5.99 Kindle) by Derek Sivers. Essential reading for those struggling with merging their business and their lifestyle with minimal mental, emotional and/or fiscal injury. Calling this book life-changing would be an understatement. Here’s a great piece by Derek to give you a taste of his refreshing approach to business. And while you are at it, read Kevin Kelly’s frequently stolen quoted philosophy on 1,000 True Fans.

Rework ($11.99 Kindle) by Jason Fried. Written by the founders of 37 Signals – the company that makes Basecamp (which we are super-fans of here at Small Biz Triage), this business book pulls no punches and takes no prisoners.

I Will Teach You to Be Rich ($9.39 Kindle) by Ramit Senthi. The king of the side-hustle and a magician with money. A good place to start if you are considering starting a business. And while I’m at it, Here’s a some cool guides I’ve collected over the years on bootstrapping your business. And speaking of bootstrapping, check out this hilariously raw piece on Parasite Enterpreuneurism by Po Bronson – he’s the Bear Grylls of bootstrapping.

Everything I need to know about startups, I learned from a crime boss
Sebastian Marshall’s Blog (free) – epic stuff on productivity. Can be a bit heavy for beginners, so consider starting with Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits as a warm-up. Or you can just skip to the ninja-level stuff with Sebastian by reading his philosophy shattering article: The Million Dollar Question.

Chuck Blakeman’s Blog (free) – read ALL of his blogs. Seriously. If you are pressed for time start here to learn what nearly all of my clients get wrong (until they get it right – with a little nudge)

And saving the best for last – this article by Robert Bruce helped pull me out a serious bout of small biz owner depression, and helped me learn to love my job again – Why Everyone Hopes You’ll be The Hero.

*** NOTE: Yes, we’ve got some affiliate links buried on this post. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a check for $5.64 from Amazon again.***