16 Powerful Books and Biographies to Ignite Your Business Excellence

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If you are searching for inspiration on how to win in business, consider reading one of these fifteen billionaire biographies and powerful must-read books for insights on success in both business and in life.

While many of the names on this list are well known, a few might be new to you. Regardless of their respective industries, these entrepreneurs and authors all share a passion for their work, the personal drive to succeed, and an unrelenting work ethic that helped propel them to billionaire status.

One of the smartest moves you can make as you continue to grow your business and career is to build your business intelligence by curating the knowledge of others, who have built successful businesses before you.

Arming yourself with vital knowledge, while building your mental resources of tips and tricks you can use as you grow is paramount to any successful journey.

To help you decide which books to read, following are fifteen unique finds you can consider adding to your entrepreneurial bookshelf.

  1. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

"Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful, that's what matters to me."

From the author of the bestselling biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein, this is the exclusive, New York Times bestselling biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years including interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues. Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.

Although Jobs cooperated with this book, he asked for no control over what was written nor even the right to read it before it was published. He put nothing off-limits. Mr Jobs encouraged his network to speak honestly. And Jobs speaks candidly, sometimes brutally so, about the people he worked with and competed against. His friends, foes, and colleagues provide an unvarnished view of the passions, perfectionism, obsessions, artistry, devilry, and compulsion for control that shaped his approach to business and the innovative products that resulted.

Driven by demons, Jobs could drive those around him to fury and despair. But his personality and products were interrelated, just as Apple’s hardware and software tended to be, as if part of an integrated system. His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.

Download Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

  1. #Girl Boss - Sophia Amoruso

“The energy you’ll expend, focusing on someone else’s life is better spent working on your own. Just be your own idol.”

In the space of ten years, Sophia Amoruso has gone from high-school dropout to founder and Executive Chairman of Nasty Gal, one of the fastest-growing retailers in the world.

Sophia's never been a typical executive or an ordinary anything, and she's written #GIRLBOSS for other girls like her: outsiders (and insiders) seeking a unique path to success.

Filled with brazen wake-up calls, cunning and frank observations, and behind-the-scenes stories from Nasty Gal's meteoric rise, #GIRLBOSS covers a lot of ground. It proves that success doesn't come from where you went to college or how popular you were in school. Success is about trusting your instincts and following your gut, knowing which rules to follow and which to break.

Inspiring, motivating and empowering, #GIRLBOSS will give you the kick up the ass you need to reach your potential.

Download #Girl Boss by Sophia Amoruso

  1. Gates: How Microsoft’s Mogul Reinvented an Industry and Made Himself the Richest Man in America by Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews

"Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose."

A Harvard dropout whose creation of Microsoft Windows software radically altered the way individuals use technology and ushered in the age of the personal computer, the story of Bill Gates early successes, the rise of Microsoft, and his philanthropic efforts is a thrilling read.

Bill Gates is an American icon, the ultimate revenge of the nerd. His tantrums, his odd rocking tic, and his lavish philanthropy have become the stuff of legend. Gates is the one book that truly illuminates the early years of the man and his company.

In high school, he organized computer enterprises for profit. At Harvard, he co-wrote Microsoft BASIC, the first commercial, personal computer software, then dropped out and made it a global standard. At 25, he offered IBM a program he did not yet own--a program called DOS that would become the essential operating system for more than 100 million personal computers and the foundation of the Gates empire. As Microsoft's dominance extended around the globe, Bill Gates became idolized, hated, and feared.

In this riveting independent biography, veteran computer journalists Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews draw on a dozen sessions with Gates himself and nearly a thousand hours of interviews with his friends, family, employees, and competitors to debunk the myths and paint the definitive picture of the real Bill Gates, "bugs" and all. Here is the shy but fearless competitor with the guts and brass to try anything once--on a computer, at negotiation, or on water skis. Here is the cocky 23-year-old who calmly spurned an enormous buyout offer from Ross Perot. Here is the supersalesman who motivated his Smart Guys, fought bitter battles with giant IBM and locked horns with Apple's Steve Jobs--and usually won. Here, too, is the workaholic pessimist who presided over Microsoft's meteoric rise while most other personal computer pioneers fell by the wayside. Gates extended his vision of software to art, entertainment, education, and even biotechnology, and made good on much of his promise to put his software "on every desk and in every home."

Gates is a bracing, comprehensive portrait of the microcomputer industry, one of its leading companies, and the man who helped create a world where software is everything.

Download Gates: How Microsoft’s Mogul Reinvented an Industry and Made Himself the Richest Man in America by Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews (April, 2013)

  1. In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs - Grace Bonney

“You have to stretch to grow. And surround yourself with not only talented people whom you can delegate to but also with good souls. Without grace and kindness, your skills are unimportant to me.”

Over 100 exceptional and influential women describe how they embraced their creative spirit, overcame adversity, and sparked a global movement of entrepreneurship. Media titans and ceramicists, hoteliers and tattoo artists, comedians and architects—taken together, these profiles paint a beautiful picture of what happens when we pursue our passions and dreams.

Download In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs - Grace Bonney

  1. The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder

"Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago."

Here is the book recounting the life and times of one of the most respected men in the world, Warren Buffett. The legendary Omaha investor has never written a memoir, but now he has allowed one writer, Alice Schroeder, unprecedented access to explore directly with him and with those closest to him his work, opinions, struggles, triumphs, follies, and wisdom.

Although the media track him regularly, Buffett himself has never told his full life story. His reality is private, especially by celebrity standards. Indeed, while the homespun persona that the public sees is real as far as it goes, it goes only so far. Warren Buffett is an array of paradoxes. He set out to prove that nice guys can finish first. Over the years, he treated his investors as partners, acted as their steward, and championed honesty as an investor, CEO, board member, essayist, and speaker. At the same time, he became the world’s richest man, all from the modest Omaha headquarters of his company Berkshire Hathaway. None of this fits the term “simple.”

When Alice Schroeder met Warren Buffett, she was an insurance industry analyst and a gifted writer known for her keen perception and business acumen. Her writings on finance impressed him, and as she came to know him she realized that while much had been written on the subject of his investing style, no one had moved beyond that to explore his broader philosophy, which is bound up in a complex personality and the details of his life. Out of this came his decision to cooperate with her on the book about himself that he would never write.

Never before has Buffett spent countless hours responding to a writer’s questions, talking, giving complete access to his wife, children, friends, and business associates—opening his files, recalling his childhood. It was an act of courage, as The Snowball makes immensely clear. Being human, his own life, like most lives, has been a mix of strengths and frailties. Yet notable though his wealth may be, Buffett’s legacy will not be his ranking on the scorecard of wealth; it will be his principles and ideas that have enriched people’s lives. This book tells you why Warren Buffett is the most fascinating American success story of our time.

Download The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder (September 2008)

  1. Good to Great by Jim Collins

“For, in the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.”

Can a good company become a great one and, if so, how? In this book, he uncovers the underlying variables that enable any type of organization to make the leap from good to great while other organizations remain only good. Rigorously supported by evidence, his findings are surprising - at times even shocking - to the modern mind.

Download Good to Great by Jim Collins

  1. The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone

“We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.”

Amazon, born as an online bookseller, has become the leading online retailer thanks to the vision of its founder, Jeff Bezos. His drive to revolutionize the way we shop for everything and his success in creating the Kindle and Kindle Publishing have forever altered the retail and publishing industries.

Download The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone (October, 2013)

  1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

"Trust is the glue of life. It's the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It's the foundational principle that holds all relationships."

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has captivated readers for 25 years. It has transformed the lives of Presidents and CEOs, educators, parents, and students—in short, millions of people of all ages and occupations have benefited from Dr. Covey's 7 Habits book. And, it can transform you.

This 7 Habits book guides you through each habit step-by-step:

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Habit 2: Begin With The End In Mind

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Habit 4: Think Win-Win

Habit 5: Seek First To Understand Then Be Understood

Habit 6: Synergize

Habit 7: Sharpen The Saw

Download The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

  1. The Boy Billionaire: Mark Zuckerberg in His Own Words by George Beahm

"I always tell people that you should only hire people to be on your team if you would work for them."

Founder of Facebook, the most used social networking platform in the world, Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest self-made billionaire in history, reaching that wealth milestone at the age of twenty-three. This book details how Zuckerberg strategized and capitalized on the exponential growth of social media and offers insights for those seeking to build their fortunes on the internet continent.

Download The Boy Billionaire: Mark Zuckerberg in His Own Words by George Beahm (November, 2012)

  1. Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune by Richard Branson

"My general attitude to life is to enjoy every minute of every day. I never do anything with a feeling of, ’Oh God, I’ve got to do this today."

The unusual, frequently outrageous autobiography of one of the great business geniuses of our time, Richard Branson.

In little more than twenty-five years, Richard Branson spawned nearly a hundred successful ventures. From the airline business (Virgin Atlantic Airways), to music (Virgin Records and V2), to cola (Virgin Cola), and others ranging from financial services to bridal wear, Branson has a track record second to none. Many of his companies were started in the face of entrenched competition. The experts said, "Don't do it." But Branson found golden opportunities in markets in which customers have been ripped off or underserved, where confusion reigns, and the competition is complacent.

In this stressed-out, overworked age, Richard Branson gives us a new model: a dynamic, hardworking, successful entrepreneur who lives life to the fullest. Branson has written his own "rules" for success, creating a group of companies with a global presence, but no central headquarters, no management hierarchy, and minimal bureaucracy. Family, friends, fun, and adventure are equally important as business in his life. Losing My Virginity is a portrait of a productive, sane, balanced life, filled with vibrant and colourful stories, including:

- Crash-landing his hot-air balloon in the Algerian desert, yet remaining determined to have another go at being the first to circle the globe

- Signing the Sex Pistols, Janet Jackson, the Rolling Stones, Boy George, and Phil Collins

- Fighting back when British Airways took on Virgin Atlantic and successfully suing this pillar of the British business establishment

- Swimming two miles to safety during a violent storm off the coast of Mexico

- Staging a rescue flight into Baghdad before the start of the Gulf War

And much more. Losing My Virginity is the ultimate tale of personal and business survival from a man who combines the business prowess of Bill Gates and the promotional instincts of P. T. Barnum.

Download Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune by Richard Branson (August, 2011)

  1. Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World by Timothy Ferriss

“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.”

Tim Ferriss, the #1 New York Times best-selling author of The 4-Hour Workweek, shares the ultimate choose-your-own-adventure book-a compilation of tools, tactics, and habits from 130+ of the world's top performers.

Download Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World by Timothy Ferriss

  1. Leap First: Creating Work That Matters by Seth Godin

“How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?”

Are You Ready to Raise a Ruckus?

You're probably good at your job, maybe even great. But secretly, do you yearn to fly higher? To challenge the rules and surprise us with something remarkable? To instigate delight, connection, and real change? To choose better over safer?

Business and cultural visionary Seth Godin has transformed the terrain of marketing and commerce more than once. But many of his readers remain stuck in their own work lives. So what's keeping us back? "The problem isn't a lack of knowledge or skill," he's realized. "The problem is fear." With Leap First, Seth Godin is here to help. This immersive audio program invites us to learn with him personally, unrehearsed and in the moment, as he shines a light for us, not with answers but with questions on the road to:

Overcoming our instinctual resistance to risk and change

Discovering our creative genius in the face of the empty page or whiteboard

Finding the courage to share that work - with vulnerability, generosity, and results

Recorded in an intimate gathering of aspiring entrepreneurs, writers, and leaders, Leap First teaches us 49 essential principles, practices, and life lessons that have helped Seth the most in his own work and life. More than an audiobook or keynote speech, each track here presents a carefully chosen catalyst intended to trigger our own passion and insight with each listening.

"It always feels too soon to leap. But you have to. Because that's the moment between you and remarkable. I hope this helps you return to that edge. And then, to leap."

Download Leap First: Creating Work That Matters by Seth Godin

  1. The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure by Grant Cardone

"Comfort makes more prisoners than all the jails combined.”

Ultimate success, by definition, lies beyond the realm of regular action. If you want to achieve ultimate success, you can’t operate like everybody else and settle for mediocrity. You need to remove luck and chance from your business equation and lock in massive success. The 10X Rule shows you how! Success is your duty, obligation and responsibility, and this audiobook gives you step-by-step guidance on how to achieve phenomenal success for yourself!

With The 10X Rule, you’ll learn to establish the amount of effort needed to guarantee success and ensure that you can continue operating at this level throughout your life. Most people desire success and have great ideas, but they come up short on the amount of action required to get their lives to the exceptional levels they deserve.

Four degrees of movement exists, and to achieve your dreams, you must learn to operate at the fourth degree of action: Massive Action. The 10X Rule will dissolve fear, increase your belief in yourself, eliminate procrastination, and provide you with an overwhelming sense of purpose.

The 10X Rule compels you to separate yourself from everyone else in the market—and you do that by doing what others refuse to do. Stop thinking in terms of basic needs, and start aiming for abundance—in all areas of your life. The 10X Rule guides you toward the frame of mind that all successful people share. Aim ten times higher than you are right now—and if you come up short, you’ll still find yourself further along than if you had maintained your life’s current status quo. The 10X Rule teaches you how to:

Reach goals that you previously thought were impossible

Correctly set goals and guarantee their achievement

Create unprecedented levels of happiness and satisfaction in every area of your life

Use fear as fuel to move you into action

Get everything you want and never have to settle

Dominate your competition and become a role model for success.

Download The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure by Grant Cardone

  1. Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

"I think that's the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself."

South African-born Elon Musk is the renowned entrepreneur and innovator behind PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity. Musk wants to save our planet; he wants to send citizens into space, to form a colony on Mars; he wants to make money while doing these things, and he wants us all to know about it.

He is the real-life inspiration for the Iron Man series of films starring Robert Downey, Jr. The personal tale of Musk's life comes with all the trappings one associates with a great, drama-filled story. He was a freakishly bright kid who was bullied brutally at school and abused by his father. In the midst of these rough conditions and the violence of apartheid South Africa, Musk still thrived academically and attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he paid his own way through school by turning his house into a club and throwing massive parties.

He started a pair of huge dot-com successes, including PayPal, which eBay acquired for $1.5 billion in 2002. Musk was forced out as CEO and so began his lost years, in which he decided to go it alone and baffled friends by investing his fortune in rockets and electric cars. Meanwhile, Musk's marriage disintegrated as his technological obsessions took over his life...

Elon Musk is the Steve Jobs of the present and the future, and for the past 12 months he has been shadowed by tech reporter Ashlee Vance. Elon Musk is an important, exciting and intelligent account of the real-life Iron Man.

Download Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

  1. The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage by Daymond John

"Don't focus on you, focus on what you can give others."

Daymond John has been practising the power of broke ever since he started selling his home-sewn T-shirts on the streets of Queens. With no funding and a $40 budget, Daymond had to come up with out-of-the-box ways to promote his products. Luckily, desperation breeds innovation, and so he hatched an idea for a creative campaign that eventually launched the FUBU brand into a $6 billion global phenomenon. But it might not have happened if he had started out broke - with nothing but a heart full of hope and a ferocious drive to succeed by any means possible.

Here, the FUBU founder and star of ABC's Shark Tank shows that, far from being a liability, broke can actually be your greatest competitive advantage as an entrepreneur. Why? Because starting a business from broke forces you to think more creatively. It forces you to use your resources more efficiently. It forces you to connect with your customers more authentically and market your ideas more imaginatively. It forces you to be true to yourself, stay laser focused on your goals, and come up with those innovative solutions required to make a meaningful mark. John shows how we can all leverage the power of broke to phenomenal success. You'll meet:

Steve Aoki, the electronic dance music (EDM) deejay who managed to parlay a series of $100 gigs into becoming a global superstar who has redefined the music industry.

Gigi Butler, a cleaning lady from Nashville who built a cupcake empire on the back of a family recipe, her maxed-out credit cards, and a heaping dose of faith.

Eleven-year-old Shark Tank guest Mo Bridges, who stitched together a winning clothing line with just his grandma's sewing machine, a stash of loose fabric, and his unique sartorial flair.

When your back is up against the wall, your bank account is empty, and creativity and passion are the only resources you can afford, success is your only option. Here you'll learn how to tap into that power of broke to scrape, hustle, and dream your way to the top.

Download The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage by Daymond John

  1. Adventures of a Balloon Girl by Despina Karatzias

"You can't be what you can't see"

I have to share my little book, Adventures of a Balloon Girl, a book written to share and celebrate the fundamental lessons learnt over the last decade managing a successful Victorian hot air balloon tourism business, Global Ballooning Australia.

Like ballooning, the tourism industry shines with unique experiences delivered by passionate individuals. Challenges such as cost, time and relevance, however, can dissuade small business participation in professional and business development activity.

This book is about thriving in business, delivering the nuts and bolts of day-to-day business practices through simple tools that can be applied to any small business operation.

Download Adventures of a Balloon Girl by Despina Karatzias

These are but sixteen of many powerful books entrepreneurs and business professionals can read to increase their motivation and expand their business acumen. Rather than start from scratch, reading the stories from other successful entrepreneurs helps you learn from the lessons of others who have built businesses before you. How many of these highly-recommended books will you be diving into as you grow your own business?

Despina is a passionate digital marketer, social media maestro and tourism professional. With over 15 years working and growing small businesses she started her own boutique training business, Institute of Excellence with the intention to ignite excellence in business and people. As a Certified Victorian Tourism eKit Trainer, business coach, author and digital marketing professional, Despina is a passionate advocate for growing small business through shared experiences because every business has a very special gift, YOU!

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