The Startup Bookshelf: Books Every Startup Co-Founder Must Read

You have to put the time in, do the reading and think for yourself.  When you do, amazing things will happen.

You have to really figure out how the world works, and one of the best ways to do it is through stories.    Reading about what Frederick Douglass went through to build HIS publishing startup  Nothing short of AMAZING.  Don’t connect with Fredrick?  No worries, you can find someone, somewhere with a story that moves you (biographies are great for this).

We’ve made great videos for startups and disruptive companies for a while now, but what I am most jazzed about is the spread of fantastic ideas.  We started a book-trailer subdivision not long ago so we can learn if we can be of service (we’re going to do all we can to help, and if we’re not the right medium, at least it won’t be because the creative isn’t good).

I started seriously reading about 2 years ago.  Sure, I’ve always read but there’s a giant difference between the “Who Moved My Cheese” trope and moved up to good stuff – Made To Stick and Clay Shirky beat the hell out of the biz books everyone gets and forgets.  The “Cheese” books (and their ilk) don’t do anyone much good.  The better books, if you read enough of them, make you a little smarter, a little tougher, and a little better.

Think of reading as a flywheel.  At first you get very little benefit-  the flywheel isn’t moving.  As time passes, each little book you read pushes on it and the whole thing goes faster and faster.  I recently re-read The Dip and I got more out of it this time through than I did back in 2007 or whenever it first came out.  (And I loved it then).

Blogs are good – but there are so many of them and so many of them have lost their way (Lifehacker), that it takes forever to get some good content.  Blogs- even great ones – are generally not as valuable, intimate or ambitious than books.  Spending some time on a subject – the 6-10 hours it takes to read a good book – means that you are getting more.  I’ll have a blog list next week or so.

Must Read  TODAY Books:

  • Meditations, Marcus Aurelius: Hays Translation:  A chapter or so 2-3 times a week will have your brain working right.
  • My Bondgage and My Freedom: Frederick Douglass:  This is my favorite book of all time.  It inspired me and stirred my soul to keep pressing and keep reading.  I never worked as hard as Frederick, nor did I overcome anything.
  • Story – Robert McKee  I grossly underestimated this book when I got it.  I kept thinking about it often, and I referred to it a lot. Motivation, tension, beats, are all the building blocks of good stories.  We try and use them at Simplifilm.

Must Read Books for Startups:

  • The Dip, Seth Godin:  You get a nuanced vocabulary for when to stick and when to give up.  You learn that it takes a bunch of work to do things.
  • Do More Faster: – Brad Feld et al. The Audio Book is perfect here.  You can have ambient inspiration, this is the stories of loads of companies and how they operate in the TechStarrs Ecosystem.  This is fantastic.
  • The Lean Startup – Eric Ries :  Of course, Of Course.  How can you not read this?
  • The Startup Of You:  Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha:  This is a book about doing the right thing to build a network, taking small steps, having allies, and more.  IF you’re in sales, if you’re in transition you have to read this.
  • I will teach you to be rich, Ramit Sethi:  Automation of your personal stuff is huge.  It lifts a layer of distraction and mental overhead.  It’s changed my life – going from a money junkie to someone that’s on a path.
  • Turning Pro & The War of Art: Stephen Pressfield:  Inspiring stuff.  The blog is fantastic, this is better.  All I gotta say.
  • Inside Apple- Adam Lashinsky   What a great book, it’s far more useful than the Issacson biography.
  • Made To Stick – Heath Brothers: This informs our thinking and helps us with storytelling.  We try to make ideas stick around here.
  • Scientific Advertising: Claude Hopkins  This is a basic copywriting book that every founder and co-founder should have and read.
  • The Challenger Sale:  The nuanced vocabulary for salespeople is wonderful.  Don’t talk too much, don’t make friends, make sales. (Oh, yeah, we just got the contract for the trailer).
  • Getting Things Done:   David Allen. Yes, you need to read this, understand it, and then abandon it.  It’s a phase you should go through.  It’s a way of getting un-stuck.  But it’s not a way of life because you wind up feeling like you have too much to do (we don’t, don’t be busy)
  • Atlas Shrugged:  Ayn Rand Read the clif’s notes if you’re over about 26.  Otherwise, it’s a great book to read when you’re young and you can deal with the shrill ideologue.  Ayn has informed much of my thinking.
  • The Moral Animal: Robert Wright  Thinking about how we biologically operate – meat computers
  • The Tiger by John Valliant – Got this from Ryan Holiday’s epic Reading List, really, really good stuff.
  • Max Perkins, Editor of Genius: A. Scott Berg:  This book helped me to understand the publishing industry, the Jazz age, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemmingway all at once. Read this and you’ll understand many, many things a little bit better than you had before.

If something appeals to you – pick it up.  I put a tracking link here because I’m curious to see how many people are into what we’re recommending.  The .25 cents that amazon is paying is more or less trivial.

Books We’re Pitching:

The book trailer business has led us to our pick of clients. We’ve rejected about 5 paying customers for every one we’ve taken. This is important-  even though we’re being paid, we have to be picky.  A bad book trailer at this stage of the game will ruin us.  We have to work with good books and we have to do good work. Here are some upcoming trailers (plus the one we’ve done).

  • Starup Communities- Brad Feld  Yes, I’m uselessly star struck.  But holy cow is this going to be fun.
  • Trust Me, I’m Lying: Ryan Holiday  credits us for helping him make e it to the WSJ bestseller lists.  That might be a little bit of an oversell, but I do know  it sent Shankman into apoplexy.  Both are fun to do.
  • Small Message, Big Impact, Terri Sjodin:  This is the guide to pitching – both in impromptu settings and in normal settings.  It’s coming out from Penguin Portfolio shortly, and it’s amazing.  It’ll be around for 10 years, if we get the trailer right. Trailer will be out in a week or so.
  • Shadow Ops: Control Point: Myke Cole:  This is fine military ficiton.  It should be the next Hunger Games if it is marketed right.  No pressure.

Books inspire. They generally have better information than blogs do.  They generally are great.

What books do you love?  Tell me what I should read, and chances are, I’ll buy it.  If I love it, I’ll stalk the author and do a trailer of that book or the next one.

Comments

  1. Dan Schleifer says

    Adding to the Brad Feld list, I highly recommend “Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist”

    Agree with “MC” – Steven Gary Blank’s “The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win”

    From Marty Cagan, “Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love”

    -Dan

  2. says

    Here are some recent reads that I’ve absolutely loved and/or found useful.  You’d have to try pretty hard to make some of them relate to startups.

    The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam
    Carter Beats the Devil by Glen Gold
    Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone – Essential Writing of Hunter S. Thompson
    Blood Meridian (I’m always reading this)
    A Confederacy of Dunces (ditto)
    The Tiger by John Vaillant
    Simple and Direct by Jacques Barzun
    A giant mess of essays by Cynthia Ozick
    In Defense of Elitism by William A. Henry III
    Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann
    Alone With the Horrors by Ramsey Campbell
    The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce

  3. Bkeairns says

    A few recommendations:

    – Great Flicks: Scientific Studies of Cinematic Creativity and Aesthetics by Dean Keith Simonton- Adland: A Global History of Advertising by Mark Tungate- Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Entrepreneurial Businesses by Edward D. Hess- The Power of Movies: How Screen and Mind Interact by Colin McGinn- Heroes: What They Do and Why We Need Them by Scott T. Allison and George R. Goethals- The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation by Jim Cullen- Theater of the Mind: Imagination, Aesthetics, and American Radio Drama by Neil Verma- Repeatability: Build Enduring Businesses for a World of Constant Change by Chris Zook and James Allen- Design for Emotion by Trevor van Gorp and Edie Adams- Reading Minds: A Guide to the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution by Michael Moskowitz – The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp and Mark Reiter- Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition by Ronald S. Burt- Make Your Own Luck : 12 Practical Steps to Taking Smarter Risks in Business by Eileen Shapiro and Howard Stevenson- The Evolved Apprentice: How Evolution Made Humans Unique (Jean Nicod Lectures) by Kim Sterelny- Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call 

  4. Bkeairns says

    A few recommendations:
    – Great Flicks: Scientific Studies of Cinematic Creativity and Aesthetics by Dean Keith Simonton- Adland: A Global History of Advertising by Mark Tungate- Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Entrepreneurial Businesses by Edward D. Hess- The Power of Movies: How Screen and Mind Interact by Colin McGinn- Heroes: What They Do and Why We Need Them by Scott T. Allison and George R. Goethals- The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation by Jim Cullen- Theater of the Mind: Imagination, Aesthetics, and American Radio Drama by Neil Verma- Repeatability: Build Enduring Businesses for a World of Constant Change by Chris Zook and James Allen- Design for Emotion by Trevor van Gorp and Edie Adams- Reading Minds: A Guide to the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution by Michael Moskowitz – The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp and Mark Reiter- Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition by Ronald S. Burt- Make Your Own Luck : 12 Practical Steps to Taking Smarter Risks in Business by Eileen Shapiro and Howard Stevenson- The Evolved Apprentice: How Evolution Made Humans Unique (Jean Nicod Lectures) by Kim Sterelny- Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call 

  5. Bkeairns says

    A few recommendations:
    – Great Flicks by Dean Keith Simonton- Adland by Mark Tungate- Grow to Greatness by Edward D. Hess- The Power of Movies by Colin McGinn- Heroes by Scott T. Allison and George R. Goethals- The American Dream by Jim Cullen- Theater of the Mind by Neil Verma- Repeatability by Chris Zook and James Allen- Design for Emotion by Trevor van Gorp and Edie Adams- Reading Minds by Michael Moskowitz – The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp and Mark Reiter- Structural Holes by Ronald S. Burt- Make Your Own Luck by Eileen Shapiro and Howard Stevenson- The Evolved Apprentice by Kim Sterelny- Telling True Stories by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>