Noah Kagan’s Top 11 Must Reads for Young Entrepreneurs & College Students

June 20, 2006 - Get free updates of new posts here

Not to be rude to my great teachers in undergrad business but none of the books prepared me for the “real world.” I have spent 24 years compiling this list. This list comprises the best books to read for anybody wanting to be an entrepreneur or have a solid foundation in business. The categories the books include are: investing, marketing, personal development, venture capital, sales and relationships. You must read these before you do another deal, mend a broken relationship or start your startup:

Personal Development

1- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Stephen Covey

The ultimate personal development book. This is a bible to me and many others. It will guide you on living a solid life with a great foundation.

2- Celestine Prophecy: James Redfield

Take 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and add in the Da Vinci Code and the baby is this book. A really great tale of being a better person.

Start-Up Advice

3- Art of the Start: Guy Kawasaki

Great insight and tactics for getting a startup going. Really straightforward and practical way of taking your start up to the next level.

Venture Capital

4- eBoys: Randall Stross

The real story of how VCs work. The writer followed Benchmark capital through some hard times and interesting portfolio companies

5- Barbarians at the Gate: Bryan Burrough

An interesting tale of LBOs, wasted money and how things change.


6- Never Eat Alone: Keith Ferrazzi

A simple non-networky/slimy book on how to meet the right people and get to where you need to be.

7- How to Win Friends and Influence People: Dale Carnegie

The book on being nice to people. I know it seems too fake but this and #5 are great reads and just things you need to think more about daily.


8- The Intelligent Investor: Ben Graham

This is Warren Buffet’s secret book on investing. If you want to make money and have great skills for investing read this.


9- Permission Marketing: Seth Godin

Seth Godin who owns marketing wrote this influential book on getting permission from customers. Great examples and ways to maintain customers.

10- Influence: Robert Cialdini

The best kept secret on marketing, sales and other business things. Provides in-depth and interesting research on influencing others.

Bonus: Naked Conversations: Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

The Book for everyone wanting to learn more about blogging and their impact on businesses.

Disclaimer: I have read all these books. Anything I am missing?

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30 responses to “Noah Kagan’s Top 11 Must Reads for Young Entrepreneurs & College Students

  1. Charles Tran Reply

    From my bestsellers bookshelf:
    The World is Flat
    Tipping Point

    Classic gems:
    Reminiscences of a Stock Operator. This book is awesome — if I had one book to read in my life… this one would probably be on the top of my list. I normally never reference this book w/ the tech crowd, but since you mention Benjamin Graham, I had to reference this book.

    Design of Everyday Things (the so call bible of designing)

  2. noah Reply

    i haven’t checked out the world is flat yet and i will read the stock and design book. i think malcolm writes great things but they could be condensed into 3 page highlights of what is important.

    tipping point: how things go mainstream, lacked how to actually do it
    blink: how people think about things. i think influence is better than this book.

    more recommendations and feedback always appreciated.

  3. Scott Hurff Reply

    One thing you’re missing are the “individual tales” of entrepreneurs and their personal experiences. So often we get this idea in our heads of these people being larger-than-life and untouchable. But…they’re not.

    With that in mind I recommend Walt Disney: An American Original by Bob Thomas. It’s a pretty detailed account of what I consider one of the greatest American entrepreneurs.

    But I also have to add:

    1. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand. If you want motivation, this is it. Absolutely amazing.
    2. Dig Your Hole Before You’re Thirsty, Harvey Mackay. About networking — practical, non-lame advice.
    3. Basic Economics, Thomas Sowell. Every entrepreneur should have some idea about how the economy works and where they fit into it.

  4. Phil Gerbyshak Reply

    Great list Noah. For networking, I would include John Maxwell’s Winning With People, which I feel is an updated version of How to Win Friends and Influence People. I would also recommend Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. He’s the father of all modern self-help books. Guy Kawasaki’s Art of the Start is a GREAT book for entrepeneurs too.

    You’ve got a few here I need to read too. Thanks for sharing them!

  5. Jason Reply

    The World is Flat is a powerful look into the present and future of our world.

    I think Covey is the most overrated author of our generation. Seven Habits is always listed in everyones list, but I found it boring. I could care less about a paradigm. And before you jump to any conclusions, I love to read. I read two to three books at a time. I just never got the whole Covey appeal.

    The End of Marketing as WE Know It
    The Marketing Playbook
    Freakonomics (Fun Read)

  6. Michael Morisy Reply

    Great post … I was actually looking for a list along these lines.

    As far as self-starting and getting your life in order, I highly recommend two more titles:
    -“Getting Things Done,” By David Allen
    -“Complete Idiots Guide to Organizing Your Life” (Don’t laugh, it literally changed my life completely)

    Your mileage might vary, but I really liked both of those.

    I’ve read a couple of the books and in general agree with your picks, but 7 Habits I tried maybe 6 years ago and just couldn’t get into it. Might give it another go, but for a while it became part of my falling asleep ritual.

  7. Sean Tierney Reply

    sweeeet, just when i was finally whittling down my reading list…no those are solid recommendations. I second the Atlas Shrugged suggestion and the Gladwell books. I would also add:
    -Good to Great – Jim Collins (tracks 10 pairs of comparable companies and distills the factors that made one outperform the other by 10x)
    -Innovator’s Dilemna – Clayton Christiensen (the “design patterns” of business – commonly recurring trends seen across industries and how to make an idea disrupt an incumbent technology)
    -New Rules for the New Economy – Kevin Kelley (solid rundown of how things have changed from a few years ago)
    -Getting Things Done – David Allen (good system for tackling todo’s)
    more here->

    -Alchemist – Paulo Coelho (best book ever)
    -Peaceful Warrior – Dan Millman (there’s a movie out now so you could just watch that)
    -Illusions – Robert Bach (killer story)
    more here->

    if you liked Celestine, you should definitely check out the last 3


  8. noah Reply

    great recommendations from everyone. another one for startups that is helpful is the the high tech startup by john neshem. i am not sure why this book is not larger but it has great tips and strategies in creating/growing a startup.

  9. Charles Jolley Reply

    I would definitely recommend “21 Immutable Laws of Marketing” and, the follow up “22 Immutable Laws of Branding” by Al Ries and Jack Trout. These are relatively short (at least the first one is) and easy to digest, but they contain the best advice on marketing strategy I’ve ever found.

  10. Jeremy Reply

    Noah Noah Noah! In response to your slight put down of the Gladwell books: tsk tsk. You don’t really expect Tipping Point to tell you HOW to make things tip do you? All the info is in there, it needs to be thought upon and the ideas developed in your head, for your circumstances. The book is there to open your eyes to the possibilities and what tools you need to accomplish the task.
    Blink is not comparable to Influence. They are about two different topics!

    My reccomendations to add:
    Alan Pease – Body Language
    Dale Carnegie – HTWFAIP
    and a movie – Touching The Void

    Also I believe that most of these books should be read twice in succession, after all repition is the mother of skill. (damn I can’t spell can I?)

  11. Mike Reply

    AHHHH! Not covey! I hate anything Covey related! Being an RA, they try to force the principals of Covey on us during training. Personally I think its a load of business buzzword bullshit and it doesnt really mean anything. Yes, if you are in marketing, you can say this crap to clients and they might be amazed, but talk to someone technical and they’ll tell you to eff off. “Sharpen the saw” – take time for yourself. Come on, this is crap, thanks for letting me know I shouldnt spend 24 hours a day working and should take a few hours a week for myself, I couldn’t have figured that out on my own.

    As for never eat alone, let me summarize the entire book for you: Network Network Network, make sure when you talk to people, you follow up with them and build relationships and dont be afraid to ask for stuff! Repeat over 200 pages and you are all set, don’t waste time buying the book!

  12. Tara 'Miss Rogue' Hunt Reply


    I would agree with Shel’s book, but I’m not sure about the rest. 😉

    My top business books to read:

    1 – The Cluetrain Manifesto
    2 – No Logo (Naomi Klein)*
    3 – Manufacturing Consent (Chomsky)*
    4 – A Whole New Mind
    5 – Blue Ocean Strategy
    6 – The Tipping Point
    7 – Freakonomics
    8 – Guerrilla Marketing Handbook (still a classic, even if out of date now – very practical)
    9 – Naked Conversations
    10 – Non Zero
    11 – The Lucifer Principle
    12 – Mischief Marketing
    13 – Gonzo Marketing
    14 – Atlas Shrugged
    15 – Innovator’s Dilemma
    …and so forth (I quite like Scott, Jason and Sean’s lists)

    * young business people need their doses of kickass anti-establishment business and media theory, too…

    I agree that Covey et al are sort of watered down for the masses. So are a few on my list, but at least they get people out of their stale thinking mode.


  13. Chris Jennings Reply

    Success Secrets of the Online Marketing Superstars is a great “quick reference” to have laying around. The book is basically composed of chapters from other famous marketing books, giving you a spectrum of different techniques and views.

  14. Tom Brown Reply

    i co-lead a bookclub for entrepreneurs in austin, tx. our next book is losing my virginity by richard branson. i’m surprised no one has mentioned it.

    douglas rushkoff’s get back in the box is another one that hasn’t been mentioned and is full of great ideas.

  15. Joe McCarthy Reply

    I recently put together an Amazon Listmania list of inspiring books for aspiring entrepreneurs. Interestingly, I don’t see much overlap to what has already been suggested in the post or the comments … perhaps it’s an age thing. The Amazon list has annotationas and links; here’s a quick rundown of titles and authors:

    The Art of the Start : The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki

    A Good Hard Kick in the Ass: Basic Training for Entrepreneurs by Rob Adams

    Pour Your Heart into It : How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time by Howard Schultz

    Benjamin Franklin : An American Life by Walter Isaacson

    The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Business Law (Entrepreneur’s Guide to Business Law) by Constance E. Bagley

    Rules For Revolutionaries : The Capitalist Manifesto for Creating and Marketing New Products and Services by Guy Kawasaki

    Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers

    Creating the Work You Love : Courage, Commitment, and Career by Rick Jarow

    The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

  16. Justin Reply

    Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power should be a must read for anyone involved in business.

    And for a simple quick read, Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard had a huge impact on me when I first started.

  17. Jan Reply

    I’m really glad I came across you, just checked out the one you have about getting rich also (would be great to have links instead of paste and copy on the articles).

    You have lots of great information here…I love to read. Wish I had more time.

    P.S. You may need a code check up….weird stuff at the top and some overlapping near top.

  18. Oliver Starr Reply

    And because the best way of avoiding mistakes to to know what they look like before you make them I highly recommend Burn Rate. In addition to being a kick-ass read and a great history of the early development of the PDA (anyone remember GO Computer?), it’s a “here’s how to raise money and not end up with a product” manifesto.

    Bonus, most of the folks in this book made it huge down the road so that should tell you something about the value of trying and failing…


  19. SH Reply

    Without question, the book that has most influenced my desire to pursue independent/freelance/entrepreneurial work is Atlas Shurgged. I’m a devoted liberal but Ayn Rand made me realize that is okay to dream big and that money is at its heart reward for determination and innovation.

  20. damon billian Reply

    I know…I know…late to the post…just had to respond..

    Cluetrain Manifesto
    Gonzo Marketing

    Note: I think the key to being a good marketer is not reading “marketing only” books. I would recommend books on customer service as well.

    Other personal favorites:
    Walden: Henry David Thoreau (question authority)

    Nearly any book on doing Business in Asia and/or books on Asian history. As this region has the fastest growing economies in the world, I think folks would be remiss in not checking out the things that impacted their current development (history with the west, history of the culture, etc.)

    “Celestine Prophecy: James Redfield”
    I personally found this book to be a load of crap. I think the book is more oriented at spirituality than business.

  21. TKirschke Reply

    For personal development, a cautionary tale for all college students preparing to find their way in the word: WALDEN by Michael Dolan.