17 picks from 17 2017 small business summer reads lists; plus the most mentioned new business book and the most touted business-related novel.

It is time once again for the annual Tip of the Week Small Business Summer Reading List. These books work as well for vacation reading as they do for weekend escapes and relaxation breaks from your busy days. Culled from several notable lists of 2017’s top titles, these selections will satisfy your every reading need from an escape into a fictional world to brushing up on your business and leadership skills.

Give one or more of these a try. (And if you don’t want to buy, consider borrowing a paper or electronic version from your local library.)

NOTE: All links are to the book’s listing on Amazon, but buying them at your local bookstore is a great way to support small businesses while getting your summer reading fix.

Most Recommended Summer Reads for 2017

While this is not in any way an all-encompassing sample, the following books got the most mentions for their category in the 30+ best of 2017 lists I reviewed while writing this post.

Best All Around Business Book:

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Timothy Ferriss

This book puts together the “actionable details” Ferriss has gleaned from the 200+ in-depth podcast interviews he has done with “world-class performers” ranging from, “super celebs (Jamie Foxx, Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc.) and athletes (icons of powerlifting, gymnastics, surfing, etc.) to legendary Special Operations commanders and black-market biochemists.” Ferris claims that, “What makes the show different is a relentless focus on actionable details. This is reflected in the questions. For example: What do these people do in the first sixty minutes of each morning? What do their workout routines look like, and why? What books have they gifted most to other people? What are the biggest wastes of time for novices in their field? What supplements do they take on a daily basis?” He also claims that he, “created this book, my ultimate notebook of high-leverage tools, for myself. It’s changed my life, and I hope the same for you.” (It’s not my cup of tea, and I haven’t read it, but if you’re into personal success anecdotes, the best of book lists promise many valuable nuggets here.)

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Best Novel Related to Business:

Startup by Doree Shafrir
By all accounts this debut novel by veteran tech writer (BuzzFeed, Wired, Slate & more) will have you laughing; and if you’re at all associated with the tech world, laughing in recognition with (or at, or in spite of) yourself. The story centers on a startup “unicorn,” the guy who runs it, the reporter who wants to use it to make her mark, an almost-too-old-for-tech mother returning to the workforce, and an errant text message hinting at something salacious going on. Wired’s recommendation notes that, “it certainly mirrors drama [Shafrir] has seen and reported on in the tech world. Startup is a dramedy-of-errors, a Shakespearean yarn of secrets, sex, miscommunication, misogyny, and money. And unlike so many other industry parodies, this story focuses largely on its female characters.” I’ve yet to pick it up, but it is at the top of my summer reads list.

Business Books to Read This Summer

If you just can’t bear to spend even a minute thinking of something other than business, or if you want to use some (or all) of your summer reading to hone your small business skills, then you can’t go wrong with any, or all, of the following picks from top business book lists.

1. Forbes’ 13 Best Books for Summer 2017 includes books on a variety of topics, each with a business (or small business) hook. If you want to approach a business problem from a different angle, this is the list for you. My pick:

  • Runnin’ With the Devil by Noel E. Monk and Joe Layden
    The story of Van Halen’s rise to Heavy Metal Rock superstardom in the 80s is really a small business success tale. Van Halen became more than a band, it became a major brand—one that needed cultivating, and often rescuing.

2. 10 Best Books For Entrepreneurs In 2017, also from Forbes, includes success stories, advice from the successful, and instructions for honing the skills you need for success. Topping the list is:

  • All In: 101 Real Life Business Lessons for Emerging Entrepreneurs by Bill Green
    Green tells the story of how he began his career selling from a table at a flea market, and after a string of entrepreneurial successes (and failures) is now the CEO of a large publically traded company. His book offers readers the lessons he learned along the way. Says Forbes of the book, “This is the sort of read that makes you realize that even the world’s most successful entrepreneurs once started as paperboys and door-to-door salesmen — and Green is no exception. All In shows the true value of 100% committing to a venture, and the level of persistence and dedication it takes to become successful.”

3. The New York Times July 2017 Top Business Books list is topped by:

  • The Magnolia Story by Chip Gaines and Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino.
    This book tells the story of the couple behind the HGTV show Fixer Upper. The book is popular (hence the appearance on this and may other best seller lists), but not critically acclaimed—though the Amazon reviews, largely from fans of the show, are quite glowing. It does promise small business lessons about how the couple built their HGTV brand and successful house-flipping business.

4. 10 Business Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read in 2017 from Fortune Magazine was published in December, 2016 and provides suggestions from the best of last year’s business books. One of my favorite business books from last year makes this list, and if you haven’t read it yet, get ready for a hilarious ride:

  • Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble by Dan Lyons
    With his memoir Lyons, a veteran old-school tech-writer, tells the story of his brief stint with tech startup Hubspot. It is a laugh-out-loud journey through the silliness of a Silicon Valley start-up that is just so bizarre it has to be true. As the Amazon book summary notes, “With a cast of characters that includes devilish angel investors, fad-chasing venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and “wantrapreneurs,” bloggers and brogrammers, social climbers and sociopaths, Disrupted is a gripping and definitive account of life in the (second) tech bubble.”

5. 9 Business Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read in 2017 from Inc. focuses on books providing “excellent instructional guides to navigating today’s uncharted business waters.” Most of the titles on the list are geared towards working for a company rather than founding one. But, the following choice provides advice equally applicable to the entrepreneur and the entry level.

  • Extreme You: Step Up. Stand Out. Kick Ass. Repeat. by Sarah Robb O’Hagan
    At some point, in both our professional and personal lives, we are all faced with the choice of playing it safe or taking an outrageous risk that leaves everyone around us shaking their heads. In her book, this big company executive (Gatorade, Nike) argues that we should embrace, “Extreme You: to confidently bring all that is distinctive and relevant about yourself to everything you do.” As Inc. notes, “Extreme You is an inspirational guide for businesspeople everywhere, encouraging them to leverage their unique talents to push boundaries, expand their professional horizons, and become the best versions of themselves.”

6. The 7 Best Lessons From the 7 Best Business Books of 2017 (So Far) from Success.com highlights, “lessons on growth, resilience, leadership and success—straight from the pages of some of this year’s best business books—and the outside perspective we all so desperately need.” This pick speaks directly to small business owners and future entrepreneurs.

  • Self-Employed: 50 Signs That You Might Be An Entrepreneur by Joel Comm and John Rampton
    Written by two successful entrepreneurs, this book features stories and insights from the authors and others that will help you decide whether starting a business is right for you, and/or whether you are right for your current business. The key lesson in this book, according to Success.com is, “There’s power in the propensity for action, and that’s ultimately what separates entrepreneurs and successful business leaders from the rest.”

7. The 15 best business books to read this summer from Business Insider purports to offer, “The best kind of summer reading…a book that’s both informative and entertaining — a book that makes you feel smarter without boring you to tears.” If you’re a small business owner with a genius and passion for what you do, but you cringe at all the “business of business” people interactions you’re forced to endure in order to run your company, then the following pick from this list is for you:

  • Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People by Vanessa Van Edwards
    As a self-reported “recovering awkward person” Van Edwards provides advice, based on her scientific research, for excelling at social interactions with people in a variety of personal and business settings. The book claims to be, “the first comprehensive, science backed, real life manual on how to captivate anyone—and a completely new approach to building connections.”

8. 10 Must-Read Books to Launch Your Small Business Idea from Small Business Trends is aimed at current, future, and serial entrepreneurs—with a slant towards the solo and very small company. At the top of their list is a basic how-to book that will be a big help to any first-time (or overwhelmed) small business owner.

  • Small Time Operator: How to Start Your Own Business, Keep Your Books, Pay Your Taxes, and Stay Out of Trouble by accountant Bernard B. Kamoroff.
    This step-by-step guide for navigating the small business environment includes easy-to-understand-and-implement advice on getting permits and licenses, financing, business plans, branding and trademarking, incorporation, bookkeeping, hiring, taxes, doing business online, and working in the Global Information Grid or GIG economy. SmallBizTrends notes that, “Small Time Operator is a must have for small business owners who need help laying the financial groundwork for their own home businesses, who own a small local business or franchise, who run a husband-wife partnership, or do anything else in between.”

9. 20 Books to Read Before You Start Your Own Business from Lifehack offers, “a collection of quality books [that] can help you glean vital wisdom and inspiration before you take the plunge” into small business ownership. Most of these are not new books, but rather have non-time sensitive advice. My choice from this list:

  • The Fire Starter Sessions: A Soulful + Practical Guide to Creating Success on Your Own Terms by Danielle LaPorte
    I usually detest self-help books, but this book from 2012 puts forth a proposition that is near and dear to my aversion to goal-setting, “Getting clear on how you want to feel in your life & work is more important than setting goals. It’s the most potent form of clarity that you can have, and it’s what leads to true fulfillment.” The book includes anecdotes (along with a typical array of self-help “lessons”) designed to help you make the right decision about starting a small business. Lifehack recommends it saying, “If you’ve been timid about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship, Danielle La Porte’s book is designed to give you that little nudge you need to get right on with it and launch your biz.”

Summer Reads Not Really (or at all) Related to Business

10. 37 Books We’ve Loved So Far In 2017 from the Washington Post provides suggestions from fiction, history, politics, and science. None are directly business related, several have business undertones, but all promise to be interesting reads. My choice from the list:

  • Letterman : The Last Giant of Late Night by Jason Zinoman
    The Post calls it, “A definitive and enjoyable biography of the late-night legend and why he was better at his job than Jay Leno.” For me it brings back memories of Late Night college cram sessions in the mid-80s (yes, the 80s again) and the welcome diversion of the Alka-Seltzer suit, Monkey Cam (and the myriad other “cams”), tossing anything and everything off the roof, and Stupid Pet & Human Tricks.

11. The View at the Beach: Our Favorite Summer Reads from Bloomberg purports to provide reading choices, new and old, that will, “pull you away from reality, or change the way you look at it, or both.” My pick from this list is not a new book (it was published in 2011), but it is even more apropos now as it was when first written.

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  • Reamde: A Novel by Neal Stephenson
    This novel, like its subject, is tough to get rid of once you have it– at 1,056 pages, this story of ransomware gone awry to trigger war in both real and virtual worlds reels you in and won’t let go. As the Washington Post Book Review notes, “In less masterful hands, this pile-up of implausible coincidences, madcap romance, technological mayhem and nail-biting suspense might have been a train wreck, but Stephenson pulls it off. Reamde has one of the most satisfyingly over-the-top endings of anything I’ve read in years.”

12. 4 novels Bill Gates thinks everyone should read from Business Insider, notes that Gates reads mostly non-fiction, but suggests these four books for a foray into fiction. The list befits Gates, and this choice stands out:

  • The Rosie Project: A Novel by Graeme Simsion
    Gates writes of this book, “”Anyone who occasionally gets overly logical will identify with the hero, a genetics professor with Asperger’s Syndrome who goes looking for a wife…(Melinda thought I would appreciate the parts where he’s a little too obsessed with optimizing his schedule. She was right.)” This book came out in 2013 and if you like it, try the sequel The Rosie Effect: A Novel.

13. 10 Best Summer Books to Read on the Beach (2017) from Smarter Travel is the place to go for truly light beach fare. I’d personally pass over many of these fluff selections, but definitely hit the list if you prefer your beach reading insubstantial and poufy. One exception:

  • The Girl Before: A Novel by JP Delaney
    This psychological thriller centers on a house and its previous and current tenant. As the story unfolds, it bounces back-and-forth between each of the tenant’s point of view. The New York Times review notes, “The Girl Before generates a fast pace. . . . Delaney intersperses ethics questions on stand-alone pages throughout the book. . . . The single most ingenious touch is that we’re not provided either woman’s answers.” (Note: this is slated to be a Ron Howard movie; so you decide whether to read it now or later.)

14. 9 Essential Summer Reads—From Sci-Fi To Philosophical Superheroes from Wired Magazine includes a tightly curated list of fiction and nonfiction guaranteed to be both entertaining an thought provoking. I look forward to this list each year, and always pick at least one to read and add to my permanent library. My top pick on the list is Startup by Doree Shafrir (see above), but a close second is:

  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
    This novel made it onto several other best of lists, in addition to the Wired list. It tells the story of the 100+ ghosts that inhabit the same cemetery as Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie. Wired hits the magic of the tale on the head, noting that, “The title alludes to Willie Lincoln, son of Abe, who takes up residency in the graveyard after dying at 11 years old, but the beauty of the book lies in all the ordinary people who died with unresolved problems.”

Another Perspective: Summer Reading Suggestions from Across the Pond

All of these suggestions come from UK publications. So, from the home of Shakespeare, Dickens, Darwin, and Adam Smith:

15. Summer Reads for 2017 from The Spectator provides a book list ranging from literary fiction to crime to sports. My favorite is the “Fit for Foodies” selection:

  • The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth About Healthy Eating by Anthony Warner
    This book, part pseudoscience debunking and part rant, gives you the tools you need to know when a food claim is bunk so you don’t get taken in by the latest food fad or magic diet. According to The Spectator this, “furious riposte to annoying nutritionists, dodgy dieticians and Gwyneth Paltrow is perfect for those who have absolutely no interest in ‘detoxing’ or getting themselves ‘beach body’ ready.”


16. 28 of the best books for your summer holiday from The Telegraph is a place-related list that provides suggestions for locations you may be visiting (or have already visited) on “holiday” (or as we call it in the US, “vacation”). They are, “suggestions listed under some of the destinations most popular with British travellers. There are books that are evocative of place, or illuminating of culture or that have caused a bit of a stir locally or even internationally.” For an interesting, outside, perspective on us (also US), try:

  • Interstate: HitchHiking Through the State of a Nation by Julian Sayarer
    The Telegraph describes this book (which is currently available only used from third party sellers on Amazon) as, “a portrait of the United States as seen by a British hitchhiker towards the end of the Obama administration — one who found Americans disenchanted with conventional parties and politicians.”

17. Best holiday reads 2017, picked by writers – part one and part two—from The Guardian provides suggestions from leading writers. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the suggested titles in this decidedly international list have to do with immigrants, minorities, war, politics (of the crazy Americans and Trump variety as well as the crazy Brits and Brexit variety), and the British idea of a beach book. (The choices trend away from the American crime and romance genres of choice to historical fiction and postmodern takes. Oh those fun-loving Brits!) There are many interesting choices in this list, and the two-part list is itself worth a read. My choice comes from British Philosopher Julian Baggini:

  • The Enigma of Reason by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber
    This account of the evolution of reason in humans posits that reason is a tool that, “helps us justify our beliefs and actions to others, convince them through argumentation, and evaluate the justifications and arguments that others address to us… In other words, reason helps humans better exploit their uniquely rich social environment.” As Baggini puts it, the book puts forward the argument that, “human beings are governed by irrational emotions and shows why these are not design flaws in the brain but design features.”

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Lisa Hephner

Lisa Hephner

My name is Lisa, and I'm the Vice President of Knowledge, responsible for the management of corporate, product, competitor, marketplace, legal, and regulatory knowledge, and creation and dissemination of knowledge tools using these assets to PaySimple prospects, customers, employees, and partners.

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