There is no shortage of listicals picking up any number of books-every-entrepreneur-should-read. But every once in a while, new titles packed with inspiration and actionable advice arrive. And so it turns out, 2014 was a year of excitement and experimentation.
Following his Steve Jobs bio, Walter Isaacson partly crowdsourced his latest title, The Innovators. Peter Thiel's new book Zero to One builds upon class notes collected by a former student of his. There's a Playboy anthology blowing dust off old interviews with some of the most celebrated minds in business, and a free collection of essays curated and self-published by a venture capital firm.
Here's a shortcut to the most interesting entrepreneurship books of 2014, including reviews, teasers, and freebies.
The Playboy Interview: Moguls, by Playboy is an ebook anthology featuring interviews with legendary business minds such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Lee Iacocca, David Geffen, Malcolm Forbes, and Ted Turner. For a sneak peek, see the Steve Jobs interview freely available on Longform.org.
To celebrate the interview’s 50th anniversary, the editors of Playboy have assembled 13 compilations of the magazine’s most (in)famous interviews—from big mouths and wild men to sports gods and literary mavericks. Here is our collection of 12 interviews with the most lucrative executives.
Amazon Digital Services. 289 pages. Via Amazon.
The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, is Walter Isaacson, author of the Steve Jobs blockbuster biography,-s latest title, and it is nominated for 2014 National Book Award. Isaacson went online to crowdsource the early editions of the book, making the early Adam Turing and Ada Lovelace edits available on Scribd and LiveJournal. Prior to mainstream media's reviews – The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal – Salon.com published a behind-the-scenes interview with the author. Isaacson even published an excerpt and essay drawn from the book on Medium.com.
Isaacson begins with Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s. He explores the fascinating personalities that created our current digital revolution, such as Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J.C.R. Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Tim Berners-Lee, and Larry Page. This is the story of how their minds worked and what made them so inventive. It’s also a narrative of how their ability to collaborate and master the art of teamwork made them even more creative.
Simon & Schuster. 544 pages. Via Amazon.
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters. I've been following Blake Masters' blog notes from Peter Thiel's CS183: Startup classes at Stanford University. It is a must-read filled with clever entrepreneurial advice and creative inspiration. And now it is all packed into a 200-pages book. Both The New Republic and The Atlantic published their reviews. In the latter, Derek Thompson wrote that Zero to One "might be the best business book I've read".
Thiel begins with the contrarian premise that we live in an age of technological stagnation, even if we’re too distracted by shiny mobile devices to notice. Information technology has improved rapidly, but there is no reason why progress should be limited to computers or Silicon Valley. Progress can be achieved in any industry or area of business. It comes from the most important skill that every leader must master: learning to think for yourself. Doing what someone else already knows how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But when you do something new, you go from 0 to 1. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. Tomorrow’s champions will not win by competing ruthlessly in today’s marketplace. They will escape competition altogether, because their businesses will be unique.
Crown Business. 256 pages. Via Amazon.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, by Ben Horowitz. Sarah Lacy called Horowitz's new book "the most valuable book on startup management hands down". And after reading the reviews of Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and The New York Times, I would understand why. For a behind-the-scenes look at the book, Inc. published an excellent interview with Ben Horowitz here.
While many people talk about how great it is to start a business, very few are honest about how difficult it is to run one. Ben Horowitz analyzes the problems that confront leaders every day, sharing the insights he’s gained developing, managing, selling, buying, investing in, and supervising technology companies. A lifelong rap fanatic, he amplifies business lessons with lyrics from his favorite songs, telling it straight about everything from firing friends to poaching competitors, cultivating and sustaining a CEO mentality to knowing the right time to cash in.
Harper Business/HarperCollins. 304 pages. Via Amazon.
Creative Entrepreneurship, curated by the kbs + Ventures team, is a collection of articles from some of today's finest tech entrepreneurs, investors, and writers. Among the contributors are Tim O’Reilly, Paul Graham, Sarah Lacy, Felix Salmon, Mark Suster, Steve Blank, Fred Wilson, Charlie O’Donnell, Chris Dixon, Andrew Chen, Seth Levine, Babak Nivi, Dave McClure, Dan Shapiro, Adam Penenberg, among others. Here's a Forbes interview with Taylor Davidson from kbs+ Ventures – the co-curator along with VC partner Darren Herman.
"Creative Entrepreneurship” was born out of the desire, want, and curiosity of kbs' staff to understand the crazy world of entrepreneurship. “Creative Entrepreneurship” curates the perspectives of leading entrepreneurs and venture capitalists as a guide for people interested in learning more. Each writer graciously contributed their work to create a curated resource for creative entrepreneurs. This book is the teaching and inspirational aid for our kbs+ Ventures Fellows - a highly selective group of kbs+ staffers from all levels and areas of the agency - who go through a six month educational program to immerse themselves in the startup and venture capital world.
What are your experiences reading these books? Are there any other must reads? Let's chat on Twitter.