Before I get into my must-read books for entrepreneurs, I am going to give you a little backstory. (I won’t be offended if you scroll down to the recommendations–promise!)
If you’re a new friend, you may not know that I LOVE to read.
My mom loves to talk about how she read Cinderella to me while I was in utero (naturally Cinderella was my favorite Disney Princess). I have tried to pinpoint the first book I can remember not being able to put down and a very specific book series stands out clear as day in my mind: The Magic Tree House books.
I have vivid memories of sitting in my sister’s top bunk on a warm summer day in Southern California reading as many Magic Treehouse chapter books as I could. My sweet mom had ordered the entire collection in bulk from the Scholastic Catalog (remember those?!), and while the subject matter was much better suited for my little sister who loves the outdoors, animals, and magic, I spent that summer reading ALL of them.
I wish I could remember how old I was, maybe 6 or 7? But that summer was the first summer in a long line of summers since, that I spent most of my free time reading anything I could get my hands on.
Summers that followed included hyper fixating on the American Girl Doll book series, Nancy Drew novels, The Series of Unfortunate Events series, and the Princess Diaries series to name a few.
My love for reading was so all-encompassing that in seventh grade, a friend and I spent one weekend seeing who could read the most Nancy Drew books instead of actually spending time hanging out with each other. We laugh about it to this day–mainly that a couple of 12-year-olds were reading books way below their reading level for fun on a Saturday.
Whether it was trips to the local public library blocks from our house, or trips to the fancy big one across town, most of my summers consisted of consuming as many words as possible and it is still one of my favorite things to do to unwind.
During my college years I didn’t read much of anything other than textbooks and fashion magazines, and the occasional beach read when summer rolled around. But as I have gotten older and rediscovered my love for reading as an adult, I’ve swapped fantasy and coming of age stories for psychological thrillers, self-improvement books, and books about business.
I have justified a lot of reading for the sake of research over the last couple of years as I have built my own business. Which is why I couldn’t wait to share my 5 must-read books for entrepreneurs and creatives plus what is on my to-read list for 2023.
5 Must-Read Books for Entrepreneurs and Creatives
Obsessed: Building a Brand People Love from Day One
First up on my list of books for entrepreneurs is Obsessed: Building a Brand People Love From Day One by Emily Heyward. This book was recommended to me last year by Abbey McGrew from Wayfarer Design Studio when I signed up for her course for designers. I have since learned so much about branding from this book.
If you’ve been to my services page, you may have seen a quote from her which has been a guiding light as I guide small businesses in building their own brands, not to mention my own:
“In today’s landscape, when consumers have more choice, knowledge, and power than ever before, you have to approach branding with integrity from the beginning…you need to figure out what you’re aiming to do for people and how you want them to feel as a result. It’s about creating an experience that solves real problems for people, and doing so in a way that makes them feel understood and uplifted.”
Emily Heyward is a branding expert and co-founder of Red Antler, the leading brand company for startups and new ventures. She has worked with brands like Casper, Birchbox, and Allbirds. Named one of Entrepreneur’s 100 Most Powerful Women, Emily knows what it takes to build a successful brand and she shares exactly how to in this book.
With new brands being created every day at all-time-high rates, building a brand is more important than ever before. And it is not enough to have a great logo or product endorsement.
Emily fills this book with case studies on how brands like Away, Hinge, Sweetgreen, and Everlane built devoted followings from day one.
“Whether you’re starting a new business, launching a new product line, or looking to refresh a brand for a new generation of customers, Obsessed shows you why the old rules of brand-building no longer apply, and what really works for today’s customers.”
This was the first book I read on my freshly acquired Kindle Paperwhite last year and I loved it so much I had to buy a physical copy. I regularly reread different parts of this book when I need a refresher and highly recommend it to anyone who plays a part in building a brand or wants to learn more about how modern marketing has shifted.
Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen
Next on my list of must-read books for entrepreneurs and creatives is Donald Miller’s Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen. This book was also recommended to me by another fabulous designer, Ariel Garcia from ByAriel.
In this book, Donald Miller shares his StoryBrand framework to help businesses and organizations clarify their messaging and create more effective marketing campaigns by using the principles of storytelling. Donald is a business educator, author, speaker, and entrepreneur who is known for his work on the principles of marketing, business, and storytelling.
This book argues that by framing your marketing efforts as a story, you can better engage and resonate with your target audience. Donald includes the seven universal elements of powerful stories, practical tips and techniques for crafting a compelling story for your brand, as well as examples and case studies to illustrate the principles in action.
Like Emily Heyward’s Obsessed, this book has been incredibly influential in creating my own process as a designer, making storytelling a foundational step in the branding process.
If you work in marketing in any capacity, this book will radically change the way you think and speak about who you are, what you do, and the value your business brings.
Donald’s other books Marketing Made Simple and Business Made Simple are on my list of business books I would love to read.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg was actually an audiobook I listened to at work one day during my corporate fashion days. As someone who really struggles with sticking with habits, and had not been diagnosed with ADHD yet, I loved to read any books I could get my hands on about habits and productivity.
Charles Duhigg is an award-winning NYT business reporter who used scientific discoveries to explain why habits exist and how to change them.
Sharing the stories of people like Olympic swinner Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and Martin Luther King, Jr., Duhigg examines how habits can mean the difference between success and failure and how we can use them to transform our lives and businesses.
Habits are still something I have to work hard towards maintaining, but this book made it on my list of books for entrepreneurs because understanding how they work made all the difference for me.
The 5AM Club: Own Your Morning. Elevate Your Life.
I’m not recommending The 5AM Club: Own Your Morning. Elevate Your Life. by Robin Sharma because I think you should wake up at 5AM.
I’m recommending it because it truly changed my life and the way I live day-to-day by implementing a morning routine that prioritized my self, not just getting to work.
I don’t get up at 5AM most days, but I do always prioritize building in at least an hour for myself every morning for the things that set me up for success and a good day ahead. And I always feel so good starting my work day, because I already took care of myself and put myself first before my work. That has made all the difference.
This book is self-help written as a story. It is fun to read and weaved with actionable takeaways and lessons making it so much more impactful than most self-improvement books I have read. If you need some inspiration for becoming a morning person or just improving your daily routine, I highly recommend this book!
101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think
Okay, I know 101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think by Brianna Wiest is not actually a business book, but I still think this deserves a spot on this list. I found this collection of essays right when I needed it.
Sometimes you need to be reminded to step back and look at the big picture.
I found Brianna Wiest on TikTok and was immediately captivated by the way she writes.
“The worst happened, and then it passed. You lost the person you thought you couldn’t live without and then you kept living. You lost your job then found another one. You began to realize that “safety” isn’t in certainty—but in faith that you can simply keep going.”
Each essay is full of wisdom and leaves me thinking about it all day. Some are short and sweet, some are motivating, eye-opening, and some are thought-provoking. But they all really do change the way you think.
Books I Want to Read in 2023
Want more business and marketing recommendations and resources?
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And of course, if reading more is on your list of resolutions for 2023, I hope these help get you started!