The Most Influential Business Books of All Time

Every year, thousands upon thousands of business books are published.  However, a majority of them are destined for collecting dust on shelves or, even worse, wind up in the trash.  There are a handful though that have stood the test of time and are regarded as not only excellent resources for business advice, but also classic pieces of literature across all genres.

1. The Art of War

Although taking a military-style approach to business behavior might lead to some strange end results, Sun Tzu’s book isn’t exactly about war.  In fact, it offers up a how-to for thinking strategically during complex situations and applying those strategies to every aspect of the human condition.

2. The Prince

Originally written for monarchs, Machiavelli’s “the end justifies the means” philosophy has become a building block for modern corporate ethics.  However, this doesn’t come without some point of contention; publicly-owned companies are bound by law to represent the interests of the shareholders and can only “do the right thing” when the right things makes financial sense.

3. The Wealth of Nations

When you hear economists reference The Invisible Hand, they’re talking about the self-regulating behavior of the marketplace that was conceived by economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith. Despite being written during a time where the fastest form of communication was a sailing ship, the theories remain relevant in today’s Internet age.

4. How to Win Friends and Influence People

Dale Carnegie proposed a genius concept: the secret to lasting happiness lies in relationships, not ideas and facts.  Some of the ideas may seem a little old-fashioned for current times, but the book is still common amongst business leaders who have begun to place emotional intelligence above book smarts.

5. Atlas Shrugged

This is the book that forever changed how business executives view themselves and their role in society.  Ayn Rand went against the collectivist culture during the late 50’s and said that executives should look at themselves as heroic figures, the upper-echelon of their communities that make things happen.

6. The Greatest Salesman in the World

Before Og Mandino released this book, salesmen were stereotyped as fast-talking con-men.  Granted, that mindset still exists today, thanks to this book, salespeople now see themselves as morally sound people who just want to make others happy.

7. The Soul of a New Machine.

Two huge business concepts came from this Pulitzer Prize winner: 1. The truly dedicated should spend most of their waking life at the office, not just a mere 40 hours a week. 2. Decisions should be made by “empowered” employees rather than top-down management.

8. The One Minute Manager

It may be hard to believe, but at one point businesspeople believed managing other people was an extremely difficult task.  That was before Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson brought in some simple, common-sense management tips.  Their book spawned the entire management consulting industry.

9. Guerrilla Marketing

Advertising and marketing used to imply BIG investments.  However, author Jay Conrad Levinson believed that if you took an unconventional approach to getting your message out there, you could get a better result at a lower cost.  The craziest part about this idea was that he came up with this long before social networking and smartphone apps were an essential part of corporate promotions.

10.  Reengineering the Corporation

This was the beginning of the end for implicit social contracts between employees and employers.  No more lifetime employment and corporate loyalty; it was replaced with routine downsizing, reorganizing,  and outsourcing.