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My recommended reading list for (aspiring) entrepreneurs

Tom Lokenvitz

The following list contains books that I read and found useful during my 9-year journey with Smove. These books might not be as applicable or useful to you, but they are genuinely recommended based on my experience building a company from scratch.

You don’t have to read them all before you can start a company, they are meant to help you along the way!

Important note: I will also recommend books that are actually not directly linked to entrepreneurship, start-ups or building a business.

The reason for that is twofold: firstly I believe that unrelated biographies, fictions and non-fiction still enable you to grow as a person and expand your horizon beyond the business world.

Secondly I also want you to sleep well 😀. I noticed that reading any business-related book before going to bed may actually stop you from properly winding down. An entrepreneur’s brain is already spinning all the time and doesn’t need more stimulus before bed time. So great books that are engaging but not related to business actually help you to wind down (you will find the importance of that in ‘Eat, Move, Sleep’ below).

Some of the recommendations I actually bought as audio books, so I would listen to them on the way to work, on the plane or other times when reading wasn’t the best option.

Happy to hear your comments and recommendations. Enjoy!

Starting/ Building your business:

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Personal Development:

Physical & Mental Wellbeing:

  • Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes — as a founder/ entrepreneur you are in it for the long run. You need to stay healthy for your own sake, for your family/ friends, employees and investors. Running your own company can be very stressful and neglecting your health comes at a price. This book gives simple and short stories around the three areas (eat, move, sleep) and might enable you to make your journey as an entrepreneur more sustainable from a physical health perspective
  • Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ Most people focus on their brain as the source of intellect and well-being and most of the time we are living in our heads. But our whole body is actually supporting us and can impact how we feel. This book gives great insights on how focusing on your gut health can also improve your overall well-being, give you more energy and make you healthier (and hence more productive) in the long run

Life Lesson & Life Challenges:

  • When Breath Becomes Air — It is hard to summarise this book in a few sentences so I’m taking the Amazon summary: ‘This inspiring, exquisitely observed memoir finds hope and beauty in the face of insurmountable odds as an idealistic young neurosurgeon attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?’
  • Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds — this book talks straight (and some might say in a very vulgar manner) and that’s why I like this book. David Goggins had to face hardship from early childhood and overcome a lot of challenges in his life through discipline and persistence
  • Man’s Search for Meaning — One of the best and most moving books I have ever read. My few words can’t summarise the deep and inspirational story that is written in these pages. If you feel bad about anything in this world, please read it

Efficient Work:

Team Work:


General (Startup) Business:

General Non-Fiction

  • Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow — “Homo Deus will shock you. It will entertain you. Above all, it will make you think in ways you had not thought before.” (Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking Fast, and Slow) — couldn’t have said it better
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind — Where do we come from as a species. A fascinating read that makes you think in more detail about our existence
  • The Tattooist of Auschwitz: A Novel — This beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig Sokolov — an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity

Biographies (Note: I love reading biographies, especially the lengthy & detailed ones about people from all different backgrounds and time periods. It inspires me to hear the real stories of how they grew up, how they struggled and how they became successful. There are lots of lessons from entrepreneurs in biographies and not just in biographies from business people) :

  • Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell — This book is about one of the greatest business/ personal coaches. It can be a guidance for yourself if you are looking to coach people; or even if you are looking for the right coach/ mentor and don’t know what you are looking for
  • Educated: A Memoir — this one is a real eye opener: a young girl growing up in an environment that is opposed to modern education. It might feel a bit depressing, but it is a real life struggle that she had to go through and still come out well on the other side
  • Open: An Autobiography — Not just for tennis/ sports fans: Andre Agassi’s biography is engaging and certainly written in an open and honest way. We saw the ‘rebel’ on the court, but in reality he was full of doubt and insecurities
  • The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940–1965 — this is the last part of a three-piece biography about Winston Churchill. It’s a long read and very detailed about his life and the changes in the British empire. Especially the last part highlights the struggle, the fight against all odds and the doubts that people had in his leadership, before the time when he was acknowledged as one of the greats
  • Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike — very engaging biography about the founder of Nike. Especially in the beginning where you can feel his entrepreneurial spirit coming through and it’s a great read about the beginnings of one of today’s best-known brands
  • Alex Ferguson: My Biography — I’m a football fan, but as a founder I can also see how football managers have a lot to teach about running a business. Sir Alex Ferguson’s book is engaging as he describes some of the (well known) characters that he had to deal with. As a Liverpool fan I must say I love this book, but I can’t wait for Jürgen Klopp’s biography
  • Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future — not everyone wants and needs to be like Elon Musk, but it is still fascinating to read his biography to see the struggles he had to overcome
  • The Wright Brothers — talking about being persistent and not getting discouraged by failure, the Wright brothers story about getting their first plane off the ground is truly inspiring
  • Einstein: His Life and Universe — a real insight into Einstein’s genius, while also providing a bit more detail about his personal story, his family life and his belief system
  • Leonardo da Vinci — Lengthy book about the greatest innovator of his time. Worth a read if you want to understand how someone was innovative at the time when innovation wasn’t really at the forefront of people’s mind
  • Robin — An inspiring, but also sad story about one of the greatest comedians of our time. His personal and mental struggles are a big part of this book and his challenges were also a part of why he was an entertainment genius
  • Small Fry: A Memoir — A very moving biography by Steve Job’s daughter, born out of wedlock. She shows another, more personal side of the man that many of us consider a genius
  • Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood — Moving, funny, inspiring — Trevor Noah’s biography has it all
  • Benjamin Franklin: An American Life — Very detailed biography about Benjamin Franklin as a businessman, statesmen & scientist
  • Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. — How did Rockefeller become the richest man of his time? This book describes it in detail. You might not agree with his wealth or how he acquired it, but to know the story can be valuable
  • Steve Jobs — Amazing story about a great, but complex man (see ‘Small Fry: A Memoir’). Very inspiring to hear his journey of founding Apple and turning it around 20 years later
  • The House of Rothschild — fascinating story about the beginning of the Rothschild dynasty. They turned suppression and disadvantages around and built a strong, family-bound financial empire within a generation
  • The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance — even the biggest institutions of our time started small and most of the time as a family business. The detailed story about the first, second and third generation of the Morgan family and how they turned a small merchant bank into a highly influential financial power player is a great read
  • Becoming — Michelle Obama’s biography is truly inspiring. You get the sense that there is a down-to-earth person that is on an extraordinary journey. She found her own way quite early in life and you get a real sense of how she kept the balance for herself and her family throughout a truly unique journey.

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