Books and Culture

I read the 8 best business books of all time (so you don't have to)—here are the only lessons you need to know

Bill Gates
The Gates Notes LLC

Every year, scores of new business books are published and read by millions of people. But with so many titles to choose from, which ones should you prioritize?

I recently read eight of what many regard the best business books of all time. These are the books that have all stood the test of time — they've made the New York Times best-sellers list and have been recommended over and over again by critics and the world's most successful business leaders. Some of them may even be sitting on your parents' nightstand.

To save you the trouble of reading them yourself, here are the most fascinating lessons from each book:

1. "Think and Grow Rich," by Napolean Hill

Key takeaway: You can achieve anything you conceive and believe.

Thoughts are things — and they are incredibly powerful. Focus on what you want to achieve and strengthen your resolve by having what Hill calls a "definiteness of purpose." It's also essential that you persist in the face of obstacles that are bound to impede your growth along the way.

2. "Rich Dad, Poor Dad," by Robert Kiyosaki

Key takeaway: Know the difference between an asset and a liability.

There's a reason the rich get richer: They understand the vital yet often misunderstood difference between assets and liabilities. An asset puts money in your pocket. A liability takes money out of your pocket. In order to get rich, you must buy assets and leverage the income generated from them to buy luxuries and fund your lifestyle.

3. "The E-Myth," by Michael Gerber

Key takeaway: Work on your business rather than in your business.

"I understand the technical work of a business, therefore, I understand a business that does that technical work." This is a costly assumption new entrepreneurs make. Understand that everybody who goes into business has three identities: An entrepreneur, a manager and a technician. You need all three to build a company that can thrive without you.

4. "The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing," by Al Ries and Jack Trout

Key takeaway: Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products.

You always want to be the "first." And in today's competitive online landscape, a "me-too" copycat has little chance of getting into the prospect's mind once another company has gotten there first. Not every first is going to be successful, though. If you don't get into the prospect's mind first, create a new category you can be first in, instead. It worked for Dominos and it can work for you, too.

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5. "How to Win Friends & Influence People," by Dale Carnegie

Key takeaway: Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

This book is just as important for today's digital age as it was when it was first published in 1936. There are innumerable takeaways from Carnegie's classic best-seller, but the most important one is that you can't go wrong with smiling, becoming a good listener and of course, making others feel important.

6. "The Hard Thing About Hard Things," by Ben Horowitz

Key takeaway: "Embrace your weirdness, your background, your instinct. If the keys are not there, they do not exist."

"The hard thing about hard things," writes Horowitz, is that "there is no formula for dealing with them" — and he's absolutely right. While many business books tend to prescribe solutions to challenges that aren't really challenges at all, few, if any, tell it like it really is, which is that there is no one-size solution.

7. "Blue Ocean Strategy," by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

Key takeaway: Avoid trying to beat competitors. Instead, focus on making them irrelevant by creating a leap in value for buyers and your company.

Most markets are red oceans. They're full of blood because all the sharks feed on the same small pool of fish. Over time, submarkets developed as a reaction to those red markets. In order to differentiate yourself from competitors, you must create a blue ocean for yourself, an opportunity people can't wait to dive into.

8. "Shoe Dog," by Phil Knight

Key takeaway: Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.

On Bill Gates' list of must-reads and penned by Phil Knight, the notoriously shy Nike co-founder, "Shoe Dog" offers a rare and revealing glimpse into a man who borrowed $50 from his father to launch a company that, today, is globally recognized and generates $50 billion dollars annually.

Sam Thomas Davies writes at SamuelThomasDavies.com, where he blogs about research-backed ideas on how to live better and work smarter. His work has been featured and quoted in The Times, HuffPost and Fast Company. Follow him on Twitter at .

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Bill Gates
The Gates Notes LLC
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