5 Books Every Millennial Entrepreneur Should Read

Sharon McCutcheon

You’re ready to light the world on fire with the spirit of a millennial entrepreneur, but even the most creative and talented business minds need inspiration (and maybe advice) from others. From the founder of PayPal to the President of Pixar Animation, the authors of the following five books provide examples, ideas, and principles to speed you on a successful path. 

The Lean Startup

The Lean Startup (Crown Business, 2011) by Eric Ries aims to steer new companies away from preventable failures. The book is based on his Lean Startup method, a scientific approach that “teaches you how to drive a startup—how to steer, when to turn, and when to preserve—and grow a business with maximum acceleration.” Ries himself is an entrepreneur who has founded several companies and serves on the advisory boards of several technology firms. Adopted across the globe, his methods have changed the way new companies are built and new products are launched. 

If you want to nurture a startup that achieves the longevity to impact the marketplace, this book is for you. The Lean Startup sets out an approach to help your company remain capital efficient while leveraging human creativity for all the right purposes. 

Ries’ method is based on five key principles, which you’ll learn to internalize after reading The Lean Startup:

  1. Entrepreneurs are everywhere
  2. Entrepreneurship is management at its core
  3. Validated learning
  4. Innovative accounting
  5. Build-measure-learn

Zero to One

You may not have heard of this book, but you certainly have heard of the man who wrote it. The author is Peter Thiel who in 1998 founded a little venture called PayPal. Co-authored by Blake Masters, a student of Thiel’s and entrepreneur in his own right, Zero to One (Currency, 2014) offers new ways to think about innovation—and to think for yourself. Thiel wants today’s entrepreneurs to realize that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. 

A reviewer for The Atlantic hailed Zero to One as possibly “the best business book I’ve ever read,” and “a lucid and profound articulation of capitalism and success in the 21st-century economy.” Given the meteoric rise of PayPal, no one can doubt Thiel’s knack for business. His pithy book spills the secrets to his success. 

Creativity, Inc.

Creativity, Inc (Random House, 2014) is written by another famous figure with incredible influence over modern culture, even if you don’t know him by name: Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation Studios and Disney Animation. 

If you are striving for originality or working to lead your employees to new heights, this book can serve as your roadmap. Drawing from his unparalleled experiences shaping the most beloved animated movies of our time, Catmull aims to convey “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.” 

A few of the lessons you’ll learn from Catmull:

  • It’s not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It’s the manager’s job to make it safe for others to take them.
  • The cost of preventing errors is often far greater than the cost of fixing them.
  • Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they will screw it up. But give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they’ll fix it or come up with something better.


Psychologist Angela Duckworth offers unique insight into entrepreneurship and success. Her book Grit (Scribner, 2016) explains that the secret to achievement isn’t talent. It’s actually a special blend of passion and persistence that she calls—you guessed it—“grit.”

Duckworth doesn’t just claim that business people need more than talent to succeed; she demonstrates it with landmark research and first-person accounts of her experiences. From interviewing Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll to working with the young finalists in the National Spelling Bee, Duckworth has seen it all and uses Grit to share her secrets with you. 

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

First published 30 years ago, this classic self-help book presents a holistic and principle-centered way to solve personal and professional problems. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Free Press, 1989) by Stephen R. Covey is timeless because it ignores trends. It instead focuses on the principles that will always stand tall: fairness, integrity, honesty, and human dignity. 

Though this book isn’t directly aimed at business folk, it teaches important lessons that shape your trajectory of professional success. Mantras such as “be proactive” and “put first things first” sound easy but actually demand practice and determination. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People teaches you how to develop these essential habits until they become an innate part of your entrepreneurial spirit.

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