10 books for small businesses that aren’t about business

Not every book should be about business. Here are our favourites for business owners looking for lessons that don't involve what someone may or may not have learned at Business School.

By Isabella Hastings on 02/04/2019

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Hard work and imagination are the proverbial bread and butter of successful small businesses. It takes highly motivated individuals to tackle the challenges that their companies face daily—often by integrating their unique ideas and opinions into the work that they do. In order for staff to feel engaged, it’s essential to foster an environment where people look at issues differently and align their personal growth goals with that of the business.

Easier said than done, you say? We know. That’s why we’ve put together a small literary toolbox, one which includes some of our favourite books for widening horizons, inspiring thoughtful contemplation and positive change.

10. Radical Focus by Christina Wodtke

Christina weaves her real-world business experiences into a fictional story about taking daily challenges and turning them into lifelong lessons. While the entrepreneurs that make-up small businesses rarely shy away from David and Goliath-like odds, Christina brings into focus the value of objectives and key results in streamlining goals and meeting challenges.

9. A Good Time to be a Girl by Helena Morrissey

Who runs the world? According to Helena, it could be girls, but it should be anyone who will add value to society generally and the workplace specifically. Helena throws more 'conventional' approaches to women in the workplace out the door and encourages readers to consider the issues and ideas with which they may disagree. After all, how else will we ever grow as individuals?

8. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Can people ever really change? Charles seems to think so, and argues that people are able to transform their lives by understanding habits and the impact that they can have on our successes. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!

7. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Like a kaleidoscope for the mind, Malcolm pulls information and ideas that exist in the world and presents them from an entirely new perspective to delight and intrigue readers. What makes the greats of the world great? Recalibrating the question from what are successful people like, to where do successful people come from may seem, on the surface, like a chicken or egg issue. However, the latter forces readers to recognise the many influences that play a role in developing outliers. Successful people don’t just appear in the world. They are, instead, products of the world.

6. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Humans are imperfect creatures. Hopefully, that isn’t news. Daniel encourages readers to consider how people make errors in judgment by allowing instinct to take the lead over rational thought. A consciously critical approach to decision making can positively impact the gamut of life settings ranging from the home to the workplace. We can rest easy with the knowledge that imperfection leaves room for improvement.

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5. Radical Candor by Kim Scott

Kim calls for the encouragement of respectfully challenging views with just the right amount of empathy and criticism. This Goldilocks approach to professional interactions is designed to prevent those grizzly work relationships that make employees dread showing up in the morning. As outlined by Kim, developing a strong leadership persona through radical candour could promote much-needed productivity.

4. 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

Learning from mistakes is growth at its core. Robert provides readers with some of history’s greatest gaffes, instilling the hope that maybe we aren’t condemned to repeat our past. Fingers crossed.

3. Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker

Evoking ideas from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Steven optimistically argues that maybe the world isn’t in the dire straights that we are generally inclined to believe. Increasing access to information, supported by a natural flair for the dramatic often found on social media platforms, has fostered a sense that our world is in demise. The reality, perhaps unsurprisingly, may look much different from the public discourse surrounding the issues of the world and societal wellbeing.

2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Venturing into uncharted territory is a common practice for small businesses. Determining goals, and finding ways to achieve them, often involves building a means to an end, which may or may not have existed before. Paulo draws readers into a world of dreams, roadblocks, and sheer determination. Sound familiar?

1. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Happy 100,000th birthday, humanity. Don’t worry though, age is just a number. Or is it? Yuval explores how time and history have shaped our species and the ways in which we interact with the world around us. Beyond that, what are we doing for the Homo sapiens of the future?


Creativity, emotional growth, and broadening perspectives are just some of the marketable skills to be gleaned from reading. Making the time for personal growth can help people feel engaged and fulfilled through the work that they produce. After all, if some of the world’s most successful people (ehem… Bill Gates) can find the time to pore over a few of the books we’ve included, then perhaps we all should set aside time for a decent read every now and then.