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20 Biographies Every Serious Entrepreneur Should Read

by Staff Writers

Entrepreneurs are often interesting, inspiring people that anyone can learn from, but other innovators can benefit from examining the lives of ambitious businessmen and women. Whether they’re rising from poverty, picking up the pieces and trucking on after multiple failures or ditching the familiar 9-5, these entrepreneurs have not only stories, but lessons to share.

  1. Raising Eyebrows: Not every entrepreneur gets it right the first time, or even the fifth, but persistence pays. After years of failures and $150,000 of debt, Dal LaMagna finally made it, founding Tweezerman. Read his inspirational story for success in the face of collapse.

  2. Launch Fever: Timothy Taylor started his career at NASA, but made a decision familiar to many entrepreneurs: leaving behind the 9-5 to pursue his entrepreneurial dream. Read about his struggles and difficult decisions on the path to his success.

  3. Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: Ryan Blair was once a gang member in juvenile detention. He started his business career with no formal training, but with the help of a mentor, started his first company at 21, growing to become a multimillionaire entrepreneur.

  4. You Can Do It: Stanley A. Dashew is a man who knows how to rise to a challenge – he found a job in the middle of the Great Depression. His book offers inspiration and lessons for creating your own success.

  5. Ben Franklin: America’s Original Entrepreneur: Learn about Benjamin Franklin’s breakthrough work as an entrepreneur in this modern translation of his autobiography. This book serves as an inspiration to today’s innovators who feel they can learn from creators in our American past.

  6. Chicken Lips, Wheeler-Dealer and the Beady-Eyed MBA: Frank Farwell shares his story as a man crazy enough to leave a well-paying job for self-employment during a recession. In this book, you’ll learn about pitfalls and successes on his way to a three-time Inc. 500 company.

  7. Sam Walton: Made in America: Whether you love or hate WalMart, the late Sam Walton’s wisdom for entrepreneurs is undeniable. Learn about risk, hard work and entrepreneurship from the man who created the empire known.

  8. How to Get Rich: Felix Dennis shares his secrets as one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs. In this book, he offers advice including common startup errors in an entertaining, practical style.

  9. Dreaming Impossible Dreams: Multimillionaire philanthropist EJ Ourso shares how he acquired 56 businesses in 48 years, many without any money down. You’ll see his early start as a salesman and wisdom for wealth acquisition.

  10. The Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie and the Gospel of Wealth: Andrew Carnegie’s autobiography offers excellent lessons for budding entrepreneurs. Read this book to gain wisdom from his life and choices as a businessman.

  11. Who Says I Can’t?: Jothy Rosenberg embodies the spirit of the persistent and triumphant entrepreneur. He overcame a cancer diagnosis to a career in athletics, overcoming obstacles and taking on entrepreneurship.

  12. Business Stripped Bare: Those who are awed by Richard Branson will appreciate his autobiography, in which he shares his life and business. Find advice, stories and more in this guide to success in business as well as life.

  13. 1,000 Dollars and an Idea: Sam Wyly went from country boy entrepreneur to millionaire involved in many successful business ventures. In this autobiography, he shares his experiences and universal lessons that are wise for any reader.

  14. Hard Drive: Many are familiar with Bill Gates and his business, Microsoft. A Harvard dropout, Gates formed his own company at 19 with his friends. In this book, you’ll learn about his ambition and drive that made Microsoft what it is today.

  15. Confessions of a Serial Entrepreneur: If you appreciate the modern Renaissance man or woman, this book offers an excellent inspiration. A man who worked every kind of job, entrepreneur Stuart Skorman explains why he can’t stop starting over with a new business, and how he made it work.

  16. The Dream: From the outside, it may seem that some millionaire entrepreneurs stumbled upon success by chance, but from the inside, it’s clear that successful stories like Gurbaksh Chahal come from hard work, persistence and hope. Find out how he put his heart into his work and created success from sacrifice.

  17. The People’s Tycoon: Henry Ford is an American business legend. Although his first auto production attempts failed, Ford turned to publicity students that made him a hero to ordinary Americans. Learn about his life and work in this book.

  18. Delivering Happiness: Tony Hsieh built a business devoted to customer happiness. His company, Zappos.com, does over $1 billion in gross merchandise sales every year. In this book, Hsieh explains the entrepreneurial spirit of creativity and optimism.

  19. The Wizard of Menlo Park: No matter the industry, all entrepreneurs are at least in a small part inventors. Thomas Alva Edison’s life offers inspiration for those who seek innovation and invention.

  20. Ignorance, Confidence, and Filthy Rich Friends: Mark Twain is best known for his work as a writer, but he was a chronic speculator and entrepreneur. He spent most of his life in pursuit of wealth, and this book offers an adaptation of Twain’s life story and wit into a how-to format for budding entrepreneurs.