25 Biographies Every Business Student Should Read

by Staff Writers

Getting your business education from school is important, but you also likely have a few idols in the business world to whom you look for guidance when it comes to making it big in the industry. Learning from those who have achieved their own success is an excellent way to enhance your knowledge of business as well as find motivation for your own success. Read on to learn about 25 biographies you should read that share insight to leaders in business throughout history into modern day.

  1. Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist. Starting with little more than a keen eye for investing, Warren Buffett has amassed a great fortune to become one of the richest men in the world. Read this book to learn about the man behind the money and what type of mindset Buffett has that has enabled him to develop such a successful method of investing in both stocks and businesses.
  2. Richard Branson: The Authorised Biography. This high-profile British entrepreneur achieved success with Virgin Music and Virgin Atlantic and captured the world's attention with his attempt to fly around the world in a hot-air balloon. See how Branson has channeled his energy and drive into making it big in the business world.
  3. The John Deere Story: A Biography Of Plowmakers John & Charles Deere. The green and yellow tractors bearing a logo of a deer is one of the most recognizable machinery in the world. Find out how John Deere started as a poor blacksmith who relocated to the midwest, where he developed a steel plow that would cut through the unforgiving sod to reveal fertile soil. Deere nurtured his business with hard work, high quality materials, and fair prices, and provided the basis for a company that is still thriving almost 200 hundred years later.
  4. Inside Steve's Brain. This biography of Steve Jobs details his life and even takes a look at particulars such as his management style and his impact on Apple. This biography seems to be better received than an earlier biography that prompted Apple to pull all books from this publisher off the shelves in all Apple retail stores in protest.
  5. The Helmsleys: The Rise and Fall of Harry and Leona Helmsley. Harry Helmsley started with nothing and became a real estate tycoon, amassing vast amounts of money. Late in life he married Leona, and the two of them continued to collect money. Leona became known as a ruthless, mean-spirited person and was eventually brought to trial and sentenced to 18 months in jail for tax evasion and mail fraud. This biography does an excellent job of detailing how these two business people made it big in real estate.
  6. H. J. Heinz Company. Henry J. Heinz changed the face of the American diet with his innovation and dedication to quality. Starting with bottling grated horseradish, Heinz became a successful marketer and entrepreneur who built his 57 varieties of ketchup into one of the most recognizable American food products in the world.
  7. Mr Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream. You wouldn't think that anyone would actually need to market the idea of sex and sexuality, but Hugh Hefner has become the master of doing just that. Read about his life, how he maintained power amidst strong feminist backlash, and has built a successful communications and entertainment company.
  8. The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst. Starting with his newspaper in San Francisco, Hearst grew the first media conglomerate. This book not only details his rise through the news media, his fortune, and his loss of fortune, but it also delves into his life that was full of contradictions.
  9. The People's Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century. Perhaps one of the most well-known American business success stories, the life of Henry Ford is chronicled in this biography. Learn how Ford went from his childhood on a farm in Michigan to work as an engineer in Detroit to establishing his own successful business filled with innovative ideas.
  10. Mary Kay. Mary Kay Ash created one of the most recognizable companies, complete with pink Cadillacs as rewards for top performers. She was also a champion for women and their place in the business world. Read this book to learn how this business woman made it big and created such a powerful cosmetic company.
  11. Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire. Bill Gates is frequently referred to as the richest man in America. Read this book for a look into the man behind that success, how he achieved such heights, missteps along the way, and a glimpse into the corporate culture at Microsoft in the early days.
  12. The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life. Learn about the business behind one of the most beloved American companies. Disney was a man of determination, imagination, and enthusiasm who created a safe place for children and adults alike to bury themselves for a while. This biography offers a balanced look at the man who has been labeled both a saint and a communist spy.
  13. Liz Claiborne: The Legend, The Woman, The Designer. Get on the waiting list for this book that is scheduled for release in April of 2010. Written by Claiborne's husband and business partner, it describes how a young Liz Claiborne started as a designer and created a successful company based on designing and selling well-made, attractive, and affordable clothing for working women. Read a preview of the book here.
  14. Empire: The Life, Legend, and Madness of Howard Hughes. Read this biography as a cautionary tale. As famous for his flight around the world as for his eccentricity, Hughes made it big in the aerospace industry, then dissolved in a sea of illicit dealings, drugs, and madness. Discover how he made his success and how he lost millions in shady activities.
  15. George Eastman: A Biography. George Eastman brought photography to the average person in the early 1900s with a low-cost camera that almost anyone could afford. A bold entrepreneur, Eastman built his company on a combination of innovation and hard work that is detailed in this scholarly biography. Learn about the reclusive life, generous philanthropy, and sharp business acumen of Eastman with this book.
  16. Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie became one of the richest men in the world from his business in the steel industry and later devoted himself to giving his vast wealth away through philanthropic ventures. Despite his generosity, Carnegie was known as a harsh businessman who relied more on efficiency than concern for his employees, with many of Carnegie's practices in the workplace now illegal in modern business. This book provides balanced insight into both Carnegie's talent and shortcomings.
  17. Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.. Vying with Carnegie for making the most money and giving the most away, Rockefeller came from a modest home to become the world's first billionaire. His work in the oil industry earned him a reputation of being unscrupulous, but this book also shows a softer side to the religious, philanthropic man.
  18. Morgan: American Financier. Take a look into what made J. Pierpoint Morgan so famously successful as a banker during the Golden Age. This book not only provides insight into the man, but also takes readers on a journey through a monumental shift in American and world economics as they were occurring during the time.
  19. How Dell Does It. From his dorm room to his board room, this book takes a look at the rise of Michael Dell and his computer business. With less emphasis on Dell's personal life and more on the specific strategies of the company, this book will take readers on a tour of one of the most successful computer businesses in the world.
  20. The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It. Barbe-Nicole Clicquot took over her husband's winemaking business after his death and turned it into one of the most recognizable names in champagne as well as transforming the market and image of the popular wine itself.
  21. Popcorn King: How Orville Redenbacher Created One of America's Most Popular Brands. Redenbacher's success came later in life, but his determination to "do one thing and do it better than anyone" helped his business achieve great heights. He was also a visionary, seeing the potential for microwave popcorn in the early days of the microwave.
  22. Martha Inc.: The Incredible Story of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. While biographers have not been kind to Martha Stewart, this account focuses more on her incredible business acumen that helped propel her forward as one of the most successful businesswomen in America. From her middle-class background to her business relationships with some of the most recognizable names in the industry, this book covers it all.
  23. Ted Turner: A Biography. Once named Man of the Year by Time magazine, Ted Turner is a successful businessman who has gone from establishing cable TV to baseball team owner and just about everywhere in between. Learn about the way Turner has taken underdogs to the top of their game through his insightful business skill.
  24. Jack Welch & The G.E. Way: Management Insights and Leadership Secrets of the Legendary CEO. Jack Welch is both loved and hated, but is indisputably one of the most recognizable CEOs in American business. Read this book to find out Welch's business philosophy that helped take GE to the top of the field as one of the most valuable companies in the world.
  25. Rupert Murdoch: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Media Wizard. Rupert Murdoch has been a major player in global business for decades. Discover some of the reasons why when you read about Murdoch's business wheeling and dealing brought to life in this book by a business writer from Australia.