Books Josh Kaufman Wants You To Read

Josh Kaufman, author of the forthcoming The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business, believes that you don’t need to get an MBA to understand and succeed in business. Instead, you can self educate yourself at a fraction of the cost by reading the best business books that cover all the business basics.

What’s peculiar about his list of the 99 best business books? You’ll find nothing by Jim Collins, the most successful business book author of our generation whose “Built to Last” and “Good to Great” are two of the best-selling books of all time, or Tom Peters, whose In Search of Excellence collaboration with McKinsey colleague Bob Waterman, ushered in the popular era of business books. There’s not a single business book by leadership guru Warren Bennis. Nor is there a single title by such well-known academic authors as Stanford’s Jeffrey Pfeffer, Michigan’s Noel Tichy, Harvard’s John Kotter, Bill George or Rosabeth Moss Kanter. No CEO biographies–not Andy Grove, Jack Welch, Bill Gates, or Tom Watson Jr.

Why? “There is an incredibly wide gulf between a popular business book and a useful practical business book,” insists Kaufman, who says he has read thousands of business books in the past five years. “It’s easy to see the popularity of Good to Great. It’s an inspiring book and it makes people feel good. So the word is spread. I’m looking for useful books that teach fundamental principles of how business functions and how you can do it better. A lot of the most popular books don’t deliver well on that premise.”

Instead, Kaufman says he prefers what he believes are more pragmatic titles, such as Essentials of Accounting. “If you want to learn the basics of accounting, there is no better book,” he says. “It teaches you accounting by having you create financial statements. It is incredibly dense and it takes work to get through. It’s not a page turner. But if you do it, you’ll learn accounting.”

Well, yes and no. There are quite a few glib and overly commercial books on his list, along with texts that you would only buy if a professor insisted that it was necessary for a class. And there are other books that would have made better magazine stories.

Here’s a selected portion of Kaufman’s 99 best business books by category.


Accounting Made Easy by Mike Piper

Essentials of Accounting by Robert N. Anthony and Leslie K. Breitner

The McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course in Finance by Robert A. Cooke

How to Read a Financial Report by John Tracy


How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff

Principles of Statistics by M.G. Bulmer


Purpose: The Starting Point of Great Companies by Nikos Mourkogiannis

Competitive Strategy by Michael Porter

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chain Kim and Renee Mauborgne

Green to Gold by David Esty and Andrew Winston

Seeing What’s Next by Clayton M. Christensen, Erik A. Roth, and Scott D. Anthony


First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

12: The Elements of Great Managing by Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter

Growing Great Employees by Erika Andersen

Hiring Smart by Pierre Mornell

The Essential Drucker by Peter Drucker


All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin

Permission Marketing by Seth Godin

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries & Jack Trout

Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got by Jay Abraham


The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Peter Drucker


Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson

The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

The Knack by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim

Bankable Business Plan by Edward Rogoff


Tribes by Seth Godin

Total Leadership by Stewart Friedman

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith

The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan by Jayme A. Check et al

The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig

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