When I first started my project I wanted to also start reading books that would help me with the parts of the project I felt least comfortable with (namely the non-tech aspects of starting a startup). I began by just borrowing a book from a friend called Hot Seat: The Startup CEO Guidebook By Dan Shapiro. But where to go from there? I looked a several “Top Books For Startup Entrepreneurs” lists and found they all were different. What books would give me the most bang for my buck?
Building my own Top Books List Via Aggregation
As an engineer and data scientist the answer seemed pretty obvious. I would aggregate the results from many “Top Lists” and merge the results.
There are two things I know from experience, 1) Writing an aggregation engine is hard and 2) Trying a thing manually will quickly tell you if it is worth doing automatically. After only a few lists I decided I would manually aggregate a total of 30 lists from a google search (I realize this isn’t exactly a random sampling but it’s close enough that Central Limit Theorem seems fair). It takes almost no time to copy text from a web page and delete everything except the list, and even though the results might change someday down the road, I only care about the results this one time. So I went to work. Once I had my 30 pages reduced to lists, I joined them and sorted alphabetically. From there, with a simple count, I had the results I wanted. A list of the top recommended books by count of recommendation.
Results (top 10)
- The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses By Eric Ries – 10 Results
- Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future By Peter Thiel – 7 Results
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers By Ben Horowitz – 7 Results
- Rework By Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson – 5 Results
- The Four Steps to the Epiphany By Steve Blank – 4 Results
- Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist By Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson – 3 Results
- The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business By Clayton M. Christensen – 3 Results
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It By Michael E. Gerber – 3 Results
- Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products By Nir Eyal – 3 Results
- High Output Management By Andrew S. Grove – 3 Results
An interesting side note from this little experiment is that these lists are obviously quite personal and contested. Having pulled from 30 lists I ended up with almost 150 different book titles, most of which only showed up once. This approach does not guarantee that these 10 will be the best books available (as all ensemble methods are susceptible to producing popular results over quality ones) but it should make for a good initial reading list.
These top 10 are now my reading list going forward. I have already read The Lean Startup but I will be reading it again. I just finished Venture Deals but I will be rereading it as it is very informative (and largely the reason I realized I need to start writing things down). I am currently about a third into The Hard Thing About Hard Things.