Vacation time or busy season. Heat wave or comfortable living. Whatever characteristics the summer season conjures up for you, as a small business owner you're expected to tackle it with the same steam as every single other month of the year.

It can also be a great time for reflection. For some, there’s no better summertime activity than to relax with a good book.

The following is a list of books that real entrepreneurs say shaped the way they do business, introduced new perspectives and essentially, changed their life.

1. “Mindset” by Carol Dweck –

Lucy Maia from Bonina Creations says, “this is not a business book per say, but the ideas can easily be used in a business and entrepreneurial setting. She talks about 2 mindsets – The fixed mindset (talents and abilities are innate and if something is too hard it probably means it’s not for you. If you are good, you should do well in everything you attempt. Failure is your worst nightmare. The other is the growth mindset (as the name says, you believe you can learn and improve. Success takes hard work and commitment. Failure is a learning opportunity.)

As someone who grew up thinking that because I was smart, success should come easily, learning about this alternative mindset completely changed me.”

2. “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose” by Tony Hsieh –

Nick Braun of Pet Insurance Quotes says, “I’ve read just about every business book imaginable and no book had more of a positive impact on my career than Delivering Happiness. Tony uses real-life examples from his journey at Zappos to paint a picture of how to build a business, establish a culture and most importantly, how to delight your customers. 

Juan Palacio or BloomsyBox.com also recommended this reading, saying it’s probably the most influential book he’s ever read. “It gave me an amazing perspective on the ‘branding through customer service’ subject, among others. Not only was his story inspiring, but there are a lot of things Tony did at Zappos that I still apply to my business today.”

3. “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber -  

A couple of entrepreneurs recommended this book. Here's why:

Matt McKee, of McKee Photography says he rereads this book every year or so to refresh himself and stay on track. “The book has helped me to separate the different roles I need to play to keep my business running smoothly and keep my sanity. Finding that balance between working in my business, fulfilling client projects, keeping the pipeline flowing and working on the business along with business development, planning for the future and strategic management is probably the hardest thing a new business owner has to learn. I struggled with it for years until I started putting the concepts in this book into practice.”

Paige Dawson of MPD Ventures also recommended this book for anyone starting a business or struggling in a business. “The key takeaway is the real struggle and skill to navigate business growth and how to focus on growth versus executing the daily tasks. Are you working ON your business or IN your business?”

Keith Shields of Designli coined this book as the singlehandedly most impactful book he’s ever read. “This book goes through the process of explaining why those who start businesses have ‘the dream’ sucked right out of business ownership after a few years and after reaching some moderate success. It then explains how a small business owner can escape the all-too-common phenomenon of creating a prison for themselves, feeling trapped inside their business as they work sleepless days. I would suggest this book for any business owner who has reached sustainability (past the startup phase) and is looking to create a more sustainable venture that isn’t 100% dependent on your own hour input.” 

4. “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey

Andrew Schrage of Money Crashers says it’s one of the best books any aspiring entrepreneur should read. “It talks about the importance of balance between your professional and personal career and it includes personal anecdotes which back up the points he is trying to make. In the book, he professes a lot of good advice regarding the concept of beginning ‘with the end in mind’ – something which is certainly relevant for rookie entrepreneurs.”

Travis Bennett with Studio Digita also deems this classic as one of the most influential books he’s read. “I usually tackle a new book when I’m looking for a way to grow my business and in this one there was a particular chapter that stuck with me, namely ‘Sharpen Your Saw.’ If you’re not finding ways to improve your business every day, you’re going to fail, and continual learning plays a key role in this.”

5. “The One Thing” by Gary Keller –

Robert Gray from Insightlink Communications says, “as a small business owner, I can easily vouch that having to wear so many hats makes you run the risk of being pulled in so many directions at once that you end up being unfocused and without a strategic direction. The main premise of Keller’s book is to challenge the belief that multi-tasking is an effective and productive work style. Rather, he clearly illustrates that, in order to be successful, you need to focus on just one thing at a time. I have found this to be the case in my own work that careful attention and consideration of the task at hand is much more efficient than juggling a bunch of different priorities at once!”

6. “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy –

Author T.S. Krupa says, “the concept of this book was so simple – building on habits to make a large impact. It makes the idea of owning and operating a business or anything for that matter doable. It had a profound effect on how I looked at things and planned my own business strategy.”

7. “The 4 Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss –

This was a popular one on the list. Here’s what some folks had to say.

Allen Walton of Spy Guy Security says it was a no brainer when choosing this book for this list. “I can think of a few dozen friends who quit their cushy jobs to start their own businesses after reading this one. This book taught me that my time is incredibly valuable – that I could get massive results with very little input. It takes you through the steps to change your mindset, realize that you have the power to carve out your destiny and live a rich life.”

Adelaida Dia Roza, an entrepreneur on her 3rd business says that this book is simply amazing. ”It’s a little inspirational but the best part is that about 60-80% of it is tools and tricks to start/improve your business and how to go about time management and productiveness. I highly suggest it, no matter what business you’re in, there’s something in there that can be applied to it.”

Curt Storring of Liberty Premium Grooming Company explained, “a large part of my ‘why’ when it comes to being an online entrepreneur is the freedom it allows.  I don’t have to go into an office, deal with corporate bureaucracy, and I can spend time with my wife and kids whenever I want. Even so, it wasn’t until three years into my entrepreneurial journey that I read this book. It immediately allowed me to see all the other freedoms available to me, including travel and outsourcing my business and my life.”

Olivia Jaras of Salary Coaching said this is hands down the most important book she read for starting a (now successful) business. “I don’t think the content necessarily made it an excellent book but the overarching theme of the author essentially took the fear out of being an entrepreneur. After reading and re-reading that book, the idea of starting a business no longer intimidated me.”

Chris Abrams founder of Abrams Insurance Solutions agreed that it is a must read for any entrepreneur. “This book teaches how to work smart and not hard to accomplish your goals and then some. I have employed strategies from the book to increase productivity and eliminate nonessential tasks (through outsourcing). Overall, this book has enabled me to become a better and smarter business owner, father and husband.”

8. “The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Let People Help” by Amanda Palmer –

Tanya Wasylewski of Meraki Coaching says, “this book was a great lesson in learning that it is important to develop a community that trusts and supports you and feels like they are trusted and supported in return. As an extra lesson, The Art of Asking is a reminder that you don’t know everything/can’t do everything yourself and to ask for help when you need it.”

9. “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton M. Christensen -

Arsineh Ghazarian of Zveil says this book is a must-read for all entrepreneurs. “This book outlines the importance of businesses keeping a pulse on their competitors and industry as a whole, as well as staying agile and adaptive in order to remain relevant in an ever-evolving business landscape.”

Amanda Henke of Annie B’s Caramels said a former boss recommended this one to her. “It’s a great read to help stay ahead of the game. It doesn’t let you get too comfortable with your business practices.” 

10. “Hunting in a Farmer’s World: Celebrating the Mind of an Entrepreneur” by John F. Dini –

David Scarola of The Alternative Board says, “this multi-faceted book explains how present day entrepreneurs can be compared to early hunters: the risks they take, their accomplishments and their contributions to the economy and the lives of others. More than just theory, Dini’s book provides extensive real-world business examples of how and how to not approach business opportunities.”

11. “Traction” by Gino Wickman –

Larissa Pickens of Float Design says, “there are so many moving parts involved in starting a business that I find it overwhelming at times. This was the first book I found that gave me a holistic view and actionable game plan on what I should be doing to systematize and grow my design studio. It’s also written with a lot of examples and case studies which make it an easy read.”

12. “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill – 

David Naylor of 2logical suggested this one saying it is,“bar none the most influential book in developing the thought process and mindset necessary to succeed in business (and in life). This book was based upon the life lessons learned from such notables as Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and Wilbur Wright amongst others. It is a must read.”

Benjamin Surman of FIRMEIGHTY-SIX agreed, saying it is “THE must read book for any entrepreneur. I believe it sets a tone that every entrepreneur should work off of and keep in the back of their mind at all times. I for one believe it has helped me go from freelancer, to my first startup/acquisition, to my second and third business creations.”

13. “The Startup Playbook” by David S. Kidder –

Lisa Chu of Black N Bianco says this influential book should be on every aspiring entrepreneur’s reading list. “The book features a large variety of different entrepreneurs sharing their insight in starting a business. I highly suggest this book because the entrepreneurs share a lot of valuable business lessons from customer satisfaction and retention to employee and brand research. There are a lot of moving parts in a business and if they are not moving toward the correct direction, your business will be spinning away with all of your profits. I would consider this to be your A-Z guide on how to run a successful business.”

14. “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen –

Adriana Fernandes of DIY Property Management (Australia) said this book, “gives the reader a clear blueprint on how to organize [sic] their life and how to keep it running in a way that will reduce stress levels tenfold. Much more than how to create and maintain a to-do list, the author explains the methodology and shows readers how to use systems that deal with the many interruptions and changing priorities that arise from customers, technology and stakeholders’ demands on the business.”

Dr. Lisa Fairweather of Daily Gorgeous also suggested this piece, saying it is the single book that has made the biggest impact in business and personal life. “It’s as simple as it is difficult to fully understand and do, which is why I revisit it annually. In rereading it, I find continual nuances to make my current systems more effective and efficient.

15. “Persuasive Business Proposals: Writing to Win Customers, Clients, and Contracts” by Tom Sant –

Ashley Hill from College Prep Ready says that every entrepreneur needs to read this book. “It has impacted my life because relationships are key to owning a successful business which requires effective communication skills. I learned how to properly communicate with potential customers which led to several contracts for my business.

16. “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel –

Mark M Whelan of Rapid Reasoning said, “this business book has been instrumental to my startup and personal growth simply because the credibility of the author, Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and lead investor in Facebook and Palantir, has proven time and time again his approach has merit. This book offers crystal clear reasoned insights into how to solve problems and how to remove erroneous biases and assumptions that are commonly held. This book has inspired me to be a free thinker and grow my business from zero to one by being different.”

Vincent Vitale of Fount also recommended this read. “Entrepreneurs often are faced with challenges to create a successful venture. This book challenges common philosophies such as ‘competition is good’ and provides a blueprint to what a company needs to be successful.

17. “How Will You Measure Your Life?” by Clayton M. Christensen –

Ben Malick, CFA, of Three Nine Financial says, “As an entrepreneur, it’s easy for me to get caught up in building my business at the expense of other areas in my life. But this book helps me keep perspective and focus on things that are most important to me. I think every entrepreneur or aspiring entrepreneur should read this book because we should all think deeply about what’s most important to us before we start a business. Gaining clarity around what’s most important will instruct how we structure and operate our business.”

18. “Essentialism” by Greg McKeowon –

Aalap Shah of SoMe Connect says this book was recommended to him by another entrepreneur. He’s read it twice now. “It has helped me become more efficient and focused in on my work and create incredible momentum for my business. More than anything, leveraging the principles in the book about focus, clarity and vision has allowed me to spend time with my young family without feeling that I need to be doing more ‘work’.”

19. “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George Samuel Clason –

Brent Broadnax of NerdBox says, “as a business owner, I had to learn to manage my own capital. And, in my opinion, this books gives simple and easy to understand business lessons regarding money, its uses and its power. I’ve completely changed the way I view my revenue and now give it the respect it deserves.”

20. “Creativity, Inc.” by Ed Catmull (founder of Pixar) –

Meredith Wood of Fundera explained how Catmull does a great job of explaining how to nurture creativity in the workplace. “So many businesses are so heads down, focused on hitting goals, that they may accidentally create a culture where creativity is stifled. Catmull creates a plan for entrepreneurs and managers to prevent this from happening.”

21. “The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth” by James Altucher –

James Harper of GoEdison admits that “the book has one of the cheesiest titles ever, but this book has not only changed my business forever, but my life. It literally gave me a roadmap to leave a high paying corporate job and venture out on my own. It talks about the main asset you need to survive in business. What’s that asset? Ideas! It talks about the power of writing down 10 ideas a day and how that will forever change your life. Simple concept to grasp, hard practice to actually implement.”

22. “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries –

This was another highly recommended book on the list.

Casey Meraz of Juris Digital says that this book was instrumental in the way they do business. “Previously, we used to waste a lot of time and money testing methods for new software and marketing ideas for our clients. We used to build out full systems and invest many resources into ideas that we found out later would not work. Learning to use the lean startup method has increased our productivity and we’re spending less creating products and services that our customers like.”

Joshua Schall of Joshua Schall Consulting said it was most impactful in his life because it shifted his idea of product development. “I had always developed based around my or my team’s idea of perfect. The real key is to bring in the customer’s feedback by developing minimum viable products (MVPs) that are quickly able to be put to market. That, in turn, gives you an amazing feedback loop that can be used to make corrections to the product based on real users and their wants/needs.”

Akos Boros of Capturly says, “it’s essential if you would like to build a successful business from zero. It helps you a lot to understand the meaning and importance of validation and lean methodology from the early beginning.”

23. “Outwitting the Devil” by Napoleon Hill –

Dennis Michael of Wake Creative suggested this book saying that it will transform your view on fear and how it is manifested on your mind. “It will allow you to conquer your fears and achieve your goals. It has allowed me to understand myself and move forward with conviction and drive.”

24. “The Seven Levels of Communication-Go From Relationships to Referrals” by Michael J. Maher –

A unique choice from Steve Turner of Solomon Turner, this is a basic story of a fictional real estate salesman Rick Masters (though based on Maher’s past experiences). “Masters discovers there is more to life than just working hard and trying to make a living. He discovers the art of connecting with people. He learns how to help people achieve their goals and in turn they help him achieve his dreams. It is as much about giving as it is building a business.”

25. “Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” by Brian Tracy –

Henry Crespo of Grow Light Central explains, “as a self-employed entrepreneur, I’ve always struggled with procrastination. I’ve read a lot of books on productivity, but was never able to apply the info to my life. This book lays out a series of instantly actionable steps to become much more productive. For the first time, I was able to make actual changes to my life that have led to a marked increase in productivity.”

26. “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini –

According to Michael Koranda of Pacific Issue, this is “THE book on influence. Nothing else comes close to being so simple, useful and comprehensive. Using science-based evidence, Cialdini breaks influence down into six basic principles. I fully realize the meta-ness of what I’m about to say…but no book has had a greater influence on my life than this one.”

27. “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” by Shunryu Suzuki –

Calling it the book that changed his life, Mathew Martinez of SocialsFirm, says “the first 36 pages alone changed my entire mind sight about the world. One hundred percent of the time, the only thing stopping us from achieving our goals is our own self-sabotage. Shunryu very gracefully teaches you how to regain control over your life and understand our own purpose in the world.”

28. “At Left Brain Turn Right” by Jack Canfield –

Nedalee Thomas of Chanson Water explains this book as a “fantastic exploration of how our brain works for success. The left side of the book was written for the left brain person and the right side of the book was for the right-brained person. He tells the story of a person becoming a millionaire in two different ways, something that any brain can latch onto for success.”

29. “The Hard Thing about Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz –

John Turner of Users Think says, “it not only talks about some of the tricky mechanics of building a business, but also takes into account and talks openly about the emotional difficulty of building a business. It also goes into depth on the importance of courage, a trait that is drastically undervalued and should be the focus of development of more entrepreneurs.”

Jay Jacobs, of RAPID also suggested this book saying it is “a slap in the face on the realities of running a business and discusses the brutal honest truth about the daily life of a CEO. This book taught me how to make hard, uncomfortable decisions in a timely manner. I would recommend this book to aspiring CEOs as a guide on what the future holds.”

30. “Love is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends” by Tim Sanders –

Sharon DeLay, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CPCC, MBA of Boldly GO said, “I am an introvert by nature and networking for me is work. What I like about this book is that it’s a simple read and has great strategies for networking with heart. It really takes the ‘ick’ out of networking and after I read it, it reinforced what I was already (mostly) doing instinctively.”

31. “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin –

Jordan Scheltgen of Cave Social says he’s read close to 50 business related books but this one has been by far the most impactful and actionable. “The book takes high-level tactics from Navy SEALs and explains how to implement them in everyday business. Ultimately, it circles around accountability. When our company is doing well, the team gets the praise and when something negative happens, it’s my job as the CEO to take the responsibility. This has been the biggest lesson, a practice on humility and something other business owners/executives could benefit from.”

32. “In Search of the Obvious” by Jack Trout –

Evin Anderson of Waverley Knobs says that “with marketing being such a vital facet for any small business owner or entrepreneur, this book goes to the reality of what marketing is and how it should be appropriately utilized in order to build proper brand loyalty and engagement. Trout sheds light on what works and what clearly does not in order to help you avoid common pitfalls.”

33. The Five Dysfunctions of Team by Patrick Lencioni –

Seth Sinclair, ACC, PMP of Modern Davinci says that “any entrepreneur looking to grow a business must understand how to build a strong team around them. That’s why this book is such an impactful and practical resource. It provides strategies on developing trust, healthy conflict, commitment, accountability, and results within any leadership team.” 

What books would you add to the list? Happy reading!