As summer comes to a close, there’s still time to cram a few books in. And, having collectively been a part of 6 different startups, some successful and some not so much, we are asked by many of our colleagues and clients what our favorite books are regarding the strategy of building successful businesses. We are not experts by any means, but we are aggregators and curators of what other successful entrepreneurs read and recommend. All three of our desks have sections devoted to books, but each of us own our copies of the following books (in either paper or e-book format, and sometimes both!), so you can imagine that we recommend these books without reservation. We get asked so much, that we thought this might act as a reference post, and as we are all avid readers, we will add to this from time to time.

Rework has recently hit the shelves in the past three or four months, but it is an instant classic. We respect what the guys over at 37 Signals have built, and how they build it, so when they first indicated that the book was going to be available, we pre-ordered it. Known for its bite-sized insights and proclamations, Fried and Hansson explore and expound on how to effectively bootstrap a business and cut out all the margin-eating operations and costs, both from a financial perspective as well as a mental-capacity standpoint. Their ideas on focused, managed growth are both educational and inspirational.

Making Ideas Happen is a personal favorite of Cameron’s, who ascribes to the Behance Action Method almost religiously. Scott Belsky, founder of Behance, does a great job laying out the barriers to converting ideas into actual reality, and explains in plain English the process that needs to happen within a creative environment to bring the right ideas to light. In fact, he argues that the most creative companies and individuals are brutally disciplined about idea creation and culling. It is a good followup to Rework because, while making your company lean and mean is important, the execution of your ideas and products is even more crucial. For us, who live and breathe ideas for our clients, this process is so very crucial when it comes to weeding and pruning our gardens of wildly growing concepts and pursuits.

Four Steps to Epiphany is last, but certainly not the least. In fact, it is the hardest to get through, as it resembles more of a textbook than a Rework or Making Ideas Happen. A bit of a cult classic among software and application entrepreneurs, Four Steps is all about Customer Development, as opposed to the traditional approach of product development. While targeted towards companies and individuals who shepherd a product to market, it is invaluable to companies like us who focus on digital strategy and inbound marketing, because it emphasizes the customer so much throughout each step of building the business model. If your business model is customer-centric, then the way you execute your social media, email marketing and all the rest will naturally follow.

In the spirit of sharing book recommendations, we are curious: what are your favorite books? Are we missing any of them here?

Update: there was a lot of good feedback and discussion offline, and we’ve added a couple more books:

Crush It, by Gary Vaynerchuk and
E-Myth Revisited, by Michael Gerber