The Best Business Books to Read in 2020

The Best Business Books to Read in 2020

January 22, 2020 by Holly Rollins
best business books

This year and every year, I aim to spend a little less time with screens—a hard task for the owner of an international digital marketing agency, but my goal nonetheless. One way I step away from my phone or computer is by picking up a book. While I love biographies and fiction, business books help me feel like I’m making the most of my time. Reading a book that opens my mind to professional or leadership development concepts often translates into new ideas for my clients or staff.

If you’re a manager, entrepreneur, or just a professional, here are a few books I’ve read—and in some cases reread—that inspired me this past year. For those who want to read more and bolster your professional skills, I challenge you to read one or more of these business books in 2020. 

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-A** Boss Without Losing Your Humanity (2nd Edition) by Kim Scott

We’ve all heard the phrase, “It’s not personal; it’s business.” Kim Scott turns that upside by arguing, “it’s not just business; it is personal and deeply personal.” As a former leader at both Google and Apple, Scott is a management expert, who offers refreshingly sincere and frank advice in Radical Candor, which has recently been re-released with new sections. 

The central theme that this book attacks is something that can be difficult for many in the professional world—feedback. Scott’s pitch is that you can care personally while still challenging directly. For anyone looking to level-up their professional relationship building, communication, or general management skills, working on your radical candor can help you achieve better results. 

Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation by Tim Brown

With a background and love for design, this 2009 book is one of my favorites, and the message is just as relevant a decade later. Written by Tim Brown, CEO of leading design firm IDEO, Change by Design is a must-read for any creative leader. 

As Brown himself explains: “Design thinking is the collaborative process by which the designer’s sensibilities and methods are employed to match people’s needs with what is technically feasible and a viable business strategy. In short, design thinking converts need into demand. It’s a human-centered approach to problem-solving that helps people and organizations become more innovative and creative.”

If you need more convincing, read this Fortune interview with Brown discussing the release of the updated edition. 

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield 

Do you ever wonder what obstacles are keeping you from leveling up in your career or business? Do you ever consider that you’re causing the roadblock to your greater success? The War of Art will make you examine those questions. While this short work is targeted toward those who create, specifically authors or writers — it can help entrepreneurs or leaders overcome mental blocks as well. The main theme is resistance, how to understand and overcome it, in order to reach greater potential.

While some might find this self-help-like, or geared towards creatives, there’s a valuable lesson in just getting started. Moreover, understanding that resistance can be rooted in self-doubt, fear, or depression can help you see roadblocks in a different light. Bottomline—we can all benefit from less procrastination and more gumption—this book will help you get there. 

The Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer 

An oldie but goodie, the Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness, is a fantastic resource to read, reread, and keep at your desk for a small boost of encouragement. No matter your industry or position, everyone needs to sell from time to time. Whether it’s closing a traditional deal, writing influential content, or even convincing your team about your company’s latest initiative—selling is an invaluable skill. Gitomer includes illustrations with each principle and clearly explains his points with advice and examples. 

Some of the principles can apply to any business function. For example, take Principle #4: “It’s all about value, it’s all about relationship, it’s not about price.” Striving for value-driven results should be a goal for anyone, whether they’re in product development, marketing, or HR. 

The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek 

I’ve read and enjoyed Simon Sinek’s other books, especially Start With Why, and this new work is no different. The Infinite Game breaks down the difference between finite games, like football or chess, and infinite games, which Sinek says have interchangeable rules and no endpoint. It’s a fun comparison to think of areas like business or politics as constantly evolving games. 

The main goal of this book is to help the reader establish an infinite mindset, so they can build and lead stronger, innovative organizations that can stand up to consistent shifts in society and culture throughout time. Sinek uses apropos metaphors to break down steps on how you can embrace an infinite mindset to unlock potential in your career and business. 

Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World by Tim Ferriss

This past year, I started a book club with the team members of my digital marketing agency, 10x digital. One of my favorite reads was Tribe of Mentors. This book is full of short anecdotes from some of the world’s best leaders. Tim Ferriss is a NY Times bestseller and known for his other business books such as 4-Hour Workweek, 4-Hour Chef, but this compilation of advice from other famous figures that he interviewed or met is really transformative. Plus, the short-format is perfect for a book for a quick screen-break or during lunch.