If you’re still searching for a holiday gift to give to the entrepreneurs in your life (or you want to buy yourself a present) check out these small business books.

By Rieva Lesonsky

This is Marketing: You Can’t be Seen Until You Learn to See; Author: Seth Godin

In the realm of nonfiction, there’s no author I look forward to reading more than Seth Godin. This is Marketing is based on Godin’s 100-day seminar. Godin’s big reveal in this book is that great marketers don’t use consumers to solve their company’s problem; they use marketing to solve other people’s problems. Real marketing, he asserts, isn’t about racking up clicks and tweets; it’s about connection empathy, service and making a difference.

Because marketing is not new, Godin says, we take it for granted. And he, in true Godin fashion, says it’s time for marketers to stop lying, spamming, and feeling guilty about their work.

Godin talks a lot about trust in the book. And since trust lies at the core of building and cementing relationships between businesses and their customers, that’s an important lesson to learn.


Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation; Author: Dan Schawbel

In this increasingly technological world, argues author Dan Schawbel, technology (especially email) has created an illusion that employees feel “highly connected,” but, in fact, most feel isolated from colleagues and coworkers. The increase in the number of remote workers just exacerbates the isolation.

What workers really want, says Schawbel, is a sense of authentic connection with others. What’s more, he says, research shows this authentic connection, where it exists, leads to high-performing workplace cultures.

Schawbel, who has dedicated his career to helping the next generation of leaders succeed, has filled this book with tips and strategies about effective leadership, including how to feel  more fulfilled at work without relying on technology and interviews with 100 of today’s top young leaders.

There’s a lot to learn here—for all generations in the workplace.


The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies And The Death Of Competition; Author Jonathan Tepper, with Denise Hearn

Jonathan Tepper argues that “Capitalism without competition is not capitalism,” and that the “capitalism that exists in the United States today has become the antithesis of a competitive marketplace.”

Don’t mistake that approach to being anti-capitalistic. Tepper says capitalism is the greatest economic system in history,” and at its best it “lifts people from poverty to create widespread wealth for billions of people.” But in the U.S. today, the rise of monopolies has resulted in less competition, which leads to “a few winners and millions of losers.”

This isn’t all doom and gloom. Tepper offers a plan to reinvigorate healthy competition and bring the U.S. back to “higher economic growth, more jobs, higher wages, and a level playing field for all.”


Life is Short, Don’t Wait to Dance: Advice and Inspiration from the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame Coach of 7 NCAA Championship Teams; Author: Valorie Kondos Field, with Steve Cooper

The author, a gymnastics coach known as Miss Val to her legions of fans and followers, is one of the most successful coaches in NCAA history—and yet never participated in gymnastics—or any type of organized sport. Trained as a ballerina, Miss Val is proof you can “choreograph your life” in the direction you chose by being creative, curious, caring and focused.

This is not sports title—it’s a leadership book, intended to show you how to overcome obstacles, get out of your own way and forge your own path. Miss Val’s approach to coaching gymnastics was disruptive and maybe a bit controversial, until she proved it worked. A  disciple of the legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, Miss Val’s bravery (she decided to write the book while undergoing chemo to treat breast cancer), insights and “rules” are inspiring. The book is peppered with anecdotes and behind-the-scenes stories of Olympian athletes which make it—along with Miss Val’s sense of humor all the more readable.

The book is an honest and unsearing account of how to live your life your way—and lead others to do the same.


Bullseye Marketing: How to Grow Your Business Faster; Author: Louis Gudema

If you’re looking for a marketing book that’s thorough, yet readable, this is the one for you. There’s no jargon here; Gudema explains the marketing strategies you need to know and how to implement them.

Gudema knows what he’s talking about. He’s contributed his insights to several Twitter chats I’ve been on, and his advice has always been right on. This book is easy to digest and   filled with illustrations, photos and charts so you can see in an instant what Gudema is explaining. The tips, tactics and strategies Gudema provides are practical and actionable—Bullseye Marketing is a read-and-do book.


The Punk Rock of Business: Applying a Punk Rock Attitude in the Modern Business Era; Author: Jeremy Dale

At the time it was introduced punk rock was an industry disrupter. Punk rock musicians broke the mold, resulting in a wake-up call for the music industry. Author Jeremy Dale (who spent over 20 years in the consumer electronics industry) thinks businesses could benefit from borrowing this break-away-from-the-mainstream philosophy.

Dale maintains too many businesses today are content operating in mediocrity—and get “lukewarm results” in return. Instead he encourages businesses to adopt a punk rock mindset—and offers eight guiding principles to enable you to do that.

The book underscores Dale’s advice with stories from punk rock’s “industry-changing legacy.” Every chapter ends with “A Key Lesson” and a “So What Are You Going To Do About It” challenge, which encourages you to apply what you’ve just read.


Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch, and Pizzazz; Author: Diane DiResta

Numerous surveys have shown that most people rank public speaking as their number-one fear—ahead of death or being lonely. If that’s you—or anyone you know—this book is designed to help you overcome that fear and enable you to give, well, knockout presentations.

The author, Diane DiResta, is one of a handful of people to be designated as a “certified speaking professional” and has trained members of the NBA and WNBA. She explains the techniques of public speaking, shares best practices of renowned public speakers and shows you how to adapt this information to fit your own style and personality.

The book is filled with checklists, dos and don’ts and numerous exercises that make it seem as if DiResta is your own personal speaking coach.


I only had so much time to read. So, here are some other books of note:

The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through the Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture; Author: Scott Belsky

This book is billed as “the opposite of a success memoir.” Instead, Belsky, the CPO at Adobe, takes you through the “ugly truths” of going from great idea to finished product. Belsky says he wrote the books to show that “even the greatest success stories are … volatile and flush with struggle.

Engage to Win: A Blueprint for Success in the Engagement Economy; Author: Steve Lucas

Marketing today is all about engagement and Lucas tells you how to best engage with customers, prospects, employees and partners.

Culture Your Culture: Innovating Experiences at Work; Author: Karen Jaw-Madson

No matter how small your business, your corporate culture matters. The book explains how to build and sustain an effective corporate culture that will strengthen your business.

The Evolved Executive: The Future of Work is Love in Action; Author: Heather Hanson Wickman

Wickman sets out to answer the question of why so many workplaces are toxic to employees—and supply the antidote. She believes to transform businesses into having healthy work cultures, leaders need to change—and love, along with transparency and openness, is the answer. That may sound cheesy, but it’s not—Wickman shows you how to catalyze your people, pursue a meaningful mission and create a better way to work.

Financial Nutrition for Young Women: How (and Why) to Teach Girls about Money; Author: Melissa Donohoe

A recent ADP study showed women’s wage inequality worsens when it comes to bonuses—and highlighted that this wage gap is essentially born at the time a woman is first hired. In  this book, women’s financial expert Melissa Donohue, Ed.D., tackles issue and shows how  financial empowerment and know-how can change women’s lives. There’s lot of tips here for helping women learn to negotiate their salaries, ask for raise and more so that they’re not forever playing catch-up.

Reading stock photo by marvent/Shutterstock