For a business owner, whether current or prospective, the importance and usefulness of developing a reading habit cannot be overemphasized. A lot of big-name business people have professed their love for reading and encourage other entrepreneurs to take it up at every opportunity. Unfortunately not every book out there is worth the paper on which it is printed and few people have the time to sift through the dirt in search for gold, least of all those trying to run or set up businesses. Luckily today some of that work has been done for you. What follows is a brief walkthrough just four of the books which I think every entrepreneur of today, regardless of industry or line of business, will find at the very least to be quite interesting.

Alchemy: The surprising power of ideas that don’t make sense (2019)—Rory Sutherland

Advertising executive, Rory Sutherland, has a delightful disdain for a lot of the business and academic wisdom floating out there, particularly the kind that is considered to be common sense. He protests the use of logic in cases where he says it doesn’t always apply. Alchemy is particularly useful for those of us who were raised to believe in an education system that implicitly promises that there is a formulaic and “right” way of doing anything and solving any problem.

Examples, where the real world defeated conventional logic, are presented such as how Red Bull (the drink) has now grown to be formidable brand despite it being rumoured that during some of the initial tasting, some participants openly called it disgusting. After what many would consider being damning market research results, the company went on anyway to put the drink in smaller containers and made it more expensive than Coca-cola the non-alcoholic drink they were trying to compete with. Mr Sutherland continuously refers to this and many other such occurrences as “magic”. However do not get carried away, this is simply his dramatic way of pointing out that human behaviour is far much more complex than any economics or business lecture will lead you to believe.

Contagious: Why things catch on (2013)—Jonah Berger

Ever wondered why some things go viral and some do not, even despite the very best efforts of their creators? Don’t worry, you are far from alone. In today’s world where social media can play such a huge role in marketing, the key to getting your messages shared is very much sought after. However, virality has stumped even the very best advertising minds that the biggest companies have to offer. Fortunately, Jonah Berger has cracked some of the code for you and everyone else. In his book, he presents the six key STEPPS for anything spreading which he says are social currency, triggers, emotion, public, practical value and stories. Read Contagious to discover how these seemingly random words explain why you are getting forwarded the same message for the umpteenth time this week. I daresay that in 2020 this book is the only thing that can get you excited about the idea of anything going viral.

The Subtle Art… (2016)—Mark Manson

This is the closest thing to a motivational text in this list. However, what blogger Mark Manson wrote, some have described as a de-motivational book and I don’t blame them. With chapter titles like “Happiness is a problem” and “You are not special” it’s really difficult to consider this book anything close to motivational. However, if you give it a pass you will be missing out on some of the best advice (accompanied by a little bit of profanity) which, I swear, is meant to motivate you. For example, you will discover that the aforementioned declaration that “happiness is a problem” may be considered to be a variation of the cliché call to get out of your comfort zone. Many people are more than just comfortable in their “comfort zones”, they are happy there which means that happiness can indeed be a problem.

The Art of SEO: Mastering search engine optimisation (2015)—E. Enge; S. Spencer & J.C. Stricchiola

While this book is slightly more technical than others on this list, in a world where websites are becoming a basic necessity for every kind of business, it will allow you to get the most out of yours. Discover the strategies you can use to improve the performance of your new (or old) website on search engines such as Google. Everyone wants their website to rank as high and show up as frequently as possible when people are searching online but few know how to achieve this. These acknowledged SEO experts wrote a book which while targeting more technically minded people still has a lot to offer those who just want more from their sites. At the very least you will know what to demand from your web developer. Hopefully, some would also, at last, realize that while using words like “synergy” will make you sound more impressive on your website, the only people who will search for that term online will be those looking for its definition.