One thing that every startup founder never seems to have enough of is time.
There’s not enough time to review every line of code. There’s not enough time to collaborate and bond with your team as much as you’d like. There’s not enough time to catch up on news or the latest book to shoot to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list.
Thankfully, audiobooks make the life of any busy professional a bit easier by giving you the chance to consume content passively. When you’re reading a book, you can’t do much else—your eyes have to stay on the page or screen. When you’re listening to an audiobook, you can take in the concepts while driving, walking or even working on a project. Audiobooks make for perfect listening material when you’re tired of listening to your favorite tunes on Apple Music or Spotify.
Over the last few years, the audiobook industry has been flooded with content from all different genres and walks of life—you could spend days browsing all the options. To save you time, we’ve put together a list of our favorite titles for entrepreneurs.
Here are eight of the best audiobooks for startup founders and product people:
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull
We included this book in our list of Must Reads For Product Designers so it’s no surprise that it’s landed on this list too. Creativity, Inc. is one of those books that we wish were written earlier. It’s filled with insights on what it takes to form a creative team and an environment that thrives in the midst of chaos. The greatest insight in this book come from the stories surrounding the intentional efforts that Pixar took day in and day out to optimize their work experience for creativity, expression and innovation.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
If you’re a startup founder or aspire to be a great product person, the Steve Jobs biography is a staple. He will forever be known in history as the person who revolutionized the mobile phone, the music industry and what it means to be a creative. The Steve Jobs biography is a long read but makes for a captivating listening experience. The book is filled with lessons on how you should and shouldn’t approach employees along with lessons that will help you navigate difficult choices regarding your product.
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel has become one of the most controversial figures in the tech industry, but you can’t question his brilliance. In Zero to One, he dives in to his philosophy on building great companies that create new things. The book draws on everything Thiel has learned over the years as he’s navigated from co-founding PayPal to becoming a successful Silicon Valley investor. He reflects on the Dot-Com Crash, challenges our definition of competition and more.
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
After making one of the most popular TED talks in history, Simon Sinek came back with a great book about leaders who start with why. Sinek describes why as the cause or belief that an organization has running through its DNA. It’s not how your product is built or service is delivered that matters. It’s not even what your customers walk away with that matters. According to Sinek, it’s the why which sits at the core of some of the most influential brands and leaders. The why is the very reason your organization exists. You can get a better sense of this simple concept by watching his TED Talk:
But the book goes even deeper with insights and examples from brands like Harley Davidson and Apple who have established somewhat of a cult following because of their focus on why. Start with Why serves as a great reminder of why you started your business, especially when things get tough. It’s also a great way to frame and better understand the story you’re telling both your customers and your team.
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone
Jeff Bezos is one of the most innovative and brilliant entrepreneurs of all time. While The Everything Store isn’t as biographically in-depth as the Steve Jobs biography, the book emphasizes the importance of being customer- and product-obsessed and points out behaviors shared by Bezos and other successful entrepreneurs.
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
Sheryl Sandberg may not have been writing code with Mark Zuckerberg in the dorm room when Facebook first started, but she’s definitely had a significant impact on the company’s success. She’s best known as Facebook’s Number Two and as a mentor, mother, billionaire and award-winning author. In Option B, she reflects on the devastating loss of her husband, Dave Goldberg, who died suddenly in 2015. Through studies and anecdotes about tragedy, resilience and persistence, she offers valuable perspective while sharing lessons you can use next time you face adversity.
Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott
In one of the best audiobooks I’ve listened to recently, Kim Scott delivers great insights for managers and founders alike on the importance of creating a culture that embraces radical candor. Radical candor combines caring personally for someone while also challenging them directly. It’s a way to communicate effectively without losing your sense of purpose.
Here’s Kim Scott’s talk on the subject:
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
You’ll notice that there are a few biographies on this list—that’s intentional. A great way to learn how to create a successful company is to study the actions of successful founders. Elon Musk is one of the most influential and well-known entrepreneurs of the last twenty years. He’s created multiple billion-dollar businesses and embraced the idea of risking it all to see his dreams come to fruition. This audiobook will remind you of the importance of working hard and surrounding yourself with great people. It’s definitely worth a second listen.
Wrapping Things Up
For most startup founders, carving out time to focus on personal growth can be a challenge. The fact that you’re reading this list indicates that you want to develop your skills and capabilities. That’s a trait every great founder shares.
If you’re strapped for time—or if you have some vacation days coming up—download these audiobooks, listen while you work or travel, and keep track of the important takeaways you can apply to your life and your career.
Have you listened to any audiobooks that you think should have made this list? We’d love to hear your recommendations—leave a comment below!