First 5 books of the 100 must-read list for startup founders

Discover five books that will revolutionize your perspective on being a founder, driving remarkable improvements.

I'm Bakksy
4 min readJul 4, 2023

There’s a nice quote by Harry S. Truman:

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

I can’t agree more with it. And let me explain to you why.

Hi! I’m Irina Kupchenko, co-founder and CMO at Bakksy, and I believe that being an avid reader is one of the first requirements for a successful startup founder.

I want to share my list of 5 must-read books that every startup founder, entrepreneur, or business owner must read to improve their work. But first, let’s talk a bit about reading itself.

Why do I read books?

  • To rethink

Books help me rethink concepts and rules of how I live and do my job. When growing your project, you have to constantly rethink everything that is currently in the market. Making rethinking a habit is crucial, and books can greatly assist with that.

  • To challenge my assumptions

Books are not the ultimate truth. They are just a way of talking with the book’s author, who is just a human being, not a God. You can agree or disagree with the author, learn from them, or even get angry at their perspectives. Reading a book can change your beliefs or make me more confident in them.

  • To develop critical thinking

Critical thinking and curiosity are essential qualities for a good founder, and reading helps develop them. It’s important to be critical while reading books because in life, in founding a company, and in reading, one cannot blindly believe everything they see. Unconditionally accepting everything as true is the first step to failure.

  • To get inspired

People are my biggest inspiration, and books are just one way to get inspired by fellow human beings. Reading stories from people who face the same problems I do, or often even larger problems, always gives me the power to push myself and my project forward, no matter what.

One rule for all books

There’s a rule I have that helps me get value from every book I read and not be overwhelmed by the pressure I put on myself when reading.

One book = one insight

I challenge myself to read mindfully and, from each book, extract only one but very valuable and applicable insight. I write it down and immediately apply it to my work or life. This ensures that every book I read brings something new and valuable to me.

5 books every founder has to read

Now, I have a must-read list for you to enjoy, extract one insight from, and apply. I promise it will shape you to become one of the best founders in the world.

  1. Creative Confidence by Tom & David Kelley

This book talks about creativity, but not in terms of art, creative ads, coming up with slogans, or a catchy title. The book discusses creativity in problem-solving and developing new products, services, or features.

How to get out of a difficult situation? With a creative approach, you will find the way out of anything. The book provides numerous tools that can be applied in all areas of life. For founders, it serves as a valuable resource for everyday problem-solving and the creation of revolutionary products.

One insight: Non-creative people do not exist.

2. The Martian by Andy Weir

What does a man stuck alone on Mars and a founder have in common? As this book shows, a lot.

You try to survive. You solve problems — one by one. The problem you solved yesterday comes back today times bigger than it was. And you just keep going. No matter what.

One insight: You can deal with any problem by staying resilient and thinking creatively.

3. Unstop­pable by Joshua Greene

The book to get inspired, feel the power within, and act. This is a story of resilience and determination that will lead you to your dreams against all odds.

The inspiring memoir tells the story of Siggi B. Wilzig, a Holocaust survivor who faced immense challenges and discrimination but built a successful career on Wall Street.

It teaches founders not to stop. Ever. No matter how many times you will have to start over, how many times you fail, how many challenges will be on your way. Just get up and keep going.

One insight: Persistence and perseverance are everything for long-term success.

4. The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick

When you think that idea of your project is genius, simple, and easy to get — try to explain it to your mum. If you can’t explain it to your mum in a few sentences — you won’t be able to explain it to your audience and investors.

The book helps to prevent unjustified optimism and gives practical advice on conducting effective customer interviews. It teaches us to ask the right questions, get honest feedback, and apply it instantly for improvements.

One insight: If you can’t explain to your mom what your project is about, you’re not ready for promo.

5. No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer

Innovation is critical in building startups and being a founder. You have to be an innovator and explorer yourself, as well as create a thriving culture of innovation in the company. The book teaches us how to do it in a very engrossing and inspiring way.

Challenge traditional management practices, and foster a culture of freedom, responsibility, and constant experimentation.

One insight: Innovation and trust in culture lead to success in business.

That’s it! I’ve listed 5 books every founder or business owner should read. Nothing else to add. Except for… Go read! It truly does make a difference ;)