On the “Greatest” Business Books

On the “Greatest” Business Books

There is an endless googlable supply of recommended reading lists of business books.  Many are good and, as one might expect, many recommendations are replicated.  Others are interesting and perhaps more trendy (more about that below).  My own published work-in-progress lifetime reading list (you can find on my website www.rondford.com) is far more focused on the classics.  It is important to note that the fundamental great ideas including morality, ethics, the nature of (wo)man and thinking and philosophy as well as the sciences and arts are the underpinnings of the organization of people and purpose and meaning and are therefore equally if not more important context to one thirsty for business understanding.

Because I am asked so often for those business books I recommend, I provide a “top 20” list below.  In my mind these are largely seminal, timeless works by thought leaders.  Notably missing from this list are interesting, contemporary works that may be useful but risk being trendy (see my book The Marketplace of Management Ideas) and should be read – and particularly should be followed – with care and discernment.

Perhaps the list below (which was a challenge to narrow to only 20) will provoke welcome comments, debate and suggestions from others.

Good reading!


Essential Business Reading

  • The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
  • The Functions of the Executive by Chester Barnard
  • The Essential Drucker by Peter Drucker
  • On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis
  • Leadership Is an Art by Max De Pree 
  • Competitive Strategy by Michael Porter
  • Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
  • The Balanced Scorecard by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton
  • Leading Change by John P. Kotter
  • The Age of Unreason by Charles Handy
  • Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Deming
  • The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox
  • The Principles of Scientific Management by Frederick Winslow Taylor
  • My Years with General Motors by Alfred P. Sloan, Jr.
  • A Business and Its Belief by Thomas J. Watson, Jr.
  • The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization
    by Peter M. Senge
  • Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman 
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey 
  • How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham