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Best Business Books for Winter 2014

7 Best Business Books

Indispensable books for anyone looking to become a better businessperson

As the weather grows cold and the nights draw in, it can be hard to find the inspiration needed to drive your business forward. Here are our top winter reads to keep you inspired and full of ideas.

1.   The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder

Warren BuffettIf you’re looking for a fireside business biography that offers depth, wisdom and hours of reading material, The Snowball is hard to beat. Considered to be the definitive guide to the life and times of Warren Buffett, one of earth’s richest men, this mammoth book comes in at over 800 pages and takes us through 84-year-old Buffett’s whole life.

Starting with his early ventures as a child (selling chewing gum, golf balls and newspapers to his friends and neighbours), past his teenage investments (pinball machines, farmland and stocks), through to his formal education and entrance into the investment industry, this book charts the investment decisions that eventually led to Buffett becoming an internationally renowned multi-billionaire. 

The Snowball charts the Sage of Omaha’s successes and failures throughout the countless booms and recessions of the past half-century, and offers fantastic lessons on how to handle your business in both fair weather and foul.


2.   Michael O'Leary: A Life In Full Flight by Alan Ruddock

This refreshing book follows the journey of Michael O’Leary, who went from being a trainee tax accountant in rain-drenched 1980’s Ireland to the part-owner and CEO of one of Europe’s largest airlines today. Written by Alan Ruddock, former editor of The Scotsman, this playful account captures the drive and energy of O’Leary throughout his entrepreneurial career.

Beginning with the purchase of a small suburban newsagent in Co Dublin, Michael O’Leary’s dedication to cost control, appetite for ambitious PR stunts and willingness to break the status quo help shape the man who was to forever change the nature of European air travel.


3.   Riding the Storm by Duncan Bannatyne

Most business autobiographies cover the period of an entrepreneur’s life when they are enjoying incredible success, and the money is coming in thick and fast. This recently published book, from one of the best known stars of BBC’s Dragons Den, is a rare and refreshing deviation from that story. 

In 2013, Bannatyne dropped off the Sunday Times Rich List altogether, as a result of a painful divorce and problems with business loans held at a number of nationalised banks. In spite of the depressing and seemingly inconquerable difficulties he has faced over the past few years, this telling account shows how Bannatyne has humbly found the strength to keep his businesses in line and attempt some fantastic things for charity, including a climb of Kilimanjaro that nearly killed him.

This inspirational story shows the mettle of a high-profile businessman navigating seemingly impossible odds.


4.   Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce and Culture by Taylor Clark

There are very few companies in the history of commerce that have come close to achieving the global success of Starbucks. Starbucked reveals how a chance meeting between the owners of a small independent ‘hippy’ coffee shop and a former photocopier salesman in 1979 sowed the seeds for what was to become an internationally-renowned global brand.

In spite of a litany of early growth and cash flow problems, Howard Schultz and his team persistently drove the Starbucks brand over every stumbling block in its path, breaking plenty of retail rules along the way. The Starbucks mission to introduce espresso bars across the United States inevitably changed the coffee consumption habits of billions of customers across the globe, leading to the birth of the modern coffee shop.


5.   How They Started: How 30 Good Ideas Became Great Businesses by David Lester, Carol Tice

Written by the founder of, this 2007 book is an eclectic collection of case studies showcasing the path to success taken by some of the UK’s most iconic enterprises, including Dreams, Innocent, Pizza Express and Cobra Beer to name a few.

Quick to read, thanks to the segmented nature of each chapter, this book offers the reader an inspiring taste of how a litany of British businesspeople from all walks of life have exploited their niche across a wide range of industries.


6.   The Long Tail: How Endless Choice is Creating Unlimited Demand by Chris Anderson

In 2004, the former editor of WIRED magazine published a book on the economics of online retail, and shone a light on the business potential of the internet in a way that had previously been unexpressed. Now considered as a ‘must-read’ for anyone working in online retail or the digital industries, this bestseller is still an optimistic and exciting read for anyone looking to build a 21st century business.

It reveals how businesses that would have previously struggled to sell niche-interest products in a physical shop where space is at a premium were suddenly set free by the internet, the cost of ‘shelf space’ effectively dropping to zero, and the ‘audience’ for a product suddenly going from the residents in a ten mile radius to anyone, anywhere in the world.

If you’re in search of inspiration for 2015, then this could be the book for you.


7.   The Art of War by Sun Tzu

The often-quoted book on medieval Chinese warfare was perhaps made most famous in the 1987 film Wall Street, starring Michael Douglas as the iconic baddie Gordon Gekko, whose character frequently quotes immortal lines like “Every battle is won before it is ever fought”.

Originally written more than 2,500 years ago, the book has been reprinted multiple times since its first translation to English in 1905 and contains some pivotal pieces of advice for anyone working in a competitive marketplace. Swap the word ‘enemy’ for ‘competitor’ and you’ll start to see simple truths that can be applied to any commercial situation.


All of these books prove that there’s no such thing as ‘small business’ – and that with the right idea, enough hard work and the ability to be flexible, you can drive any business forward into profitability.

What other business books would you recommend for the winter months? Let us know in the comments below.



 By Sam Haythornthwaite at




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