10 Books That Helped Me Build a Unicorn Company

Numerous studies have proven that reading can improve brain function; some have even suggested they can make you a better person.

Numerous studies have proven that reading can improve brain function; some have even suggested they can make you a better person. Unsplash

I admit it. I’m an online ‘snack’ addict. After all, with the digital era has come an endless selection of cheap, easy and addictive pieces of online content for us to readily consume: tantalizing Buzzfeed-y headlines, irresistible top-10 lists (like this one), teaser photos of your friend’s latest vacation album on Facebook, etc.

When it comes to content, snacking is fun, but it shouldn’t replace full meals. We need to remember to consume long, nourishing content from time to time.

Numerous studies have proven that reading can improve brain function; some have even suggested they can make you a better person. So instead of funny cat GIFs and Instagram, dive into some of the great “long reads” — the kind of well-researched stuff that actually changes how you look at the world.

These ten books have had a profound influence on how I look at entrepreneurship and growing a company. They’ve all played a key role as I’ve worked to build Hootsuite from just an idea to the world’s most widely used social relationship platform, with 15 million users and growing (including more than 800 Fortune 1000 companies):

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

The Hard Thing About Hard Things Amazon

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Author Ben Horowitz is the co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, one of the top venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. So for fledgling entrepreneurs, this book is a must-read. Full of advice on building and running a startup, it’s a great mix of theory and tactic for current and future business leaders.

Delivering Happiness

Written by my friend Tony Hsieh (the guy who transformed a virtually unknown shoe retailer called Zappos into a $1.2 billion company), Delivering Happiness is a book about his journeys as a successful entrepreneur. It’s chock full of advice, anecdotes and interesting business ideas.

Getting Real (37 Signals)

This quick read is essentially a business manual about how to build great web products — that touches on things like design, programming, and marketing. I encourage all of my new employees to read it, for important insights into lean product development and how to make a great, successful product through sacrifice and discipline.

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth Amazon

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

My friend Chris Hadfield is one of the most courageous and inspirational people I know. In this book, he shares extraordinary stories from his life as an astronaut. He also shows us how to make the impossible a reality. I highly recommend this to anyone who dreams big and who strives to stay true to themselves.

Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think

This is a great book that looks at the important and evolving role of technology in our society now, and in the future. It suggests the world as we know it today is the best it’s ever been, but nobody realizes it. It’s an eye-opening read and worth checking out.

Where the Wild Things Are

This was my favorite book as a kid but even now, I can still relate to the main character Max and his rebellious spirit. It’s a classic children’s book but also a great reminder for adults to stay imaginative.

Born to Run

Born to Run is the true story of author Christopher McDougall, who sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets. As thought-provoking as Born to Run is, it’s also inspirational. It shows us that we are more than we have been taught to believe.

Creativity Inc.

Creativity Inc. Amazon

Creativity Inc.

This is essentially a manual for business leaders who think and dream big. Co-written by Ed Catmull (the president of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios), it’s full of brilliant business lessons on how to build creative culture that benefits organizations.

The Long Walk

At the heart of The Long Walk is the gripping narrative of its author Slavomir Rawicz, a Polish soldier who is imprisoned by the Soviets after World War II. The Long Walk is about everyday human struggle, overcoming obstacles and achieving the impossible. That’s why I keep ten copies on my desk to give away at any moment.

Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game is a 1985 science fiction novel set sometime in the near future, with humankind threatened by a hostile alien race. It draws you in, with dynamic, well-developed characters and an engaging and fast-paced narrative. But beyond just great storytelling, Ender’s Game is also a useful book for leadership inspiration. It explores larger themes of power, intelligence, free will and perseverance.

Ryan Holmes is the CEO of Hootsuite and founder of Invoke MediaThis article originally appeared in LinkedIn.

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