The 5 Best Lessons From the 5 Best Business Books of 2016

UPDATED: November 14, 2019
PUBLISHED: December 1, 2016
The 5 Best Lessons From the 5 Best Business Books of 2016

I love best-of books lists… for the most part.

Getting a summary of must-reads from the previous year in January of the new year makes for great New Year’s resolutions. But it seems that those lists always come too late.

Ramping up your business with breakthrough insights for 2017 in 2017 is a problem. Instead, with all the ground you have to cover with strategic plans and goal setting between now and January 1, what you really need are innovative lessons right now.

That’s why, to jump-start your end-of-year planning, here are the five best lessons from the five best business books of 2016.

Related: 25 Books for Success

1. A Paperboy’s Fable: The 11 Principles of Success

By Deep Patel

The 5 Best Lessons From the 5 Best Business Books of 2016Deep wisdom can come from unexpected sources. You might be tempted to overlook 17-year-old Deep Patel’s wisdom, but his biographical tale following one boy’s evolution from a high school student to entrepreneurial success is one you shouldn’t overlook.

With endorsements from Harvard Business professor William Kerr—“a delightful account of entrepreneurship and the ingredients for success”—and being named one of’s best books of 2016, Patel’s story doesn’t just come with heavy-handed stamps of approval; it also offers profound insights for young and old alike.

Best Lesson:

“Whether you are a top-flight entrepreneur launching a new startup or an underpaid paperboy, you can enhance your business through dedication, momentum and commitment. It might not happen overnight. But few success stories just spring up fully formed. Instead they evolve over time.”

“Half the fun of success is discovering what the future holds even as you live it!”

2. Hustle: The Power to Charge Your Life with Money, Meaning, and Momentum

By Neil Patel, Patrick Vlaskovits, and Jonas Koffler

The 5 Best Lessons From the 5 Best Business Books of 2016For some, the word “hustle” is, at best, a buzzworthy hashtag. At worst, it’s a destructive and corrosive force inviting business leaders with already packed lives to give up their health, sanity and even their relationships all in service of getting the work done.

Other than a litany of who’s-who endorsements, what saves Hustle from being just another voice urging you to “do more” is the first of its three fundamentals: heart. Weaving together a vision for the sacredness of our labor with a relentlessly aspirational focus, the authors offer a way out of work-for-work’s-sake and into the pragmatic habits that bring work to life.

Best Lesson:

“It’s not enough to simply have a dream, you have to actively pursue it. Most people who talk endlessly about dreams but don’t do anything about them are effectively choosing not to choose, and they end up with a life they don’t recognize. They wonder why they feel so beaten down and defeated, but deep down they know they have another choice.”

“The truth is, over the long term you have only one good option: Own your dream. If you refuse to, you become a tenant in someone else’s dream.”

3. Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

By Charles Duhigg

The 5 Best Lessons From the 5 Best Business Books of 2016Off the heels of his modern-day classic, The Power of Habit, comes Charles Duhigg’s latest book. Where Habit majored on theory, Smarter takes aim at the practical. Organized around eight productivity principles—motivation, teams, focus, goal setting, managing others, decision making, innovation and absorbing data—the book digs into the daily realities of the world’s most prolific leaders. Even better, Duhigg’s “here’s what to do” focus is upheld brilliantly by the same story-driven style that made Habit so impactful and easy to digest.

Best Lesson:

“Productivity isn’t about working more or sweating harder. It’s not simply a product of spending longer hours at your desk or making bigger sacrifices. Rather, productivity is about making certain choices in certain ways.”

“The way we choose to see ourselves and frame daily decisions; the stories we tell ourselves, and the easy goals we ignore; the sense of community we build among teammates; the creative cultures we establish as leaders: These are the things that separate the merely busy from the genuinely productive.”

4. Chief Marketing Officers at Work

By Josh Steimle

The 5 Best Lessons From the 5 Best Business Books of 2016As Josh Steimle tells it, Chief Marketing Officers at Work was born out of necessity: “I was researching CMOs and had read some books in the ‘At Work’ series and assumed there was a CMOs at Work book. I went to Amazon to buy it, but couldn’t find it.” What followed for Steimle was an eight-month journey to connect directly with 29 CMOs from some of the world’s biggest and most successful organizations, including the Harvard Business School, GE, Spotify, PayPal, Expedia and even Comedy Central.

If your business depends on marketing in any way, which of course it does, then this book will help you see the future of marketing and where the top minds say it’s going.

Best Lesson:

“In a world that is increasingly on-demand and real time, our customers are just people. They’re human beings. The good experience they’re having on Uber, Amazon, or Airbnb is on-demand, customized, and fast. Increasingly, customers are expecting that from whoever they do business with.”

“For all of us, speed is the new intellectual property. We need to be fast.” — Linda Boff, CMO at GE

5. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

By Angela Duckworth

The 5 Best Lessons From the 5 Best Business Books of 2016With advanced degrees in neuroscience and psychology, as well as being a full-fledged MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow, Angela Duckworth is a surprising person to forward Grit’s thesis: “as much as talent counts, effort counts twice.”

From stories about West Point, the National Spelling Bee, the world’s most dangerous schools to interviews with CEOs, professional coaches and artists, Grit stares down our world’s love of all things “genius” and instead opts for something far more human at the core of success: persistence in the face of failure. For all its academic rigor, Duckworth’s book reads like a love letter, and for someone like me, whose personal mantra is “Let’s get rejected,” is the one must must-read book on this list.

Best Lesson:

To be gritty is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. To be gritty is to hold fast to an interesting and purposeful goal. To be gritty is to invest, day after week after year, in challenging practice. To be gritty is to fall down seven times, and rise eight.”

So why create a best books list for 2016 before 2016 ends? Because now is the time to get a jump on 2017.

Related: 41 Books to Motivate You to Become Your Best Self

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Aaron Orendorff is the Head of Marketing at Recart. Previously, he served as Editor in Chief of Shopify Plus; his work has appeared on The New York Times, Forbes, Mashable, Business Insider and more. If you’d like to connect with Aaron, reach out via social—he’s a sucker for DMs about ecommerce marketing, bunnies and rejection.