To start and run a successful business requires a lot of knowledge, support and resources. Most of us don’t have all of those right out of the gate. Luckily, many who have gone before (and built successful businesses) have opened up about their experiences. Some great CEOs and entrepreneurs have put pen to paper to share how they’ve grown, how they’ve failed and what they’ve learned, and those of us who are just getting started can get a head start on our own successes by standing on the shoulders of these giants.

Over the years, we at Popular Thoughts have read a lot of business books, and we’ve compiled this list (in no particular order) of the ones that were the most helpful, informative, entertaining, inspiring and thought-provoking for us. Some of them offer concrete advice about running a business; others are more about making big-picture improvements in time management, outlook, attitude and perception, all of which contribute to business success. Our CEO recommended these books personally, so the next time you browse the business section of the book store or library, check them out and let them help you lay the groundwork for the business and personal life you want!

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com – Zappos is well-known for its exceptional customer service and commitment to quality, and it’s also known as one of the best companies to work for. This book shares the corporate philosophies and attitudes that make such success with both employees and customers possible.

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss – This wildly-popular book is at the top for a reason! This latest version has been expanded and updated from the original. It’s a must-read for anyone who wants to live with more leisure, drop out of the 9-to-5 rat race and maximize the time spent working to achieve the ideal lifestyle design.

Play to Win! by Larry Wilson and Hersch Wilson – This book is excellent at getting the reader to think about what’s possible, rather than what’s impossible. Simply put, you can thrive if you learn to think in terms of winning instead of thinking in terms of not losing (it sounds like a difference of semantics, but really, it’s a huge change in outlook that means much greater success).

177 Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class by Steve Siebold – The philosophy here is aimed at helping readers go from middle class (how most people think and act) to world class (how the truly successful think and act). Being mentally tough can make all the difference in life and success, and this book makes mental toughness attainable.

Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service by Ted Kinni – Taking the best care of your customers can mean the difference between struggling in your business and achieving real success. This book explores the customer service principles developed and used at Walt Disney World and uses them as a model for how to make customers keep coming back, time after time. Use this book to ensure that every aspect of your company is consistently delivering for your customers!

These five are just the beginning – there are many other great books out there for entrepreneurs, small business owners and anyone else looking to achieve success in work and life.

Got other suggestions for great business books? Post them in the comments and we’ll try to check them out!