Best Seller List: Popular Social Entrepreneurship Books

What are the most popular social entrepreneurship books? Here is a list of the books most frequently purchased by my readers. Let me explain.

I am sometimes asked how I generate revenue from the podcast Social Entrepreneur. After all, unlike many podcasts, I do not have sponsors. That is on purpose.  I’d rather have you listen to the guests instead of listening to advertisements.

Culture Shift Companies, the parent company that produces Social Entrepreneur, is funded through bootstrapping. We have several streams of income:

  1. Products and services such as the Culture Shift Learning Academy
  2. Consulting
  3. One-on-one Coaching
  4. Membership Mastermind Group
  5. Affiliate Programs

Here is how the affiliate process works. I provide a hyperlink to a book that I recommend. Keep in mind that I only recommend products and services that I use. A reader clicks on the hyperlink and buys the book from Amazon. I receive a small commission, usually a few cents. The commission does not cost the buyer extra.

I’ve been fascinated to see which books people choose to buy. The other day I ran a report on which books have been most popular, sort of a best seller list. I was a little surprised at the books that made the list, and the ones that didn’t. Take a look at the list and let me know what you think.

Best Selling Social Entrepreneurship Books

1. Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers

Who has time for complex, lengthy business plans? Not in this rapidly-moving, disruptive economy. Business Model Generation helps changemakers map out their business in nine quadrants: customer segments, value propositions, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, key resources, key activities, key partners and cost structure.

I first used this book and the accompanying business model canvas while redesigning a global company. The process quickly clarifies the business model, creating shared understanding.

This first book on the list illustrates a point. Social entrepreneurs are first and foremost entrepreneurs. Like most of the books on this list, Business Model Generation is about the business side of social entrepreneurship.

2. Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want

If readers of this blog were interested in Business Model Generation, then the second book is no surprise. Value Proposition Design takes a deeper dive into two segments of the business model canvas: customer segments and value propositions. I have used this book on several occasions to clarify the aspirations and problems faced by my customers. It is a reference book I return to again and again.

3. Work on Purpose

I believe the first time I saw the term social entrepreneur was in Work on Purpose. It features inspiring stories from the team at Echoing Green, one of my favorite fellowship programs. Lots of past guest on Social Entrepreneur have been Echoing Green fellows.

One key concept from Work on Purpose is “Heart + Head = Hustle.” By heart they mean a cause that grabs your emotions. By head, they mean your natural skills and abilities. And by hustle, they mean flow, that feeling of being in the zone.

This fascinating, short book packs a lot into its 120 pages. The authors follow five individuals through four phases of becoming changemakers. I love this book and have given it away several times. I think you’ll love it too.

4. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

The Lean Startup is a classic among startup founders. It’s packed with powerful stories and practical principles. It’s a bit of a dense read, especially when compared with Work on Purpose, but worth it. If you want to create and manage a rapidly growing startup, this is a book you should have in your library.

5. The Next Step: Guiding you from idea to startup

It’s fitting that the only guest to appear twice on the podcast Social Entrepreneur, Luni Libes has a book on our best seller list. Luni runs the conscious company accelerator Fledge and the venture capital firm Aviary. He knows what it takes to be a successful social entrepreneur.

Honestly, if I had to start a new social enterprise and I was only allowed one book to guide me, it would be The Next Step. Luni walks you through the questions that founders must answer and how to find the answers. If you want to hear more from Luni, you can find him on Episode 3 and Episode 84.

6. Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation

If there is one model utilized by almost every social entrepreneur I interview, it’s design thinking. And if there is one subject matter expert on design thinking, it’s Tim Brown. Change by Design explains how to take a human-centered approach to problem solving.

If you want to hear an inspiring story about how a team of social entrepreneurs used design thinking to take on health outcomes at a busy Indian hospital, check out this interview with Katy Ashe and Edith Elliott of Noora Health.

7. Life Reimagined: Discovering Your New Life Possibilities

Of all of the books on the best seller list that surprised me most, it’s Life Reimagined. It’s a great book, one that I often recommend. It really speaks to millions of people like me, people who are approaching the end of their traditional career and may be ready for their encore career.

The reason that I’m surprised that a lot of people purchased this book by jumping to Amazon from my site is, I do not have a link to this book from my web site. I talk about it a lot. I recommend it to people, but I do not have a direct link to it on Amazon. Or that is, until now, I did not have a link to it. It is a book that people who purchased books from my web site added to their cart after arriving at Amazon. Hmmm…maybe I should promote it more.

8. Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want 

Michael Hyatt’s latest book, Living Forward, opens with a quote by John Pierpont “J.P.” Morgan. “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.” That is the idea behind this powerful little book. Living Forward is an inspiring read with practical advice on how to develop a Life Plan. This is one that I will re-read each year during year-end reflection and planning.

9. The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company

Steve Blank does not mince words. This is straight talk from someone who has built multiple high-growth companies. The Customer Development process outlined in The Startup Owner’s Manual is taught at Stanford, MIT and in incubators around the world. When paired with design thinking, the business model canvas and value proposition design, this book gives founders the best chance of rapidly growing their startup. No wonder it’s a best selling book for social entrepreneurs.

10. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

I’m so glad that a Seth Godin book made the best seller list for social entrepreneurs. I was surprised that it was not Permission Marketing, since I mention that book so often. But Tribes is probably my second favorite Seth Godin book. Change makers understand that real global change comes from connecting people to an idea and to one another. Tribes shows you how.

Honorable Mention

There are lots of books that I would add to this list of popular social entrepreneurship books. Three that influenced me early on are:

But one book that I feel deserves an honorable mention is 51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship.

Honorable Mention: 51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship: Social Impact Through Business, An Actionable Q&A

Neetal Parekh (Episode 42) has written a brilliant book that answers all of your questions on social entrepreneurship – or at least the first 51. Written as a story, 51 Questions unfolds on a startup journey. If there is any book I wish would have made the best seller list but has not (yet), it’s 51 Questions. If you are at all interested in the topic of social entrepreneurship, I would encourage you to pick up 51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship  and read it. You can thank Neetal later.

Your Turn

So, which books to do you recommend to aspiring or early stage social entrepreneurs? Which books were you surprised to see on the list? Which would you add? Leave a comment below.

Leadership Development Expert
About the Author
Tony Loyd is a leadership development expert. He is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and coach. He helps purpose-driven business leaders to thrive so that they can connect and contribute at a deeper level. Find out more at

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