10 Books I Read While Making My First Million

My name is Dale Partridge. I’m not some get-rich-quick blogger or money-focused entrepreneur. I’m quite the opposite. And interestingly, “opposite” is what has allowed me to be so successful.


I’m a family man originally from Orange County California now living on a farm in the middle of Oregon. I’m a husband, father, and entrepreneur. I don’t start weird internet marketing businesses that nobody understands. Most of my companies have actually been very traditional: A rock climbing gym (acquired), a branding agency (no longer), a conference company (acquired), an online clothing company, a tech company (investor), and now StartupCamp.com (the site you’re on).

To be even more “opposite” than much of the business crowd, I authored a National Bestselling book titled People Over Profit. You can watch my MSNBC interview here.

But over the past several years, my companies have produced almost $30,000,000. And like most classic entrepreneurs, I did not attend college. However, I did read A LOT of books. My guess is around 250 during my early years business.

Of those 250 books, there were ten books that changed the way I thought about business, leadership, and marketing. Books that became my college. Books that allowed me to see the path to not only building a great business, but wealth, influence, and trust. I tried to list them in the order in which they were read.

1. Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make The Leap… And Others Don’t


As you’ll soon notice, Jim Collins makes this list three times. Because Jim writes from a position of research, his lessons have more weight. Beyond this, he has a rare level of maturity in his thinking. And while many people would think this book is for corporate executives and Wall Street businessmen, the content is highly applicable to almost any business owner. Remember, there is a reason it’s now sold over 3 million copies.

2. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them, and People Will Follow You


It took me a few years to realize that success in business was dependent on my level of leadership. It took a few years to realize that just because you hired someone, doesn’t mean they follow you. Leadership is an earned position. John C. Maxwell is arguably the best teacher on the topic of leadership. The lessons in this book are timeless, powerful, and brilliant. I read it almost every year.

3. John Adams


This quote is from John Adam’s wife in a moment of empathy. A relatable frustration of feeling worthy of great things, and not being used.

I’m trying not to be partial here, but this might be my favorite book on the list. This is the book that taught me the music of writing. This is the book that showed me how to change the world. But more than that, this book made me a better husband, thinker, reader, and creator. John Adams and his wife Abagail were a gift to humanity and a gift to your mind.

4. The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design


If you asked me which area of business I am most competent, I would say branding. And it all started with this book. Marty Neumeier has a matchless way of making the complex seem simple. He takes the ambiguous arena of art and brings practical and useful lessons of clarity. It’s a book every business owner should read.

5. Built To Last: Successful Habits Of Visionary Companies


While this book was published before Good To Great, Jim Collins called this book the sequel to it. Meaning, read Good to Great, then Built To Last. As I mentioned above, Collin’s books became my business school. This book offers proven business principles that I still use every single week.

6. Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired–And Secretive–Company Really Works


There are LOTS of books about Steve Jobs and Apple. This one is by far the best. The author comes from a position of storytelling that is consumable and useful. Secondly, he leaves readers with an inventory of tricks, tips, and ideas on how to bring the genius of Apple into your own business. Writing this description makes me want to read it again.

7. Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Die & Others Survive


I consider myself a great marketer. Not because of pride, but because of my results. And much of those results can be credited to the concepts in Made to Stick. Chip and Dan talk less about the ever-changing strategies of marketing and ideation and more about the timeless principles of human psychology. It wouldn’t be on this list unless it were great.

8. Rework


This is the recommended reading for Module #1 inside our StartupCamp curriculum. Short chapters. Easy read. The concepts in this book are not just brilliant, but they challenge all the norms in business today. And to be honest, I disagree with some of them. But the thinking behind this book is so radical, that it doesn’t just tell you how to win, it shows you.

9. Outliers: The Story Of Success


My wife bought this for me the month it came out. I had never heard of it before. Outliers is not necessarily a business or leadership book; it’s a big picture book. Malcolm Gladwell has always been good at taking readers to deeper issues. Bottom line, this book is fascinating. You’ll learn how much and how little we get to control our success.

10. Great By Choice


I opened this list with Jim Collins, and I’ll end with him too. This book rocked me. I filled up an entire notebook with ideas from this read. What I love about Jim’s writing style is the way he can wrap up deep teachings into simple lessons. Great by Choice is filled with riveting stories and ideas that are almost impossible to argue against. It’s an advanced read, but a library absent of this book is a mistake.

But I must give credit where credit is due. This isn’t preaching; this is just my story. The book I spend the most time with is the Bible. Likely 2-3 hours per week for the past 11 years. I don’t know about you, but the wisdom I’ve found in the Book of Proverbs is INSANE. The emotional maturity, patience, compassion, and generosity requested by Jesus has become my life’s goal. Whether you believe or not, we must realize it’s the most famous, oldest, most known, and used book on the planet. To ignore that, would be foolish.

Do you have any books that have changed your life? Books that might help people become better leaders or entrepreneurs? If so, let me know in the comments below.

Chasing Your Dream

Do you want to become a captivating entrepreneur? Do you want to start something great? If you’re looking for a practical guide with timeless principles that never fade, principles that push for a healthy type of success, one with integrity, honor, and respect, then my StartupCamp course might be perfect for you. Check out my free class below.


Dale Partridge
Dale Partridge is the Founder of StartupCamp.com. He's also a keynote speaker and author of the Wall Street Journal & USA Today Bestselling book People Over Profit.


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  1. Alex says:

    An amazing list of books that you’ve shared, but what caught my attention the most – book of Proverbs, Jesus, and healthy success…excellent place to start from and you can never go wrong with that!

  2. Dwight says:

    Good selection of books. Couldn’t agree more with your top choice of time wisely spent. Well said life goal that makes a difference in things that matter most.

  3. Kuda says:

    I have been reading the Lean Start Up by Eric Reis. Perfect book for Start Ups and Small Businesses. To all Entrepreneurs its a must read.

  4. Jimmy says:

    Thank you for including the bible in your list.
    God’s word shows us answers for all issues

  5. Resie Dicon says:

    The book of Provebs is true. I have read the book over and over when I was I high school and college. I realized that the wisdom I gained from that book has brought me to where I am today. I have been thinking about it and was thankful that I did read the book of provebs at a young age. It’s a big part of the success in business that I gained at a young age.

  6. Good To Great is a very great book for reading. really indeed to live.

  7. Erin Pavlicek says:

    Thank you so much, Dale, for sharing this list! I plan to get them ALL! And I’m now adding them to my Amazon wish list.

    • Ben Sturgill says:

      HI Erin, thanks for your message. The books on this list will serve you well. Enjoy!

  8. Yes!! This list is amazing! Cannot wait to read each and every one! Already read Reworked. So interesting. Thanks for sharing this list Dale. Time to go to work!

  9. Caryn Berger says:

    Love this list! I was initially introduced to Jim Collins and John C Maxwell in the early 2000s. I’ve always had that stirring that I have something to create, nurture and build but haven’t found it. I replaced that drive with a “stable, bill paying job” as a nurse, and now nurse practitioner. The funny part, was I was never able to get rid of those books, as if I always knew I’d come back to finding that “thing” I so badly want and need to create. I’ve also got your People Over Profit and Find Your Calling that I have started. And I’m looking forward to the others on this list.

    One book I recommend is, Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson; so simple, yet I always remember those mice when I feel I’m getting too complacent or comfortable where I am.

    • Dale Partridge says:

      Such a great book! Keep searching for whatever is stirring you; you’ll know when you find it.

  10. Rowena says:

    Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull, one of the founding partners of Pixar. It looks at leadership from a bit of a different standpoint – how to consistently fuel inspiration and creativity when it’s your bread and butter. Your day to day routine simply can’t be routine in order to survive in their particular field. Personally I am hopeless when it comes to business literature but I found this book to be smart, genuinely encouraging and inspirational (yes, even knowing that there are pieces in their history that has been omitted or massaged). Mr. Catmull’s humility and humbleness is admirable and a quality that most in a position of leadership will either not reflect upon or show.

    • Ed Catmull is AMAZING. One of my favorites from him is “Failure is the inevitable result of trying something new.” SO good. Thanks for the comment here and for being a reader, Rowena!

  11. Alexx says:

    I’m going to read Proverbs and the Jim Collins books thanks to this article. Thanks for sharing this list! I’m really grateful for your writings and teachings man!

    • You are so welcome, Alexx! I’m happy you found our little corner of the internet. Let me know what you think after your reading. 🙂

  12. Michael Richards says:


    I will be picking up your book as soon as I finish this comment. There are several books I was pleasantly surprised to NOT see on your list because every list like this usually has them. They are phenomenal books but I was happy to see a list of books that I hadn’t already read. I have already read Made To Stick and Outliers but the rest I am ready to get into.

    I’m curious have you read Start With Why
    by Simon Sinek?
    I founded and own an athlete strength and conditioning facility and this book is responsible for a large majority of our success(Aside from our motto of “Conduct business and treat people so that if Jesus were to walk in the door we would be able to look him in the eyes.”)

    Frankly, judging from your blog posts I’ve read and the title of your book I’m about to dive into (People Over Profit) it sounds like you could’ve authored it. You and Simon Sinek are definitely on the same page.

    Thank you for the great content and thank you for being a strong leader in the field of entrepreneurship AND being so honest about your relationship with Jesus.

    Keep up the good work

    Michael Richards
    Benton, Arkansas

  13. Ashley Lippincott says:

    Stephen Covey has always been a favorite author of mine, and has literally helped me change my paradigms on many things, but 7 Habits has definitely been my favorite book of his, it teaches you how to think and live like a entrepreneur, and overall winner at life.
    I was actually surprised you didn’t mention any books by him, did they just not make the top 10?

  14. Hi Dale, just wanted to say that I’m so excited for all that you are doing. I’m 23 years old, have started my own clothing business and have also been incredibly compelled to start vlogging about something that Gods really laid on my heart about this generation! I’m definitely going to keep following everything that you post. Super encouraging.

    • That is SO AWESOME, Haydee!! Dang! Definitely start vlogging. Youtube is super powerful for launching a personal brand or sharing a message. Keep crushing!

  15. Bret Farrer says:

    Hi Dale,

    How to Win Friends, is a must.
    Leadership and Self Deception.
    Along with the Bible, The Book of Mormon.

  16. Melanie says:

    I’m almost done reading Rich dad poor dad. It’s great. It’s the first book I chose to read to expand my knowledge in the “world of business”. I was really happy to see you post your list of top 10 books because I needed some direction on what to read. And I want to read your book as well People over profit. It was my first pick but not in stock at my local bookstore so I will have to order online.

  17. Syamira says:

    Thank you for the list and reviews Dale, very helpful! Love that you include The Bible, now that explains your always amazing and inspiring FB posts :)Because I’m a Muslim, my daily dose and ‘oxygen’ is The Qur’an and it delights me how the two scriptures have in common. My fav is its translation by Abdel Haleem, Oxford Press. All the best, Dale and may you continue to inspire everyone with your writings and your being 🙂 – Syamira, Malaysia.

    • Thanks Syamira! I love hearing feedback like this. Thats great.

  18. Thanks Dale.
    Interestingly I’ve found more business insights in the New Testament of the Bible than anywhere. This is coming from someone who used to read at least 2 books a week at some point.

    My top recommendations are Titan by Ron Chernow, Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy, Signposts on the road to success by E.W Kenyon, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and Success Systems by David Oyedepo.

    I’m surprised that you listed Outliers. It’s one of my least favorite books but perhaps I read it in haste.


  19. Hi, Dale, a pleasure to read your thoughts and texts . Two book I’d strongly recommend are
    Fooled by Randomness
    Black swan

    Both are from Nassim Taleb

  20. Thank you for this list Dale.
    I totally agree with Jim Collins appearing on your list 3 times-he is a great writer ,have read Good to Great a couple of times.
    A few months back ,i bought Contagious by Jonah Berger,good book highly reccomend it.

    Thank you once again for the list and your posts.

  21. Stacey J says:

    Hi, Thanks for your great posts! Have you ever read Robert E Lee on Leadership, by Crocker? I think you’d like it.

  22. Ron Durbin says:

    Thanks for creating this list Dale! I love the line “Books that became my college” I can identify with it. My favorite part of your podcast is the question you ask your guests. What book they would recommend. I have found huge value and gems of books I may have never come across. Yes, The Bible is the source for the ultimate wisdom. Praying that I can make your Summit in June. Keep up the good work.

  23. I got one down from your list, The Brand Gap.
    Thanks for the recommendations, this is definitely going to be on my list.
    I’m currently reading Maximize Your Potential By Jocelyn K. Glei

  24. Dale!! I’m making a commitment to read the rest from this list that I haven’t read. I’m a huge Jim Collins fan and I remember reading Good to Great and Built to Last once a year until recent. Thanks for this reminder. And super high-five for loving the Book of Proverbs! What an amazing book! I wrote something about it recently.

    As for my recommendation, I’ll input here the forever classic How to Win Friends and Influence People which basically teaches you how to be a relate to people more sincerely and effectively as well as The Whuffie Factor which introduces the value and importance of social currency in today’s world.


  25. Cristi Bennett says:

    This is more of a life book than a business book but The Millionaire Next Door. I read this almost 20 years ago and it still sits on my bookshelf as a favorite. So many people try to get rich quickly or worse, look rich, but after all that work, spend foolishly and are poor. Spend what you must, save what you should and be work your way towards being a millionaire.

  26. Start by Jon Acuff, and Quitter also by Jon Acuff. The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews. Currently reading Legacy Journey by Dave Ramsey which is helping me better grasp and overcome my fear of success. I can (and have) failed on more than one occasion, and I don’t quit, but to push and not back off…that’s something else entirely. Thank you for this list. I’m very looking forward to reading these that I haven’t read yet.

  27. Deborah says:

    Daring Greatly & Rising Strong by Brene Brown

  28. Jeff M. says:

    Coming off of a failed retail biz, I appreciate you sharing this Dale. I used to read a lot of biz books, but have lost motivation as of late. This is a reminder to get back on the saddle!

    Here’s a book that I could not put down: The Automatic Customer by John Warrilow

  29. Stephen says:

    Definitely added all these to my Amazon wish list!

  30. Great recommendation! I need to read those books by Jim Collins.
    The books that have changed my life:
    1. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. I believe that we need to heal our soul and prepare our inner self so that we can be successful in our business.
    2. Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. All time favorite. 🙂

  31. What is one book you wish you would have read during that time but didn’t — either because you didn’t know about it, it wasn’t published yet, etc.?

  32. Greg Carter says:

    I appreciate the encouragement and resources you are sharing even though I have not enrolled in Startup Camp! Clearly an extension of people over profit. Your podcast with Greg McKeown, Essentialism – informative and insightful. Thanks!

  33. I had just listened to your podcast with Jason Russell and listening to the two of you relate on so many books had made me want to ask you for a top ten book list… I was going to ask for it on our Facebook group- haha! You beat me to it!!! Good job and thank you:) Also, love that you included the bible because I’m always surprised it’s not more people’s top book when you ask them on the podcast… out of all the greats, It’s the only one I could never learn enough from;)

  34. Great list! Very helpful in seeing who has most shaped your thinking. Thank you!

    If I could recommend a few books:
    -The Cure by John Lynch, Bruce McNicol, Bill Thrall
    -Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer
    -Love Does by Bob Goff
    -Multiply by Francis Chan and David Platt
    -Knowing God by J.I. Packer
    -Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper

    -The ONE Thing by Gary Keller
    -What’s Best Next by Matt Perman

    -Business for the Glory of God by Wayne Grudem
    -Business as Mission by Michael Baer
    -The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

  35. Ashley says:

    Your book, People Over Profit has inspired me so much already and I’m not even finished with it. If any aspiring entrepreneur asks me for book suggestions, yours will definitely be on the list!

  36. Kelly says:

    Just noticed a typo in your post and thought I’d point it out (not because I’m a grammar nerd (I am) but because I like to see people succeed).

    2nd paragraph in article should start with TO not TOO.

    Love the list and have read many!

  37. Linda Miller says:

    Totally shocked to not see the bible, on your book list.

    • Was thinking about the books I was reading that year. Not necessarily the books I’ve been reading my whole life, but will add something about that. Thank you!


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