Founder Real Talk: Recommended Books of 2018

This year, I had the pleasure of interviewing 18 founders, executives, and industry experts for the Founder Real Talk podcast. At the end of each interview, I ask the same question: What book would you recommend to other founders and leaders? To my surprise, each person has  recommended a different book (except for High Output Management which was mentioned twice), which shows how individual the founder journey is. At the risk of oversharing, I have picked my top 10 favorites from their recommendations. If you’re hungry for more books, check out my list from 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Additionally, we are giving away 20 signed copies of The High Growth Handbook written by our most recent guest, Elad Gil. Please email with your favorite episode and why, followed with your mailing address and we’ll send a copy to the top 20 responses.

High Output Management by Andy Grove

Former chairman and CEO of Intel, Andy Grove, shares his perspective on how to build and run a company.

“Great book for first time operators or executives.”

Will Gaybrick, CFO of Stripe

Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson

Crucial Conversations guides people on how to communicate effectively in uncomfortable and emotional environments.

“I used to be very bad at having difficult conversations with people. This was literally one simple trick that was incredibly impactful for me.”

Stewart Butterfield, Co-Founder and CEO of Slack and Flickr

The High Growth Handbook by Elad Gil

As companies grow from small start-ups to global brands, a set of common patterns have evolved into a repeatable playbook that Gil has captured in High Growth Handbook.

High Growth Handbook is a must-read for any startup founder starting to scale or hoping to get to that point. The book is also highly relevant for executives at high growth startups.”

Glenn Solomon, Managing Partner at GGV Capital

First Break All the Rules  by Marcus Buckingham

Gallup surveys more than 80,000 managers and reveals what the world’s greatest managers do differently.

“It is a great book for first time managers and anybody who’s leading a team to learn about the power of listening to your team members. And then also how to leverage their strengths to drive performance and to help them realize who they are.”

Jen Holmstrom, Head of Talent at GGV Capital

Customer Success by Nick Mehta, Dan Steinman, and Lincoln Murphy

Customer Success is a tactical guidebook for the customer lifecycle from driving adoption to generating advocacy.

Recommended by Nick Mehta, leader of the Customer Success movement and CEO of Gainsight.

Blue Ocean Strategy, 1st edition by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

The authors argue that lasting success comes from creating untapped, new market spaces ripe for growth.

“I remember reading it early on in my career and it just really opened my mind to the idea of ideas.”

Michelle Cordeiro-Grant, Founder and CEO of Lively

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This timeless classic covers six ways to make people like you, twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking, and nine ways to change people without creating resentment.

“The book goes through a lot of the principles of how to interact and connect with other human beings and how the basis of human interactions is the basis of success regardless of what function or industry you go into.”

Kelly Wright, former EVP of Sales at Tableau

Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

This practical guide on negotiations is written by a former international hostage negotiator.

Recommended by Eric Wu, Co-Founder and CEO of Opendoor.

Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley

IDEO founder and Stanford creator David Kelley and his brother Tom Kelley, IDEO partner make creativity accessible to anyone through the power of design thinking.

Recommended by Jackie Reeses, Head of Square Capital and Chief People Officer of Square

Leadership and Self Deception by the Arbinger Institute

This book’s advice for leaders centers around who we are instead of what we do.

“I wish I had read it before. I just bought it for the whole senior leadership team. Really amazing book on leadership.”

Stewart Butterfield, Co-founder and CEO of Slack and Flickr


From GGV Capital, Founder Real Talk is a podcast that gets real about the challenges that founders and startup executives face and how they’ve grown from tough experiences. The show is hosted by Glenn Solomon, Managing Partner at GGV Capital, and produced by Fischer Yan, who works on marketing at GGV Capital.

GGV Capital is a global venture capital firm that invests in local founders. As a multi-stage, sector-focused firm, GGV focuses on seed-to-growth stage investments across Consumer/New Retail, Social/Digital & Internet, Enterprise/Cloud and Frontier Tech sectors. The firm was founded in 2000 and manages $6.2 billion in capital across 13 funds. Past and present portfolio companies include Affirm, Airbnb, Alibaba, Bitsight, ByteDance (Toutiao), Ctrip, Didi Chuxing, Grab, Gladly, Hello Chuxing, HashiCorp, Houzz, Keep, LingoChamp, Namely, Niu, Nozomi Networks, Opendoor, Peloton, Poshmark, Slack, Square, Wish, Xauto, Xiaohongshu, Yellow, YY, Zhaoyou and more. The firm has offices in Beijing, San Francisco, Shanghai and Silicon Valley. Learn more at, @GGVCapital or GGVCapital on WeChat.