In this post, I will tell you the best books on strategic thinking, so far.
Unlike making a decision, creating a strategy require more knowledge and experience.
And this is something most people aren’t good at.
One way to be a better strategist is to (obviously) read books on strategy.
Luckily for you, I already compiled the best books on strategy that will help you create a solid and battle-tested strategy.
1. The Art Of War by Sun Tzu
The Art Of War is an ancient Chinese classic that is based on an ideology which explains, we have the power to deal with the conflicts – be it external or internal – right within us.
The classic talks widely about how we can solve our conflicts wisely and victoriously just by believing in ourselves.
The writer believes that conflicts are an inevitable part of life and The Art Of War sheds light on competition and conflict in general, on every level from interpersonal to international.
This book remains influential and is a prominent book of strategy.
It is studied by prestigious personas, executives, military leaders.
The Art of War predominantly focuses on invincibility, victory without battle, and indisputable strength through the comprehending of the psychology of conflict, politics, and physics.
- Extraordinarily influential book of strategy.
- Techniques to deal with conflicts on every level – from interpersonal to international.
2. The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene
Written by Robert Greene in 2006, The 33 Strategies of War is a book that widely serves a guide to the subtle social game of everyday life informed by the military principles in the war.
It is based on the information of dozens of political, philosophical and religious text and thousands of years of violent conflict.
It is a comprehensive piece of content that is composed with discussions and examples on offensive strategies that require you to negotiate from a position of strength and defensive strategies to help you respond to dangerous situations and avoid unwinnable wars.
Greene provides you with all the psychological ammunition you require to overcome patterns of failure and forever gain the upper hand, in the book The 33 Strategies of War.
- Timeless lessons from historical leaders that ring true in today’s culture.
3. Blue Ocean Strategy, Expanded Edition: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
Blue Ocean Strategy is here to challenge everything you thought you knew about the importance of strategic success.
Writers W. Chan and Renée Mauborgne stress on the fact that since the beginning of the industrial age, companies have had crucial competitions in search profitable growth.
Writers explain the competitive strategies with the metaphor of a bloody red ocean of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool.
Supported by the study of 150 strategic moves, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne argue that success comes not from fighting the competitors but from creating “blue oceans” – ripe of growth in new market spaces.
This phenomenon is embraced by businesses worldwide.
The Blue Ocean Strategy guides you with a systematic approach to making the competition irrelevant and focusing on the principles and tools that a company can use to create and capture their own blue oceans.
- An international best-seller and accepted worldwide.
- Fascinating book about drawbacks of irrelevant competition.
4. The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi
The Book of Five Rings is written by Miyamoto Musashi and translated by V. Haris.
It is a piece of limitless inspiration for businessmen and provides them with psychological insight for people who rely on strategy and tactics.
The book is based on the framework and research of the legendary Samurai Swordsman and his work.
This book is divided into five Rings which are based on the five elements – earth, water, fire, wind, void.
It describes strategies and principles of martial arts along with a touch of philosophy.
The final ring i.e. The Void is highly appreciated among readers.
- Brilliant reference book for marketing and business students.
- Espouses winning at all costs in a deadly pursuit.
5. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
Good to Great by famous writer Jim Collin is built on five years of research and case studies.
It defines the fundamental ethics behind the companies that take a leap from good to great and companies that don’t manage to do so.
He stresses on the idea that the primary reason why some companies become great is that they know exactly how to use their resources in their field of proficiency.
In the book, the renowned author states that there is a succession of common factors in all the companies that achieve greatness.
These aspects could be ranging from company’s wide understanding of business goals to the ethics that the company executives follow.
His compelling research in Good to Great presents an exceptional study of how organizations – large or small, can achieve extravagant results.
- A brilliant book about business strategies.
- Covers elements that help the company to take a leap from good to great.
6. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
An Italian Renaissance historian, a politician, a diplomat, a philosopher, a humanist, and a writer; Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) was a package of extravagant talent.
The Prince has been a highly controversial book written in 1513.
The celebrated writer has widely spoken about “Machiavellianism” in his masterpiece.
“Machiavellianism” is a harmful term used to describe distinguished deceitful politicians.
The writer describes unethical behavior like killing innocents and corruption as being normal in the book and has seemed to endorse it.
Such practices made the writer earn backlash from some readers claiming that the author was teaching and promoting evil.
But The Prince is a highly-praised book by many commentators such as Baruch Spinoza, Rousseau and Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques; and they claim The Prince to be an inspirational piece of enlightenment on modern democratic political philosophy.
- An awe-inspiring piece of art on democratic political policy.
7. Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t by Verne Harnish
Author Verne Harnish, in his book, shares practical techniques for growing business successfully and profitably.
Scaling Up is a sequel to a book released 12 years ago “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits”.
There are some mentions of the material from the previous book.
But the reader can still understand the context of Scaling Up even without reading the previous book.
Scaling Up majorly focuses on four key decisions every company needs to get right – People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash.
The book consists of various new One-Page tools.
It also includes the famous and recently-revised One-Page Strategic Plan, which more than 40,000 firms around the globe have used to scale their companies successfully.
Scaling Up explains entrepreneur, ways to ace their businesses successfully.
- Lists techniques to ace in business successfully.
- Talks about strategic plans to scale up businesses.
8. Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram
Boyd, by Robert Coram, is a beautifully written masterpiece on the greatest of great heroes to ever be born on earth, John Boyd.
Coram eloquently describes the U.S. military fighter bringing light on Boyd’s greatness and legacy that he has left behind.
John Boyd is one of the most remarkable unsung heroes in all of American military history.
He is the man who simulated air-to-air combat and defeated every challenger in less than 40 seconds.
Boyd discovered a theory that changed the way fighter planes were designed and his manual tactics altered the way every air force pilot in the world flies the flight.
Additionally, Boyd taught the U.S. marine corps how to fight the war on the ground.
All his ideas were responsible to lead America to win the gulf war and foretell the attack of 9/11.
Boyd is a story of the man with ferocious passion and inflexible stubbornness – a rebel who cared not for his reputation or fortune but for his country.
- An astonishing piece of work that celebrates the legacy of great John Boyd.
- Discusses strategy and a tactic that helped win wars.
9. The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen
The Innovator’s Dilemma is a revolutionary bestseller, in which the Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen explains why some companies can do everything right and still drop their market leadership, with the help of smart examples.
He also elaborates on various tricks and techniques to avoid a similar fate.
The writer focuses on “disruptive technology” like the Honda Super Cub or the hydraulic excavator.
Christensen also shares his views on why some companies miss “the next great wave.”
According to Christensen, the managers need to abandon traditional business practices and be ready to take risks if they aim to gain success.
The Innovator’s Dilemma talks about a set of rules that can help the company in capitalizing on the phenomenon of disruptive innovation, answering various questions.
The Innovator’s Dilemma is a must read for anybody who is looking for a transitional shift for their company.
- Thought-provoking book on the dilemmas in the business field.
- Provides rules for capitalizing on the phenomenon of disruptive technology.
10. On War by Carl von Clausewitz
Carl von Clausewitz was a military officer who spent his entire career in the Prussian army; from the age of twelve till the very end.
He fought against France in all major Prussian campaigns and in 1806, when the battle of Jena-Auerstedt happened, the Prussian army was destroyed by the Napoleon.
This critical experience further served as an inspiration for Carl Von Clausewitz to write On War.
It is an extraordinary piece of art that has often been called “not simply the greatest, but the only truly great book on war.”
The book is a detailed analysis explaining the theories of war and how it works.
On War is a piece of intelligent observations and a biting irony.
It is also known for its memorable phrases; one of them being, “War is a continuation of politics by other means.”
- A remarkable book on embracing theory of how war works.
- The witticism and irony which makes the book an interesting read.
11. Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters by Richard Rumelt
Good Strategy Bad Strategy is a clever explanation of powerful action-oriented strategies for the real world.
The writer Richard Rumelt puts light on the differences between a “good strategy” and a “bad strategy”.
He states that developing and implementing a strategy is a major task of the leader, but far often than not they are seen failing at it.
He shares that a good strategy is a precise and rational response to the obstacles to progress.
A good strategy works by harnessing and using your power in the right directions where you can obtain great results in the challenges.
The writer explains his ideologies about good and bad strategies with fascinating examples from business, military affairs and pragmatic ideas of life.
Reflecting an astonishing grip on various aspects of life, Good Strategy Bad Strategy comes from writer’s decades of searching beyond the superficial to address tough questions with honesty and integrity.
- An incredible book that explains the differences between the good and the bad strategies.
- Provides a clear way to implement a powerful action-oriented strategy for the real world.
12. Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin
Strategy forces people and organization to make specific choices about their future.
It is a hard concept to understand that many companies fail to implement.
Writers A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin are two of today’s best-known business thinkers who explain the importance of strategy making and how to think about it and get it done in their book.
In Playing to Win, writers have focused on five essential strategy choices that will help you be ahead of your competitors.
The strategy choices include, What is our winning aspiration? Where will we play? How will we win?
What capabilities must we have in place to win?
And what management systems are required to support our choices?
Drawn from the years of their experience, writers guide the readers with essential elements that determine business success.
- Essential elements that determine business success.
- A highly informative piece of work drawn from years of success.
13. Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors by Michael E. Porter
Michael E. Porter in his book Competitive Strategy lists down techniques for analyzing industries and competitors.
The author manages to explain the content in a very simple yet impactful way putting forward the analysis of the complexities in the industrial world.
The author also emphasizes the importance of competitive strategies as it allows the organization to set common goals and objectives.
The author provides a framework of analysis and the predictions of evolution in the future.
Micheal E. Porter introduces three strategies that account for powerful competitive tools.
The book is divided into three parts.
The first part talks about the general analytical framework of the structure of an industry and its competitors.
The second part is about implementing this framework to a wide array of the industries and environments.
The third is about the Strategic Decisions that should be made.
It is a highly informative and inclusive book that focuses on the theory, practice and business strategy terms around the globe.
- Talks about underlying fundamentals of competition.
- Provides a sophisticated view of competition.
14. Strategy: A History by Lawrence Freedman
Strategy: A History by Sir Lawrence Freedman is based on the vast history of strategic thinking.
Sir Lawrence Freedman is one of the world’s leading authorities on war and international politics.
The primary gust of the Strategy is whether it is possible to influence and shape the environment instead of becoming the victim of the forces.
The author elaborates on the inbuilt volatility of environment-subjects to change events.
Freedman also talks about how the efforts of opponents provide strategy with its challenge and drama.
Very rarely armies and nations move from one predictable state of affairs to another and feel their way through a series of states.
Strategy: A History is a brilliant overview of the important strategic theories in history and sums up a vast expression on strategy.
- Leading book on war and international politics.
- Provides engaging insight on how strategy can pervade every aspect of our lives.
15. The Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World by Walter Kiechel
The Lords of Strategy is based widely on the business and corporate strategy.
It focuses on the underlying dynamics of competition, cost, and customers.
In The Lords of Strategy, the writer talks vastly about the four men who invented a corporate strategy that we learn today and lay the foundation of the modern, multibillion-dollar consulting industry.
That initiative provided us with a window into how to think about the strategy that we use today.
The author shares his experience with a novelistic flair. This book is a combination of inspiration and terrific experiences.
The book reveals the account of how the organizations they led proved to be a game changer in the field of business and corporation and how that has changed the way we work today.
- An inspiring story of four men who pioneered corporate strategy as we know it.
16. Strategy by B. H. Liddell Hart
Strategy written by B.H. Liddell Hart is a classic book based on war. Basil H. Liddell is considered to be one of the renowned military thinkers of his time.
He is regarded as the “Clausewitz of the 20th century.” Strategy is a masterpiece on military history and theory.
It is often compared to great work of art like The Art of War by Sun Tzu and On War by Carl von Clausewitz.
Liddell Hart emphasizes movement, flexibility, and surprise. He claims that in most military campaigns dislocation of the enemy’s psychological and physical balance is considered as a victory and the dislocation results because of a strategic indirect approach.
Liddell Hart is an inspiration for business and political planning.
- An awe-inspiring book on war.
- Seminal work on military and theory.
17. The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist’s Guide to Success in Business and Life by Avinash K. Dixit and Barry J. Nalebuff
Writers Avinash K. Dixit and Barry J. Nalebuff explain game theory as precise strategic thinking.
They further add that it’s an art of anticipating your opponent’s next move. The writers explain in detail about game strategy in The Art of Strategy.
They claim that the game theory involves simple common sense and can be easily mastered by developing an alternate way of seeing the world.
Giving the examples from pop culture, TV, movies, sports, politics, history and based on a range of case studies, the authors put forward how every business has game-theory involved in it.
With questions like, do the winners of reality-TV contests have instinctive game theories?
Do big-time investors see things that most people miss?
What do great poker players know that you don’t?
The authors compel you to think in a different way.
This book is a key to master the game theory that can help you become more successful in business and life.
- A road-map to mastering game theory.
- Helps you learn and answer basic questions and games of life.
18. Strategy Safari: A Guided Tour Through The Wilds of Strategic Management by Henry Mintzberg, Bruce Ahlstrand, and Joseph Lampel
The international bestseller on business strategy is written by leading management thinker Henry Mintzberg and his colleagues Bruse Ahlstrand and Joseph Lampel.
Strategy Safari is considered to be a classic work in the field.
The writer explains entire history and evolution of strategic management in a lively and engaging fashion.
Strategy Safari is translated into more than ten different languages and is highly approved by managers, consultants, and academics all over the world.
It has been used in top MBA programs worldwide. It is described as indispensable and a delightful tool to learn business strategy.
This book is great option for all those who dread the vast confusing terrain of strategy formation.
Strategy Safari eloquently maps the strategic overview and facilitates intellectual and informative strategy formation.
- An international bestseller on business strategy.
- Crucial and insightful tool to build a business strategy.
19. Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn from the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years by Paul B. Carroll and Chunka Mui
Thousands of books have been written on successful companies but there are very few about the lessons that should be learned from the companies that crash and burn.
The authors of Billion Dollar Lessons, Paul B. Carroll and Chunka Mui, framework research into more than 750 business failures and reveal unwise tactics that mire companies again and again.
The authors have segregated the content in three lessons – The Cold Hard Facts, Failure Patterns, Avoid Making the Same Mistakes.
The book contains various methods that can be adopted to avoid making repeated mistakes before they build up to become a catastrophic crash.
There is surely no one way to guarantee success, but Billion Dollar Lessons provide you vivid and innovative methods to keep your company ahead of the game.
It also states the potentially disastrous strategies that might bring your company down.
The Billion Dollar Lessons is an eye-opening guidebook to save your company from burning down and a road-map to success.
- A must-have guidebook to learn what NOT to do in your business.
20. The Strategy Paradox: Why Committing to Success Leads to Failure (And What to do About It) by Michael E. Raynor
The Strategy Paradox by Michael E. Raynor is a piece of paradox that explains how the recipes of success can also turn up into the ingredients of failure too.
The writer emphasizes how the managers often confuse competitive strategies and reduce the risk of the pursuit of success.
He also elaborates on the point that can help the companies break this trend. More often than not, the success strategies like a compelling vision, bold leadership, and decisive action can work against the company and result in failure.
The writer supports the concept with various case studies and provides a framework for strategies that allow the companies to grab on to today’s opportunities while simultaneously preparing for tomorrow’s promise.
The Strategy Paradox is all about the strategies that might look beneficial but can prove to be extremely catastrophic.
- A thought-provoking piece of work on the paradox of business strategies.
So, Which Book Should You Buy?
If you’re like most people who prefer to read popular books, the books on the Quick Recommendation table is enough for you.
What is your experience in creating a strategy? Share with us in the comment section below!