World Book Day 2015: Four classic business books you should read now

Emma Haslett
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Sometimes, all leaders need a bit of advice (Source: Getty)

It's World Book Day - and although the nation's children are traipsing into school dressed as Harry Potter, the BFG, etc, it also provides grown-ups with an opportunity to stock up their bookshelf with some of business' most inspiring reads.

When it comes to business, we all need advice sometimes - here are the classic books you should take a look at.

1. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr Stephen Covey, 1990

Probably the most well-known business book of all time, 7 Habits provided a blueprint for success for aspiring business leaders. The lessons in Covey's book, which include "be proactive", "think win-win" and "synergise" (not necessarily one for lovers of the English language), were seen as powerful because they drew not on pop pyschology, but on general principles of integrity and honesty. The book sold more than 15 million copies, and has spawned an empire which includes flashcards, audiobooks, and even smartphone apps.

2. The Practice of Management, Peter Drucker, 1954

Drucker was one of the first to argue businesses should place a focus on their customer by determining for themselves the service they are trying to provide. He was also one of the first to use the phrase "management objectives" - although we'll forgive him for that. Calm, reasonable and packed with common sense, this management bible may be more than six decades old, but it provides the perfect antithesis to many of the shouty business books of today.

3. On Becoming A Leader, Warren G. Bennis, 1989

To most people, leadership doesn't come naturally - in this classic read, Bennis recognises newly-minted leaders need a helping hand. His advice included taking responsibility and avoiding blaming others others for mistakes. "More leaders have been made by accident, circumstance, sheer grit or will than have been made by all the leadership courses put together," he points out. Which, for new managers, provides a little hope.

4. How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie, 1936

It may be almost 80 years old, but Carnegie's advice - don't be disagreeable, try to find something you like in everyone - is timeless. Using examples from Abraham Lincoln and a gaggle of 19th- and 20th-century industrialists, he provides recommendations on handling social situations from networking to conflict resolution. Although the book has been criticised as a bible for social climbers, Carnegie warns: "The principles taught in this book will work only when they come from the heart. I am not advocating a bag of tricks. I am talking about a new way of life."

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