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Small Business Reading Guide Here are a few of 2012's most influential business books to help boost your inspiration and productivity.

This story originally appeared on Business on Main

Small-Business Reading Guide

We know, we know. Reading for fun isn't exactly part of most business owners' daily routines. But making time to check out some of the year's most popular business books can be a great way to balance pleasure with productivity.

Sure, staying on top of the latest business trends might not sound like relaxing beach reading. But more and more books speak to the busy entrepreneur striving to make a dent in the world. We rounded up five of the most influential, inspirational business books to be published this year in hopes that they'll help you have some fun while at the same time teaching you how to build the kind of business you've always wanted to run.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
By Charles Duhigg
February 2012; Random House; 400 pages

"The Power of Habit" isn't strictly a business book. It gets to the core of human nature and explores the science of why forming new habits, or breaking old ones, can be so difficult.

This book doesn't give direct advice, per se, but the insights Duhigg offers through case studies can be useful for entrepreneurs looking to understand consumer behavior — or their own.

He delves into fascinating examples of how organizations use the science of habit formation to influence decision-making and launch successful campaigns on everything from buying Febreze to wearing a seatbelt. This one's a must-read for any entrepreneur who deals with customers or product development on a regular basis.

For Better or for Work: A Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs and Their Families
By Meg Cadoux Hirshberg
March 2012; Inc. Original; 260 pages

Meg Cadoux Hirshberg is a columnist for Inc. who understands the rigors of entrepreneurship all too well. Aside from frequently writing about the struggle for work-life balance, she also wrote very personal pieces for Inc. about her husband, Gary Hirshberg, who recently stepped down as CEO of Stonyfield Farm after 28 years.

Using her extensive reporting and firsthand experiences, she wrote "For Better or for Work" intending to "examine the impact — for better and for worse — of entrepreneurial businesses on families and relationships, and vice versa." Some of her findings are surprising, but ultimately her goal is to instill hope in weary entrepreneurs and help them better manage the difficult balancing act of successfully running both a business and a family.

The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself and Transform Your Career
By Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha
February 2012; Crown Business; 272 pages

Reid Hoffman might be the co-founder of LinkedIn, but his book (co-written with Ben Casnocha) isn't geared toward high-tech entrepreneurs. On the contrary, the book highlights the importance of thinking like an entrepreneur in today's economy whether you're trying to start a bakery, land your dream job or launch a freelance career.

The book is based on the premise that the economy, and work as we know it, may never be the same again. Instability is the new normal, and we can either embrace this or wait for the other shoe to drop. Hoffman and Casnocha provide a variety of tips you can implement today to ride the wave instead of being swept under.

How Will You Measure Your Life?
By Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth and Karen Dillon
May 2012; HarperBusiness; 240 pages

Members of Harvard Business School's class of 2010 started their degrees in a booming economy, but graduated in a decimated one. Christensen, a professor at HBS, shared his personal guidelines to help students recalibrate their definition of success and find meaning in their life and work.

The piece went viral and a book naturally followed, publishing just in time for graduation. It's excellent summer reading for young people making their way in an unforgiving job climate. Older, more experienced entrepreneurs may find some of the advice trite, but regardless, it's a relevant book that uses lessons from business to illustrate how to live life with satisfaction and integrity.

Honorable mentions
Walter Isaacson's biography "Steve Jobs" was published in October 2011, but there's no doubting its continued influence, even if one of its unintended consequences is inspiring a new generation of enfants terribles in the tech industry.

Similarly, Eric Ries' "The Lean Startup," which was published in September 2011, has been changing the way companies — high-tech and not — test ideas or products before releasing them into the marketplace. It may become one of the most influential business books of the decade.

Lastly, look out for a book that won't be published until 2013 but is already making waves — "The Icarus Deception," marketing guru Seth Godin's upcoming project about the mythology of success, which he funded entirely through Kickstarter in under three hours.

Happy reading!

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