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Three Great Summer Reads With an Entrepreneurial Twist

CHICAGO ( MainStreet) -- There may be no such thing as summer vacation for anyone who runs their own business, but that doesn't mean you can't slip into a summer state of mind. When your work schedule is a little less hectic, you might even find time to catch up on reading that you'd consider a luxury at any other time of the year.

With a new "gamechanging" business book coming out seemingly every week, it may be impossible to stay up to date on all of them. By consulting small-business experts and reviewing "best of" roundups from sources such as Inc. magazine, The New York Times and Amazon (AMZN), we narrowed down the ideal summer reading list to three top titles.

It there's no such thing as summer vacation for business owners, how about some business books such as Eric Ries' for the beach?

All share the same important criteria. The book must speak to the small-business experience: You should come away with practical solutions for making your company more efficient, profitable and/or financially sound. The book should feel fresh, offering a new take on old problems. And most crucially, it must be engagingly written -- able to keep a reader's attention even at the beach or by the pool.

1. The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, by Eric Ries (Crown Business, 2011)

This book, which appeared on numerous "Best of 2011" lists, adapts the concept of lean manufacturing to the process of starting a business. Using a combination of case studies and scientific methodology, it gives business owners specific metrics to gauge their progress and explains the importance of "pivoting" to refine and redefine the company's approach.

Marketing strategist Francine Hardaway of Stealthmode Partners in Phoenix says The Lean Startup was one of the best business books she has read this year (along with The Startup Owner's Manual, by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf). Hardaway, who founded the Arizona Entrepreneurship Conferences and has helped many start-ups get off the ground, agrees with the book's central message: "Spend as little money as possible to get to market in the shortest possible time, then let the market decide. Customers are more important than whatever the product is. The Lean Startup and The Startup Owner's Manual are somewhat controversial outside the tech community because they may not seem to apply on the surface, but I've been able to adapt them successfully to non-tech businesses with a little thought."

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