IMAG3444 BooksI’ve had this conversation many times: “What are essential Starbucks books that every true fan or partner must read?

There have been several times that I’ve heard about store managers compiling a mini “store Starbucks books library” for their partners to share. I decided it was time to talk about the essential Starbucks library.

  • (2014) Leading the Starbucks Way: 5 Principles for Connecting with Your Customers, Your Products, and Your People. (Joseph Michelli) This is the second book released by Joseph Michelli about Starbucks’ business strategies. This time the book focuses on connections. Again, this book was written with the approval of the Starbucks headquarters and has lots of interesting tidbits and storytelling moments in it.
  • (2014) Tales of the Siren: A StarbucksMelody (Melody Overton) I’ve had partners tell me that it’s a feel good book that’s an “an extra shot of inspiration.” Tales of the Siren relates my true stories – relationships with other customers, partners, friendships, and coffee education. This book demonstrates real life examples of how Starbucks is unique from other Fortune 500 companies. You’ll laugh with me, tear up a bit here and there, and likely you’ll blush once or twice for me too. But when all is said and done, rather than reading a dry business book, you’ll quickly get through a fun, uplifting book that demonstrates how Starbucks is the “People business serving coffee.” (Strongly Recommended)
  • (2011) Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul (Howard Schultz) – I don’t think this book requires any introduction by me. It kind of reads as if Howard is talking to you. This book goes through the problem-solving mechanisms and transformation that Starbucks went through to deal with the downturn in the economy in 2008. I recall a couple of years ago one partner telling me her review of this book. She said it read like, “We found a problem. We fixed a problem. We found a problem. We fixed a problem. We found a problem. We fixed a problem. We found…” While I absolutely still strongly recommend Onward, that short description of it has always stuck with me! I still think Onward is a very good discussion on how a big company can make major changes but not disrupt its core business. You can weigh in on it for yourself!
  • (2007 / 2009) It’s Not About the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks. (Howard Behar) This book reiterates all the principles and examples that made Starbucks great. Starbucks built its brand name on its unique way of doing business. Howard Behar was a top Starbucks executive (former President of Starbucks, in a position akin to what is currently Cliff Burrows’ position) and he lays out the ideals that he sees for Starbucks.  (Strongly recommended)
  • (2008) How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else. (Michael Gates Gill) I’ve known a couple of partners who said they read this. I realize I shouldn’t knock it without reading it first, but the premise seems to be that a barista position is such a huge “step down.” Though I will keep an open mind, and this is on my reading list. Lots of people tell me this is an excellent book.
  • (2006) The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning the Ordinary into the Extraordinary (Joseph Michelli) – This is another business book, which looks at the principles that Starbucks built their great reputation on. The only way to hold on to that great reputation is to continue these great principles. This book too has some good storytelling punctuate the business principles. The Starbucks Experience was written in cooperation with the Starbucks headquarters, so there are lots of quotes from real partners (many of whom are no longer at the SSC) who weigh in on how important the human aspect of Starbucks. I recommend this little book! (Strongly recommended)
  • (2006) Tribal Knowledge: Business Wisdom Brewed From the Grounds of Starbucks Corporate Culture. (John Moore) This is very underrated and overlooked book. John Moore spent eight years in the Starbucks marketing department. With this book, he walks through plenty of very real examples that intrigue and amaze, as he analyzes what Starbucks does right in their business. He looks at everything from customer loyalty to their approach to marketing. This book captures the best of what made Starbucks great: He looks at the philosophies like ‘Connecting, Discovering, and Responding’ and so much more. I would consider this an essential. Written from the perspective of someone who is incredibly knowledgeable about the brand, this book teaches customer service, branding, marketing, and more. (Strongly recommended).
  • (1997/ 1999) Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time. (Howard Schultz) Starbucks has changed so much since this book was written! I feel like this now reads a bit like a Starbucks history lesson. I still think it’s a great book. Gives the reader incredible insight on where Starbucks came from. And you have to know where you came from to know where you’re going!
  • (1999) Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed Our World (Mark Pendergrast). This books is definitely not about Starbucks though I know many who consider it to be an essential look at how coffee became such a critical part of our daily lives.
  • (1989) The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community. (Ray Oldenburg). This is definitely not a book about Starbucks. It was written long before Starbucks was a huge corporation. I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t read this book because it’s been on my reading list for a long, long time.  However, sociologist Ray Oldenburg is credited with creating the expression and concept, “The Third Place,” and this book is mentioned in Pour Your Heart Into It. I’ve heard it said (and this is only rumor I’ve heard! I could be off!) that Howard Schultz himself was influenced by reading this book and adopted many ideas of a “Third Place” from a reading of this book. If you’re looking for a sociological analysis of what a “Third Place” really is, I suspect this would be your book.