Top CEOs Share Their Favorite Inspirational Reads

Business.com / Education / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

What does Tim Cook read after work? Which book inspires Mark Zuckerberg? Here are 15 great reads that big name entrepreneurs love.

Some of the world’s top CEOs are avid readers too, and surprisingly they don’t just read business books.

While some are fond of the classics, others like to read books about other CEOs. That might seem a bit strange, but you know what they say – it’s never too late to learn something new, even when that something comes from someone who’s just as savvy as you are.

Here are 15 favorite books of some of the world’s most acclaimed CEOs.

The Innovator's Dilemma

1. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen

Steve Jobs was a big fan of “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” In the book, the author talks about the way technology is slowly changing a company’s perspectives on success.

It is meant to inspire entrepreneurs, and it is based on a rather dramatic idea – that amazing businesses may fail because they do everything by the book and don’t take chances.

2. Built to Last by Jim Collins

Founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos enjoys reading “Built to Last.” This book written by Jim Collins was aimed at analyzing what makes an average company become successful, and why some companies will never manage to attain greatness; a must-read for starting entrepreneurs who don’t want their start-ups to remain average.

3. Competing Against Time by George Stalk

In today’s rushed world of business, time is money, innovation, quality, and productivity. “Competing Against Time” is one of Tim Cook’s favorites. The book revolves around 10 years of intense research, and it is centered on three main factors that define success in business: product development, distribution and sales.

From Worst to First

4. From Worst to First by Gordon Bethune

Founder and CEO of DOMO, Josh James, is a fan of the book “From Worst to First.” What do companies need to make it? How far they should go to attain greatness? Gordon Bethune reveals real stories in this book. Some of the stories are about his personal choices, and about the things he had to do in life to become successful.

5. Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan

Successful entrepreneur and CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, recommends other people in business to read “Tribal Leadership.” This book offers an incredibly insightful viewpoint on how people must connect in order to succeed. To make yourself noticed you have to interact and communicate if you want others to listen to want to have to say.

6. The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson

CEO of the famous Coca-Cola Company, Muhtar Kent, recommends “The Ascent of Money,” a book about the origins of money. If you’re the kind of entrepreneur who wants to know more about moving money around, as well as making it, this is a perfect read.

7. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

CEO of General Mills, Ken Powell, is into a different genre of books, the novel kind with great life lessons. “Freedom” is one of those books. The national bestseller talks about the importance of compromise in life, as well as about ways to overcome temptation, and ultimately have patience to win big.

8. The Pleasures of Finding Things Out by Richard P. Feynman

It looks like co-founder of Google, Larry Page, is more into science books. “The Pleasures of Finding Things Out” is a genuine work of art. It will put your beliefs to the test, and it will entice with a wealth of perspectives on life from a scientific point of view.

9. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Acclaimed entrepreneur Richard Branson appreciates Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom.” It is without a doubt an exceptional autobiography, filled with political opinions, conflicts, but also hope, and in the end triumph.

10. The Karamazov Brothers by Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky

A story about family rivalries, “The Karamazov Brothers” is a favorite book of AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. Filled with doubt and distrust, readers will learn a lot of things out Dostoevsky’s greatest novel. Could you let a brother take the fall for something you did?

11. “The Tender Bar”, by J. R. Moheringer

Howard Lutnik’s CEO, Cantor Fitzgerald, has recently mentioned that his favorite book is “The Tender Bar,” an incredible book with an uplifting story about a boy struggling to become a man. 

Power of Positive Thinking

12. The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

The unforgettable Donald Trump recommends “The Power of Positive Thinking.” He even claims it is one of his favorites. With over 5 million copies in print, this international bestseller will change completely your general perspective on life. What does it take for someone to live a happy, fulfilling life? You’ll have to read it to find out.

13. Napoleon by Vincent Cronin

Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle is an avid reader. His most recent favorite is “Napoleon,” by Vincent Cronin. The book is a captivating read about Napoleon’s life from a more personal perspective.

14. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

We didn’t expect Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to like “Ender’s Game.” But then again, it is a book about a super savvy kid who saves the planet. It doesn’t get any better than that!

15. The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

Square CEO Jack Dorsey is crazy about “The Checklist Manifesto.” The book is all about helping people deal with challenging situations with the help of checklists. He even gifts it to new employees as part of the welcome package.  

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