Books have always been important to billionaire moguls like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk.
Over the years, the trio has sung the praises of several books that influenced the way they see the world, from their approach to technological innovation to how they manage their businesses.
Here are 15 books that Bezos, Gates, and Musk have given glowing reviews – and think everyone should read.
“The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro
“This is Kazuo Ishiguro’s profoundly compelling portrait of Stevens, the perfect butler, and of his fading, insular world in post-World War II England. Stevens, at the end of three decades of service at Darlington Hall, spending a day on a country drive, embarks as well on a journey through the past in an effort to reassure himself that he has served humanity by serving the ‘great gentleman,’ Lord Darlington. But lurking in his memory are doubts about the true nature of Lord Darlington’s ‘greatness,’ and much graver doubts about the nature of his own life.”
“Sam Walton: Made in America” by Sam Walton
“Meet a genuine American folk hero cut from the homespun cloth of America’s heartland: Sam Walton, who parlayed a single dime store in a hardscrabble cotton town into Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world. The undisputed merchant king of the late twentieth century, Sam never lost the common touch. Here, finally, inimitable words. Genuinely modest, but always sure if his ambitions and achievements. Sam shares his thinking in a candid, straight-from-the-shoulder style.”
“Memos from the Chairman” by Alan Greenberg
“Alan C. Greenberg, the former chairman of Bear, Stearns, and a celebrated philanthropist, was known throughout the financial world for his biting, quirky but invaluable and wise memos.
“Read by everyone from Warren Buffett to Jeff Bezos to Tom Peters (‘I love this book,’ the coauthor of In Search of Excellence said), Greenberg’s ‘Memos From the Chairman’ comprise a unique – and uniquely simple – management philosophy. Make decisions based on common sense. Avoid the herd mentality. Control expenses with unrelenting vigil. Run your business at the highest level of morality. Free your motivated, intelligent people from the chain of command. Always return phone calls promptly and courteously. Never believe your own body odor is perfume. And stay humble, humble, humble.”
“Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by Jim Collins
“Drawing upon a six-year research project at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Collins and Porras took eighteen truly exceptional and long-lasting companies – they have an average age of nearly one hundred years and have outperformed the general stock market by a factor of fifteen since 1926 – and studied each company in direct comparison to one of its top competitors. They examined the companies from their very beginnings to the present day – as start-ups, as midsize companies, and as large corporations. Throughout, the authors asked: ‘What makes the truly exceptional companies different from other companies?'”
“The Black Swan” by Nassim Taleb
“‘The Black Swan’ is a standalone book in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s landmark Incerto series, an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making in a world we don’t understand. The other books in the series are ‘Fooled by Randomness,’ ‘Antifragile,’ and ‘The Bed of Procrustes.'”
“The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” by Steven Pinker
“Believe it or not, today we may be living in the most peaceful moment in our species’ existence. In his gripping and controversial new work, New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker shows that despite the ceaseless news about war, crime, and terrorism, violence has actually been in decline over long stretches of history. Exploding myths about humankind’s inherent violence and the curse of modernity, this ambitious book continues Pinker’s exploration of the essence of human nature, mixing psychology and history to provide a remarkable picture of an increasingly enlightened world.”
“The Man Who Fed the World” by Leon Hesser
“Dr. Norman Borlaug, one of the world’s greatest heroes, is the most highly decorated individual of our time. He is credited with saving over a billion people from Starvation. Dr. Borlaug is only one of five people in history to win the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. In addition, Dr. Borlaug received the Padma Vibhushan, the highest civilian award the government of India can present to a non-citizen.”
“The Vital Question” by Nick Lane
“The Earth teems with life: in its oceans, forests, skies and cities. Yet there’s a black hole at the heart of biology. We do not know why complex life is the way it is, or, for that matter, how life first began. In ‘The Vital Question,’ award-winning author and biochemist Nick Lane radically reframes evolutionary history, putting forward a solution to conundrums that have puzzled generations of scientists.
“Both rigorous and enchanting, ‘The Vital Question’ provides a solution to life’s vital question: Why are we as we are, and indeed, why are we here at all?”
“How Asia Works” by Joe Studwell
“In the 1980s and 1990s many in the West came to believe in the myth of an East-Asian economic miracle, with countries seen as not just development prodigies but as a unified bloc, culturally and economically similar, and inexorably on the rise.
“In ‘How Asia Works,’ Joe Studwell distills extensive research into the economics of nine countries – Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, and China – into an accessible, readable narrative that debunks Western misconceptions, shows what really happened in Asia and why, and for once makes clear why some countries have boomed while others have languished.
“Impressive in scope, ‘How Asia Works’ is essential reading for anyone interested in a region that will shape the future of the world.”
“The Myth of the Strong Leader” by Archie Brown
“In this magisterial and wide-ranging survey of political leadership over the past hundred years, renowned Oxford politics professor Archie Brown challenges the widespread belief that strong leaders – meaning those who dominate their colleagues and the policy-making process – are the most successful and admirable.
“Overturning many of our assumptions about the twentieth century’s most important figures, Brown’s conclusions are both original and enlightening. ‘The Myth of the Strong Leader’ compels us to reassess the leaders who have shaped our world – and to reconsider how we should choose and evaluate those who will lead us into the future.”
“Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” by Walter Isaacson
“In this authoritative and engrossing full-scale biography, Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of ‘Einstein’ and ‘Steve Jobs,’ shows how the most fascinating of America’s founders helped define our national character.”
“Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future” by Peter Thiel
“The great secret of our time is that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. In ‘Zero to One,’ legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create those new things.
“‘Zero to One’ presents at once an optimistic view of the future of progress in America and a new way of thinking about innovation: It starts by learning to ask the questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places.”
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams
“Join Douglas Adams’s hapless hero Arthur Dent as he travels the galaxy with his intrepid pal Ford Prefect, getting into horrible messes and generally wreaking hilarious havoc. Dent is grabbed from Earth moments before a cosmic construction team obliterates the planet to build a freeway.
“You’ll never read funnier science fiction; Adams is a master of intelligent satire, barbed wit, and comedic dialogue. ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide’ is rich in comedic detail and thought-provoking situations and stands up to multiple reads. Required reading for science fiction fans, this book (and its follow-ups) is also sure to please fans of Monty Python, Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ series, and British sitcoms.”
“Our Final Invention” by James Barrat
“In as little as a decade, artificial intelligence could match and then surpass human intelligence. Corporations and government agencies around the world are pouring billions into achieving AI’s Holy Grail ― human-level intelligence. Once AI has attained it, scientists argue, it will have survival drives much like our own. We may be forced to compete with a rival more cunning, more powerful, and more alien than we can imagine.
“Through profiles of tech visionaries, industry watchdogs, and groundbreaking AI systems, James Barrat’s ‘Our Final Invention’ explores the perils of the heedless pursuit of advanced AI. Until now, human intelligence has had no rival. Can we coexist with beings whose intelligence dwarfs our own? And will they allow us to?”
The “Foundation” trilogy by Isaac Asimov
“Isaac Asimov’s seminal ‘Foundation’ trilogy – one of the cornerstones of modern speculative fiction … is the saga of the Galactic Empire, crumbling after twelve thousand years of rule.
“And it is the particular story of psychohistorian Hari Seldon, the only man who can see the horrors the future has in store – a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and violence that will last for thirty thousand years. Gathering a band of courageous men and women, Seldon leads them to a hidden location at the edge of the galaxy, where he hopes they can preserve human knowledge and wisdom through the age of darkness.
“In 1966, the ‘Foundation’ trilogy received a Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series, and it remains the only fiction series to have been so honored. More than fifty years after their original publication, the three ‘Foundation’ novels stand as classics of thrilling, provocative, and inspired world-building.”
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