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10 books that famous CEOs loved reading


Reading is a great way to acquire new information, come up with creative ideas, and learn worthwhile tips that can improve your personal and professional life, so it’s no wonder some of the world’s biggest business leaders are avid readers.

If the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or successful startup can pick up a book while spearheading projects, building new businesses, and managing an entire team, there’s no excuse for any of us not to read.

Some powerhouses like the classics, others enjoy reading inspirational career books, and one notable businessman even has a penchant for spy novels. See the titles Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and more call their favorites:

Jeff Bezos: “The Remains of the Day”

 Business Insider previously reported that Amazon’s CEO learns more from fiction than non-fiction, and this novel about a butler in post-war England is one of his favorites.

Bill Gates: “The Catcher in the Rye”

The Microsoft co-founder has loved J.D. Salinger’s “classic tome since he was teenager. “I didn’t actually read ‘Catcher in the Rye’ until I was 13, and ever since then I’ve said that’s my favorite book,” he told the Academy of Achievement. “It’s very clever.”

Steve Jobs: “How Will You Measure Your Life?”

“How Will You Measure Your Life?” is a book that deeply influenced Steve Jobs, one of the world’s most respected entrepreneurs, so it’s well worth your time, too. It acknowledges that everyone measures success differently and encourages its readers to pursue their own paths to personal fulfillment.

Tim Cook: “Competing Against Time: How Time-Based Competition is Reshaping Global Markets”

Apple’s CEO reportedly hands out copies of “Competing Against Time” to his colleagues and new employees. Even if you don’t work at Apple, this book’s heavy emphasis on working efficiently can help you streamline your day-to-day and advance your career forward.  

Mark Zuckerberg: “Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day”

Facebook’s CEO highlighted 23 books in his recent “A Year of Books” reading list, which featured “Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day” by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, and Orlanda Ruthven.

Elon Musk: “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life”

Elon Musk is the brains behind big companies, like SpaceX and Tesla Motors, so it’s no surprise he likes reading about another successful multitasker, Benjamin Franklin. This book chronicles this Founding Father’s life as a writer, inventor, scientist, and diplomat, among other roles.

Indra Nooyi; “The Road to Character”

PepsiCo’s CEO called David Brooks’ “The Road to Character” one of the most influential books she read last year. “It sparked a wonderful discussion with my two daughters about why building inner character is just as important as building a career,” Nooyi told Fortune.

James Gorman: “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: A George Smiley Novel”

In addition to Daniel James Brown’s “Boys in the Boat,” Morgan Stanley’s CEO has an affinity for spy books like”Tinker Tailor Soldier.”

Melanie Whelan: “The Happiness Advantage”

A positive company culture is integral to any successful business. SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan was so moved by Shawn Achor’s “The Happiness Advantage” that she once said it’s a resource for her entire company.

Richard Branson: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”

On his company’s website, Richard Branson has a long list of recommended reading, which features everything from “Where the Wild Things Are,” to “The Hobbit,” to Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” — one of Bill Clinton’s favorite books, too.