10 Great Business Books Successful People Want You To Read

January 25, 2018

Take a moment to imagine how the most successful business owners in the world spend their free time.

You’re probably picturing CEOs lounging on the decks of their yachts, playing unreleased movies in their private home cinemas, and attending luxury wine tastings on their European vineyards. However, one popular  habit of ultra-rich company owners and entrepreneurs is surprisingly easy for anyone to do and 100% free if you’ve got a library card…

Want to be a top leader in the business world? It’s time to hit the books.

While the average American only read around 12 books in 2017, the numbers for CEOs and industry leaders were much higher. In 2015, Bill Gates set a goal to finish 50 books a year (That’s almost one a week!) Financial magnate Warren Buffet credits his fortune and investment skills to his passion for books as well. Buffett even advised aspiring CEOs that they should aim to read 500 pages per day. Meanwhile, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban claims to spend three hours a day hitting the books,  always aiming to squeeze in a few extra pages during long flights or right before bed.

It makes sense that to master a field you first need to to gain as much knowledge as possible about your industry, and one of the simplest way for aspiring business titans to learn how to run a company is to dedicate a chunk of their day to reading all the best books about business leadership. From newspapers to autobiographies to inspirational fiction, reading engages your mind and offers new perspectives for how to look at the world the people living in it.

Check out our list of the best business books successful people read to discover what titles you should be investing in.

1) The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen

Recommended by: Michael Bloomberg, CEO and Founder of The Bloomberg Group

This 1997 bestseller by Harvard Business professor Clayton M. Christensen is based on the idea that top companies can do everything “right” and still end up failing. A “Wall Street Journal”, “Business Week” and “New York Times Business” bestseller, The Innovator’s Dilemma focuses on the influence of disruptive technology on standard business practices and teaches managers how to get ahead of current trends and put the majority their resources into directly addressing the customer’s needs. The Innovator’s Dilemma is a favorite among many of the world’s top business owners from Michael Bloomberg, Apple Founder Steve Jobs, to Andy Grove, the CEO of Intel.

Bloomberg says, “It’s absolutely brilliant. Christensen provides an insightful analysis of changing technology and its importance to a company’s future success. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in business or entrepreneurship.”

2) Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

best books about business leadership
Recommended by: Bill Gates, CEO and Founder of Microsoft.

When Bill Gates released a list of the top books he read in 2017, the billionaire Microsoft founder and renowned philanthropist, highly praised Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City- a true account of eight families struggling to deal with the  eviction crisis in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Desmond’s book, which won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction will give anyone hoping to change the world with their business a real sense of how the poor live and the ongoing challenges gripping the housing market.

Gates says, Evicted is primarily about people, not data.” “Evicted helped me understand one piece of that very complex question, and it made me want to learn more about the systemic problems that make housing unaffordable, as well as the various government programs designed to help.”

3) The Better Boss Blueprint  by Shani Magosky
best books about business leadership

Recommended by: Shani Magosky, Founder of The Better Boss Project

Drawing from her personal experiences in both the banking and entertainment industries, Shani Magosky founded The Better Boss Project in 2016  as a way to teach leaders in the workplace new strategies to engage employees and create a positive and proactive company culture. In The Better Boss Blueprint, employers get tips on becoming great leaders and taking control of their own personal and professional development to build a powerful, results-oriented company culture.

Magosky says, “Better bosses infuse humanity and actual conversation back into the workplace, and this book offers realistic ways to do that.”

 4) Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull
best books about business leadership

Recommended by:  Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook

From the co-founder of the Oscar-winning Pixar Animation studio, Creativity, Inc. tells the story of Pixar’s mission to create the first computer-animated film and its twenty year journey to becoming one of the most beloved and profitable movie studios of all time.Publishers describe the the work as “a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture.”

Zuckerberg says, “I love reading first-hand accounts about how people build great companies like Pixar and nurture innovation and creativity.”

5) Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values by Fred Kofman
best books about business leadership

Recommended by: Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook

The first step to creating a great business is coming up with a great idea. Conscious Business, dives into the connection between personal fulfillment and financial prosperity. Kofman provides techniques for business leaders to pursue their passions and transform the desire for success into real, tangible products.

Sandberg says, “Consciousness has a real and deep business impact. Learning how to work in full congruence with our values has inspired every person in my team to be a better professional—and a better human being.”

6) The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb
best books about business leadership

 Recommended by: Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon.com

It shouldn’t come as a shock that the man who brought the world the Kindle and is married to a novelist, is a huge bookworm. Amazon giant Jeff Bezos lists The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable as one of the key books that shaped his leadership style. A scholar, philosopher, and mathematician, Taleb’s book studies human behavior and our reactions when faced with unexpected and unusual circumstances. A major concept presented in The Black Swan which Bezos embraces in his own management style is the notion of  overcoming narrative fallacy- or our limited ability to see a sequence without immediately assigning them a logical explanation.

Bezos says, “ [This book] shows us how to complex realities into soothing but oversimplified stories.”

7) The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande
best books about business leadership

Recommended by: Jack Dorsey, Co-Founder and CEO of Twitter, Co-Founder and CEO of Square

The head of two giant tech companies, Twitter and Square, Jack Dorsey, is always searching for the best strategies to make the most of his time.
With Dorsey’s push for productivity it’s no surprise that Dorsey gifts every new staff member at Square a copy of Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto in their employee welcome packages. Drawing from his own high-stakes work experience as a surgeon, Gawande’s 2009 book teaches readers how to use lists and planners to avoid making careless mistakes. In April 2017, Doresy took to Twitter to praise the book as a “success metric for my work.”

Dorsey says,  “These books disappear from my desk. You should read it too.”

 8) In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules by Stacy Perman
best books about business leadership

Recommended by:  Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group

Deemed a “behind-the-counter look at the fast-food chain that breaks all the rules”, Stacy Perman’s In-N-Out Burger explores the history behind one of America’s most popular burger chains and shows how a small California family business cleverly rose through the ranks and gain a foodie cult following.
Sir Richard Branson praises the book for its inspirational tips to providing exceptional customer service and staying true to your original company vision while continuing to grow.

Branson says, “At last, the great American small business story gets told. It is a reassuring read in uncertain times, reminding business owners to listen to customers, do what you love, and have fun while you do it.”

 9) Do More Faster by David G. Cohen and Brad Feld
best books about business leadership

 Recommended by: Gillian Tans, CEO of Booking.com

Focused on helping young entrepreneurs rise to success, Do More Faster by David Cohen and Brad Feld follows the journey of ten Internet startups on the rise to success and proves how risk-taking and unconventional decision making can lead to a big payoff.

Tans says, “Looking back at the early days of Booking.com, I recognize a lot of things that feature in this the book — like ‘fail fast, learn quickly.”

10) Zero to One: Notes on Startups or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel
best books about business leadership

Recommended by: Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla

In our current innovation-driven society where new startups are popping up every day, Peter Thiel provides key advice for getting your business off the ground and standing out from the competition.

Musk says, “Peter Thiel has built multiple breakthrough companies, and Zero to One shows how.”

So, if you really want to learn how to get ahead in the business market to become a successful thought leader in your industry, set aside a little time each day to pick up a new book and start reading.




Linda Le Phan
Senior Content Marketing Manager at kununu.

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