Best Political Books - Understand the world we live in

There certainly isn’t a shortage of political books, especially as there is always so much to learn. With each new president, there are new challenges, new experiences, and new things to be discussed with the masses. Whether you’re looking for more information into a particular party or you want to read opinionated pieces on the current state of the union, there’s certainly a novel for everyone.

Politics can frequently be challenging to follow, especially if you don’t tune into the news every day. However, many find that there isn’t an excuse for not being up to date about the current state of their country, which is where these books come into play.

We recommend finding an assortment of the best political books that are partisan – both sides – and non-partisan. With this, you can differentiate between what is factual and what is based solely on opinion. With a more diversified understanding of how politics works and what it means to represent a particular party (or none at all), you can make more well-informed decisions.

As a voter, it is not only your right but also your responsibility to choose a representative that you believe will do the best for your nation. However, without knowing much about politics, it cannot be effortless. The vast knowledge brought to you by experts can open your mind and bring you into new realms that you never knew existed.

The variety of political books on the market will appease any reader’s appetite, as you can find factual accounts from past presidents, candid memoirs from people who served under the heads of state, and more.

We also recommend titles that talk about current and relevant issues, such as immigration, gender, and race, to get a clearer understanding of where the country stands. Not to mention, plenty of these books are filled with historical factoids to teach you more about the development of the nation and what has made it what it is today.

There is much more to the best political books than to be coffee table reads for guests. With these, you can become a better citizen with all of the information you are bound to take in on every page.

 

 

Best Political Books

 

All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class

Inside story of how Britain decided to exit the EU. Economic self-destruction or national liberation? Repercussions to play out for decades.
Marc Andreessen
Co-Founder/Andreessen Horowitz
The

The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age

This year’s fierce election battle prompted me to pick up this 2014 book, by an Oxford University scholar who has studied political leadership—good, bad, and ugly—for more than 50 years. Brown shows that the leaders who make the biggest contributions to history and humanity generally are not the ones we perceive to be “strong leaders.” Instead, they tend to be the ones who collaborate, delegate, and negotiate—and recognize that no one person can or should have all the answers. Brown could not have predicted how resonant his book would become in 2016.
Bill Gates
CEO/Microsoft
The

The Politicians and the Egalitarians: The Hidden History of American Politics

This stimulating book provides a major new interpretation of the alliance between egalitarian social movements and partisan politics to achieve some of the most notable liberal victories in the American past. Sean Wilentz has done more than anyone else to blend social and political history in a manner that offers powerful new insights.
James M. McPherson
Pulitzer Prize Winner & Author of Battle Cry of Freedom
Unequal

Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age

He may have the country’s finest experts at his fingertips, but it still doesn’t hurt to read up on environmental and economic issues.
Barack Obama
Former USA President

Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government (Princeton Studies in Political Behavior)

Democracy for Realists is an eye-opening and sober look at the data on democracy and what makes it effective/ineffective. Hint: people are stupid.
Mark Manson
Founder/MarkManson.net
Political

Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations

Read some wonderful and enlightening books this year.
Doug McMillon
CEO/Walmart

Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?

Is the future knowable, and by whom? All pundits and commentators should publish their prediction track records, yet don't. What to pay attention to and what to ignore.
Marc Andreessen
Co-Founder/Andreessen Horowitz

American Government 101: From the Continental Congress to the Iowa Caucus, Everything You Need to Know About US Politics

Question: What books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path?

Answer:

  • Anything by Peter Senge.
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
  • Once you are Lucky, Twice you are good – Sara Lacey
  • Revolutionary Wealth – Alvin Toffler
  • Black Swan – Taleb
  • Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change, by Ellen Pao.
  • Creative Class – Richard Florida
  • Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace
  • Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis
  • American Government 101: From the Continental Congress to the Iowa Caucus, Everything You Need to Know About US Politics – Kathleen Spears
  • The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
  • Any book by Herman Hesse
  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
Audrey Russo
President & CEO/Pittsburgh Technology Council
Political

Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy

In the last 10% of Political Order and Political Decay. It’s been about 50 hours of listening between that volume and the first, The Origins of Political Order. So quite the undertaking. But we’ve finally progressed all the way through the history of political order and arrived at Fukuyama’s diagnosis of modern day societies. It’s a truly epic journey, and one that’s uniquely timely to the current upheaval. “Things are so crazy now” is only something you’d say in the absence of a historical perspective. These books give you just that and then some.
David Heinemeier Hansson
Co-Founder/Basecamp
Chimpanzee

Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes

It completely changed my view of chimpanzees and Homo sapiens alike. Probably the most funny science book I have ever read. A must-read for politicians of all species!
Yuval Noah Harari
Historian
How

How Democracies Die

As 2018 draws to a close, I’m continuing a favorite tradition of mine and sharing my year-end lists. It gives me a moment to pause and reflect on the year through the books I found most thought-provoking, inspiring, or just plain loved. It also gives me a chance to highlight talented authors – some who are household names and others who you may not have heard of before. Here’s my best of 2018 list.
Barack Obama
Former USA President
Rules

Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything

For my current venture into volunteer organization, Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything by Becky Bond and Zack Exley is a more recent example of something that validated my business idea. Many of the strategy ideas I guessed at, namely decentralized and distributed organization techniques that form the basis of Zeall, emerged in this book by two of the top organizers of the 2016 Bernie Sanders Presidential Campaign.
Lucas Morales
Founder & CEO/Zeall.us
The

The Political Economy of Participatory Economics

Depending on your interest and goals, if you are like me and always looking for the trends in the big picture then I highly recommend being an active contrarian reader. Read what no one else is reading. Your goal is to think outside the box. To look at the world and ask “why hasn’t this been solved?” And that gives you a roadmap as to what opportunities may exist for your entrepreneurial efforts. So to that, here’s a snapshot, in no particular order, of what might help you push your intellectual boundaries:

  • Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
  • 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang
  • Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future by Paul Mason
  • Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty
  • Who Gets What--And Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design by Alvin E. Roth
  • The Political Economy of Participatory Economics by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel
  • The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism by Jeremy Rifkin
  • Why America Misunderstands the World by Paul R. Pillar
  • A Theory of Justice by John Rawls
  • Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
Lucas Morales
Founder & CEO/Zeall.us

The New Power Base Selling: Master The Politics, Create Unexpected Value and Higher Margins, and Outsmart the Competition

Power Base Selling has been the most pragmatic and effective guide in my professional services career. Jim and Ryan's new concept of Unexpected Value is fundamental to differentiating your product and defending your margins.

Patrick Nicolet
CEO/Infrastructure Services

A Nation of Wusses: How America’s Leaders Lost the Guts to Make Us Great

One of the shorter, fun books I read this summer is A Nation of Wusses: How America’s Leaders Lost the Guts to Make Us Great. It’s by Ed Rendell, who was district attorney, mayor of Philadelphia and then two-term governor of Pennsylvania. If you’ve heard him speak or seen him on TV, you know he’s a colorful and outspoken observer of political life in the U.S. No surprise, then, that this book is colorful too,with lots of great stories. His theme is that leaders shouldn’t just tell people what they want to hear. But because politics has become so intensely partisan, too often our political leaders seem to be afraid to tell us the truth and to actually lead us in making the hard choices we need to face up to, on issues like education reform and the federal deficit. As a mayor and governor, Rendell faced up to some very messed-up budget situations and made some smart trade-offs. I thought his point of view was really refreshing. He makes a good point about how politics has changed in ways that make it harder for leaders to emerge and to truly lead.
Bill Gates
CEO/Microsoft

Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling

On the bus/in the plane with the Hillary campaign. Revealing in many dimensions at once, and highly entertaining. Best book on the 2016 campaign so far?
Marc Andreessen
Co-Founder/Andreessen Horowitz
The

The Fight to Vote

Through this book, Michael Waldman delivers a message every American needs to hear. The struggle for the right to vote is not over. It is still being waged even today. We must use it or we can lose it.
John Lewis
Author
Why

Why Liberalism Failed

As 2018 draws to a close, I’m continuing a favorite tradition of mine and sharing my year-end lists. It gives me a moment to pause and reflect on the year through the books I found most thought-provoking, inspiring, or just plain loved. It also gives me a chance to highlight talented authors – some who are household names and others who you may not have heard of before. Here’s my best of 2018 list.
Barack Obama
Former USA President
Capital:

Capital: Volume 1: A Critique of Political Economy

Max Weber Protestant Ethic, and Karl Marx's Capital had a huge impact on me. If you read Marx with a critical critique you can see that he's laid out a fantastic framework on how capitalism works, I do disagree with his core premise (capitalism being bad) so I took it as a great way to understand how I could operate inside of a capitalist economy. Weber on the other hand shows you exactly how to get ahead in the world and was critical to me understanding how we reward value creators in western society.
Liam Martin
Co-founder & CMO/Time Doctor & Staff.com

Dreyfus: Politics, Emotion, and the Scandal of the Century

A few of my favorite bios for the new book. #whatimreading
Robert Greene
Author
Manufacturing

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

Few technical books and a bit of everything. The following books are currently sitting on my bedside table: The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Predictable Revenue, Manufacturing Consent, Agile Application Security. Oauth In Action, Serious Cryptography.
Louis Nyffenegger
Founder/PentesterLab
Master

Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson III

My favorite bio I've read for my upcoming book.
Robert Greene
Author
Team

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

I loved Goodwin’s Team of Rivals and highly recommend this one too.
Bill Gates
CEO/Microsoft

Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate — The Essential Guide for Progressives

These two books are the two best books of political thinking and theater from both the left and the right. Regardless of ideologies, both are experts in influencing and leading public perception through image and words. It actually matters whether we’re talking about illegal immigrants or undocumented workers, or whether we describe the problem as climate change or global warming. Strategists need to understand the power of language and framing–it doesn’t matter how right you are, if you lose this battle it can be impossible to rally people to your cause. Read both these books.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
The

The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium

All over the world, elite institutions from governments to media to academia are losing their authority and monopoly control of information to dynamic amateurs and the broader public. This book, until now only in samizdat (and Kindle) form, has been my #1 handout for the last several years to anyone seeking to understand this unfolding shift in power from hierarchies to networks in the age of the Internet.
Marc Andreessen
Co-Founder/Andreessen Horowitz
Perilous

Perilous Interventions: The Security Council and the Politics of Chaos

This is an outstanding book on the side effects of interventionism, written in extremely elegant prose and with maximal clarity. It documents how people find arguments couched in moralistic terms to intervene in complex systems they don't understand.

These interventions trigger endless chains of unintended consequences --consequences for the victims, but none for the interventionistas, allowing them to repeat the mistake again and again. Puri, as an insider, outlines the principles and legal mechanisms, then runs through the events of the past few years since the Iraq invasion; each one of his chapters are models of concision, presenting the story of Ukraine, Syria, Lybia, and Yemen, among others, as standalone briefings to the uninitiated. It was high time that somebody in international affairs has approached the problem of iatrogenics, i.e. harm done by the healer.

This book should be mandatory reading to every student and practitioner of foreign affairs.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Flaneur
The

The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines

Very few people have sounded more important alarms about our climate future, and very few people have paid a higher price for doing so. Michael Mann is a hero, and this book is a remarkable account of the science and politics of the defining issue of our time.
Bill McKibben
Founder/350.org
The

The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic

My list would be (besides the ones I mentioned in answer to the previous question) both business & Fiction/Sci-Fi and ones I personally found helpful to myself. The business books explain just exactly how business, work & investing are in reality & how to think properly & differentiate yourself. On the non-business side, a mix of History & classic fiction to understand people, philosophy to make sense of life and Science fiction to picture what the future could be like (not always utopian).

Marvin Liao
Partner/500 Startups
Moral

Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics

I love him. He’s one of my favorite philosophers.
Barack Obama
Former USA President
On

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

Please read this book. So smart, so timely.
George Saunders
Author
Prisoners

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World

Depending on your interest and goals, if you are like me and always looking for the trends in the big picture then I highly recommend being an active contrarian reader. Read what no one else is reading. Your goal is to think outside the box. To look at the world and ask “why hasn’t this been solved?” And that gives you a roadmap as to what opportunities may exist for your entrepreneurial efforts. So to that, here’s a snapshot, in no particular order, of what might help you push your intellectual boundaries:

  • Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
  • 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang
  • Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future by Paul Mason
  • Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty
  • Who Gets What--And Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design by Alvin E. Roth
  • The Political Economy of Participatory Economics by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel
  • The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism by Jeremy Rifkin
  • Why America Misunderstands the World by Paul R. Pillar
  • A Theory of Justice by John Rawls
  • Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
Lucas Morales
Founder & CEO/Zeall.us

Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol. 1: 1884-1933

The prospects Eleanor Roosevelt faced when she entered the White House were not good. First Ladies hadn’t done anything in decades besides party planning and a few of her predecessors had had nervous breakdowns. She wanted to do something different. This is a book about her political and social acumen–her ability to turn a meaningless position into a powerful platform for change and influence. I read this book and came away so impressed. We can learn a lot.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check

Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter

This one’s going to be controversial. Adams, the creator of Dilbert, was one of the first commentators to come out and predict that Trump would win the 2016 presidential election. How’d he do that? By viewing the world through his Persuasion Filter. This reframing of how humans interact, the world works, and why Trump won was fascinating. It’s already starting to influence the way that I write. Check it out.
Aaron Watson
CEO/PiperCreative
The

The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

With Russia fever at Defcon 2, I’ve made it about half-ways through the biography The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin. It’s a great refresher on post-WWII history, the cold war, KGB, but above all, on the forces present in Russia.

There are many lines to draw between Russia’s struggles after the fall of Communism with the fundamental political theories of Fukuyama (Origins of Political Order / Political Order And Political Decay). When taken together, they lend an all the more human and sympathetic story to why things played out the way they did. While still appreciating just how immense the level of brokenness, corruption, and brutality that journey has brought with it.

David Heinemeier Hansson
Co-Founder/Basecamp
The

The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age

The Joy of Not Working (Zelinkski), Flash Foresight (Burrus), The Art of Worldly Wisdom (Gracian), Sapiens (Yuval), The End of Jobs (Pearson), Deep Work (Newport), Sovereign Individual (Davidson), The Fourth Economy (Davison) & The Monk & the Riddle (Komisar). Every single one of these books completely changed how I looked at everything in the world & literally pushed my life in a new direction. They were Paradigm Shifting as they say. (hate that word but it really was a Paradigm Shift for me).
Marvin Liao
Partner/500 Startups

The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America

A brilliant and disturbing analysis, which should be read by anyone wishing to understand the political crisis currently engulfing the world.
Yuval Noah Harari
Historian

The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die

As 2018 draws to a close, I’m continuing a favorite tradition of mine and sharing my year-end lists. It gives me a moment to pause and reflect on the year through the books I found most thought-provoking, inspiring, or just plain loved. It also gives me a chance to highlight talented authors – some who are household names and others who you may not have heard of before. Here’s my best of 2018 list.
Barack Obama
Former USA President

The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy

For centuries, powerful forces of greed have tried to hide the truth, but that doesn't change reality--the earth is round and climate change is very real. The Madhouse Effect brilliantly dissects the climate denial industry, empowering all of us to see the facts and take action before it's too late.
Leonardo DiCaprio
Oscar Winning Actor
The

The Fifth Risk

Saturation reporting, conceptual thinking of a high order, a rich sense of humor, and talent to burn.
Tom Wolfe
Author
In

In an Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington

As Secretary of the Treasury, Bob Rubin ranked with the best. This drama-packed account of his years on the job should be read by all who are interested in what happens when politics and economics intersect.
Warren Buffett
CEO/Berkshire-Hathaway

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – but Some Don’t

Anyone interested in politics may be attracted to Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—but Some Don't. Silver is the New York Times columnist who got a lot of attention last fall for predicting—accurately, as it turned out–the results of the U.S. presidential election. This book actually came out before the election, though, and it’s about predictions in many domains besides politics. Silver knows a lot about baseball, and I especially liked his explanation of hold’em poker. A few pages – where he talks about how early computers supposedly made everything less efficient—are utter nonsense. I wish he had gone into more depth on some things, like why it is that voters are increasingly polarized. I liked the book, though I wish he’d gone deeper on a number of topics.
Bill Gates
CEO/Microsoft

Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations

I’m shocked this book was released. It shares unbelievable stories about Israel secret intelligence and perseverance.
Noah Kagan
Founder/Sumo
Collapse:

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

I found this to be an interesting follow-up to the excellent Guns, Germs, and Steel. It examines the downfall of some of history's greatest civilizations.
Bill Gates
Founder/Microsoft
Storms

Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity

When the history of the climate crisis is written, Hansen will be seen as the scientist with the most powerful and consistent voice calling for intelligent action to preserve our planet's environment.
Al Gore
Founder/Alliance for Climate Protection

Ronald Reagan: The American Presidents Series: The 40th President, 1981-1989

When consulting firm McKinsey and Co. asked a group of CEOs in July what was on their reading list this summer, the two titles on Dimon’s to-read list were The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America, by American Enterprise Institute president Arthur C. Brooks and Ronald Reagan, by Slate Group chairman Jacob Weisberg.
Jamie Dimon
CEO/JPMorgan Chase
The

The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea

Looking forward to reading Paul Ryan's The Way Forward. Ryan the most influential Republican in Congress. Will report.
Rupert Murdoch
CEO/News Corporation
The

The Internet of Money

It's difficult to pinpoint an exact moment because all of the books helped me in a way. Probably a recent example was the book The Internet of Money by Andreas M. Antonopoulos. He is talking about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. After reading this book I was, damn that's the future and I need to start investing in this technology. Didn't stop ever since.

Ionut Danifeld
Co-Founder/DevMark.co

Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice

This reads like a thriller, but is an urgent and important story about the dangers of Putin’s Russia and the events leading to the Magnitsky Act.
Eric Ries
Founder/Long-Term Stock Exchange
Frederick

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

As 2018 draws to a close, I’m continuing a favorite tradition of mine and sharing my year-end lists. It gives me a moment to pause and reflect on the year through the books I found most thought-provoking, inspiring, or just plain loved. It also gives me a chance to highlight talented authors – some who are household names and others who you may not have heard of before. Here’s my best of 2018 list.
Barack Obama
Former USA President

The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Vol. IV

I read my first Robert Caro book, The Power Broker, almost ten years ago. Reading this one--his most recent--on the ascension of Lyndon Johnson reminded me just how much I LOVE really long books (I even ended up writing an article about them). As always, Robert Caro is a master of his craft. Despite being some 768 pages, this book flies by and you learn something about history, about human nature, about power on almost every page. I'll be moving on to one of his other Lyndon Johnson books next.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
Being

Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution

A plethora of insights about nature and ourselves, revealed by one man's journey as he comes to terms with human exploitation of our planet.
James Hansen
Former Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Free

Free to Choose: A Personal Statement

The other book that I have given hundreds of copies to is Free to Choose by Milton Friedman. It kind of lays out why the private sector is really the answer to a lot of problems that we have and not government. I think it’s a real great philosophic kind of a book about how to approach our problems, if it is education, if it is economic growth, all of those various kinds of different issues. He lays it out. It’s a very simple book to read, but it is very good and it makes an impact on your when you read it.
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Actor, Politician & Businessman
McMafia:

McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld

Fun though older book.
Vinod Khosla
Co-Founder/Sun Microsystem
Firefighting:

Firefighting: The Financial Crisis and Its Lessons

I'm glad I didn't have to do the job that these three ‘fire chiefs’ did. I learned much from this book I had not previously known. Its cautions for the future should be required reading for all policy makers.
Warren Buffett
Investor, CEO/Berkshire Hathaway
Being

Being Nixon: A Man Divided

I was a little surprised to learn what a bad manager Nixon was. Although it doesn’t compare to his other failings, Nixon’s management style offers some good reminders of how not to run a team. He avoided conflict at all costs. His staff frequently left meetings with diametrically opposed views on what he had just asked them to do. Or he would be crystal-clear about what he wanted, while actually expecting his staff to ignore his demands. His team wisely blew off his repeated orders to break into the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, and steal a document that might be damaging to him.
Bill Gates
CEO/Microsoft

The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age

Who are the Indian nouveau riche and what do they want? James Crabtree’s The Billionaire Raj will prove the defining work on these questions. It is a must-read for anyone interested in wealth, inequality, India, or the evolution of capitalism.
Tyler Cowen
Author, Economics Professor, Host/Marginal Revolution blog
The

The Golden Notebook

When asked what books he recommended to his 18-year-old daughter Malia, Obama gave the Times a list that included The Naked and the Dead and One Hundred Years of Solitude. “I think some of them were sort of the usual suspects […] I think she hadn’t read yet. Then there were some books that are not on everybody’s reading list these days, but I remembered as being interesting.” Here’s what he included:

  • The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
  • The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
  • The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
Barack Obama
Former USA President
Asian

Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia

I love history and am very curious how South East Asia economies are dominated by only fifty families whose interests range from banking to real estate, shipping to sugar, gambling to lumber etc. It is so amazing to know how all these groups of entrepreneurs overcome both political and economic challenges by turning it into opportunity, grow their business and becoming who they are today.
Erik Cheong
Co-Founder/Park N Parcel

The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope

The Oval office can be a lonely place, so reading about your forefather’s experience could only help. “The biographies have been useful, because I do think that there’s a tendency, understandable, to think that whatever’s going on right now is uniquely disastrous or amazing or difficult,” said President Obama in an interview.
Barack Obama
Former USA President
Bobby

Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon

I have two books going right now: One is the Bobby Kennedy book [“Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon,” by Larry Tye] that just came out. The other is quite an old book. It’s a Gandhi book [“Mohandas K. Gandhi, Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth”] that I got interested in because we went to the Gandhi museum when we were in India recently. I tend to like nonfiction and particularly reading about people and how they lived and how they fought, and what motivated them and their philosophy and so forth.
Tim Cook
CEO/Apple
Tools

Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age

A clear, compelling guide to some of the most pressing debates in technology today.
Bill Gates
Founder/Microsoft
Climate

Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats

Gwynne Dyer is one of the few who are both courageous enough to tell the unvarnished truth, and have the background to understand, not misrepresent the inputs. This book does a superb job of detailing the merging realities of climate/energy. These realities are not pretty.
Dennis Bushnell
Chief Scientist/NASA Langley
This

This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality

The truth was supposed to set us free. But Peter Pomerantsev's brilliant This Is Not Propaganda shows how the very idea of truth has been weaponized by dictators and other enemies of liberty. These techniques, first used against us in Russia, have spread around the globe like a toxic cloud. Taking us from the Philippines to Ukraine to MAGA-land, Pomerantsev is an unparalleled tour guide of our post-truth world-and what we all must learn to survive in it.
Garry Kasparov
Chess Grandmaster
The

The Future of Capitalism: Facing the New Anxieties

Collier’s latest book is a thought-provoking look at a topic that’s top of mind for a lot of people right now. Although I don’t agree with him about everything—I think his analysis of the problem is better than his proposed solutions—his background as a development economist gives him a smart perspective on where capitalism is headed.
Bill Gates
Founder/Microsoft
Zucked:

Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe

While likely uncomfortable for a lot of people, it was excellent, provocative, and challenging all at the same time.
Brad Feld
Investor, Co-Founder/Foundry Group
Priced

Priced Out: The Economic and Ethical Costs of American Health Care

Uwe Reinhardt was the moral conscience of our health care system, reminding us with evidence, clarity, and stand-up act humor how it is failing. He was joined in this enterprise by another great health care expert, his wife Mei Cheng. Every health care group craved Reinhardt as their keynote speaker and felt more virtuous after he berated them about the many ways in which they were failing. But he did not want adulation; he wanted things to change. By reading this powerful book and making something in the health system better, we can all honor his legacy.
Drew Altman
President & CEO/Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
Overconfidence

Overconfidence and War: The Havoc and Glory of Positive Illusions

Johnson uses studies from military affairs to explore the various psychological and political sources of overconfidence. These lessons are important, of course, not just for world-changing cases of global conflict, but also for day-to-day decision making in business and personal affairs. Our tendency to overestimate our capabilities and to believe that we can control the future — what the author thinks of as “an integral part of the human psyche” — can be our downfall. In geopolitics, self-deception can lead to war; in business, it can lead to strategic blunders or worse. It’s important to test what we know, uncover what we don’t know, understand where we are prone to bias, and calibrate our goals and risk-taking.
Martin Reeves
Director/ BCG Henderson Institute
Thomas

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

My favorite non-business book is Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham because I am a history nut, and I am fascinated by Thomas Jefferson.
Ken Coleman
Host/The Ken Coleman Show
The

The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis–and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance

I read this book (note: The Gift of Failure) not long after reading Senator Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult and found it to be a great companion. We forget that homework doesn’t matter, grades don’t matter—only what the process they represent matters. Children are not a reflection of their parents, they depend on their parents to raise them into adults who can be reflections of who they uniquely are.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
The

The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World

One of the best 3 books I've read in 2019
The CEO Library Community (through anonymous form)
Reader

America the Vulnerable: Inside the New Threat Matrix of Digital Espionage, Crime, and Warfare

Must-read for digital and national security policymakers and practitioners. America the Vulnerable (ATV) is one of the best big picture books I've read in a long while. The author is a former NSA senior counsel and inspector general, and was the National Counterintelligence Executive (NCIX). In these roles he could watch the fireworks (not his phrase, but one popular in the intel community) while the nation suffered massive data exfiltration to overseas adversaries. ATV explains the problem in terms suitable for those familiar with security issues and those learning about these challenges. By writing ATV, Joel Brenner accurately and succinctly frames the problems facing the US and the West in cyberspace.
Richard Bejtlich
Strategist/TaoSecurity

Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic

Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic accounts how a few tiny studies on low rates of opium addiction for hospital patients lead to a whole new paradigm for treating pain in the US. From mid 90s to late 2000s, opium pain pills were basically considered non-addictive by much of the medical community. This led to crazy over-prescription, subsequent addiction, and a whole new market for heroin once someone was hooked and couldn’t afford the pills. This heroin market was served in large parts by on-demand delivery services driven by small-town Mexican heroin cells. It’s really an interesting tale of medical hubris, corporate greed, the devastation of whole areas to addiction, and more. It could have used a lot more editing, though. So many phrases, “black-tar heroin delivered like pizza”, just keep repeating over and over again. But it’s a solid recount of how we got to this tragic point that opium overdoses is now a leading cause of death for many demographic groups in the US. More people die from drug overdoses than from car crashes now. Tragic.
David Heinemeier Hansson
Co-Founder/Basecamp
Stress

Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises

Buffett says that the former secretary of the U.S. Treasury's book about the financial crisis is a must-read for any manager.
Warren Buffett
CEO/Berkshire Hathaway
Ending

Ending The War On Drugs

[...] it brings together such a smart group of experts to explain why global drug policy reform is so important. Attitudes towards treating drugs as a health issue, not a criminal problem, are changing fast. Anyone who reads this book will understand why.
Richard Branson
Founder/Virgin Group

The Tigress of Forli: Renaissance Italy’s Most Courageous and Notorious Countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de’ Medici

A few of my favorite bios for the new book. #whatimreading
Robert Greene
Author

The Fifth Domain: Defending Our Country, Our Companies, and Ourselves in the Age of Cyber Threats

In the battle raging between offense and defense in cyberspace, Clarke and Knake have some important ideas about how we can avoid cyberwar for our country, prevent cybercrime against our companies, and in doing so, reduce resentment, division, and instability at home and abroad.
Bill Clinton
Former USA President

The End of Alchemy: Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy

Mervyn King asks, ‘Why has almost every industrialized country found it difficult to overcome the stagnation that followed the financial crisis in 2007–2008, and why did money and banking, the alchemists of a market economy, turn into its Achilles heel?’ He addresses these questions, and much more. For those endeavoring to understand the greatest financial crisis of our time and the future of finance, this highly provocative book is a must-read.
Alan Greenspan
Former Chairman/Federal Reserve of the United States

Living within Limits: Ecology, Economics, and Population Taboos

It is a summary of the major things Hardin has learned in a lifetime. He is a real thinker. That is a fabulous book [...] I advise you to read it twice (which I did)... because it is the condensed wisdom of a very smart man.
Charlie Munger
Vice Chairman/Berkshire Hathaway
The

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

CEO Jamie Dimon recommends this book (along with The Intelligent Investor) in his suggestion to JP Morgan summer interns.
Jamie Dimon
CEO/JPMorgan Chase
On

On the Genealogy of Morality

Of course, I read Nietzsche. On the Genealogy of Morality, etc, where the truths and the truisms are really cut and dried in a lot of ways. It's the equivalent of, I guess, intellectual red meat.
Bryan Callen
Co-Host/The Fighter and the Kid
Coming

Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook

I'm a huge fan of personal stories and biographies like this one.
Catalina Penciu
Food Styling and Photography Blogger
An

An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back

Through vivid, heart wrenching stories and trenchant analysis, Libby Rosenthal unveils the irrationality, indifference, harmfulness, and downright unfairness of the American health care system that can often seem more driven by profit than caring and compassion. She also offers tremendously helpful advice to patients on how to navigate the system to ensure they get the best outcomes.
Ezekiel J. Emanuel
Author
Deep

Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Allegiances as a KGB Spy in America

Sometimes it does happen that for whatever reason an English book only comes out on paper, and I had an interesting experience recently with Jack Barskyʼs book about his years as a KGB spy in the US (Jack Barsky - Deep Undercover: My Secret Life & Tangled Allegiance As a KGB Spy in America). I really wanted to give the book as a present to my dad, which normally would involve buying it on Kindle and dispatching to his e-mail address, but then it turned out itʼs only available in print! And so I had it delivered to the place I always stay at in San Francisco (for free, thanks Amazon Prime!), and then found myself inadvertently with a big bulky object for the next two weeks, until I saw my dad again in Europe. Which of course allowed me to read the book myself, but also presented me with inconveniences I had already forgotten about.
Max Gurvits
Director/Cross Border Angels

American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment

Sometimes the only way to get the full story is to put yourself into it as an ‘immersion journalist.’ Shane Bauer wanted to know more about for-profit prisons so he got a job in one as a correction officer, or guard, and reports his experiences grippingly while weaving in the social and economic factors that give rise to these horrors. His book reveals much that that we didn’t want to know about but, having learned about, can never forget.
Barbara Ehrenreich
Author
Design

Design for Good: A New Era of Architecture for Everyone

Here are some of my favorite reads from 2017. Lots of friends and colleagues send me book suggestions and it's impossible to squeeze them all in. I continue to be super curious about how digital and tech are enabling people to transform our lives but I try to read a good mix of books that apply to a variety of areas and stretch my thinking more broadly.
Doug McMillon
CEO/Walmart

The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money

Folks frequently ask “What are the books that changed your life?” If I tell them, they are usually radically disappointed. I find that curious. I just cleared out of an office, and these are books that mattered enough to me to bring home. So here they are.
Eric Weinstein
Managing Director/Thiel Capital
The

The Great Convergence

In this look at how telepresence and telerobotics will increasingly let people cross international borders from the comfort of their own homes, Nadella sees analogies to Microsoft’s HoloLens headset, especially as the technology matures and its cost comes down.
Satya Nadella
CEO/Microsoft

The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor

The fact that top-down development methods are great on paper but have not produced benefits (so far) is a point Easterly has made before, heavily influencing yours truly in the formation his own argument against naive interventionism and the collection of humanitarians fulfilling their personal growth and shielding themselves from their conscience... This is more powerful: the West has been putting development ahead of moral issues, patronizingly setting aside the right of the people to decide their own fate, including whether they want these improvements, hence compounding failure and turning much of development into an agenda that benefits the careers (and angst) of humanitarians, imperial policies, and, not least, local autocrats *without* any moral contribution. Talking about a sucker problem.

***

To put it in an aphorism, they didn't ask the people if they would rather get respect and no aid rather than aid and no respect.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Flaneur
Dune

Dune

All you need to know about leadership is contained in Dune.
Tim Ferriss
Author & Entrepreneur

Eleanor Roosevelt : Volume 2 , The Defining Years, 1933-1938

The prospects Eleanor Roosevelt faced when she entered the White House were not good. First Ladies hadn’t done anything in decades besides party planning and a few of her predecessors had had nervous breakdowns. She wanted to do something different. This is a book about her political and social acumen–her ability to turn a meaningless position into a powerful platform for change and influence. I read this book and came away so impressed. We can learn a lot.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check

The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks

In this hyper networked world remade fresh every day, with new perils and new opportunities, there is one book to be sure to read: Joshua Ramo's new book, a masterpiece, The Seventh Sense. To understand the tsunami of the networked age, you need history, biography, tech, philosophy, politics--and you want a book that has a depth beyond whatever else you could be streaming, podcasting, or wiki-ing. This is that book.
Reid Hoffman
Founder/LinkedIn
The

The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia

This book outlines the reasons why many efforts to jumpstart third-world economies fail. It's not just peasants, though. Many of your prospects feel precisely the same way.
Seth Godin
Author & Entrepreneur
The

The Soros Lectures: At the Central European University

I promote range and diversity. Thus, I recommend readers to expose themselves to as many different topics as possible. I usually have 2-4 books I refer back to at any given time. They range in topics from management, art, spirituality and philosophy. Trying to get the engineering thing going but don't much of a mind for science.
Henry Medine
Co-Founder/Space Jam Data
On

On War

I know this will offend many strategy purists, but for most audiences I recommend these two books only with a pretty strong disclaimer. While both are clearly full of strategic wisdom, they are hard to separate from their respective eras and brands of warfare. As budding strategists in business and in life, most of us are really looking for advice that can help us with our own problems. The reality is that Napoleonic warfare does not exactly have its equivalents in today’s society. On the other hand, Sun-Tzu is so aphoristic that it’s hard to say what is concrete advice and what is just common sense. But the books are so convincing that you might still end up leaving thinking that they can be easily applied. So, again, check these books out if you’re really interested, but I think some of the other books are much better places to start.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
The

The Magus

First, a word on career paths. In time, I realised that career paths are like one-way streets. Magic happens in unexplored territories. Plus life is how you choose to live every moment, every day. So today, rather than building a career, I prefer to make lateral moves in life, working with great people and being part of ambitious projects impacting the world. There are a few books that got me here: [...] John Fowles The Magus.
Cristina Riesen
Founder/We Are Play Lab
Nonzero:

Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny

One of the very few books I think about all the time is Robert Wright’s Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny.

Nonzero is an intriguing lens through which to view current events (which is why it’s often in my thoughts). As Chopra notes, cooperation isn’t always the norm…Trumpist Republicans and Brexit proponents are both veering towards the zero sum end of the spectrum and I don’t think it will work out well for either country in the long run.

Jason Kottke
Blogger & Designer
Alexander

Alexander Hamilton

Winston Ma
Managing Director/China Investment Corporation
The

The Senility of Vladimir P.: A Novel

The Senility of Vladimir P.: A Novel by Michael Honig [is] really funny. Takes your mind off the business world, it puts you in a different reality, sort of like Soviet Russia, Communist Russia. I’m from there, so makes sense.
Dmitry Dragilev
Founder/JustReachOut & PR That Converts
In

In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History

As 2018 draws to a close, I’m continuing a favorite tradition of mine and sharing my year-end lists. It gives me a moment to pause and reflect on the year through the books I found most thought-provoking, inspiring, or just plain loved. It also gives me a chance to highlight talented authors – some who are household names and others who you may not have heard of before. Here’s my best of 2018 list.
Barack Obama
Former USA President
Lincoln

Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambitious Young Railsplitter Saved the American Dream—And How We Can Do It Again

Great time to be reading Rich Lowry's fascinating new Lincoln Unbound. Surely our greatest, most interesting president.
Rupert Murdoch
CEO/News Corporation
The

The Age of Migration: International Population Movements in the Modern World

The Age of Migration has been the main textbook for migration studies since it first appeared in 1993; I have relied on it both as a resource for my own research and a text for my upper-division undergraduate and graduate courses on the politics of immigration. The fifth edition continues the excellent coverage of migration theories and history, the politics of immigration, and issues such as race and ethnicity, while bringing in new material on topics like the impact of climate change. The authors are to be commended for addressing critical issues in a time of global change.

Terri E. Givens
PhD/Department of Government,University of Texas at Austin
Eichmann

Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil

I was introduced to the book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt via Ian Shapiro’s Yale Open Courseware course The Moral Foundations of Political Science. This dramatically changed my outlook on the usual career path for graduates from my university that predominantly went into the defence industry. I am now perhaps overly conscious (maybe to a fault) that whatever I do purposefully aims to be a positive to society.
Lucas Morales
Founder & CEO/Zeall.us
Makers

Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business

She’s talking about how business schools teach students, the best and brightest business students in America and the world, they teach them to manipulate the stock market, not to grow businesses. That’s why I dropped out of business school. They’re teaching kids to be financial engineers, which creates derivatives, and all these toxic things. Student loan debt and all this. But they don’t teach them how to grow a business. Today our stock market is propped up because CEOs are using debt to prop up the stock price and sell their options and exit. It screws the investors and the workers. That’s what they’re teaching at business school today.
Robert Kiyosaki
Best-selling Author
Rules

Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals

This is the 48 Laws of Power written in more of an idealist, activist tone. Alinsky was the liaison for many civil rights, union and student causes in the late 50’s and 60’s. He teaches how to implement your radical agenda without using radical tactics, how to disarm with words and media as opposed to arms and Utopian rhetoric.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check

Should We Eat Meat? Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory

I can’t think of anyone better equipped to present a clear-eyed analysis of this subject than Vaclav Smil. I have written several times before about how much I admire Smil’s work. When he tackles a subject, he doesn’t look at just one piece of it. He examines every angle. Even if I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, I always learn a lot from reading him.
Bill Gates
CEO/Microsoft
Amusing

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Earlier this year Postman’s son Andrew wrote an op-ed with the title, “My dad predicted Trump in 1985 — it’s not Orwell, he warned, it’s Brave New World.” Postman wrote: “What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.”
Austin Kleon
Writer, artist

Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers

A few months ago, I was drinking a Noah’s Mill whiskey (cute) with my good buddy Brian Balfour and talking about life... During the conversation, we got on the topic of books that changed our lives. I want to share them with you. I judge a book's success if a year later I'm still using at least 1 thing from the book.
Noah Kagan
Founder/Sumo
Hillbilly

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

In terms of other surprising memoirs, I found JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy to be another well-written gem.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
Models

Models of My Life

An autobiography of Nobel laureate Herbert A. Simon, a remarkable polymath who more people should know about. In an age of increasing specialization, he’s a rare generalist — applying what he learned as a scientist to other aspects of his life. Crossing disciplines, he was at the intersection of “information sciences.” He won the Nobel for his theory of “bounded rationality,” and is perhaps best known for his insightful quote “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”
Charlie Munger
Vice Chairman/Berkshire Hathaway
When

When the Body Says No: The cost of hidden stress

Once thought to be in the domain of genes, our health and behavior have recently been revealed to be controlled by our perception of the environment and our beliefs. Gabor Mate, M.D., skillfully blends recent advances in biomedicine with the personal insights of his patients to provide empowering insight into how deeply developmental experiences shape our health, behavior, attitudes, and relationships. A must-read for health professionals and lay readers seeking awareness of how the mind controls health.
Bruce Lipton
PhD, Cellular Biologist, Author

Rational Ritual: Culture, Coordination, and Common Knowledge

The book is about the concept of common knowledge and how people process the world not only based on what we personally know, but what we know other people know and our shared knowledge as well.

This is an important idea for designing social media, as we often face tradeoffs between creating personalized experiences for each individual and crafting universal experiences for everyone. I'm looking forward to exploring this further.

Mark Zuckerberg
CEO/Facebook
Age

Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion

If you understand principles, you can create tactics. If you are dependent on perishable tactics, you are always at a disadvantage. This is why Ramit studies behavioral psychology and the elements of persuasion that appear hardwired. One of his most gifted books is Age of Propaganda by Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson, and his favorite copywriting book is an oldie: The Robert Collier Letter Book, originally published in 1931.
Ramit Sethi
Founder/GrowthLab
The

The Ego and His Own: The Case of the Individual Against Authority

The ego and his own by Max Stirner, because there is a bit of an anarchist in every entrepreneur.
Stephane Grand
Managing Partner/S.J. Grand Financial and Tax Advisory
Dying

Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero

In terms of big biographies, Ron Chernow’s biography of Washington, Eric Romm’s biography of Seneca Dying Every Day (LOVED THIS) and Edmund Morris’ final biography of Theodore Roosevelt, Col. Roosevelt were all worth every page.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
Being

Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error

I have lots of books to recommend, but they are not related to my career path. The only one that is remotely related is Peter Thiel’s Zero to One. That said here are books I would recommend.
Fabrice Grinda
Serial Entrepreneur, Investor
Tai-Pan

Tai-Pan

This novel is the second book in a great saga detailing the intense competition between two shipping magnates and their battle over the gateway to China: the very lucrative island of Hong Kong. Set in the tumultuous period during which the British had seized Hong Kong before it was known as England’s crown jewel, it is an exciting and fun ride detailing Hong Kong as a melting pot of political and economic interests with no shortage of intrigue. It’s a must read for sure.
Alan Pierce
CEO/Ansuz Balder Magni Investments
The

The European Identity: Historical and Cultural Realities We Cannot Deny

Barton's interest in this book is clear, given the recent political turmoil in the European Union (EU), which threatens trade and global integration. Identifying the commonalities in culture and heritage among Europeans, Green argues that Europe's peoples should see each other as countrymen rather than rivals; yet citizens of the different countries still cling to their national identities, and across the continent, there are growing nationalist movements (as suggested by Brexit) which rejects involvement with the European Union and seeks to reestablish borders and protectionist trade policies.
Dominic Barton
CEO/McKinsey
Patriotic

Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War

I also read discussions of a bunch of Southern/Civil War writers in Patriotic Gore by Edmund Wilson and The Legacy of the Civil War by Robert Penn Warren, which helped me understand and contextualize what I’d already read from the people listed above.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
The

The Good Earth

Reading Pearl Buck's writing feels like reading poetry to me. I just love the quiet rhythm of the words. They evoke the simple beauty of the characters and the harsh mystery of China's ancient culture.
Oprah Winfrey
CEO/Oprah Winfrey Network

The New Digital Age: Transforming Nations, Businesses, and Our Lives

This is the most important—and fascinating—book yet written about how the digital age will affect our world. With vivid examples and brilliant analysis, it shows how the internet and other communications technologies will empower individuals and transform the way nations and businesses operate. How will different societies make tradeoffs involving privacy, freedom, control, security, and the relationship between the physical and virtual worlds? This realistic but deeply optimistic book provides the guideposts. It’s both profoundly wise and wondrously readable.
Walter Isaacson
Author
No

No Logo

I thought I might put my money where my mouth is. I keep whining that young people are not in touch with some essential books on advertising that have helped me shape the way I practise my trade today, but I never did anything about it. So I am starting here the ultimate books to read list. I will add to it as I get suggestions and as more good books get written.
Bogdana Butnar
Head of Strategy/Poke
The

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York

It took me 15 days to read all 1,165 pages of this monstrosity that chronicles the rise of Robert Moses. I was 20 years old. It was one of the most magnificent books I’ve ever read. Moses built just about every other major modern construction project in New York City. The public couldn’t stop him, the mayor couldn’t stop him, the governor couldn’t stop him, and only once could the President of the United States stop him. But ultimately, you know where the cliché must take us. Robert Moses was an asshole. He may have had more brain, more drive, more strategy than other men, but he did not have more compassion. And ultimately power turned him into something monstrous.

Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
The

The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge

A fascinating read about when bridges were still in beta.

Michael Lopp
VP of Engineering/Slack
1421:

1421: The Year China Discovered America

This is another book that trains us to keep an open mind. It offers a theory of how the Chinese discovered America 70 years before Columbus. The practice of being open to new ways of seeing things makes a leader open to the ideas of others — an essential characteristic of great leadership.
Simon Sinek
Best-selling Author
How

How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds

I read this book twice: first, when Alan asked for a blurb, and second, when I offered to interview him at Bookpeople upon its publication. It’s a brisk, 150-page plea for sanity. Alan is a rare writer: one who not only genuinely loves to write books, but also genuinely loves teaching.
Austin Kleon
Writer, artist
The

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

My next book for A Year of Books is The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley.

Two of the books I've read this year -- The Better Angels of Our Nature: and Why Nations Fail -- have explored how social and economic progress work together to make the world better. The Better Angels argues for that the two feed off each other, whereas Why Nations Fail argues that social and political progress ultimately controls the economic progress a society makes. This next book argues the opposite -- that economic progress is the greater force is pushing society forward. I'm interested to see which idea resonates more after exploring both frameworks.

This is also the second one of Ridley's books I've read this year. Here's a photo from a few weeks back of me reading his book Genome with my dog Beast.

Mark Zuckerberg
CEO/Facebook
Here

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations

Ruimin cites Shirky's book as another example of contemporary thought leadership influencing Haier's direction. In the book, Shirky offers examples of companies which have thrived in the absence of traditional organizational structures. The ideas have clearly influenced Ruimin. He tells strategy business: We used to have a pyramid-style structure for our sales in China. The people in charge of sales had to manage business at the national, provincial, and city levels. After the arrival of the internet age, we realized that under this triangular hierarchical structure, people had a difficult time adapting to the requirements of the times. So we reorganized ourselves as an entrepreneurial platform. We flattened everything out, taking out all the middle management. We decentralized the structure to one with more than 2,800 counties. Each county organization has seven people or fewer.
Zhang Ruimin
CEO/Haier Group

How Change Happens

It's often said that the only constancy in life is change. Cass Sunstein weaves threads from diverse traditions in behavioral science to explain how big shifts get started.
Angela Duckworth
Author
The

The Lorax

Truthfully, I have 3 young kids so don’t get much time to read other than to my kids at bedtime. So you’ll understand when I say my favourite books are Children's books by Dr Seuss, they’re a joy to read and cover a range of social and political issues with an elegance and simplicity that exceeds many adult books. The anti materialism/ consumerism ‘Grinch Who Stole Christmas’ and ‘The Lorax’ about environmentalism are favourites in our house.
Gary Bury
Co-Founder/Timetastic

The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World

Another great book I read recently was The Quest, by Daniel Yergin. For anyone interested in the dynamics shaping our energy future and all of the innovation around energy, it’s a fantastic book. In addition to my review of his book, I’ve also posted a response from the author to the follow-up questions I had about the important topics covered in his book.
Bill Gates
CEO/Microsoft

Seneca: Tragedies II: Oedipus, Agamemnon, Thyestes, Hercules on Oeta, Octavia

I'd never read any of Seneca's plays before, which was a big gaping hole in my knowledge. During his lifetime, Seneca was actually more famous for his tragedies than he was for his philosophy (there is a line from one of his plays entombed as graffiti at Pompeii). Anyway, I was enthralled by these dark, disturbing but ultimately stoic plays. My favorite line comes from Hercules: I do not ask you to show the path; just to give permission, father, I shall find the way. And related to that, my friend Tim Ferriss has released an amazing audiobook edition of Seneca's Letters. You must check them out.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
Getting

Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding

I know from personal experience that stepping into the public square to announce that foreign aid is important and effective can be lonely work. Charles Kenny’s elegant book on the impact of aid carefully documents how the quality of life—even in the world’s poorest countries—has improved dramatically over the past several decades. With reams of solid data to support his case, he argues that governments and aid agencies have played an important role in this progress.
Bill Gates
CEO/Microsoft

The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

Leonard Mlodinow's The Drunkarkd's Walk -more precisely, the section on the Monty Hall problem- totally changed how I look-at/think-about probabilities and choices in general; this has impacted almost every real-life choice I've made since I read this book.
Gabriel Coarna
Founder/Readable
Tribes:

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

I thought I might put my money where my mouth is. I keep whining that young people are not in touch with some essential books on advertising that have helped me shape the way I practise my trade today, but I never did anything about it. So I am starting here the ultimate books to read list. I will add to it as I get suggestions and as more good books get written.
Bogdana Butnar
Head of Strategy/Poke
Benjamin

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

I didn't read actually very many general business books, but I like biographies and autobiographies, I think those are pretty helpful. Actually, a lot of them aren't really business. [...] Isaacson's biography on Franklin is really good. Cause he was an entrepreneur and he sort of started from nothing, actually he was just like a run away kid, basically, and created his printing business and sort of his way of doing that, and then over time all of the science and politics. I'd say certain he's one of the few people I most admire. Franklin's pretty awesome.
Elon Musk
Founder/SpaceX
Edison:

Edison: A Biography

Older biographies are better in my experience. This one is 50+ years old and that’s right in the sweet spot. It didn’t have to be trendy, it didn’t have to psychoanalyze, it didn’t have to be political correct or controversial. It just had to be a sweeping, conclusive picture of the man. Modern enough to be historically accurate, old enough to still have respect for ambition. No question, this is a big book but I learned a lot. For instance, I had no idea that Edison had been mostly deaf (and that that deafness fueled and improved many of his sound inventions). I didn’t know about his friendship with Henry Ford or what a shrewd businessman Edison was. If you like big biographies, read this.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

My next book for A Year of Books is Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoğlu and James A. Robinson. This book explores the different kinds of social institutions and incentives that nations have applied to encourage prosperity, economic development and elimination of poverty. This is a good complement to our last book, Portfolios of the Poor, which focused on how people live in poverty. This one discusses why poverty exists and how to reduce it.
Mark Zuckerberg
CEO/Facebook
Intelligent

Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way Between West and East

Enjoying reading Nicolas Berggruen's Intelligent Governance for the 21 st Century. Heavy going, but sweeping views, if too optimistic.
Rupert Murdoch
CEO/News Corporation
The

The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader

The Hidden-Hand which I read around the same time is equally a masterclass in leadership. It will give you not just a new appreciation of Eisenhower, but teach you how real leaders get things done: it’s not through talking, it’s not through looking tough, it’s through organization, delegation and through behind the scenes influence.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Truthfully, I have 3 young kids so don’t get much time to read other than to my kids at bedtime. So you’ll understand when I say my favourite books are Children's books by Dr Seuss, they’re a joy to read and cover a range of social and political issues with an elegance and simplicity that exceeds many adult books. The anti materialism/ consumerism ‘Grinch Who Stole Christmas’ and ‘The Lorax’ about environmentalism are favourites in our house.
Gary Bury
Co-Founder/Timetastic
Imprudent

Imprudent King: A New Life of Philip II

A few of my favorite bios for the new book. #whatimreading
Robert Greene
Author
Thick:

Thick: And Other Essays

To say this collection is transgressive, provocative, and brilliant is simply to tell you the truth. Thick is a necessary work and a reminder that Tressie McMillan Cottom is one of the finest public intellectuals writing today.
Roxane Gay
Author
Bowling

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community

The problem is that modern society requires community engagement to function well. When everyone is just off doing their own thing, a lot of institutions and social necessities begin to fall apart. My own takeaway from this, having studied human happiness for years, is that people rely on a sense of community and shared effort to maintain healthy and stable lives. The fact that people are opting out of these opportunities for community and local impact, in a ceaseless obsession of online media and global fame, likely explains a lot of the social changes going on today. And a lot of the drops in mental health, as well.
Mark Manson
Founder/MarkManson.net
Society

Society Of The Spectacle

The most dramatic change was definitely when I read Guy Debord's The Society of Spectacle in high school. That book made me go study communicology and media, instead of everything else I wanted to study back then. It really cemented my university application.
Sanja Zepan
Co-Founder/Homey

Thank You for Arguing: What Cicero, Shakespeare and the Simpsons Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion

The attendees in the altMBA program actually influenced me the most in my book purchases: Robin Flaherty persuaded me to buy Thank You For Arguing.
Angela Pham
Content Strategist/Facebook

Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens

I've just started Eddie Izzard's Believe Me. This is one of those books I'm reading just-because, so I'm not *expecting* to gain anything from it. I only expect things from books I read because I'm studying/researching a particular subject. The reason why I'm reading this book is because I'm very, very fond of Eddie Izzard the comic and Eddie Izzard the actor. Hopefully, this book is a glimpse into Eddie Izzard the human.
Gabriel Coarna
Founder/Readable
Long

Long Walk to Freedom

Today is World Book Day, a wonderful opportunity to address this #ChallengeRichard sent in by Mike Gonzalez of New Jersey: Make a list of your top 65 books to read in a lifetime.
Richard Branson
Founder/Virgin Group
Parting

Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63

According to the president’s Facebook page and a 2008 interview with the New York Times, these titles are among his most influential forever favorites:

  • Moby Dick, Herman Melville
  • Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Song Of Solomon, Toni Morrison
  • Parting The Waters, Taylor Branch
  • Gilead, Marylinne Robinson
  • Best and the Brightest, David Halberstam
  • The Federalist, Alexander Hamilton
  • Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois
  • The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene
  • The Quiet American, Graham Greene
  • Cancer Ward, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  • Gandhi’s autobiography
  • Working, Studs Terkel
  • Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith
  • Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith
  • All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
Barack Obama
Former USA President
Thinking,

Thinking, Fast and Slow

This book is amazing—it didn't change my mind, so much as it has changed the way I think. It helps to understand the difference between the way you make quick decisions, versus considered decisions—it takes different mechanisms in the brain. Understanding which you're doing at any given time can have a profound impact on what you ultimately decide.

John Lilly
Partner/Greylock Partners

Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China

A standout for me this year was Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, by Evan Osnos. Osnos spent eight years in China as a foreign correspondent, and his book helped me gain insight into today's China through stories of people, some well-known and others ordinary.
Dr. Sue Desmond-Hellmann
CEO/Gates Foundation
The

The Post-American World: Release 2.0

Fact or fiction, the president knows that reading keeps the mind sharp. He also delved into these non-fiction reads:
  • Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Evan Osnos
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
  • Moral Man And Immoral Society, Reinhold Niebuhr
  • A Kind And Just Parent, William Ayers
  • The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria
  • Lessons in Disaster, Gordon Goldstein
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari
  • The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
  • Andy Grove: The Life and Times of an American, Richard S Tedlow
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, Katherine Boo
Barack Obama
Former USA President
The

The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism

Until three years ago, we knew the tea party as a long-ago event in Boston Harbor, aimed at a government across the Atlantic. In 2010, a new tea party stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific and was aimed directly at Washington. That event changed the Republican Party, the United States Congress, and the Obama presidency. This book delves deeply into what happened in 2010, why it happened, and what the Tea Party means for the future of American politics. It's a book every student of American politics should read.
Mickey Edwards
Author of The Modern Conservative Movement
Lincoln's

Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness

I loved learning about Lincoln, especially in Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
The

The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History

There’s one book that I’ve given that it was just Christmas, that I’ve given away a lot of copies. This is a book about Winston Churchill by Boris Johnson. A very talented guy.

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Actor, Politician & Businessman
The

The Making of the Atomic Bomb

My favorite book is The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. It's a book that covers a vast range of topics over a fifty year period. It talks about the scientific advances that led to the bomb, the personalities that made those advances, and at the same time covers the political choices and escalation of violence over the course of the first half of the 20th Century that paint the use of the atomic bomb on Japan as an almost inevitable conclusion of that escalation. The prose is as incredible as the story. It's really a treat to rea

Bill Earner
Founder/Connect Ventures

How to Be Free: An Ancient Guide to the Stoic Life (Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers)

I really enjoyed the new series of translations that Princeton University Press has done of Cicero and Epictetus and Seneca. They are worth reading for sure.
Ryan Holiday
Media Strategist, Author, Founder/Brass Check
Letters

Letters Written by Lord Chesterfield to His Son

These two books of letters are great—I wish my father had written me stuff this good. [...] Chesterfield wrote his letters to his illegitimate son, tutoring him on how to learn, how to think, how to act, how to deal with important people. I don’t agree with all his advice but most of it is great.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
From

From Third World to First: Singapore and the Asian Economic Boom

It’s incredible how he almost single-handedly took a third world country and built it into a first-world country in one generation.
Will Shu
Founder/Deliveroo

The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914

Historian David McCullough wrote one of the most factually accurate and detailed books about the construction of the Panama Canal. Why would such a book interest a leader? Because it shows how a great thing was achieved, and what it took to take the project from the paper and make it a reality.

Great things are never simple and easy to achieve. It takes creativity. Mistakes happen and losses are sustained. You have to rethink your strategy. You need a B, C or even a D plan. You do whatever it takes to make it happen. This is a valuable lesson for any leader and entrepreneur.

Holger Arians
CEO/Dominet Digital Corporation
The

The Living Gita: The Complete Bhagavad Gita – A Commentary for Modern Readers

Morgan Spurlock mentioned this title as the most-gifted or recommended book on page 223 of Tools of Titans.
Morgan Spurlock
Founder/Clectaverse

The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965

After the Caro series, I started William Manchester’s equally epic three volume set on Winston Churchill (Visions of Glory, Alone, Defender of the Realm) which Robert Greene gave me as a wedding present last year. Like all truly great long reads, you learn not just about the subject but every intersecting one: the history of British peerage, the Victorian era, the British Empire, Colonialism, modern warfare, international relations, evil, the nature of genius, the effects of absent parents. The book is masterfully written about a masterful man—Churchill was a soldier, a writer, a politician, a statesman, a strategist and a true great man of history. Each book in the series is equally distinct and interesting. The first is Churchill as a young, ambitious man. The second is his time in the political wilderness, when his ego has driven him from power and into writing and thinking. The third is his time back on the world’s stage, in what was perhaps the finest hour of any empire in any era. The last book is probably the best. It features the famous bulldog version of Churchill: rescuing the troops at Dunkirk, persevering through the Blitz, vowing to fight on the landing grounds and the beaches and in the streets, whatever the cost may be. The sheer determination of this man, to take an entire country on your back and defy a horde which had overrun the European continent in a matter of months…it’s almost breathtaking to think about.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
The

The New Geography of Jobs

As 2018 draws to a close, I’m continuing a favorite tradition of mine and sharing my year-end lists. It gives me a moment to pause and reflect on the year through the books I found most thought-provoking, inspiring, or just plain loved. It also gives me a chance to highlight talented authors – some who are household names and others who you may not have heard of before. Here’s my best of 2018 list.
Barack Obama
Former USA President
The

The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century

A more centric version of Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe (or the other way around).

Bobby Voicu
Founder/the CEO Library
Devils

Devils

I’m currently reading The Devils by Dostoevsky, and I expect to glean absolutely nothing from it but the pleasure of disconnecting from any other literature that requires me to learn a skill for the company. The overburdening characters and plethora of words for something that could otherwise be said in an instant is a type of therapeutic brain massage in an environment where saying as little as possible with maximum effect is the plow that tills the soil in startup atmosphere.
Ari Iaccarino
Co-Founder/Ridj-it
Bitcoin

Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies: A Comprehensive Introduction

Right now I am reading: and
Antonio Eram
Founder & CEO/NETOPIA mobilPay
Epic

Epic Measures: One Doctor. Seven Billion Patients

It’s a highly readable account for anyone who wants to know more about Chris [Murray’s] work and why it matters. As Smith says, it is ‘the story of a huge independent effort, years in preparation, to do nothing less than chart everything that threatens the health of everyone on Earth, and make that information publicly available to doctors, health officials, political leaders, and private citizens everywhere.
Bill Gates
CEO/Microsoft
The

The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads

I tend to jump from book to book and may switch if I am interested in some new topic. This is a pleasure for me (which I also do benefit work wise from too). It’s quite a random list because I have eclectic interests (or just scatterbrained most likely) on tech business, AI, general global economy, geopolitics, rising Biotech economy & history. I'm basically 15% to 50% into all these books.
Marvin Liao
Partner/500 Startups

Augustus: The Life of Rome’s First Emperor

A few of my favorite bios for the new book. #whatimreading
Robert Greene
Author
Lessons

Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam

Fact or fiction, the president knows that reading keeps the mind sharp. He also delved into these non-fiction reads:

  • Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Evan Osnos
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
  • Moral Man And Immoral Society, Reinhold Niebuhr
  • A Kind And Just Parent, William Ayers
  • The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria
  • Lessons in Disaster, Gordon Goldstein
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari
  • The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
  • Andy Grove: The Life and Times of an American, Richard S Tedlow
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, Katherine Boo
Barack Obama
Former USA President
Bend,

Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds

If you know someone who thinks they're a victim of their circumstances, inspire them with this book.
Simon Sinek
Best-selling Author
Strategy

Strategy

These are two very short books but will help you understand the topics more than thousands of pages on the same topic by countless other writers. In my view, Hart is unquestionably the best writer on military strategy and history. Better than von Clausewitz, that’s for sure (who for all the talk is basically useless unless you are planning on fighting Napoleon). His theories on the indirect approach is life changing, whether you’re struggling with a business or just office politics. I can’t say much more than read these books. It’s a must.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
Things

Things Fall Apart

As 2018 draws to a close, I’m continuing a favorite tradition of mine and sharing my year-end lists. It gives me a moment to pause and reflect on the year through the books I found most thought-provoking, inspiring, or just plain loved. It also gives me a chance to highlight talented authors – some who are household names and others who you may not have heard of before. Here’s my best of 2018 list.
Barack Obama
Former USA President
The

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

I don't know a lot about climate change, but I'm interested in learning more in this big gnarly topic. Wallace-Wells offers a potential portrait of what could happen, using science to show us how our lives will almost inevitably change. He also explores possibilities for what living in this new world could do to politics, our economy, our health, etc. While outcomes are impossible to know with any precision, the path seems clear.
Shane Parrish
Founder/Farnam Street Blog
Nonviolent

Nonviolent Communication

Upon becoming CEO, Nadella confronted Microsoft’s legendarily combative culture by urging his new reports to read this book, which preaches the power of empathy, self-awareness, and authenticity in collaboration in the workplace, at home, and beyond. Like many of his favorites, it was first recommended to him by his wife, Anu: “I’m heavily influenced by the books she reads more than the books I read
Satya Nadella
CEO/Microsoft
A

A Theory of Justice

Depending on your interest and goals, if you are like me and always looking for the trends in the big picture then I highly recommend being an active contrarian reader. Read what no one else is reading. Your goal is to think outside the box. To look at the world and ask “why hasn’t this been solved?” And that gives you a roadmap as to what opportunities may exist for your entrepreneurial efforts. So to that, here’s a snapshot, in no particular order, of what might help you push your intellectual boundaries:

  • Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
  • 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang
  • Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future by Paul Mason
  • Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty
  • Who Gets What--And Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design by Alvin E. Roth
  • The Political Economy of Participatory Economics by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel
  • The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism by Jeremy Rifkin
  • Why America Misunderstands the World by Paul R. Pillar
  • A Theory of Justice by John Rawls
  • Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
Lucas Morales
Founder & CEO/Zeall.us

Reputation Rules: Strategies for Building Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset

Diermeier, a professor from the Kellogg School of Management, examines and explores how a company can “face humiliation and possibly even ruin within seconds of a negative tweet or blog post.” As a crisis communications veteran, I am fascinated by his analysis and tactics on reputation.
Ronn Torossian
CEO, Founder/5W PR
Skin

Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life

Changed my view of how the world works.
Daniel Kahneman
2002 Nobel Laureate/Economy
The

The Prince

Of course, this is a must read. Machiavelli is one of those figures and writers who is tragically overrated and underrated at the same time. Unfortunately that means that many people who read him miss the point and other people avoid him and miss out altogether. Take Machiavelli slow, and really read him. Also understand the man behind the book–not just as a masterful writer but a man who withstood heinous torture and exile with barely a whimper.

Machiavelli is a glimpse into a time when power was literal and out for public viewing–when he talks about making an example of someone, he doesn’t mean calling them out, he means putting their head on a pike. Don’t let that scare you because we’re not as far from that world as we’d like to think. Deny that at your own peril.

Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
Explaining

Explaining Social Behavior: More Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences

I read this book twice. The first time, I thought that it was excellent, the best compendium of ideas of social science by arguably the best thinker in the field. I took copious notes, etc. I agreed with its patchwork-style approach to rational decision making. I knew that it had huge insights applicable to my refusal of general theories [they don't work], rather limit ourselves to nuts and bolts [they work].

Then I started reading it again, as the book tends to locate itself by my bedside and sneaks itself in my suitcase when I go on a trip. It is as if the book wanted me to read it. It is what literature does to you when it is at its best. So I realized why: it had another layer of depth --and the author distilled ideas from the works of Proust, La Rochefoucault, Tocqueville, Montaigne, people with the kind of insights that extend beyond the ideas, and that makes you feel that a reductionist academic treatment of the subject will necessary distort it [& somehow Elster managed to combine Montaigne and Kahneman-Tversky]. So as an anti-Platonist I finally found a rigorous treatment of human nature that is not Platonistic --not academic (in the bad sense of the word).

Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Flaneur

Celebrating Failure: The Power of Taking Risks, Making Mistakes and Thinking Big

Celebrating Failure (can't recall the author) because as a speaker/trainer & business person, failure is almost certain. You will make mistakes when you push & try. What makes the difference is being able to celebrate your mistakes, learn from them and come back stronger than before.
Shaen Yeo
Founder/Positive Education
Montaigne

Montaigne

If you’ve been struggling with the onslaught of negative news and political turmoil, start with Montaigne. Why? It’s the biography of man who retreated from the chaos of 16th century France to study himself, written by a man fleeing the chaos of 20th century Europe. [...] This book helped me get through 2017, no question.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
Call

Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead

Combining simplicity and thoughtfulness, Jim Mattis has produced a classic account of a lifetime of service. Call Sign Chaos is a lesson in leadership and an evocation of humanity in the cause of peace.
Henry Kissinger
Political Scientist, Diplomat
The

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt and the Golden Age of Journalism

I’m especially interested in the central question that Doris Kearns Goodwin raises in The Bully Pulpit. How does social change happen? Can it be driven by a single inspirational leader, or do other factors have to lay the groundwork first? Sometimes a single leader can make a big difference: In the field of global health, Jim Grant almost single-handedly created a global constituency for children, sparking a movement to double vaccination rates and save millions of lives. But Roosevelt’s case was different. Although he tried to push through a number of political reforms earlier in his career, he wasn’t really successful until journalists at McClure’s and other publications had rallied public support for change.
Bill Gates
CEO/Microsoft
The

The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World

If you read to maintain motivation and be entertained, I recommend a few books that in addition to telling great stories, also contain lessons and learnings. You won’t gain many step-by-step type lessons from these books but you will come away realizing that not all startups, regardless of what stage they are in, are as well polished as they make you think. You will realize that they make mistakes and struggle through the same things you struggle through when first starting out. I find this helps motivate me.
Craig Pearce
Co-Founder/Kid Genius
Just

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Today is World Book Day, a wonderful opportunity to address this #ChallengeRichard sent in by Mike Gonzalez of New Jersey: Make a list of your top 65 books to read in a lifetime.
Richard Branson
Founder/Virgin Group
Eisenhower

Eisenhower in War and Peace

I also strongly recommend Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith–I did not fully appreciate what a strategic and political genius Eisenhower was until this book.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
Kochland:

Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America

With deep reporting and narrative flair, Leonard has rendered a revealing portrait of the Koch family as ruthless businessmen and savvy political operatives who quietly built an empire and defined the face of American capitalism and its hold on Washington over the last fifty years.
William Cohan
Author of House of Cards
Churchill:

Churchill: A Life

Churchill, A Life by Martin Gilbert is the most impactful book I've read this year. I generally enjoy reading biographies, as they're a great way to understand history in a more personal viewpoint, while also getting a glimpse of how influential figures overcame adversities and pursued their ambitions.

Churchill's life stood out to me for a couple reasons. When you think about the personal decisions made before, during, and after World War II, it's really amazing to realize how much one person's vision and leadership influenced the outcome of world affairs during the 1900s. During his long public career of 50+ years, it is admirable to see how he navigated politics and overcame setbacks to reach the pinnacle of his career as a war time prime minister.

Overall, it was very humbling to learn about Churchill's work ethic. As a political leader as well as an author, he is a true example of a public servant who envisioned a better (and more peaceful) world order and worked hard throughout his career to carry out that vision while also securing his legacy in history.

Gunhee Park
Co-Founder/Populum
The

The Infinite Game

In my view, this is Simon Sinek’s biggest idea yet. If you think success is about winning and losing, you’ve already lost. It works in sports because you're playing a finite game, but business is an infinite one. He argues that the companies that last aren't the ones that play to win. They're the ones that play to keep playing.

Adam Grant
Author

The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism

Rifkin poses that the plummeting costs of doing business, brought on by dramatic increases in productivity and the Internet, are driving us toward a hybrid economy of capitalist market and collaborative commons--a place where shareable value is as important as exchange value.

Michael Dell
CEO/Dell

The Influentials: One American in Ten Tells the Other Nine How to Vote, Where to Eat, and What to Buy

This book exhaustively looks at one very influential group of early adopters. This may not be YOUR group, but the thinking applies to every hive I can think of.
Seth Godin
Author & Entrepreneur
The

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

I was drawn to read Benjamin Franklin's autobiography because it is mentioned several times in How to Win Friends and Influence People. Franklin achieved extraordinary things and he has a lot of wisdom to share in his autobiography, alongside a gripping account of the story of his life. I was drawn to read Benjamin Franklin's autobiography because it is mentioned several times in How to Win Friends and Influence People. Franklin achieved extraordinary things and he has a lot of wisdom to share in his autobiography, alongside a gripping account of the story of his life.
Joel Gascoigne
Co-founder/Buffer
Portrait

Portrait in Light and Shadow: The Life of Yousuf Karsh

The Karsh book gives great insight into how a very successful photographer worked. There are some wonderful stories from how he created his famous portrait of Churchill to some excellent business ideas.
David McCammon
Photographer

The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble over Earth’s Future

Sabin chronicles the public debate about whether the world is headed for an environmental catastrophe. He centers the story on Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon, who wagered $1,000 on whether human welfare would improve or get worse over time. Without ridiculing either proponent, Sabin shows how their extreme views contributed to the polarized debate over climate change and other issues that continues today.
Bill Gates
CEO/Microsoft

How to Die: An Ancient Guide to the End of Life (Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers)

I really enjoyed the new series of translations that Princeton University Press has done of Cicero and Epictetus and Seneca. They are worth reading for sure.
Ryan Holiday
Media Strategist, Author, Founder/Brass Check
Fault

Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy

Fault Lines provides an excellent analysis of the lessons to be learned from the financial crisis, and the difficult choices that lie ahead. Of the many books written in the wake of our recent economic meltdown, this is the one that gets it right.
George A. Akerlof
Co-author/Animal Spirits and Identity Economics

The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia

Rasselas, by Samuel Johnson. Johnson, author of the first major dictionary of the English language, is one of my heroes. His work can be considered an extended meditation on Milton's phrase from Paradise Lost: The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven. The quote from Johnson I subject people to most often is from his short novel Rasselas, in which a character remarks something like this: I consider the pyramids to be a monument to the insufficiency of all human enjoyments. He who has built for use till use is supplied must begin to build for vanity. The pyramids are actually quite a wonderful thing, but there's a lot of wisdom in this analysis. Johnson's work is a wonderful reminder that our minds have prodigious energy that must be focused on the right objects, and that much human pathology comes from having insufficient objects for our striving.
Tim O'Reilly
Founder/O'Reilly Media
Capital

Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Capital sparked a fantastic global discussion this year about inequality. Piketty kindly spent an hour discussing his work with me before I finished my review. As I told him, although I have concerns about some of his secondary points and policy prescriptions, I agree with his most important conclusions: inequality is a growing problem and that governments should play a role in reducing it. I admire his work and hope it draws in more smart people to study the causes of, and cures for, inequality.
Bill Gates
CEO/Microsoft
The

The Art of War

I know this will offend many strategy purists, but for most audiences I recommend these two books only with a pretty strong disclaimer. While both are clearly full of strategic wisdom, they are hard to separate from their respective eras and brands of warfare. As budding strategists in business and in life, most of us are really looking for advice that can help us with our own problems. The reality is that Napoleonic warfare does not exactly have its equivalents in today’s society. On the other hand, Sun-Tzu is so aphoristic that it’s hard to say what is concrete advice and what is just common sense. But the books are so convincing that you might still end up leaving thinking that they can be easily applied. So, again, check these books out if you’re really interested, but I think some of the other books are much better places to start.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check

The Baroque Cycle: Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World

The Baroque Cycle—a work of rigorously researched historical fiction with only the slightest overlay of science fiction—tells the story of the emergence of the modern world and its systems (democracy, the scientific method, financial markets, etc.) in a way that is wholly fresh. These novels make me think about what a Neal Stephenson of 2300 may write about our times and us.
Marc Andreessen
Co-Founder/Andreessen Horowitz
The

The Trial

It’s a fascinating writing style with a 3rd party observer that’s treated as an extension of the protagonists own sentiments and mind. It’s also just exquisitely written. And the concept of being on trial for charges unknown by a vast, impersonal, yet petty, bureaucracy pulls from a timeless well of societal anxieties. So far, so very good. About half way through.
David Heinemeier Hansson
Co-Founder/Basecamp
Crowdsourcing:

Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business

I thought I might put my money where my mouth is. I keep whining that young people are not in touch with some essential books on advertising that have helped me shape the way I practise my trade today, but I never did anything about it. So I am starting here the ultimate books to read list. I will add to it as I get suggestions and as more good books get written.
Bogdana Butnar
Head of Strategy/Poke
My

My Early Life: 1874-1904

When it comes to biographies, I have cherished My Early Life by Winston Churchill for a long time, as the book that had it all for a profane reader like myself. It is beautifully written and Churchill’s writing style is highly entertaining. Plus, it gives you a glimpse into the early years of a flawed (yet brilliant) character.
Sonia Micu
Founder/NALU
The

The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences

The Order of Things by Foucault literally changed my life forever as it demonstrated to me that language is how we make the world.
Bill Liao
General Partner/RebelBio, SOSV.com
Affluence

Affluence Without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushmen

An insightful and well-written book, describing the hard transition of foraging communities in Namibia from relative affluence during the Stone Age to contemporary poverty and misery. Avoiding both modern conceits and romantic fantasies, Suzman chronicles how economics and politics have finally conquered some of the last outposts of hunter-gatherers, and how much humankind can still learn from the disappearing way of life of the most marginalized communities on earth.
Yuval Noah Harari
Historian
My

My Bondage and My Freedom

A man is born a slave. Man teaches himself to read. Man decides he will no longer consent to being whipped, realizes that slavery is dependent on this consent and then leaves it. In fact, his self-education was so complete that he went on to become one of America’s foremost intellectuals. That is the life of Frederick Douglass. You need to read it.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
The

The Legacy of Chernobyl

The Legacy of Chernobyl is also good for an additional perspective from the inside.
Craig Mazin
Creator, Writer, Producer/Chernobyl TV Series
A

A Terrible Country: A Novel

Currently, I read something like A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen. Which is one of my favorite books.
Dmitry Dragilev
Founder/JustReachOut & PR That Converts
The

The Tao of Pooh

Question: What books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path?

Answer:

  • Anything by Peter Senge.
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
  • Once you are Lucky, Twice you are good – Sara Lacey
  • Revolutionary Wealth – Alvin Toffler
  • Black Swan – Taleb
  • Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change, by Ellen Pao.
  • Creative Class – Richard Florida
  • Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace
  • Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis
  • American Government 101: From the Continental Congress to the Iowa Caucus, Everything You Need to Know About US Politics – Kathleen Spears
  • The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
  • Any book by Herman Hesse
  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
Audrey Russo
President & CEO/Pittsburgh Technology Council
Liar's

Liar’s Poker

Question: What books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path?

Answer:

  • Anything by Peter Senge.
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
  • Once you are Lucky, Twice you are good – Sara Lacey
  • Revolutionary Wealth – Alvin Toffler
  • Black Swan – Taleb
  • Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change, by Ellen Pao.
  • Creative Class – Richard Florida
  • Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace
  • Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis
  • American Government 101: From the Continental Congress to the Iowa Caucus, Everything You Need to Know About US Politics – Kathleen Spears
  • The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
  • Any book by Herman Hesse
  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
Audrey Russo
President & CEO/Pittsburgh Technology Council

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

This might feel like a weird book to include, but I think it presents another side of strategy that is too often forgotten. It’s not always about bold actors and strategic thrusts. Sometimes strategy is about subtle influence. Sometimes it is framing and small tweaks that change behavior. We can have big aims, but get there with little moves. This book has excellent examples of that kind of thinking and how it is changing politics, government and business. My favorite example is about the bumblebee that they started putting on urinals–which drastically reduced the amount of spray and spillage because it changed where men aimed when they peed. It’s not exactly the coolest strategy but it solved a problem. So we can learn from it.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check

Other People’s Money: Inside the Housing Crisis and the Demise of the Greatest Real Estate Deal Ever Made

Not very far from the truth on the financial services industry though the authors biases come through. Not all correct (in my view), but still worth reading.
Vinod Khosla
Co-Founder/Sun Microsystem
The

The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith

I jokingly call myself a Borg-again Christian. Born into the Episcopalian church and raised Catholic, I bolted from organized religion when it got too hard to find God — when politics and certainty replaced mystery and faith. Years later, this book brought me back. It's a beautiful reminder of what's possible when the church commits itself to love and justice above all.
Brene Brown
Author & Researcher

Nicomachean Ethics

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics was something I reread and cannot recommend highly enough.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
21

21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Harari is such a stimulating writer that even when I disagreed, I wanted to keep reading and thinking. All three of his books wrestle with some version of the same question: What will give our lives meaning in the decades and centuries ahead? So far, human history has been driven by a desire to live longer, healthier, happier lives. If science is eventually able to give that dream to most people, and large numbers of people no longer need to work in order to feed and clothe everyone, what reason will we have to get up in the morning?

It’s no criticism to say that Harari hasn’t produced a satisfying answer yet. Neither has anyone else. So I hope he turns more fully to this question in the future. In the meantime, he has teed up a crucial global conversation about how to take on the problems of the 21st century.

Bill Gates
Founder/Microsoft

Engage!: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web

One of the five books Jeff recommends to young people interested in his career path.
Jeff Gibbard
Chief Brand Officer/From The Future
The

The Truth

My favorite fiction book however is The Truth by Terry Pratchett. It’s a fantastic fantasy satire in which the printing press is just being invented, and all the political upheaval that is caused by it. You’ll laugh out loud. Trust me on this.
Jesper Bylund
Co-Founder/BlankPage

The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: The Fate of the World and What We Can Do Before It’s Too Late

Thom Hartmann seeks out interesting subjects from such disparate outposts of curiosity that you have to wonder whether or not he uncovered them or they selected him.
Leonardo DiCaprio
Oscar Winning Actor
I,

I, Asimov: A Memoir

In I, Asimov I’ve discovered a genuine happy person, someone that did what he loved his entire life. I discovered that one of the biggest authors of Science Fiction actually stopped writing fiction novels almost completely for 20 years. I discovered that he enjoyed writing mystery short stories a lot. And this shouldn’t surprise me since most of the books in his SF series are, actually, mysteries. Especially the Robots ones.

His autobiography reads like the archive of a blog, with anecdotes and short stories of the author’s life. It made me smile so often, I didn’t believe it. I was reading in bed and I would read out loud to my fiancée something that made me laugh loudly.

Besides the laughs, I also appreciated the power of Asimov’s convictions. I’m taking example, as well, since sometimes I forget to support my opinions as strongly as I should. If you enjoyed Asimov's books, you're gonna love this one.

Bobby Voicu
Founder/the CEO Library
Merchants

Merchants of Doubt

I recommend people read a book called Merchants of Doubt. All they need to do is create doubt.
Elon Musk
Founder/SpaceX
Teaching

Teaching to Transgress

This book sat next to my bed the entire first year I taught at the University of Houston. Hooks' idea of education as the practice of freedom shaped who I am today. Whenever difficult conversations about race, class, or gender begin to surface, I remember what she taught me: If your students are comfortable, you're not doing your job.
Brene Brown
Author & Researcher
The

The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge

The Evolution of Everything by Matt Ridley, one of my favorite authors. I’ve read everything of his, and reread everything of his.
Naval Ravikant
CEO & Co-Founder/AngelList
War

War in European History

The best way to understand how the world resolves its conflicts and its tensions is by looking at how a conflict that has been studied thoroughly, like World War I, unfolded and resolved. Business is like this too. If anyone were to ever get to the heart of Coke vs. Pepsi, they would see a parade of mistakes in the same way World War I looks in retrospect—so many ways you could have done better.

Matt Calkins
CEO/Appian
Adjustment

Adjustment Day

Ever since Fight Club, I’ve been a Chuck Palahniuk fan. His fiction is cloudy, complex, challenging, contemporary, and cynical. He’s basically the C-Man of fiction (go Chuck, go …) Adjustment Day was the perfect fictional setup for the next book I read, which was Fascism: A Warning.
Brad Feld
Co-Founder/Foundry Group
The

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business

Lencioni’s books helped me to shift my focus from individual performance to team performance, and what it takes to make a team perform well. It helped me to realize and take seriously the fact that great team performance doesn’t happen magically but needs conscious effort.
Holger Seim
CEO/Blinkist
The

The Forest Passage

This is a book about freedom and materiality, how one can regain his freedom by forsaking material possessions and leave the society of bonded men, like classical Germany’s outlaws would leave home and family to escape retribution in the deep forests. The launch of a business, and more to the point, the transition from being a well-fed corporate agent to being a starving and permanently scared entrepreneur is very close to the one from living in a house with your family to sleeping in the woods and fending off starvation on a daily basis. Realizing that this was not too high a price to pay for my freedom was defining for me.
Stephane Grand
Managing Partner/S.J. Grand Financial and Tax Advisory
Doing

Doing Harm

DOING HARM, by Kelly Parsons: best damn medical thriller I've read in 25 years. Terrifying OR scenes, characters with real texture.
Stephen King
Best-Selling Author
Energy

Energy Myths and Realities: Bringing Science to the Energy Policy Debate

Vaclav Smil is probably my favorite living author. If you care about energy issues, I recommend this volume, though its unvarnished look at the realities of energy use and infrastructure may be disconcerting to anyone who thinks solving our energy problems will be easy. Smil provides a rational framework for evaluating energy promises and important lessons to keep in mind if we’re to avert the looming climate crisis.
Bill Gates
CEO/Microsoft
The

The Rise of the Creative Class

Question: What books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path?

Answer:

  • Anything by Peter Senge.
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
  • Once you are Lucky, Twice you are good – Sara Lacey
  • Revolutionary Wealth – Alvin Toffler
  • Black Swan – Taleb
  • Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change, by Ellen Pao.
  • Creative Class – Richard Florida
  • Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace
  • Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis
  • American Government 101: From the Continental Congress to the Iowa Caucus, Everything You Need to Know About US Politics – Kathleen Spears
  • The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
  • Any book by Herman Hesse
  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
Audrey Russo
President & CEO/Pittsburgh Technology Council

All the King’s Men

My favorites [novels] are 100 Years of Solitude, All the King's Men, The Last Samurai, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Bill Earner
Founder/Connect Ventures
How

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays

Alex Chee explores the realm of the real with extraordinarily beautiful essays. Being real here is an ambition, a haunting, an impossibility, and an illusion. What passes for real, his essays suggest, becomes real, just as life becomes art and art, pursued this fully, becomes a life.
Eula Biss
Author
Illusions:

Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

What would a messiah be like if he lived now. Would he care about politics? Would he care about the constant things people scream about on social media?

Or would he care about peace in the heart. And peace in our every day activities. And beauty. And being calm. And trusting the universe around us.

I go with the latter and so does this book.

James Altucher
Founder/StockPickr
Revolutionary

Revolutionary Wealth: How it will be created and how it will change our lives

Question: What books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path?

Answer:

  • Anything by Peter Senge.
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
  • Once you are Lucky, Twice you are good – Sara Lacey
  • Revolutionary Wealth – Alvin Toffler
  • Black Swan – Taleb
  • Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change, by Ellen Pao.
  • Creative Class – Richard Florida
  • Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace
  • Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis
  • American Government 101: From the Continental Congress to the Iowa Caucus, Everything You Need to Know About US Politics – Kathleen Spears
  • The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
  • Any book by Herman Hesse
  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
Audrey Russo
President & CEO/Pittsburgh Technology Council

Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good: The Rebirth of Silicon Valley and the Rise of Web 2.0

Question: What books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path?

Answer:

  • Anything by Peter Senge.
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
  • Once you are Lucky, Twice you are good – Sara Lacey
  • Revolutionary Wealth – Alvin Toffler
  • Black Swan – Taleb
  • Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change, by Ellen Pao.
  • Creative Class – Richard Florida
  • Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace
  • Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis
  • American Government 101: From the Continental Congress to the Iowa Caucus, Everything You Need to Know About US Politics – Kathleen Spears
  • The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
  • Any book by Herman Hesse
  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
Audrey Russo
President & CEO/Pittsburgh Technology Council
Mama's

Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves

A captivating and big-hearted book, full of compassion and brimming with insights about the lives of animals, including human ones.
Yuval Noah Harari
Historian
Why

Why America Misunderstands the World: National Experience and Roots of Misperception

Depending on your interest and goals, if you are like me and always looking for the trends in the big picture then I highly recommend being an active contrarian reader. Read what no one else is reading. Your goal is to think outside the box. To look at the world and ask “why hasn’t this been solved?” And that gives you a roadmap as to what opportunities may exist for your entrepreneurial efforts. So to that, here’s a snapshot, in no particular order, of what might help you push your intellectual boundaries:

  • Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
  • 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang
  • Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future by Paul Mason
  • Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty
  • Who Gets What--And Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design by Alvin E. Roth
  • The Political Economy of Participatory Economics by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel
  • The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism by Jeremy Rifkin
  • Why America Misunderstands the World by Paul R. Pillar
  • A Theory of Justice by John Rawls
  • Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
Lucas Morales
Founder & CEO/Zeall.us
Confessions

Confessions of an Advertising Man

I thought I might put my money where my mouth is. I keep whining that young people are not in touch with some essential books on advertising that have helped me shape the way I practise my trade today, but I never did anything about it. So I am starting here the ultimate books to read list. I will add to it as I get suggestions and as more good books get written.
Bogdana Butnar
Head of Strategy/Poke
Blueprint:

Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

It’s rare for a physician to become a prominent social scientist. It’s even rarer for that person to write a book that opens your eyes to a fresh way of understanding the world. Blueprint is a contrarian exploration of how good societies may be shaped less by historical forces and more by natural selection.
Adam Grant
Author

The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro de’ Medici

Barton's reading list reflects his unique upbringing and background: He was born in Africa, studied in North America, worked in Asia and then moved to London to take on the role of CEO.
Dominic Barton
CEO/McKinsey
Einstein:

Einstein: His Life and Universe

I didn't read actually very many general business books, but I like biographies and autobiographies, I think those are pretty helpful. Actually, a lot of them aren't really business. [...] I also feel it’s worth reading books on scientists and engineers.
Elon Musk
Founder/SpaceX
Robert

Robert Kuok A Memoir

Robert Kuok's Memoir - biography of a Malaysian born business magnate and investor who made his fortunes building commodity empires and international hotel brands. It’s interesting to read up on the way he approached business in this part of the world (Asia) and how they had the general economic foresight to spot opportunities (and disasters).
Jack Wong
Co-Founder/Shoe Mo
The

The Muqaddimah

It's a history of the world written by an intellectual who lived in the 1300s. It focuses on how society and culture flow, including the creation of cities, politics, commerce and science. While much of what was believed then is now disproven after 700 more years of progress, it's still very interesting to see what was understood at this time and the overall worldview when it's all considered together.
Mark Zuckerberg
CEO/Facebook
Energy

Energy and Civilization: A History

Smil is one of my favorite authors, and this is his masterpiece. He lays out how our need for energy has shaped human history—from the era of donkey-powered mills to today’s quest for renewable energy. It’s not the easiest book to read, but at the end you’ll feel smarter and better informed about how energy innovation alters the course of civilizations.
Bill Gates
CEO/Microsoft
The

The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad

I was the head of internal communications for a Fortune 50 company that had just begun to expand internationally when I read The Future of Freedom by Fareed Zakaria. This gripping historical analysis provided tremendous insight on the geopolitical forces shaping our world, and opened my eyes to the tremendous risks and opportunities that lie ahead for businesses operating on a global scale.

Michael Voss
Co-author/B.S. Incorporated
Reset:

Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change

A prominent whistleblower chronicles her experience fighting discrimination against women and people of color in tech.
Eric Ries
Founder/Long-Term Stock Exchange

Sherman: Soldier, Realist, American

This was someone I knew little about before the year began, and by the end of it found myself referencing and thinking of him constantly. It is equal parts due to the greatest of the man himself and to Hart’s vivid and engrossing portrait. I almost feel like I have lost something not having known this of him my whole life. There is a stunningly profound quote from Hart in the book that I’ll paraphrase here that defines his genius: Sherman’s success was rooted in his grasp that the way to success is strategically along the line of least expectation and tactically along the line of least resistance. It is that kind of thinking that immediately displaces any preceding notions about Sherman’s reputation as a general or a legend. All these myths belies his strategic acumen, his mastery of terrain and his deep understanding of statesmanship and politics. There is much to learn from the man and this biographer—who himself was a great strategist and mind—so if you are going to read one biography this year, read Sherman: Solider, Realist, American.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
The

The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World

Reading has given me more perspective on a number of topics — from science to religion, from poverty to prosperity, from health to energy to social justice, from political philosophy to foreign policy, and from history to futuristic fiction.

This challenge has been intellectually fulfilling, and I come away with a greater sense of hope and optimism that our society can make greater progress in all of these areas.

It's fitting to end the year with The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch, about how the way we explain things unlocks greater possibilities.

Mark Zuckerberg
CEO/Facebook
The

The Complete Essays

This book was recommened by Alain de Botton on page 216 of Tools of Titans.
Alain de Botton
Author
The

The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House

As 2018 draws to a close, I’m continuing a favorite tradition of mine and sharing my year-end lists. It gives me a moment to pause and reflect on the year through the books I found most thought-provoking, inspiring, or just plain loved. It also gives me a chance to highlight talented authors – some who are household names and others who you may not have heard of before. Here’s my best of 2018 list.
Barack Obama
Former USA President
Ten

Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now

Where How to Break Up with Your Phone took a pretty tame view of social media – hey, maybe it’s not great, so let’s just do a bit less – this book goes for the jugular. Reviewing all the ways social media companies are conspiring against us, selling our attention to the highest bidder (whether that be an ad for a new car or a new president), and how the algorithms that drive social-media engagement are self-optimizing for the worst of everything.

There wasn’t that much new information here, especially for someone who’s been paying close attention to the social media landscape for years, but there was a renewed sense of outrage and purpose and contextualization. The idea that you don’t have to believe that Zuckerberg or Sandberg are evil masterminds plotting to derail civilization to accept that social-media engagement algorithms that run on auto-pilot much of the time could very well get us there.

David Heinemeier Hansson
Co-Founder/Basecamp
Total

Total Recall

Schwarzenegger's autobiography is, first and foremost, a really really great rags-to-riches story. But it's true. And it's surprising: he didn't make his first million dollars by acting. And it's inspiring: he goes a little into how one should think, when pursuing a particular goal. And, lastly, it's very well written. It'll completely redefine your idea of the man. And it may give you a glimpse into how you might better sculpt your idea of you.

Gabriel Coarnă
Founder/Readable

Lifespan: Why We Age―and Why We Don’t Have To

Prepare to have your mind blown. You are holding in your hands the precious results of decades of work, as shared by Dr. David Sinclair, the rock star of aging and human longevity.
Dave Asprey
Founder and CEO/Bulletproof
Brown

Brown Girl Dreaming

In November 2014, Obama took a trip to D.C. independent bookstore Politics and Prose to honor small businesses and add to his personal library. Accompanied by daughters Malia and Sasha, POTUS picked up novels from the Redwall fantasy series by Brian Jacques, as well as some from the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park. He also added this title to his heavy bags.
Barack Obama
Former USA President

It Can’t Happen Here

If you want to be scared about the next four years, pick up Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here (because, well, it may have just happened here).
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

Pinker is at his best when he analyzes historic trends and uses data to put the past into context. I was already familiar with a lot of the information he shares—especially about health and energy—but he understands each subject so deeply that he’s able to articulate his case in a way that feels fresh and new.

I love how he’s willing to dive deep into primary data sources and pull out unexpected signs of progress. I tend to point to things like dramatic reductions in poverty and childhood deaths, because I think they’re such a good measure of how we’re doing as a society. Pinker covers those areas, but he also looks at more obscure topics.

Here are five of my favorite facts from the book that show how the world is improving:

  • 1. You’re 37 times less likely to be killed by a bolt of lightning than you were at the turn of the century—and that’s not because there are fewer thunderstorms today. It’s because we have better weather prediction capabilities, improved safety education, and more people living in cities.
  • 2. Time spent doing laundry fell from 11.5 hours a week in 1920 to an hour and a half in 2014. This might sound trivial in the grand scheme of progress. But the rise of the washing machine has improved quality of life by freeing up time for people—mostly women—to enjoy other pursuits. That time represents nearly half a day every week that could be used for everything from binge-watching Ozark or reading a book to starting a new business.
  • 3. You’re way less likely to die on the job. Every year, 5,000 people die from occupational accidents in the U.S. But in 1929—when our population was less than two-fifths the size it is today—20,000 people died on the job. People back then viewed deadly workplace accidents as part of the cost of doing business. Today, we know better, and we’ve engineered ways to build things without putting nearly as many lives at risk.
  • 4. The global average IQ score is rising by about 3 IQ points every decade. Kids’ brains are developing more fully thanks to improved nutrition and a cleaner environment. Pinker also credits more analytical thinking in and out of the classroom. Think about how many symbols you interpret every time you check your phone’s home screen or look at a subway map. Our world today encourages abstract thought from a young age, and it’s making us smarter.
  • 5. War is illegal. This idea seems obvious. But before the creation of the United Nations in 1945, no institution had the power to stop countries from going to war with each other. Although there have been some exceptions, the threat of international sanctions and intervention has proven to be an effective deterrent to wars between nations.
Bill Gates
Founder/Microsoft
The

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

In November 2014, Obama took a trip to D.C. independent bookstore Politics and Prose to honor small businesses and add to his personal library. Accompanied by daughters Malia and Sasha, POTUS picked up novels from the Redwall fantasy series by Brian Jacques, as well as some from the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park. He also added these titles to his heavy bags:

  • Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson
  • Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  • Nora Webster, Colm Toibin
  • The Laughing Monsters, Denis Johnson
  • Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, Evan Osnos
  • Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Dr. Atul Gawande
  • Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, Katherine Rundell
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan
  • Redwall series, Brian Jacques
  • Junie B. Jones series, Barbara Park
  • Nuts To You, Lynn Rae Perkins
Barack Obama
Former USA President

23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism

Depending on your interest and goals, if you are like me and always looking for the trends in the big picture then I highly recommend being an active contrarian reader. Read what no one else is reading. Your goal is to think outside the box. To look at the world and ask “why hasn’t this been solved?” And that gives you a roadmap as to what opportunities may exist for your entrepreneurial efforts. So to that, here’s a snapshot, in no particular order, of what might help you push your intellectual boundaries:

  • Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
  • 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang
  • Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future by Paul Mason
  • Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty
  • Who Gets What--And Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design by Alvin E. Roth
  • The Political Economy of Participatory Economics by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel
  • The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism by Jeremy Rifkin
  • Why America Misunderstands the World by Paul R. Pillar
  • A Theory of Justice by John Rawls
  • Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
Lucas Morales
Founder & CEO/Zeall.us
Heart

Heart of Darkness

In November 2014, Obama took a trip to D.C. independent bookstore Politics and Prose to honor small businesses and add to his personal library. Accompanied by daughters Malia and Sasha, POTUS picked up novels from the Redwall fantasy series by Brian Jacques, as well as some from the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park. He also added these titles to his heavy bags:

  • Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson
  • Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  • Nora Webster, Colm Toibin
  • The Laughing Monsters, Denis Johnson
  • Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, Evan Osnos
  • Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Dr. Atul Gawande
  • Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, Katherine Rundell
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan
  • Redwall series, Brian Jacques
  • Junie B. Jones series, Barbara Park
  • Nuts To You, Lynn Rae Perkins
Barack Obama
Former USA President
Reveille

Reveille for Radicals

This is the 48 Laws of Power written in more of an idealist, activist tone. Alinsky was the liaison for many civil rights, union and student causes in the late 50’s and 60’s. He teaches how to implement your radical agenda without using radical tactics, how to disarm with words and media as opposed to arms and Utopian rhetoric.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
Cartwheeling

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms

In November 2014, Obama took a trip to D.C. independent bookstore Politics and Prose to honor small businesses and add to his personal library. Accompanied by daughters Malia and Sasha, POTUS picked up novels from the Redwall fantasy series by Brian Jacques, as well as some from the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park. He also added this title to his heavy bags.
Barack Obama
Former USA President
Letters

Letters to a Young Contrarian

I have lots of books to recommend, but they are not related to my career path. The only one that is remotely related is Peter Thiel’s Zero to One. That said here are books I would recommend.
Fabrice Grinda
Serial Entrepreneur, Investor
The

The Wisdom of Crowds

Although we tend to elect leaders that we believe know better and follow them hoping for a better future, better life & a safer life. Surprisingly in many cases the wisdom of the crowd has proven to be more accurate than most of our smartest leaders. The message for me is to learn to listen to the people and to learn from them assuming you know nothing with that you will learn a lot!
Nadia Al Sheikh
Founder/Deal’n
Frankenstein

Frankenstein

Shelley wrote this book as a teenager, and most of us read it in high school. Often credited as the first science fiction novel. You can read just about any political viewpoint you want into the book, and there are strong undertones that technology isn’t all good. But what I get out of it is the creativeness that can come with solitude, and how new technology can be misunderstood, even perhaps by the creator (see Twitter). Key thing to remember: Frankenstein is the name of the scientist/creator, not the Monster. Everybody forgets that.
Michael Arrington
Founder/TechCrunch
Chasing

Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto

If you read one book from this list, read this one, especially if you live in Boulder. Alan Stern, the PI on the New Horizons mission to Pluto, wrote – with David Grinspoon – a riveting story that spans around 30 years. Both Alan and David are at CU Boulder, which plays a key role in the exploration of the last planet in our solar system (there – I said it – Pluto is a planet, the IAU be damned.) This book is a page tuner and will cause you to fall in love with Pluto. And, in late breaking news, Pluto may actually be a giant comet (ah – clickbait headlines …)
Brad Feld
Co-Founder/Foundry Group
The

The Harder They Fall

Budd Schulberg’s (who wrote the screenplay for On the Waterfront) whole trilogy is amazing and each captures a different historical era. His first, What Makes Sammy Run? is Ari Gold before Ari Gold existed–purportedly based on Samuel Goldwyn (of MGM) and Darryl Zanuck. His next book, The Harder They Fall is about boxing and loosely based on the Primo Carnera scandal. All you need to know about Schulberg’s writing is captured in this quote from his obituary: “It’s the writer’s responsibility to stand up against that power. The writers are really almost the only ones, except for very honest politicians, who can make any dent on that system. I tried to do that. And that’s affected me my whole life.” Fiction can do that, and sometimes it does it even better than non-fiction.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
Sex

Sex Object

In a world where there are countless critics sitting in their underwear being ghastly human beings on the internet, Valenti rises above it, names it, and bring all the ugliness into the light.
Bre Pettis
Co-founder/Markerbot
Skyfaring:

Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot

I’ve run the gamut on my personal flying experiences. Used to love flying, then really didn’t like it, then was afraid of it, and now I enjoy it again. Skyfaring is a poetic and beautiful tome on the wonders of flying and the experiences of sailing through the air from one place to another. The author, a current 747 pilot, has such an effortless way with words. I’ve highlighted more great lines in this book than any other in the past few years. If you love how words can connect ideas, feelings and your imagination, you’ll love this book.
Jason Fried
Co-founder/37signals
The

The Fourth Economy: Inventing Western Civilization

The Joy of Not Working (Zelinkski), Flash Foresight (Burrus), The Art of Worldly Wisdom (Gracian), Sapiens (Yuval), The End of Jobs (Pearson), Deep Work (Newport), Sovereign Individual (Davidson), The Fourth Economy (Davison) & The Monk & the Riddle (Komisar). Every single one of these books completely changed how I looked at everything in the world & literally pushed my life in a new direction. They were Paradigm Shifting as they say. (hate that word but it really was a Paradigm Shift for me).
Marvin Liao
Partner/500 Startups