Best Inspirational Books: For When You Need to Get Inspired

There have been many moments in my life when I reached a crossroads, and I felt like the entire world was caving in around me. Where do you go when you aren’t sure that there is a reason to keep moving at all?

Finding inspiration in those dark hours can be very difficult, and everyone comes to these moments in their life when they feel like they cannot move forward ever again. I’ve wasted a lot of time in these time traps, remaining stagnant and learning nothing.

Inspirational books cover a vast array of topics, and there’s nearly always a book that I can pick up to help me when I’m feeling trapped, overwhelmed, sad, or just simply lost. Inspiration isn’t always about becoming some popular or huge figure in the world; often, it’s about just finding and becoming yourself again.

Reading inspirational books more frequently brings lots of benefits in your life, including:

  • Re-learn that hard work pays off, but you have to do the work.
  • It’s easier to remember that you’re not alone when you find an inspiring story that connects with your own story.
  • You can learn not only from your own mistakes but from someone else’s as well.
  • You can more easily cope with failure and use each failure as a fresh place to grow from.
  • You have a better outlook on life and your purpose in general.

Are you interested in bringing some of those benefits into your life just as I brought them into mine?

Start by reading some of the best inspirational books! The following books are all recommended as great sources of inspiration when you need something more.

 

 

Best Inspirational Books

 

Together

Together Is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration

The smell of optimism is infused into my new book Together Is Better.
Simon Sinek
Best-selling Author
The

The Top 10 Distinctions Between Millionaires and the Middle Class

This is a short read that will help your mindset and help frame some risky decisions.
Nick Loper
Chief Side Hustler/Side Hustle Nation
Creativity,

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

This book is written by the founder of Pixar and is about his experience building a culture that fosters creativity.

His theory is that people are fundamentally creative, but many forces stand in the way of people being able to do their best work.

I love reading first-hand accounts about how people build great companies like Pixar and nurture innovation and creativity. This should be inspiring to anyone looking to do the same, and hopefully there will be lessons we can apply to connecting the world!

Mark Zuckerberg
CEO/Facebook

In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs

When I founded Humanisation, a mentor recommended that I pick up Grace Bonney's In the Company of Women. It's one of the most beautiful, inspiring books you'll read. It's a big, delicious coffee table beauty with business tales from 100 powerful women. I bring it out whenever I look for inspiration.
Cat Williams-Treloar
Founder/Humanisation
Life

Life Is What You Make It

With home-spun, heart-felt wisdom, Peter Buffett ponders how to make a meaningful life, while making a living. LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT is thought-provoking, worthwhile reading.
Ted Turner
Founder/CNN

The Lemonade Life: How to Fuel Success, Create Happiness, and Conquer Anything

Practical, heartfelt, simple wisdom for people at any stage of their career (or life).
Seth Godin
Author & Entrepreneur
As

As a Man Thinketh

Tony Robbins
Life Coach
100

100 Side Hustles: Unexpected Ideas for Making Extra Money Without Quitting Your Day Job

Chris Guillebeau often says, 'Inspiration is good, but inspiration combined with action is so much better,' and this collection of side hustles is an invaluable resource for both inspiration and action. It’s packed with practical and engaging ideas, tips, strategies, and, most helpful, real-life examples of people who have succeeded.
Gretchen Rubin
Author

The Traveler’s Gift

Question: What books would you recommend to young people to be prepared for the future workplaces?

Answer: So many! So many by Seth Godin (Linchpin, The Icarus Deception, Purple Cow) Essentialism by Greg McKeown, Deep Work by Cal Newport, The Choice by Og Mandino, Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, No More Dreaded Mondays and 48 Days To The Work You Love by Dan Miller, The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran, Will It Fly by Pat Flynn, The Traveler's Gift by Andy Andrews, QBQ by John Miller, The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. Wow, there are so many more, but that’s a start.

Vincent Pugliese
Author & Professional Photographer
Bird

Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

It was wonderful to read these two provocative books of essays by two incredibly wise and compassionate women. [...] Anne Lamott’s book is ostensibly about the art of writing, but really it too is about life and how to tackle the problems, temptations and opportunities life throws at us. Both will make you think and both made me a better person this year.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check

The Innovators – How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

This book, to be read and re-read, is a historical and extremely well documented history of the digital revolution, carrying insightful surprises along the way.
Isabelle Ohnemus
Founder/EyeFitU

Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery

Kelly spent a record-breaking year in space and this book is a fascinating account of that time and what he learned about humanity and himself.
Eric Ries
Founder/Long-Term Stock Exchange

On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Real, and Listening Hard

On Being Human is beautiful and tender, profound and absorbing. I never wanted to put it down. In writing with such clarity and honesty about her jagged path to becoming, Jennifer Pastiloff has told the story of not only herself, but so many of us. I was consoled by this book and also inspired. On every page I felt the presence and the power of Pastiloff’s brave and gigantic heart. This is a book friends will tell friends they have to read for years to come. It’s an important, enthralling debut.
Cheryl Strayed
Author
Awakening

Awakening Joy: 10 Steps That Will Put You on the Road to Real Happiness

Much more upbeat is Awakening Joy: 10 Steps That Will Put You on the Road to Real Happiness, by James Baraz and Shoshana Alexander. I don’t read a lot of self-help or inspirational books, but even if you never read anything in this genre, this book is one you should try. It’s about enjoying your life, consciously picking the things that make life more enjoyable and purposefully thinking about them. It shows how to think about spirituality and purpose in your life. Baraz teaches a very popular course and has an online lecture series on this. Melinda and I actually went to one of his seminars. He’s a very nice guy, and Awakening Joy is very good.
Bill Gates
CEO/Microsoft
The

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

I really enjoyed Brad Stone's The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. Anyone who wants to better understand the dynamics of disruption or just gain a better understanding of the website we've come to love, must read this book.

Shane Parrish
Founder/Syrus Partners
Chicken

Chicken Soup for the Soul

A feel-good book that is great to read when sometimes we get to busy and lose sight of the truly important things in life, like family, children, close friends, health and the basic living necessities; things that we should always be thankful for.
Alan Pierce
CEO/Ansuz Balder Magni Investments
How

How Proust Can Change Your Life

We're both big fans of Peter Drucker and his book The Effective Executive, as well as Alain de Botton's How Proust Can Change your Life.
Matt Mullenweg
Founder/Automattic

What To Do When It’s Your Turn

These books and their core ideas have stuck with me the most and continue to guide me when I hit crossroads along the way.
Andra Zaharia
Freelance Content Marketer/The Content Habit
Alexander

Alexander Hamilton

Winston Ma
Managing Director/China Investment Corporation
Can't

Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds

David Goggins is a being of pure will and inspiration. Just listening to this guy talk makes you want to run up a mountain. I firmly believe people like him can change the course of the world just by inspiring us to push harder and dig deeper in everything we do. His goal to be 'uncommon amongst uncommon people' is something we can all use to propel ourselves to fulfill our true potential. I'm a better man having met him.
Joe Rogan
Podcaster/Joe Rogan Experience

Cutting Edge Advertising: How to Create the World’s Best for Brands in the 21st Century

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
Making

Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality

I still use some of the methods this book teaches around productivity. It also teaches some very important lessons around how to break out of 'analysis paralysis' and actually execute on ideas.
Andreas Zhou
Co-Founder/Askable
Never

Never Give Up: Jack Ma In His Own Words

I was completely moved and impressed by him and his team. The fact that they were adamant in overcoming all obstacles and negativities despite all odds were against them. They were relentless. I was facing many problems during my first startup. Reading up on the book allowed me to understand that my problems were not good enough to make me fail but giving up was.
Jose He
Chief Performance Officer/Bountie.io
Big

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

I read a bunch of books on writing before I wrote my first book and the two that stuck with me were Stephen King’s book and “On Writing Well” by Zinsser (which is a bit on the technical side). I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic.”
Mark Manson
Founder/MarkManson.net
On

On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft

My professional path – copywriting – somehow intertwines with my unprofessional (hahaha) path – writing so I would recommend reading literature for both. Somehow reading and writing are two ways of doing the same thing: storytelling (even when you read you tell yourself a story in your own voice, bringing your personal emotion and empathy to the story you’re reading). The only difference is that when I’m reading, panic is far away from me, in a safe place. Nevertheless, the words below helped me rewrite and think twice before adding an exclamation point: On Writing by Stephen King.
Alina Varlanuta
Creator/The Hole in Your Head
The

The Art Of Racing In The Rain

Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife and Garth Stein's The Art Of Racing In The Rain made me cry.
Gabriel Coarna
Founder/Readable
The

The Richest Man in Babylon

This book was recommended by Daymond John on page 324 of Tools of Titans.
Daymond John
Founder/FUBU
Poster

Poster Graphics

Posters are mostly used to present information. This book showcases experimental poster design. The works are very free form, very abstract and shows how information can be presented in a very unique manner. This book will show how graphic design can translate information in a very fun and expressive manner​ -​ Information can be translated into pictograms and patterns​; ​Texts can be expressive and unique. Loosen up and let your senses take charge.
Ella Zheng
Partner & Art Director/The Workbench

Walk in Their Shoes: Can One Person Change the World?

For decades. Jacqueline Novogratz and her classic book, The Blue Sweater continue to change lives. As does Jim Ziolkowski's amazing true story. This is what happens when people step up, keep their promises and make things happen.
Seth Godin
Author & Entrepreneur

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

I chose this book because it taught me how important it is that your business represents you and that you passionately believe in it. I also learned from it the importance of organizational culture, and that the endpoint of a sale should always be customer's happiness, not the money-product/service exchange.
Robert Hajnal
Founder/Trail Running Academy
Business

Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur

I would recommend any biographies of business people, but definitely I would have on the list any of Richard Branson's books. That should cover a better business and mentality understanding.
Mădălina Uceanu
Managing Partner/CareerAdvisor
Rework

Rework

If given a choice between investing in someone who has read Rework or has an MBA, I'm investing in Rework every time. This is a must read for every entrepreneur.
Mark Cuban
Co-founder/HDNet & Broadcast.com

Property Magic: How to Buy Property Using Other People’s Time, Money and Experience

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

Answer: The Property Apprentice and Property Magic by Simon Zutschi

Jochen Siepmann
Property Investing Mentor & Author

Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung?: Inspiring Stories for Welcoming Life’s Difficulties

For spirituality, I’ve really enjoyed reading Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung?. The title of the book sounds a bit odd, but it is a book full of short stories and lessons by a renowned monk named Ajahn Brahm.
Gunhee Park
Co-Founder/Populum

Mastermind Dinners: Build Lifelong Relationships by Connecting Experts, Influencers, and Linchpins

Mastermind Dinners by Jayson Gaignard. I’m always looking for ways to make my mastermind groups and community better and better.
Vincent Pugliese
Author & Professional Photographer
Self

Self Belief: The Vision

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
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

Founders At Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days

Now this one is certainly a little less historical than the others, if only because most of the profiles are about companies founded in the last ten years. Written by Jessica Livingston, a founder of YCombinator, the book profiles some of the hottest and most successful startups in Silicon Valley history. It shows how the founders manage to create massive growth, usually with very few resources. Now I’m not saying that companies like Hot or Not compare with the accomplishments of Pericles or Da Vinci, but you can certainly see how this book captures a moment in time—and its leading men and women—and what that means. This is the most current book on the list (besides mine) but I think many of you will like it. Plus you can learn a lot about the tech scene in one swoop.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check

Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill

The author of this book has sometimes been called the happiest man in the world. He is a French Biochemist turned Buddhist monk and has been in a unique position to merge science with mindfulness and meditation.

The underlying theme of the book is that happiness is indeed within our control, and is much more a skill than something that simply happens to us.

One of the biggest revelations for me in this book was the way that it linked happiness with altruism, asserting that there is an undeniable correlation and that helping others can provide a much more lasting satisfaction and happiness than pleasure activities such as watching a movie or enjoying a banana split. This was something I had intuitively when I got into helping early stage founders, and reading it in this book made me recommit to helping others as a way of life, which in turn makes me very happy.

Joel Gascoigne
Co-founder/Buffer

Revolution of the Soul: Awaken to Love Through Raw Truth, Radical Healing, and Conscious Action

Love this book. Like Seane herself, the message is direct, honest, funny, heartfelt, and filled with wisdom that can help all of us, except me, do better, be better, and work toward creating a healthier and more peaceful planet for all.
Larry David
Actor, writer, director, producer/Seinfeld

The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business: Make Great Money. Work the Way You Like. Have the Life You Want

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
The

The Leader Who Had No Title: A Modern Fable on Real Success in Business and in Life

The book is all about self-development, building a strong mindset that helps you to conquest problems and obstacles. We can’t be successful until we keep on learning and implementing new techniques to make them strong skills for us. The book is not only ideal to read just but also epitome enough for practical implementations.

The idea to change begins from thoughts. When you start anything from scratch, you follow a thought process to give practical execution to your idea and for that, you need strength, wisdom, power, courage, inspiration, and guidance.

This book is not only for entrepreneur or marketer instead it’s for everyone who loves to develop themselves to achieve heights in life. It has tons of practical knowledge on leadership; easy to put into practice in your life and career. Read this book and charismatically feel the change inside you.

Haris Siddique
Co-Founder/Artimization

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization

After working at many startups and now running my own company, the one difference I have observed between good and great companies (and products) is how oriented the org is toward learning, The more people in an organization learn, the more value they create for the whole company.
Josh Brewer
Co-founder/Abstract
Rise

Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future

On the other side of things, which is a bit more like inspirational and a bit more tactical, it would probably be Rise of the Robots. Focuses all on the rise of artificial intelligence. Has some really interesting pieces on how people are disrupting in a bunch of different verticals for like ED Tech, health, 3D printing, and a bunch of other areas, and the impact that that has on jobs in the future. I love those two books at the moment.
Matthew Barby
Global Head of Growth and SEO/HubSpot
Very

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination

Harry Potter nerds and business buffs alike will devour J.K. Rowling's Very Good Lives. The story draws from a commencement speech Rowling gave at Harvard University, and inspiration from her own life and failures. Entrepreneurs will love how she explains the benefits of failure and the crucial importance of imagination.

This is the book for those who are facing the grim realities of being broke and failing, and those graduating from college. Her main point is the importance of perseverance. Even someone who is on welfare and feeling hopeless could still turn that great idea into a business that launches the next Harry Potter franchise.

Sujan Patel
Co-Founder/Web Profits
Tiny

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love from Dear Sugar

It was wonderful to read these two provocative books of essays by two incredibly wise and compassionate women. Cheryl Strayed, also the author of Wild, was the anonymous columnist behind the online column, Dear Sugar and boy, are we better off for it. This is not a random smattering of advice. This book contains some of the most cogent insights on life, pain, loss, love, success, youth that I have ever seen. I won’t belabor the point: read this book. Thank me later. [...] Both will make you think and both made me a better person this year.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check

Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion

Gary Vaynerchuk is one of those entrepreneurs who has discovered the secret to combining passion with business. He is always an inspiration and always entertaining. You owe it to yourself to read this book!
Tony Hsieh
CEO/Zappos
The

The Pumpkin Plan

Here are some that might help:

(...)

- The Pumpkin Plan for differentiation

Jacqui Pretty
Founder/Grammar Factory
Running

Running with the Giants: What the Old Testament Heroes Want You to Know About Life and Leadership

Learning the different characters of the heroes of faith in the bible and learning how God sees us as who we are in Him and who we will become and not who we were affirmed my identity in Christ and helped me to see the promises of God in the scripture.
Lilian Ong
Founder/Class Living
Rich

Rich Dad Poor Dad

The funny thing is that the books that had the biggest impact (like my Verne’s favourite) are not necessarily the best books, objectively speaking. They were good enough to present a new worldview that I was not aware of. Timing probably was more important than their intrinsic literary qualities. They “managed” to fall into my lap at the right time. Such a book was Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, a mediocre book by my standards of today, but deeply inspirational by the ones from yesterday.

Vladimir Oane
Founder/UberVU
Networking

Networking Is Not Working: Stop Collecting Business Cards and Start Making Meaningful Connections

I hate business books. They are full of wishy-washy inspirational stuff and rarely of anything actionable. And even when actionable, it's from the context of that founder and the story they've spun, not the reality that most people face. So if anything, I'd have people read books such as Jayson Gaignard's Mastermind Dinners; Derek Coburn's Networking is Not Working; Shane Snow's Storytelling edge; Keith Ferrazzi's Never Eat Alone.
Sol Orwell
Co-Founder/Examine.com

Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School

I would recommend any biographies of business people, but definitely I would have on the list any of Richard Branson's books. That should cover a better business and mentality understanding.
Madalina Uceanu
Managing Partner/CareerAdvisor

How Will You Measure Your Life?

Clay’s Innovator’s Dilemma was important. Also, about 10 years later, he had another which really had a profound impact on me and on my belief systems – How will you measure your life.
Dragos Novac
CEO/Nordic 9
The

The Art Spirit

The first book is a book called The Art Spirit by Robert Henri, who was a painter and I know there’s a lot of affinity for painters in these parts. This is about creativity through the lens of an art student. [...] What he means by this is purely you have to be a master of your own tools. That mastership is not a destination, it is a process and it’s constant practice that gets you there.
Jack Dorsey
CEO/Twitter

Assume the Worst: The Graduation Speech You’ll Never Hear

I started with a short book by Carl Hiaasen. I’m a fan of his fiction, so this caught my eye in Explore Booksellers (the local Aspen bookstore where we always load up whenever we come here.) It was cynically wonderful, and great advice.
Brad Feld
Co-Founder/Foundry Group
Startup

Startup Evolution Curve From Idea to Profitable and Scalable Business: Startup Marketing Manual

Currently, as I'm focused on marketing for my startup, I’m using “Startup Evolution Curve” by Dr. Donatas Jonikas, which is a marketing study full with real-world examples of startups and how they tackled specific marketing issues. I’m using this book as an inspiration, as five minutes into reading from it, I’m full of new ideas and committed to trying them.
PS: Proud to say that my startup, Echoz, it’s also featured in the book.

Nicolae Andronic
Founder/Echoz
Man’s

Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning

Frankl is one of the most profound modern thinkers on meaning and purpose. His contribution was to change the question from the vague philosophy of “What is the meaning of life?” to man being asked and forced to answer with his actions. He looks at how we find purpose by dedicating ourselves to a cause, learning to love and finding a meaning to our suffering. His other two books on the topic, Will To Meaning and Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning have gems in them as well.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
Peak:

Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow

Rarely has a CEO bared his soul in a book...this powerfully authentic story and the resulting emotional building blocks that define how we can understand our internal weather make for a compelling read and an invaluable operating manual for life.
Tony Hsieh
CEO/Zappos
Man's

Man’s Search for Meaning – The Classic Tribute to Hope from the Holocaust

Frankl is one of the most profound modern thinkers on meaning and purpose. His contribution was to change the question from the vague philosophy of “What is the meaning of life?” to man being asked and forced to answer with his actions. He looks at how we find purpose by dedicating ourselves to a cause, learning to love and finding a meaning to our suffering. His other two books on the topic, Will To Meaning and Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning have gems in them as well.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
The

The Best We Could Do

This gorgeous graphic novel is a deeply personal memoir that explores what it means to be a parent and a refugee. The author’s family fled Vietnam in 1978. After giving birth to her own child, she decides to learn more about her parents’ experiences growing up in a country torn apart by foreign occupiers.
Bill Gates
CEO/Microsoft
The

The Little Black Book of Design

A short, simple book with pertinent and funny quotes about design and engineering.
Benjamin Humphrey
CEO & Co-Founder/DoveTail
Alice's

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

As for a non-business book, it’s got to be Alice in Wonderland by C. S. Lewis. It’s an unrivalled work of imagination and shows what it looks like to “think outside the box”. Sometimes I like to flick through a copy and look at the illustrations if I’m stuck on a problem and need some inspiration.
Foti Panagio
Founder/GrowthMentor.io
The

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

Honourable Mentions: Four Hour Work Week, The Happiness Hypothesis, Meditations, Catch 22, A Guide To The Good Life.
Mike Benkovich
Founder/Anatomonics
The

The MouseDriver Chronicles: The True-Life Adventures of Two First-Time Entrepreneurs

Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but the book is CAPTIVATING. I read the entire thing in one day.
Pat Walls
Founder/StarterStory
Walden

Walden

In case you were deceived and expected me to name Walden by Henry David Thoreau, you should read it too if you haven’t, it obviously is the inspiration to Walden Two. 🙂
Joan Boixados
Founder/everydayCheck

Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence-and How You Can, Too

so much congrats to my friend @garyvee on the release of his new book. out now! do yourself a favor a pick up a copy
Casey Neistat
Founder/368 Creative Space
Creative

Creative Quest

When Questlove says he’s going to do something, he will find out how to do whatever that is, and become a master at it. I can’t think of a person more suited to write a book about being creative.
Jimmy Fallon
TV Host
Hire

Hire With Your Head: Using Performance-Based Hiring to Build Great Teams

In what regards the professional side, if we talk about headhunting, it still remains an inspiration for me what Lou Adler wrote in
Madalina Uceanu
Managing Partner/CareerAdvisor
Stop

Stop Making Sense: The Art of Inspiring Anybody

If Brené Brown and Simon Sinek had a book baby together, you’re looking at it right now. Stop Making Sense is a new manual for learning true leadership. Fanuele’s set of simple principles that changed my life over the last quarter century will change yours in a matter of hours
Andrew Zimmern
Chef, Co-creator/Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

Tom Reiss’s book The Black Count was impressive and a side of French history I never knew and never would have otherwise.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
What

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir

On the non-business side of things, “What I Talk about When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami is my recent favorite. I’m a long distance runner and I was extremely delighted to find out that one of the top fiction writers in the world draws a huge chunk of his inspiration from long distance running. In this book, Murakami beautifully connects running to writing, which are two skills close to me that I want to get better at.
Anant Jain
Co-Founder/CommonLounge
The

The Prophet

I love really condensed, shakti [empowerment]-filled, energy-filled statements - something that you can read in a few minutes or you can read for your whole life.
Jason Nemer
Founder/AcroYoga
The

The Last Lecture

I read The Last Lecture because I had seen Randy Pausch give this talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo
Gabriel Coarna
Founder/Readable
The

The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential

John has been a mentor and teacher for me for many years and what I love most about him is that he has pushed and helped me personally go through the 5 Levels of Leadership!
Kevin Turner
COO/Microsoft
Jack:

Jack: Straight from the Gut

I read Jack Welch’s book back in 2003 and it was at the time a great source of inspiration. There were a couple of things that got stuck in my mind and in some cases changed my mind: that there are no shortcuts, that facts always must be faced no matter how brutal and that losing or failing had a value as long as your learn from them. His thoughts on how crucial the soft values are, inspired me a lot. It is really a genuine focus on people and mindset, or call it culture, that makes an organization excel in the long run.
Annika Falkengren
CEO/SEB Group
Joy

Joy At Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job

Joy At Work provides great insight into the journey of Dennis Bakke and AES, the company he co-founded. Bakke and his partner Roger Sant started the company and strived to live to a core value of Fun. It is a fascinating read in terms of their definition of fun (making important decisions and being given trust, not ping pong tables and snacks), and also in how difficult they found it to run the company unconventionally in order to be true to their values.

AES reached over 40,000 employees all across the world and they created a significantly different corporate structure than many organizations of today. At Buffer, AES and Bakke have been a big inspiration for us in staying true to our own values.

A large part of the process of staying true to the value of fun for Bakke was for him to be a sevant leader and to help individuals in the company make as many important decisions as possible. They devised the Decision Maker method of making decisions as a team, where the person closest to the problem (rather than a manger) makes key decisions. He also wrote a fable called The Decesion Maker around this concept, which I have also included in this list.

Joel Gascoigne
Co-founder/Buffer
Creativity

Creativity Rules: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and into the World

Tina Seelig Creativity Rules - a hop, skip and a jump through the invention cycle. Tina is amazing. The guidance helps you to get ideas out of your head and into the real world.
Cat Williams-Treloar
Founder/Humanisation
Half

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

As for non-fiction, Half the Sky (about crimes against women, especially in the developing world) and Whatever it Takes (about the Harlem Children’s Zone and the work of Geoffrey Canada) both changed my world-view enormously, and I thought they were both super compelling.
Julia Enthoven
Co-Founder/Kapwing
Everything

Everything Is Figureoutable

Millions of young women look to Marie Forleo as their inspiration for empowerment and achievement.
Oprah Winfrey
CEO/Oprah Winfrey Network
March:

March: Book One

“It is a very unique way to present what is probably the most important story of my entire lifetime,” Tim Cook said when introducing Congressman Lewis at Apple HQ. “My hope is that everyone reads this, and I would love to see the day that it is required reading in every school.
Tim Cook
CEO/Apple
Epigrams

Epigrams

These are hilarious. I have one hanging on the gate in front of my house. Martial also served as a partial inspiration for my writing on the Canvas Strategy.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
Magellan

Magellan

Now if you’re looking for some inspiration and excitement, Magellan is the book for you. What makes a man an explorer? What made Magellan so he could find a passage he had no reason to be certain he could find? And how thankless a job! [...] There are some books where you feel like everything the writer did led up to this masterpiece they were born to create: that might be what this book is. It’s just perfect in every sense. Cannot recommend highly enough.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
Be

Be Obsessed or Be Average

Grant Cardone: The 10X Rule and Be Obsessed or Be Average; Tony Robbins: Awaken the Giant Within; Mel Robbins: The 5 Second Rule; and Maxwell Maltz: The New Psycho-Cybernetics. These books will encourage you but more than that EQUIP you to win!
Mark Struczewski
Host/The Mark Struczewski Podcast
The

The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World

As we head toward the end of the year, I think you'll find inspiration in the work of people who show up and do the work. Daily. For decades. Jacqueline Novogratz and her classic book, The Blue Sweater continue to change lives.
Seth Godin
Author & Entrepreneur
Designing

Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team

When asked what books she would recommend to youngsters interested in her professional path, Kimberly mentioned Designing Brand Identity.
Kimberly Gloria Choi
Founder/Marchbaby Collective
The

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard Feynman

It looks like co-founder of Google, Larry Page, is more into science books. “The Pleasures of Finding Things Out” is a genuine work of art.
Larry Page
CEO/Google

From Worst to First: Behind the Scenes of Continental’s Remarkable Comeback

Founder and CEO of DOMO, Josh James, is a fan of the book “From Worst to First.”
Josh James
CEO/DOMO
Toyota

Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production

Perhaps the only business book I’ve read and truly loved is Taiichi Ohno’s “The Toyota Production System”. It’s referenced a lot as the origin of the “Lean” movement, but it’s a much more enjoyable read than that makes it sound. Rather than management guru speak, it’s a wonderful book about the hard-won lessons Taiichi Ohno learned on the factory floor at Toyota. It won’t teach you what kanban means in modern management, but learning about Ohno’s desire to build an information nervous system for Toyota’s plants is so much more interesting!
Grey Baker
Co-Founder/Dependabot
The

The Fountainhead

It condenses most of her philosophy in a shorter book, without the intellectual whirlpools Atlas Shrugged is known for. The hero, Howard Roark, is an individualistic young architect who refuses to compromise his artistic and personal vision for success. He chooses to battle the establishment and stand by his values against all odds. The story is simplistic but it serves as a vessel for communicating liberal values like individualism, private property, innovation or capitalism. All of which are foundational traits for any creator (entrepreneur or not).
Vladimir Oane
Founder/UberVU
Ignore

Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity

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

Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World With OKRs

John explains how OKRs [Objectives and Key Results] work and shows how you can apply them in all sorts of situations. I’d recommend John’s book for anyone interested in becoming a better manager (and I’d say that even if I hadn’t been interviewed for a super-nice chapter about the Gates Foundation).
Bill Gates
Founder/Microsoft
A

A Little History of Philosophy

Three pages per every most relevant philosopher/school of thought.
Joan Boixados
Founder/everydayCheck
Elevate:

Elevate: Push Beyond Your Limits and Unlock Success in Yourself and Others

Better is the goal. And in order to make things better for others, it helps to start on yourself, first. Robert Glazer's short, direct advice is worth checking out.
Seth Godin
Marketer, Entrepreneur

Small Is the New Big: and 183 Other Riffs, Rants, and Remarkable Business Ideas

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

More Heat than Light: Economics as Social Physics, Physics as Nature’s Economics

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 4 shelves of spines of books that mattered enough to me to bring home. So here they are.
Eric Weinstein
Managing Director/Thiel Capital

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

Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart

[One of the books Roxana Bitoleanu recommends to young people interested in her career path.]
Roxana Bitoleanu
Founder/Taraba Virtuala
Theory

Theory of Fun for Game Design

One of the most important books I’ve ever read is A Theory of Fun by Raph Koster. It creatively describes how “fun” is created and what it is. Which might sound trivial, but as a designer and developer of tools, this is by far the most important design principle I’ve discovered. Basically, why would you do anything if it wasn’t fun? Thankfully, this book describes how to make anything fun.
Jesper Bylund
Co-Founder/BlankPage
Zen

Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design

Question: What books had the biggest impact on you? Perhaps changed the way you see things or dramatically changed your career path.

Answer:

  • “Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design” By Laurence Boldt
  • “Horse Sense: The Key to Success Is Finding a Horse to Ride” by Al Ries and Jack Trout
  • “What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School” by Mark McCormack
Christopher Lochhead
Host/Legends and Losers Podcast
The

The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness

“The Compassionate Instinct” is a great resource for those who wish to enhance their socio-psyche abilities for thought leadership, especially for wellbeing leadership development. The literature probes into the infinite resources of human capital, particularly into avenues of humans’ compassionate instinct. Our compassionate instinct plays a cardinal role in how we choose to connect to others.
Stephen Lew
Director/The School of Positive Psychology
Whiplash:

Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future

Joi Ito and Jeff Howe have a new book called Whiplash. Joi's the head of MIT's Media Lab and an extraordinary thinker. Jeff brings the ideas and the lessons of the Lab to life. This is a big think, well worth a deep dive.
Seth Godin
Author & Entrepreneur
No

No More Dreaded Mondays: Ignite Your Passion – and Other Revolutionary Ways to Discover Your True Calling at Work

Question: What books would you recommend to young people to be prepared for the future workplaces?

Answer: So many! So many by Seth Godin (Linchpin, The Icarus Deception, Purple Cow) Essentialism by Greg McKeown, Deep Work by Cal Newport, The Choice by Og Mandino, Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, No More Dreaded Mondays and 48 Days To The Work You Love by Dan Miller, The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran, Will It Fly by Pat Flynn, The Traveler's Gift by Andy Andrews, QBQ by John Miller, The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. Wow, there are so many more, but that’s a start.

Vincent Pugliese
Author & Professional Photographer
Romantic

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley

Wollstonecraft and Shelley are two of the most important women most people have rarely thought about. They believed passionately (and at great cost) in the equality of women and the vital, distinctive contribution women should be able to make to human history. Their stories alone are remarkable, but Charlotte Gordon’s idea to interweave the two biographies brilliantly explores the deep relationship between the mother and the daughter who never knew each other. In their search for a richer and more liberated way of life, the Romantics cherished Wollstonecraft’s writing and the daughter they hoped would embody the life of imaginative emancipation. What a legacy — but what an inspiration.
Margaret Heffernan
CEO/Dunnes Stores
The

The One Minute Millionaire

What I love about it: it was written as two books, so on the left side of the pages was a story and on the right side was the kind of “how to steps” that you can learn from the story, so you could kind of read it both at the same time or read one that the other.

You get the narrative and you get the how-to, so that was clever, sort of a smart way to make a book, but why I found it so powerful it was a book that I actually saw someone reading on the streets once. They were sitting in the coffee shop and they had the book and I went up to them and asked hey, I’m reading this book too and I’m curious (this person was a bit older than me, probably in their 30s while I was in my 20s) and I asked, I just talked to them about 5 minutes and I asked about the book and asked :so, are you actually a millionaire now?” and they said “Actually, I am” and I wasn’t, I was still struggling to make money at the time.

Yaro Starak
Founder/Entrepreneurs-Journey.com
Brandjam:

Brandjam: Humanizing Brands Through Emotional Design

A powerful new concept from renowned designer and business guru Marc Gobe.I’ve always known that I’ll be working for designing or art-related job fields. And branding has been fascinating to me, now I look back and realise how much advertising and branding books I’ve been crazily reading during my teen days. It changed my creative thinking of how impactful branding is to a company, how emotion is tied to designing and business, to manipulating.
Kimberly Gloria Choi
Founder/Marchbaby Collective
Purple

Purple Cow

Then, again when I was younger, at the beginning of 2000s, Seth Godin’s Purple Cow and The Cluetrain Manifesto were two pieces of work I’d always refer to, as well as Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup, later on when I was looking at how to become a better tech entrepreneur.
Dragos Novac
CEO/Nordic 9
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

Lifescale: How to Live a More Creative, Productive, and Happy Life

I'm currently reading LifeScale by Brian Solis. Oddly enough, it's a book about overcoming digital distraction and boosting your happiness, creativity, and sense of purpose in life. It's a powerful cautionary tale against spending too much time as a digital consumer. As someone who spends - at minimum - 40 hours a week staring at a computer screen where digital distraction is just one click away, I'm always looking for useful strategies for overcoming distraction and maintaining focus. It's already delivering on that front.
Jeremy Boudinet
Marketing Manager/Nextiva
Built

Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

Ruimin mentions this book in response to a question about long-term success. From Ruimin's point of view, the chief challenge is for leaders to maintain their entrepreneurial spirit, year after year. He admits it isn't easy:
Zhang Ruimin
CEO/Haier Group
Be

Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose

If you want to change the world, it helps to be fearless. And if you need a dose of courage, I recommend this powerful collection of stories, evidence, and optimism. Jean Case draws on research and personal experience to provide change-makers with moral support and practical guidance.
Melinda Gates
Co-Chair/Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work

Stealing Fire discusses the many alternate states of consciousness and how to leverage them to achieve creativity, vision, and FLOW. While this isn’t 100% a business book, it has had the biggest impact on me professionally by helping me find and stay in flow. The book’s greatest lesson, however, is in realizing why FLOW is so important - it leads to the best quality of work. Maximum output for minimal input.
Adam Johnston
CEO & Co-Founder/Last Call Trivia

Permission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society Thrive

We often create a false dichotomy between thinking and feeling. In this dichotomy, thinking is important, strong, and adaptive, but feeling is not. Marc Brackett shows us how emotions and our ability to feel, understand, and use them are key to fulfilling our potential.
Carol S. Dweck
Author

How to See: Looking, Talking, and Thinking about Art

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

Answer:

  • The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  • Drawing is Thinking by Milton Glazer
  • How to See by David Salle
Liquan Liew
Founder/Ripple Root
Letters

Letters to a Young Poet

Letters to a Young Poet - it is everything. [...] This line in Letters to a Young Poet “If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches is an important one to me. I constantly go back to this to evaluate if I have been living a full life.
Estella Ng
Founder/Ripple Root
A

A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life

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

Answer:

  • 7 Habits Highly Effective People - life blueprint
  • Swim with the Sharks - realize people and how you relate to them are key
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People - a classic that matters a lot in our digital world
  • A Curious Mind by Brian Grazier - we all need to put curiosity higher as a priority
  • Peak Performers, by Charles Garfield - examples of greatness

Most of these books are 25 years old or more (Not A Curious Mind).... But the books you read when you are young set the patterns and habits that impact you. I read these when young and they had real impact on my succes

Thom Singer
Podcaster/Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do

The Education of a Value Investor: My Transformative Quest for Wealth, Wisdom, and Enlightenment

I am currently reading The Education of a Value Investor- Guy Spier. I am very interested in Value Investing and I tried reading The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham but it was too difficult for me to understand. So I decided to read this first before revisiting the Holy Grail of Value Investing.
Benjamin Kwan
Co-Founder/TravelClef

Little Voice Mastery: How to Win the War Between Your Ears in 30 Seconds or Less and Have an Extraordinary Life!

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

Answer:

  • Rich Dad Poor Dad - Robert Kiyosaki
  • Second Chance - Robert Kiyosaki
  • Why the Rich Are Getting Richer - Robert Kiyosaki
  • The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience - Carmine Gallo
  • The Little Voice Mastery - Blair Singer
Jack H. M. Wong
Trainer & Author
Drawing

Drawing is Thinking

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

Answer:

  • The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  • Drawing is Thinking by Milton Glazer
  • How to See by David Salle
Liquan Liew
Founder/Ripple Root
What

What Me Worry

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

Answer:

  • The Art Spirit by Robert Henri
  • What Me Worry by Andrew Kuo
Estella Ng
Founder/Ripple Root
Getting

Getting Real

I find it difficult to say I have a favorite business book, there is no perfect book in my opinion, each has its own elements to take away, and each will inevitably have elements that don’t apply to you or you disagree with. Getting Real by 37Signals is undoubtedly a book I refer back to and recommend to others. [...] was an important book for me, the ideas were defying conventional wisdom and teaching. I’m not a fan of large multi national businesses and the focus on corporate transactions, so to read something that aligned with my small business beliefs and focused on simplicity was gratifying. It was the kind of book that I read thinking, ‘yes, this is what I’ve been thinking all along, but never been able to vocalise’.
Gary Bury
Co-Founder/Timetastic
Everybody

Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content

The alternate click-bait title of Ann’s great new book could have been 73 Ways to Improve Your Writing and Conquer the World! …and it would have been an understatement. We’re all publishers now, and the better writers connect, persuade, and win. Be one of them with this book.
Brian Clark
Founder & CEO/Copyblogger Media
The

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

I read this book the year I graduated from college and was in my first job. It was a game-changer because it was after I read the book that I decided to take a plunge to start Explorer Junior, my start-up.
Ng Rong Xin
Co-Founder/Explorer Junior

The Beautiful No: And Other Tales of Trial, Transcendence, and Transformation

Sheri Salata’s journey to a life of extraordinary success ultimately triggered a transformation to wholeness and healing. We can all learn from her riveting story that joy, love and self compassion are the true goals of human existence. Read this book, The Beautiful No, and be inspired to embark on your own journey of emotional and spiritual fulfillment.
Deepak Chopra
Founder/The Chopra Foundation
The

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Q: What is one must-read book for business leaders?

A: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Business and Life by Charles Duhigg.

Cynthia Cleveland
CEO/Broadthink
Sam

Sam Walton: Made in America

In his autobiography, Walmart's founder expounds on the principles of discount retailing and discusses his core values of frugality and a bias for action — a willingness to try a lot of things and make many mistakes. Bezos included both in Amazon's corporate values, Brad Stone writes.
Jeff Bezos
CEO/Amazon

Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education

Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That's Transforming Education by Sir Ken Robinson - a book for educator or edu-preneur or anyone who wants to make a change in the education realm.
Ng Rong Xin
Co-Founder/Explorer Junior

Creative Calling: Establish a Daily Practice, Infuse Your World with Meaning, and Succeed in Work + Life

Relentlessly generous and endlessly creative, Chase is challenging us to see the shifts in our culture and media as the opportunity of a lifetime. If you care about making things better, this book is here to help.
Seth Godin
Marketer, Entrepreneur

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers

Tools of the Titans by Tim Ferriss has awesome stories from some of the most successful people in the world.

Nick Janetakis
Founder/NickJanetakis.com
The

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience

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

Answer:

  • Rich Dad Poor Dad - Robert Kiyosaki
  • Second Chance - Robert Kiyosaki
  • Why the Rich Are Getting Richer - Robert Kiyosaki
  • The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience - Carmine Gallo
  • The Little Voice Mastery - Blair Singer
Jack H. M. Wong
Trainer & Author

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Sorrell, CEO of the communications house/ad agency, WPP, has a rather eclectic mix this summer:

 

  • Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency—James Andrew Miller
  • Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes—Richard Davenport-Hines
  • Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future—Ashlee Vance

 

Sir Martin Sorrell
CEO/WPP
Steal

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Part of ambition is modeling yourself after those you’d like to be like. Austin’s philosophy of ruthlessly stealing and remixing the greats might sound appalling at first but it is actually the essence of art. You learn by stealing, you become creative by stealing, you push yourself to be better by working with these materials. Austin is a fantastic artist, but most importantly he communicates the essence of writing and creating art better than anyone else I can think of. It is a manifesto for any young, creative person looking to make his mark. Pair up with Show Your Work which is also excellent.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check

Second Chance: for Your Money, Your Life and Our World

Second Chance - a book written by Robert Kiyosaki in 2014/2015 has also created a huge impact on me in that by having the real financial education, we, the human being, have the power to choose what we want in our lives. We work not because we have but we choose to and that's the key. In the end, the word is Choice!
Jack H. M. Wong
Trainer & Author

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

After reading Lean In and listening to Sheryl, I realize that, while I believe I am relatively enlightened, I have not consistently walked the talk. I think each of you, on reflection, will identify opportunities to operate at a new level with your women employees, leaders, customers, partners, and peers ... 1) please read the copy of Lean In you will be receiving shortly, before we get to the SVP/VP off-site and 2) determine 3-4 specific things you will do differently.
John Chambers
CEO/Cisco
The

The Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need from Grownups

The Importance of being Little: What Young Children Really Need from Grownups by Erika Christakis - It’s a good read for anyone who wants to be a educator.
Ng Rong Xin
Co-Founder/Explorer Junior
The

The Obstacle is the Way

Follow these precepts and you will revolutionise your life.
Steven Pressfield
Author/The War of Art
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

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

[From the book The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon]

“The scholar argues that people are wired to see patterns in chaos while remaining blind to unpredictable events, with massive consequences. Experimentation and empiricism trumps the easy and obvious narrative,” Stone writes.

Jeff Bezos
CEO/Amazon
The

The Alchemist

There was a moment where I was on a quest for self-discovery. I felt lost and wasn't sure if I was who I was because I made the decision to be me, or if my identity was programmed by culture, society and setting. Because of that, I started reading self-help books to reconstruct identity and mold who I wanted to be. This book helped me.
Ola Olusoga
Co-founder/Populum
Why

Why the Rich Are Getting Richer

The reason why this is my favorite book is that it is an advanced version of Rich Dad Poor Dad which explains in further details how the rich are getting richer by understanding the tax system and real financial education. [...] When I chanced upon Why the Rich Are Getting Richer, I finally understand why I have been running my own tax consulting practice for such a long time. The global tax system is set up to benefit the rich people because they are the ones who contribute to the growth of the economy by putting investments into the economy as well as creating job opportunities.
Jack H. M. Wong
Trainer & Author
The

The Lean Startup

There are quite a few good business books on technology, and I'll list below some I find to be a good starting point. Personally, I like biographies a lot and I mostly read biographies of dead people, because those are the most honest ones. So because the computer age is still very young, there won't be a lot of biographies in my list.
Bogdan Iordache
Co-Founder/How to Web
The

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

I read this book at a time when Udemy was rapidly growing—over the 18 months where we went from 30 to 200 people. It was helpful to read about Horowitz's challenges, worries, and triumphs when addressing the same types of issues at a similar stage of growth. There are so many big decisions you need to make where there's just no clear-cut, right or wrong answer. There are a lot of gray areas. You gather information from your team, but the hard decisions rest with you. This book helped me realize that while I needed to carefully and objectively consider feedback, I was responsible for making a decision in the end—even when it was an unpopular one.

Dennis Yang
CEO/Udemy