If there’s one habit most super-successful people share, it’s this: They read. A lot.
Many of them have shared the books that helped shape them personally and professionally. If you want to emulate these titans of industry, reading their faves seems like a good place to start.
From classic literature to business management guides, we rounded up their top picks, so you can start stocking your shelves.
‘The Intelligent Investor’ by Benjamin Graham
Among Wall Streeters, Graham is known as the father of value investing. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett credits Graham’s book with laying the foundation for his investment philosophy when he read it at age 19.
“To invest successfully over a lifetime does not require a stratospheric IQ, unusual business insights, or inside information,”Buffett said. “What’s needed is a sound intellectual framework for making decisions and the ability to keep emotions from corroding that framework. This book precisely and clearly prescribes the proper framework. You must provide the emotional discipline.”
‘Making the Modern World’ by Vaclav Smil
This book by an environmental sciences professor focuses on the costs of increasing material consumption and the potential for dematerialization in the future.
Bill Gates, estimated to be the richest man on earth, calls Smil his favorite author and says the book gave him new insight into the materials that make modern life possible.
“It might seem mundane, but the issue of materials — how much we use and how much we need — is key to helping the world’s poorest people improve their lives,” Gates writes. “Think of the amazing increase in quality of life that we saw in the United States and other rich countries in the past 100 years. We want most of that miracle to take place for all of humanity over the next 50 years.”
‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ by Douglas Adams
This work of science fiction helped billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk through an existential crisis during his adolescence. In the book, a supercomputer deduces the answer to a meaningful life is the number 42, though it’s not clear what the original question was.
“It highlighted an important point, which is that a lot of times the question is harder than the answer,” Musk said in an interview. “And if you can properly phrase the question, then the answer is the easy part. So, to the degree that we can better understand the universe, then we can better know what questions to ask.”
‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’ by Clayton Christensen
The late Apple billionaire Steve Jobs was inspired by Christensen’s book on the importance of disruption. Essentially, Christensen argues that companies often fail when they stop innovating as technology and their customers’ needs evolve.
That’s why Apple didn’t hesitate to introduce the iPhone, even though it had a lot of the same features as the iPod.
In an explanation of why Apple needed to use cloud computing, Jobs said: “It’s important that we make this transformation, because of what Clayton Christensen calls ‘the innovator’s dilemma,’ where people who invent something are usually the last ones to see past it, and we certainly don’t want to be left behind.”
‘The Aeneid’ by Virgil
Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg told The New Yorker that this epic Latin poem is one of his favorite reads.
It tells the story of Trojan warrior Aeneis and his journey to found the Roman empire. The character’s struggles to pursue his dreams are applicable to aspiring entrepreneurs even today.
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee
Lee’s 1960 classic has taught many American students about the meaning of prejudice and justice. Billionaire Oprah Winfrey says reading the book as a young girl may have inspired her to start her book club as an adult.
“I remember reading this book and then going to class and not being able to shut up about it,” she said. “I read it in eighth or ninth grade, and I was trying to push the book off on other kids. So it makes sense to me that now I have a book club, because I have been doing that since probably this book.”
‘The Fountainhead’ by Ayn Rand
According to billionaire investor Mark Cuban, Rand’s somewhat controversial novel is required reading for every entrepreneur.
One of its major themes is the tension between individualism and collectivism: A young architect refuses to bow to tradition, even though it means he will sacrifice fame and wealth.
‘The Effective Executive’ by Peter Drucker
Drucker is considered one of the founders of modern management theory, and this book helps executives develop time-management and decision-making skills so that they can lead their organizations more effectively.
It’s one of three books that billionaire Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had his senior managers read for a series of all-day book clubs in 2013.
‘Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World’ by René Girard
PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel says French philosopher Girard is the writer who’s influenced him most.
Thiel read this book, which explains how imitation underlies of all human behavior, as an undergrad at Stanford University, and he admits that it can seem intimidating. Yet he also believes that Girard’s ideas apply readily to what goes on in Silicon Valley.
“When the payments company Square came out with its flagship credit card reader, competitors jumped in one after the other to do the same thing with triangles or half-moons instead of squares,” he said. “That’s the comical example I cite in ‘Zero to One.’ A more dangerous phenomenon is the desire for the same position within a company: Startups are small, they move fast, and roles are fluid, so there is lots of potential for conflict.”