Self-improvement is a top priority for high achievers, which is why many of them are passionate readers. Nearly two-dozen accomplished business people have recommended the following books as must-reads.
You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
“Is it the ability to believe in your own abilities that separates those who succeed from those who don’t? An old wives’ tale holds that successful individuals are endowed with an unwavering sense of self-worth from birth. In actuality, many of the world’s most talented people have had to overcome considerable self-doubts in the beginning of their careers. When it comes to self-confidence, there is a big difference. It’s possible to spend a lifetime honing your skills, but without personal confidence, you won’t be able to completely communicate your knowledge. Infusing comedy into a very serious subject, this book explains how to distinguish between self-doubt and capabilities and how to deal with self-sabotaging attitudes. Who doesn’t want to feel like a badass, after all?”
Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard
“This is the business book that I return to time and time again despite the fact that I read a lot of others. It’s probably because his business philosophy and constant questioning of ‘how can this be done better?’ resonate with me so much. That’s why I launched Greats in the first place: to challenge the status quo and forge your own path.”
Greats co-founder and CEO Ryan Babenzien, whose Brooklyn-based brand is sold on Nordstrom.com, in select Nordstrom stores, and in Greats’ brick-and-mortar shops in Venice, California, and New York City. —
Shogun by James Clavell
“In the end, the Japanese Lord of the Oshima Clan employed an Englishman who was trying to break a Portuguese trade monopoly as a tool. Using John Blackthorne, Lord Toranaga reshapes Japan and makes his mark on the nation. Because of our clients’ global expansion, they must learn to operate in many cultures. Our clients’ businesses may grow and invest abroad with the support of Toranaga’s tale, which teaches us about the need of thorough planning based on trustworthy data. James Clavell weaves a captivating tale against a vibrant backdrop, and his attention to fine detail and vivid description helped broaden my perspective of the world.”
Creating Business Magic: How the Power of Magic Can Inspire, Innovate, and Revolutionize Your Business by David Morey, Eugene Burger, and John E. McLaughlin
“Eugene Burger, a late, great magician, wrote a book with David Morey, a corporate strategist, and John E. McLaughlin, a former director of the CIA, in which he discusses how magic can inspire innovation and disruption in the business world. Eugene taught me magic for many years, and I’ve always been captivated by the subject. When applied to the world of business, magicians’ thinking can produce results as astounding and unexpected as even the best illusions, according to the writers.”
CEO and president of Levy, the nation’s largest national hospitality company, which serves over 200 sports and entertainment organizations across the United States.
Multipliers by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown
“This book, for me, serves as a road map for how to do more with less in today’s business world. Wiseman discovered that some leaders, dubbed “Multipliers,” actually multiply the intelligence of those around them, getting two times as much out of their followers on average. You’ll learn how to become a Multiplier and identify your ‘Accidental Diminisher’ actions in this book. As a leader, what you know isn’t as important as how quickly you can make the most of what others know.”
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
“This is the most influential business book I’ve ever read, and I go back to it every year to refresh my memory. Nobel Prize-winning economist Kahneman analyzes the ways in which the human brain and logic are at clash in this book. For example, he demonstrates that people avoid taking risks even when the chances are in their favor because they are more afraid of losing than they are of winning. He also discusses the concept of recency bias, which states that the human brain tends to focus more on recent events (e.g., avoiding the ocean because of a recent shark sighting despite the incredibly low odds of an actual attack). This book has helped me become more conscious of my own prejudices and flaws, which has allowed me to make better judgments in both my professional and personal life.”
More than 1,200 worldwide sales teams and 15,000 representatives are supported by Outreach CEO Manny Medina, whose company just secured $65 million at a $5 billion valuation for its sales engagement platform.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
“First-time founding CEOs, in fact, should read this book. What it’s truly like to be responsible for people and results is laid bare in this book. Until now, I have yet to come across someone who is willing to be brutally honest and true about their journey, including the low points, regardless of the subject matter. CEOs have to deal with a variety of difficult situations, including hiring and firing, dealing with the board and investors, and making difficult decisions about the company’s future. It’s comforting to know that someone else has gone through what I’m going through and come out the other side.”
—Omer Molad, co-founder and CEO of Vervoe, an intelligent hiring platform that has been utilized by over 4,000 firms in over 70 countries to identify hidden potential using real-world exams, projects, and tools built by experts.
1776 by David McCullough
“It’s difficult to put into words the dangers and excitement of the early days of a business. In the midst of the American Revolution’s first and perhaps most trying year, 1776, I believe these sentiments were aptly expressed. Even though they faced tremendous difficulties and had no systems or structure, the founding fathers had to make up a lot of it as they went along with George Washington and the others. Both the strategy and the general executing it were tainted with suspicion. When they lived it, they didn’t know if they’d even have a chance of succeeding, but now we know that they did. It’s a great summary of what makes starting a business both challenging and exhilarating.”
Apps can be built without coding knowledge and are utilized by more than half of the Fortune 100 firms, including Google, Kayak, and Southwest Airlines. —George Mashini, CTO at Quick Base.
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
“This book is a short and enjoyable read, provoking a lot of conversation about the secrets to success through a series of fascinating pieces. As an illustration of what it takes to be a success story, Gladwell relies on a wide range of fascinating stories. My favorite takeaway is that hard work is more important than natural talent in the long run. As Gladwell points out in the chapter “10,000 Hours,” the number of hours spent training is the most important factor in competence. However, it is only when the circumstances and specific events of their lives allow it that successful people can devote the time and effort necessary to master their craft. Every entrepreneur and high achiever can learn something from this story about the importance of a combination of dedication and good fortune.”
Jyoti Bansal, a serial entrepreneur and co-founder and CEO of BIG Labs, a startup studio; Harness, a continuous delivery startup; Unusual.vc, a venture capital firm; and AppDynamics, an application intelligence software company bought by Cisco for $3.7 billion in 2017, was born in Mumbai, India.