If you're the kind of person who strives for self-improvement, you probably have a book on your nightstand or in your bag. Need some ideas on what to read next? Here are the books more than a dozen successful executives say helped them get ahead in business and life.
1. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
"This book has helped me both personally and professionally to fight the exhausting pursuit of perfectionism and become less fearful. Brené Brown believes that the more we protect ourselves from vulnerability, the more we grow fearful and disconnected. One of my favorite quotes from the book is, 'When we spend our lives waiting until we're perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.' For me, it has always been difficult to be vulnerable in the work environment. Vulnerability in my mind equaled weakness, but Dr. Brown's research shifted the way I think about it. After reading this book, I continuously challenge myself to be courageous enough to bring my authentic self to work, and when I do, I find people respond differently. Today, when I share my fears, show vulnerability, and lead transparently, I am able to build better connections."
--Jennifer Parker, chief revenue officer of WePay, a Chase company used by more than 1,000 platforms including Constant Contact, GoFundMe, and Meetup to incorporate payments
2. The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni
"This book really simplifies what makes an ideal team player: humility, hunger, and smarts. Over the years, I have definitely come to believe that the entire team becomes ineffective if there is a member who lacks one of these essential attributes.... It all starts with humility, where you show vulnerabilities and develop trust. Great team players are self-motivated and think about the next opportunity on their own. [This book] highlights how to create a culture of high achievement within the entire organization and put together a team [which] is humble, hungry, and has the smarts to deal with the most difficult problems."
--Sumit Dhawan, CEO of Instart, a company used by brands to deliver Web experiences to more than 250 million customers
3. The Power of One by Bryce Courtney
"Being an entrepreneur is more than just having a great idea. It is about mental fortitude and believing, even as a child, that you can control your destiny and find success. Life is a journey that takes you through many obstacles, hardships, and challenges. But if you can find the ability to believe in yourself, even when it seems impossible through anyone else's eyes, you can find you way. [This book] is a gripping story of the personal journey of a young boy named Peekay. His journey is inspiring and teaches a valuable lesson for anyone who picks this book up: Be strong and march ahead!"
--Jonathan Bingham, CEO of Janeiro Digital, a business transformation and technology consultancy which has doubled growth year over year (2017 and 2018) with 85 employees globally
4. Extreme You: Step Up. Stand Out. Kick Ass. Repeat. by Sarah Robb O'Hagan
"I'm always paranoid about just being average, which can be problematic because there's no reason to think I'm not and I'm painfully aware of my weaknesses. Sarah Robb O'Hagan shares how someone who admits to being born average can hack themselves to become a superstar, by setting extreme goals and taking tangible steps to get there. I recommended it to many young ambitious women. She's very honest--she talks about being fired twice--and relatable. It's also a great flight read because it's short, but you may disturb your neighbors from laughing audibly."
--Brittany Yoon, VP of ops at Ethos, a digital life insurance company which raised $46.5 million in less than a year
5. Write Tight: Say Exactly What You Mean with Precision and Power by William Brohaugh
"If you struggle with writing concisely or wonder how your writing could improve, this book is a great tool. William Brohaugh, a former Writer's Digest editor, offers how-tos for writers at any stage. [This book] is especially useful for today's professionals, as technology has created an environment with incredibly high stakes for written communication."
--Brad Hoover, CEO of Grammarly, an A.I.-powered writing assistant used by 20 million people daily
6. Culture. com: How the Best Startups Make It Happen by Robert A. Stringer
"Bob shares down-to-earth examples of how startup founders and early employees from many different industries have faced challenges head-on and reached deep within themselves to solve problems for their people. Many great lessons in the book that can be applied to any organization, big or small."
--David Chang, CEO of Gradifi, an employee benefits company used by more than 700 U.S. employers, and a unit of First Republic
7. Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama
"Given our fast pace of life today, particularly in our expectations for success, this book is a valuable lesson in how greatness takes time to form. An individual's roots, upbringing, integrity, and ability to empathize with the predicament of many in our society are coalesced into determination and actions to change the world. There is no one better to learn this from than Obama, who used his capabilities to fight against all odds to succeed in life, both professionally and personally. Obama is a natural storyteller, so the book reads quickly and easily. The energy and sense of purpose I was left with after reading the book makes it an excellent read for anyone who is or feels too busy with day-to-day work. It's an excellent reminder to slow down and sow the seeds that will take you further and more sustainably into the future."
--Anita Ngai, CRO at Klook, a global travel experience booking platform that has raised $521.5 million in funding to date and offers more than 100,000 experiences by over 8,000 industry partners across more than 270 destinations worldwide
8. The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday
"[This book] is a modern take on the Hellenistic philosophy of Stoicism. I loved this book as it's a compelling reminder, too often forgotten (myself included), that the challenges in life are what make us stronger, better, deeper human beings. In fact, with the right perspective and approach, challenges turn into opportunities, leading us down newer, fresher paths that we would not have found had it not been for the adversity we faced. This doesn't mean it's easy; but facing and overcoming challenges, including perseverance through failure, is ultimately what makes human existence most rewarding. In business as in life, we encounter obstacles, big or small, everyday, which is why this book is always by my bedside and why I start my days recalling its instruction that the path to success is rarely a straight line."
--Karl Van den Bergh, CMO at Gigamon, which provides visibility to network traffic across physical, virtual, and cloud environments, servicing more than 3,100 global customers, 83 of the Fortune 100 companies, eight of the top 10 largest tech companies, and seven of the top 10 Global Banks
9. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
"I just love how Kahneman dismantles the presumed superiority of reason, proving intuition to be the leading decision-making tool in managing complexities, exactly what designers are great at."
--Gadi Amit, president and principal designer of NewDealDesign, a technology design studio used by companies including Fitbit, Google, Postmates, and Microsoft, generating over $40 billion product unit sales for clients since 2000
10. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
"This book provided me with a framework for something that I've always intuited: There's something much broader than financial compensation that drives all of us. Western economics was built on the foundation that 'homo economicus' is driven by monetary incentives, but on the flip side there's robust research proving that the opposite is true. For non-monotonous, creative work, rewards based solely upon financial incentives actually lead to worse performance. This made me start thinking about the bigger picture of how motivation works. I realized that the answer is simple. After our basic financial needs are met, what motivates us the most are three things: finding mastery in our work, feeling autonomy in determining our future, and feeling connected to a higher purpose, something bigger and more meaningful than ourselves."
--Emil Eifrem, founder and CEO of Neo4j, a graph database company that recently raised $80 million in a Series E led by One Peak Partners and Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital, bringing its total funding to $160 million
11. The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli
"The world is moving faster today than many of us are equipped to handle or are comfortable with. We can easily feel like an underachiever, overwhelmed, or just out of sync with what is happening around us. The idea that time is a structure of our brain and emotions is a concept that might help many to settle into a rhythm that makes life more enjoyable and livable. Science is discovering proof at the edge of our concept of time and this book somehow finds itself landing at a time where rejecting time as the construct is a welcomed change. Settling into big ideas and discoveries always makes my problems somehow seemingly simple to overcome."
--Kyle Jackson, co-founder and CEO of Talespin, a developer of enterprise XR training and workforce solutions used by thousands of employees across its portfolio of Fortune 500 clients
12. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
"[This] is a book that makes a continuous impact on my outlook for work, leadership style, and co-worker relationships. It's a story about how everyone finds their true purpose, but more importantly, it tackles the voice in our heads that prevents us from reaching our own greatness. If we can overcome that, we can build amazing co-working relationships and epic company cultures. Our job as leaders is to overcome the fear of failure, but we fail all the time on areas we don't focus on. This is the book I go back to over and over again to tackle the fears, rejections, and nonsense that limit my abilities."
--Morgan Norman, CMO of Copper, a recommended CRM for G Suite by Google Cloud that services more than 12,000 paid businesses in over 100 countries
13. Sapiens, a Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
"This book has given me an understanding of the intersecting biological and cultural evolution of humankind. Not only is this a fascinating way to exercise the mind, but it also serves as a reminder of our true place in the universe. I also believe it is important to begin each day on a high note, so I start my day with the song, 'Eyes of the World,' by Grateful Dead.
--Kraig Fox, CEO of High Times, a cannabis brand with 1.3 million unique monthly visitors to its website