High-achievers are lifelong learners, which often takes the shape of voracious reading. It’s because when you learn from other successful people you’re better equipped to make smart choices and expend your energy on pursuits which will have the most impact. Here are more than a dozen books recommended by executives who say these titles taught them important lessons they needed to know.

1. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

“I could not put it down. It provided a glimpse of what it’s like for someone who has cancer, from both a doctor and patient point of view. It not only allowed me to better empathize with someone close to me, but it also reminded me that life is short, and we should appreciate it more, reprioritize what's important and slow down."

--Scott Sanders, CFO at Dell Boomi, an independent business unit of Dell Technologies used by more than 7,500 organizations

2. Turn this Ship Around by L. David Marquet

“The amazing story of how the USS Santa Fe went from the worst to the best rated sub in the Pacific Fleet without changing technology, mission or personnel. All it took was a captain willing to challenge every orthodoxy. His success highlights three critical leadership tenants. First, nothing is sacred except results. When results are bad by definition something needs to change. Second, there are no magic bullets. Results come from the accumulation of smart decisions and great execution. And third, individuals need to perform at their best for their teams to perform at their best. I’ll never command a submarine but these lessons guide me every day.”

--David Bloom, GM of the small and medium-sized business group at Sterling, a global provider in employment background screening solutions which conducts more than 100 million annual screens

3. The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates

“Melinda Gates has been a true inspiration to me for many, many years, both from a professional and personal perspective. I know firsthand after re-entering the workforce as a mother that anyone who says the motherhood penalty is a myth has never tried to convince an employer that the skills created at home with young kids are also applicable to the corporate world. Melinda’s consistent message that empowering and investing in women ultimately lifts up our society is so vital for all of us to remember, because this empowerment is the key to driving real, meaningful change in our world today. While we still have a long way to go to support women in and out of the workforce, the ideas of just one woman can significantly change our society for the better.”

--Maria Colacurcio, CEO of Syndio, a software startup that helps companies around the world eradicate race or gender pay disparities

4. The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember by Fred Rogers

“No, this is not a book from my childhood, but rather a little book I recently read that reminded me how we can all benefit from the simplicity of choosing right versus wrong in the timeless words of Fred Rogers.  This book is a masterful collection of Rogers’ wisdom on common sense, love, friendship, respect, individuality, and honesty -- each tidbit explained in two to three paragraphs. Mr. Rogers’ advice is applicable in business and in life, and if we all took heed, we’d all be better off.”

--Matt Hawkins, founder and managing principal of Cresco Capital Partners LLC, a private equity firm that invests in the legalized cannabis industry, which since 2015 has deployed close to $70 million out of two funds and is currently finishing its raise on the firm’s second fund  

5. The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business by Erin Meyer

“Small business owners always site the same few pain points of doing business internationally: there are language barriers, time zone issues, and lack of familiarity with business processes in other parts of the world. It wasn’t until I read Erin’s book that I truly grasped how subtle cultural difference around the world can truly affect business. This book gives the reader a guide to easily communicate and understand every culture around the world. Globalization requires empathy, understanding, and respect of other cultures, no matter how different, and this book is a great place to start.”

--Marwan Forzley, CEO of Veem, an international payments and secure transfers company with a footprint in more than 96 countries

6. Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore

“The first in a trilogy of business marketing books that inspired me on how a startup can focus on satisfying the needs of a specific vertical market or customer group to develop early success that can be built upon. I was able to apply these lessons as I worked with visionary librarians to develop a public library eBook lending service that followed an adoption lifecycle described by Moore. I have returned to this book and its companion title Inside the Tornado over the years for guidance.”

--Steve Potash, founder and CEO, Rakuten OverDrive, which serves more than 90 percent of the public libraries in North America with ebooks and audiobooks through the award-winning Libby app

7. Blissful Ignorance: The Art of Being an Entrepreneur by Cassidy Phillips

“[This book] is an inspiring journey into the entrepreneurial journey of Cassidy Phillips, former CEO of Trigger Point Performance. As an entrepreneur in the trenches, I could relate to the different phases of growth that Phillips' company went through while learning lessons based on his mistakes and successes along the way. [It’s] is a great reminder to entrepreneurs to build their companies around passion, integrity and trust.”

--Dr. Emily Splichal, founder of Naboso Technology, who has taught 20,000 professionals in 35 countries about a unique barefoot science and rehabilitation

8. Blitzscaling by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh

“This particular book really pushed me to think bigger and move faster. As a company, we’re always receiving new ideas and suggestions from our customers and while we could just add it to a list of what we may or may not start working on in the future, we’ve run with many of these suggestions immediately -- there’s really no time like the present. I find it’s particularly important for female entrepreneurs to think about Blitzscaling and how it could impact their business. We need more women pushing boundaries and going all in on category defining businesses, especially within industries that are largely built for women.”

--Katherine Homuth, founder and CEO of pantyhose maker Sheertex, named to Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2018, and currently crowdfunding a new campaign for nude pantyhose that reached and surpassed its goal after 30 minutes

9. Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson

"Richard Branson has written several books throughout his many entrepreneurial successes, but this is his first book and illustrates in an almost un-edited version what made Richard Branson and other entrepreneurs successful: the never-ending belief that the future can be better than the present, and the vision, passion and power to make it so. His book is humorous and entertaining and consistently shows that what happens to you along the path of success is less important than how you react to what happens to you. Branson’s brutal honesty and unabashed ability to make fun of himself and his decisions in life on his path to success is refreshing and as applicable to today’s entrepreneur as the multitude of current, more polished books on the topic. In the end, it’s the vision, passion and ability to motivate people around you to work towards your dream that is at the core of all successful businesses.”

--Mark Smolin, CEO of Serendipity Brands, a manufacturer, marketer, and seller of ice cream that recently launched pint-sized cartons to over 20,000 stores in the retail market

10. Today Matters by John Maxwell

“I loved all of the principles and guidelines laid out in [this book], but most importantly [it] really helped me nail down the daily habits that are the most important for me and my business to succeed. The element I found most powerful was that you should strive to make everyday a masterpiece -- do everything with excellence. I found these notions applicable to all aspects of my life and business, whether applying to our customer service team, content creation, sales team practices, or even being a better partner and friend, doing all actions with excellence and thinking about how to make every end result a masterpiece.”

--Dr. Josh Axe, founder of Ancient Nutrition and DrAxe.com, and author of the best-selling book Keto Diet

11. Measure What Matters by John Doerr

“This book is a must-read for every aspiring entrepreneur. It shares how to build a culture driven by transparency and accountability through the lessons of some of the top Silicon Valley startups. With a focus on the ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’ (BHAG), this book helped me build a culture that is purpose-driven and highly focused in a market where it's easy to get distracted. After reading this book, we established seven Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) that are religiously reviewed and shared companywide on a daily basis to keep everyone engaged and focused on what really matters.”

--Roger Sholanki, founder and CEO of Book4Time, a cloud-based booking business management platform used by spa and wellness businesses in more than 70 countries

12. The Brain That Changes Itself by Dr. Norman Doidge

“A revolution is sweeping through the field of brain science, and this best-seller chronicles the stories of those who have ushered in a new age. The brain is no longer viewed as a machine that’s hard-wired early in life, unable to adapt, and destined to wear out with age. Instead, scientists are beginning to harness the powerful, lifelong, adaptability -- or ‘plasticity’ -- of the brain to treat neurological conditions, to address aging, and to drive dramatic improvements in human performance. Author Norman Doidge, a psychiatrist, tells one spell-binding story after another, interwoven with the latest brain science. It may be hard to imagine that a book so rich in science can also be a page-turner, but this one is hard to set down. It directly influenced my life for the past decade.”

--Jeff Zimman, chief dealmaker of Posit Science, provider of the evidence-based BrainHQ brain-training app used by millions, including the military and insurers

13. The Behavioral Investor by Daniel Crosby

"The next great frontier in entrepreneurial evolution isn’t likely to come from advances in technology or data collection.  It’s likely to come from something far more mundane -- improvements in human behavior.  The budding field of applied behavioral finance has profound implications for the decision making of every entrepreneur, whether you’re managing money or not.  Dr. Crosby has provided investors and entrepreneurs a great service in penning this highly readable introduction to this important field.  It’s both breezy and actionable and I can’t recommend it highly enough."

--Dr. Richard Smith, founder and CEO of TradeSmith, a provider of investment software which serves more than 25,000 investors and has stewarded more than $20 billion in assets

14. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

“[This book] is mandatory reading for our new hires as it chronicles the shaping of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation. It is one of the few books that describes and dissects a creative culture and how to nurture and build one. Business is increasingly multi-disciplinary and collaborative and this book is a leadership manual in developing a culture of creative excellence. It discusses concepts including how to form ideas, build systems and processes, and ways to realize a bold vision. This book is a must-read for any creative-minded individuals or people looking to create lasting innovation and breakthrough.”

--Mario Natarelli, managing partner at MBLM, a branding agency with offices in seven countries which releases a study of the most comprehensive rankings of brands based on emotion every year

15. The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer

“This book has had a profound impact on my personal life and my life as a CEO. I even gave a copy of the book to all of my staff as a gift. For me, the biggest take away from the book is, ‘the only permanent solution to any problems is to go inside and let go of the part of you that seems to have so many problems with reality.’ Things in a day can potentially become overwhelming or seem like a crisis in a fast-growing environment, but this book reminds you to stay grounded, remain open to opportunities and to have deep faith that if you attract and give, in all aspects in life and business, things always seem to work out well.”

--Liesl Bernard, CEO of Cannabizteam, an executive search and staffing firm, which has placed thousands of candidates throughout the United states and abroad, specifically for the Cannabis Industry

Published on: Mar 27, 2019