There's a correlation between reading and achievement which begins when you're a little kid. In fact, researchers consistently find that children who read well do better in school. It's also an activity which lights up your brain and enhances your vocabulary, cognition, and ability to pay attention. If that sounds right to you, and if pushing yourself to the next level is something you're always after, check out this list of great books, which is sourced from 16 successful founders and executives.
1. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff
"[It's] a really detailed analysis of the economic situation we find ourselves in, fueled by an accumulation of data, stratification of power, and a lack of regulatory oversight. Zuboff is a master economist and her thorough approach to researching the topic has spanned years. Whether you're a consumer who has concerns (or not) about your data or a business owner, reading this is a requirement to understand our rapid evolution economically, politically, and technologically to a very dangerous future state driven by data collection and inference."
--Cillian Kieran, founder and current CEO of privacy startup Ethyca, and a serial entrepreneur who previously founded technology consultancy CKSK which he grew from 0 to over 100 engineers assisting legacy enterprise organizations such as Heineken, Sony, Dell, and Pepsi in building data platforms until its acquisition
2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
"Despite it being numerous years since I've read [this book], its key messages still remain with me in business and in life. The overriding theme throughout the book is that we should pursue our dreams by following what our heart desires. The main character in the story--an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago--learns to use his heart to overcome fear. He also learns how to overcome adversity by never losing hope. They are simple messages but powerful ones nonetheless. We all go through life carrying our own doubts and fears, how we address them is what truly shapes our success. This book really helped me believe that when you want something enough, the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."
--Dan Kiely, co-founder and CEO of Voxpro, a business process outsourcing company with more than 5,000 team members across three continents and part of the Telus International family after a $150 million acquisition deal in 2017
3. The Structures of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn
"[It's] one of the most resonating books I ever came across. Kuhn explains the concept of a paradigm in such an easy to understand and didactical way. He provides such clarity in explaining the relationship between theory and data and how data ultimately causes a revolution when the paradigm is no longer useful or accurate to represent the behavior of that data. Yes, it's academic but it applies to everything in my life. Paradigms are the precursors of mindsets, and it's so crucial to have a clenching grasp on them in order to make sense of other gestalt-like concepts that we can tap into. Life change."
--Gabriel Fairman, founder and CEO of content technology company Bureau Works, used by companies including Mozilla, Harley-Davidson, Uber, and Bird to grow internationally
4. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
"This book focuses on living in the present and not allowing thoughts of the past or future to interfere. I believe this concept is important for everyone but especially for people leading a business. When faced with challenges, I remind myself to remain present, especially when it comes to day-to-day problems. Whatever happened, whether it's a mistake or an oversight, it occurred in the past. What you must do is find a solution for the present and leave whatever mistake was made behind. This philosophy allows me to be thoughtful in my daily decision making."
--Laureen Asseo, founder and CEO of Fresh n' Lean, a direct-to-consumer organic prepared meal delivery service which has delivered over 6 million meals nationwide
5. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher
"I took a negotiations class during my MBA and it's come in handy on countless occasions. We read [this book] as part of this class and it does a great job explaining how to strategize for both professional and personal disputes. It provides clear tactics around what questions to ask, how to think through your adversary's needs, and how to ensure you end the negotiation in a positive light for both parties. These tactics will come in handy in any type of negotiation, from negotiating a salary for a job offer or working through a contract with a vendor."
--Sara Raffa, co-founder of Coterie, a party supply DTC company that launched earlier this year with $2.75 million in funding
6. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankel
"It sounds more existential than it is. What I took away from this book is to figure out what you care about, because then, you can handle anything. It is a really heavy Holocaust story, so it reminded me to stop complaining and realize that I have it insanely good. It puts life in perspective and allows you to move on from things that aren't so serious."
--Nate Quigley, CEO of Chatbooks, which allows people to turn digital photos into photo books, with over one million customers
7. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
"In his fascinating new book, the historian Yuval Noah Harari writes about the current challenges humanity is facing (such as global warming, religion, nationalism, and terrorism). Unlike his former books, Sapiens (in which he focuses on the past) and Homo Deus (in which he focuses on the future), in this book, he chose to focus on the present. What I liked about [it] is the practical advice about what we should keep our minds on and how we should handle today's global challenges. The main lesson from the book is the fact that properly handling everyday life challenges requires mindfulness. And to achieve that, the author encourages the readers to meditate."
--Amir Zwickel, co-founder and chief real estate officer of Showfields, a New York City experiential retail concept that launched in 2019 with a 15-year lease and over $9 million dollars in funding
8. Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
"One of the most influential books for me over the past few years has been [this one]. The book is a phenomenal collection of frameworks for building a successful life (however you define it), career, and business. For me, the biggest lesson is that the most important element of building a business is the team (who) and culture (how and why). You have to get the right people in the right roles working together as a cohesive machine. You can have the greatest idea or product, but with the wrong team, the odds of success decrease significantly. From a culture perspective, [this book] emphasizes transparency, building meaningful relationships, and systems thinking when building and managing high-performing teams. This book has become required reading for our leadership team and has served as an anchor for us as we built our talented team and launched the Bungalo business."
--Greg Stewart, chief operating officer of Bungalo, an online platform for buying freshly renovated homes with over $225 million in backing
9. Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone by Satya Nadella
"This book should be the blueprint for any leader who's stepping into a new challenge, who's ever been told they have 'big shoes to fill.' Because, perhaps, no one has heard that more than Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. He took the helm of Microsoft in a time of immense transformation within the tech sector and within the walls of his company. He used this challenge to hit refresh on the company's, and his own, values. The book's lessons on reinvention, compassion, and the importance of collaboration (even with your competitors) can be applied to any sector. I turned to this book during a pivotal time for our organization and encourage others to do the same. My biggest takeaway is that empathy is the power of innovation. Because coming from the leader of one of the world's most innovative companies, that sticks."
--Lynn O'Connor Vos, president and CEO of Muscular Dystrophy Association, a nonprofit health agency dedicated to curing muscular dystrophy, ALS, and related diseases by investing more than $1 billion dollars to date in research and delivering care to more than 50,000 people at 150 multidisciplinary care centers in the U.S.
10. Drive One Direction: How to Unleash the Accelerating Power of Alignment by Dave Ramos
"Every company, regardless of size, must create alignment. [This book] provides a comprehensive guide for any leader who wants to unleash the accelerating power of alignment for their company. The book features a wide variety of fascinating case studies, combined with practical guidelines for how to apply these best practices in your company."
--Alan R. Mulally, former CEO of Ford Motor and a member of the Alphabet board of directors
11. The Brilliant Jerk Conundrum: Thriving with and Governing a Dominant Visionary by Rob Shelton and Marc J. Epstein, Ph.D.
"Listen carefully when board members, executives, employees, and investors describe the challenges and opportunities created by dominant visionaries. [This book] captures intriguing stories of how to generate and protect value when you have a rule-breaking trailblazer leading the charge."
--Krishna G. Palepu, the Ross Graham Walker professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School, and on the board of directors of Brooks Automation
12. The Founder's Mentality: How to Overcome the Predictable Crises of Growth by Chris Zook and James Allen
"[This book] is a grounded force for not only how we run our business, but it's essential reading for our leaders in the making. I was first introduced to the book at a CEO summit by a colleague during an instrumental moment in our company's life cycle. It wasn't quite a midlife crisis, but it was during a pivotal time of either stall out or breakthrough to the next level of growth. Logic tells you that growth comes from the outside, with the primary lever being revenue growth, but [this book] forced us to lean into our internal headwinds and reprioritize the very elements that we founded the business on, namely the customer as our North Star. I would recommend this book to anyone who finds themselves in the mature stage of their business, but whose gut tells them rejuvenation is on the horizon."
--Camille Nicita, president and CEO of Gongos, a decision intelligence company that helps Fortune 500 companies to be more customer focused
13. Mastering Leadership: Shift the Drift and Change the World by Michael Strasner
"I am participating in an advanced leadership program in Los Angeles with the author, Michael. This book focuses on how easily we are each drawn into 'the drift' of everyday mediocrity, and the book delineates 12 distinctions for shifting out of the drift and into becoming a master leader. Whether taking responsibility for it all or enrolling others into your vision through committed action, I have been seeing marked results, not only in my business, but also in my personal relationships. It is definitely worth the read."
--Candace Sjogren, co-founder and center director of Boston Breakthrough Academy, a practicing attorney, and a management consultant, where she leads strategy with venture backed companies
14. How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christiansen
"This is a book of lucid observations and penetrating insights designed to help any reader forge their own paths to fulfillment. This book really appealed to me because he doesn't give you the answer, he gives you frameworks to help you discover your answers on your own. As an example: Becoming aware of how marginal thinking both benefits and dangers your marriage, family, career, and business decisions is the kind of transformational thing that this book can do for you. Good teachers don't just give you the answer to a question, they lay out a strategy and approach for you to grasp them. That's what makes a successful teacher and a successful student. That is what the author does here, artfully well."
--Adriano Pianesi teaches leadership at the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School and is the principal of ParticipAction Consulting
15. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
"Every several years, I find myself reaching for [this book]. Somehow it always reminds me not to take myself too seriously, to focus on things that I can actually control, and not to get bogged down in the seemingly random and absurd events that conspire to derail us every day."
--Andrew Oransky, president and CEO of Roland DGA Corporation, which operates in the wide-format signage industry throughout the Americas
16. The 1-Page Marketing Plan: Get New Customers, Make More Money, and Stand Out from the Crowd by Allan Dib
"This book was such a powerful game-changer for not only how I run my own organization, but for how I coach others with their business operations as well. It is truly a must-read for any entrepreneur, since most business owners intricately know every detail about their own product but have very little knowledge about how to market that product to their customer base. However, Allan Dib provides an easy way to grasp the basics of advertising, marketing, and public relations and shows you how they all work together to drive sales. Of course, the best takeaway is you learn that you don't need an extensive 10-page marketing plan--just one page with all of the right components can help you drive the publicity you are looking for."
--Jean Paul Paulynice, business strategist and author of From Idea to Reality, which was featured in Forbes as one of the best business books for startup founders