If you want to improve the quality of your life, one of easiest ways to get there is by reading books. It's because researchers have consistently found that it's an activity which reduces stress, increases intelligence, boosts memory, and helps people be more open-minded. If you're looking for ideas on what to read next, here are titles more than a dozen successful executives say influenced them most.
1. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling
"The primary focus of the book is to help explain why most people have an incorrect assumption about key aspects of society such as the number of folks living in extreme poverty, or the number of people who lack electricity or education levels of women. I found this book to be incredibly helpful in not making assumptions without truly researching or understanding a topic and the importance of looking at trend data."
--Toby Gabriner, CEO of AdRoll Group, a growth platform company helping businesses compete online to grow revenue with over 500 employees in six offices around the world
2. The Choice: Embrace the Possible by Dr. Edith Eva Eger
"This is the most powerful book on the topic of grit and resilience I have ever read. It's the story of Edith Eger, who at the age of 16 was sent to Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp. Separated from her parents at the time of arrival, as her parents were sent to the gas chambers, Eva then went on to endure unimaginable experiences. But, the horrors of the Holocaust did not break Edith. In fact, they helped her to live a full and accomplished life as a world renown psychologist, with life-affirming strength and truly remarkable resilience. On the way to her own death, Edith's Mom shared this growth mindset thinking with her daughter that Edith took to heart: 'We don't know where we are going, we don't know what is going to happen but nobody can take away from you what you put up here, in your own mind.'"
--Dan Gluck, managing partner at Powerplant Ventures, a VC fund investing in emerging consumer food and beverage, foodservice and food-tech companies such as Beyond Meat, Ripple Foods, and Thrive Market
3. The Most Powerful Woman in the Room Is You by Lydia Fenet
"For any person who feels like they're trying to balance it all -- work, family, passion projects -- Lydia Fenet can help. Her debut book chronicles her career journey as managing director and global head of strategic partnerships at Christie's Auction House, and explains how she achieved success in her role while also raising more than half a billion dollars for non-profits around the world. Lydia shares tangible examples and lessons learned with the heartfelt authenticity you would expect from your best friend -- coupled with laugh-out-loud experiences (spoiler alert: Matt Damon anyone?) -- to genuinely help women succeed in their careers. Sage advice from female leaders like Barbara Corcoran, Martha Stewart, Nina Garcia, and Deborah Roberts is sprinkled throughout the book, with topics ranging from the power of storytelling, work ethic, harnessing community, negotiation, learning through failure, and modeling leadership principles to inspire others. Above all, Lydia understands the importance of connecting on a human level with anyone you encounter."
--Kirsten Allegri Williams, CMO of SAP SuccessFactors, a global provider of technology solutions for human resources to more than 6,700 businesses and HR Innovation Award winner
4. The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
"[This] is a fascinating book that encouraged me to become more intentional in how I approach everything in my life, from time with family and friends at home to projects at work. It emphasized the lasting benefits of building unique, personalized experiences with every person I interact with. I learned you don't have to overextend your resources -- whether that resource is your free time on the weekends or a budget at work -- to create a visceral impact and emotional connections with your actions. The world would be a better place if more people (and companies) applied the lessons in this book and engaged with their connections in an authentic, meaningful way. It's not about the amount of time or money spent, but the quality of your interactions."
--Saar Shwartz, CMO of BMC, a company that delivers software, services, and expertise to help more than 10,000 customers, including 92% of the Forbes Global 100
5. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
"This story stuck with me and I still can't shake it. First, I have been huge Nike guy from an early age so I finally get to hear the inside story from the legend himself. As an entrepreneur, it's a powerful read about taking risks, resilience and never taking 'no' for an answer. I enjoyed the anecdotal accounting of his failures and challenges, his portrayal of a realistic and winding path to success, and of course his victories -- like paying an art student $35 to create the now-iconic Nike swoosh logo. Knight also talks to the reader as if he's sitting with you, opening up more like an old friend or mentor than an iron-handed businessman. Shoe Dog is an inspiring, humbling read -- and definitely the most honest take on building a business I've ever come across."
--Joshua Zad, founder and CEO of Alfred Coffee, Alfred Tea, Calidad Beer with over 180 employees globally
6. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable By Nassif Nicholas Taleb
"Making decisions in the midst of ambiguity is crucial for all kinds of professionals, especially in my case as an entrepreneur, executive and physician. Taleb offers a framework and anecdotes that bring probabilistic decision-making to life, allowing readers to consider the extremes in every scenario while also living in the practical reality of the most likely outcome. It's made me a better diagnostician in the hospital and the board room."
--Dr. Griffin Myers, cofounder and chief medical officer of Oak Street Health, a primary care network serving adults on Medicare, with nearly 50 centers across the country
7. The Mom Test: How to Talk to Customers and Learn if Your Business is a Good Idea When Everyone is Lying to You by Rob Fitzpatrick
"This book was a fantastic lesson on how to validate your ideas, be it business ideas or otherwise, by learning to ask the right questions. It's not about asking if an idea is good or bad; instead, it's about learning to be empathetic about what the real problem is you are trying to solve, and how to truly get to the bottom of how you can add value."
--Stefan Ritter, cofounder and chief product officer at Ruum by SAP, a software tool built for improving collaboration and productivity at work which has more than 20,000 users
8. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel
"This book was a personal landmark that caused me to completely re-think what I had done so far in my professional life. A simple key learning is to accept that you don't know anything, and keep questioning everything every day. The book served as a kind of manual to re-design the classical music market which is a global niche, totally fragmented, and based on various sets of interdependencies between artists and audiences. Peter Thiel's thinking around technology connecting supply and demand in a new way helped me ask the right questions and polish our potential role in that market."
--Till Janczukowicz, founder and CEO of IDAGIO, a streaming service for classical music with users in 180 countries and 1 million app downloads globally
9. The Signal and the Noise: Why so Many Predictions Fail but Some Don't by Nate Silver
"I love this book because it deals with something that is so hard for us as human beings to comprehend and even harder to embrace: uncertainty. While this book is drawing a lot on Silver's experience as a forecaster, it also deals with some larger problems that every business leader will face including, how to read data at scale, why confirmation bias is so harmful and why firm predictions are bound to fail, among others. This book, through its many stories and examples, helps us understand why approximations are a necessary and powerful way to create a narrative or tell a story about data. At the same time, Silver makes it very apparent that the better-sounding, bolder and more-certain predictions are more likely to fail. As a business leader, it is important to understand that uncertainty is part of our lives and not accept faux confidence. The more we embrace this fundamental understanding, the better we will be able to prepare, and handle anything that might be thrown our way be it our job or our personal life."
--Gil Sommer is VP of product at Connatix, a video platform with over 3,000 publishers worldwide
10. Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove
"Dr. Grove was a founder and CEO of Intel during its explosive growth period and was considered one of Silicon Valley's most visionary leaders. This book sets out some of the strategy and philosophy that were responsible for that success, from taking a pragmatic view of your business and market to embracing change and experimentation. Andy espoused many of the principles that have gone on to define modern technology and business management. It sounds pithy, but I started my career at Intel during Andy's tenure and the title is a great summary of the key takeaway of both this book and his philosophy. Many businesses become so enamored with their own mythology that they miss changing market dynamics. Great leaders should always be willing to re-invent their business, if the market moves, and should actively experiment to stay ahead of these changes."
--Aaron McKee, CTO of Blis, a global technology company that helps businesses understand online real world audiences using location data, working with major brands like Samsung, McDonald's, HSBC, Mercedes Benz and Peugeot
11. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
"This book is about the different aspects of warfare (it was written by a military strategist whose approach and strategies influenced military thinking for centuries). Sun Tzu's teachings can very easily be applied to the modern world, in both one's personal or professional life. 'War' is an interesting term. It doesn't have to be simply about the military -- it can be a metaphor for conflict (whether internal or external). For me, this book has been less about military strategies as it's been how to adapt, overcome, and lead an honorable life."
--Theresa Forman, recently appointed president of McMillan, an award-winning digital and creative agency which works with major brands including Tesla, United Rentals, Hitachi, Adobe, Intuit and Trend Micro
12. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Steven Covey
"This a book I read when I started my first job. One of my favorite concepts is 'Seek first to understand, then to be understood'. This skill is one of, if not, the most important aspect of leadership. Essentially it encapsulates having empathy, listening, inquiring and being open to feedback. Over the last 20 years, I've been continuously coming back to this concept as core leadership principles."
--Tina Hsiao, COO of WePay, a Chase company used by more than 1,000 platforms including Constant Contact, GoFundMe, and Meetup to incorporate payments
13. One Up On Wall Street: How To Use What You Already Know To Make Money In The Market by Peter Lynch
"The best way to understand and retain complex ideas is to have them delivered as relatable stories. In [this book] Peter Lynch takes stock investing -- a subject that was once regarded as elitist -- and explains it in a light-hearted and anecdotal way that you'll remember for the rest of your investing life. By simply living the life of a consumer, you have already developed an edge over the suits on Wall St. Trust your own judgement because it's as good as anyone else's -- in many cases, better. That was a real inspiration as I built my business: that people should trust their judgement and not defer to received wisdom. That ideal guides us day-to-day and I think it helps us connect with our customers as well. People want to feel that they are being empowered by technology to follow their gut.
--Emmet Savage, CEO of MyWallSt (formerly Rubicoin), a multi-award winning company which enables people to buy shares in the top 1% of companies on the U.S. stock market through a smartphone
14. Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World by Clive Thompson
"Today our world is increasingly shaped by the decisions of individuals and small teams who write code and execute it at an immense scale. If you want to impact the products and services which increasingly touch our daily lives, you need to understand how they are made and it is coders that make this opaque world accessible to the masses. This book puts a much-needed spotlight on the role diverse talents and perspectives have had in shaping the IT revolution, which today, touches almost every part of every industry."
--Aaron Painter, CEO of Cloudreach, a provider of software-enabled cloud services used by over 250 enterprise customers worldwide and part of Blackstone's $440 billion portfolio of companies
15. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
"I had a hard time putting this book down. I have always been fascinated by what makes up a good team, from sports to business to family. Throughout my career, I've had the benefit of leading teams of various sizes and, in my current position as CEO for Carbon Black, I've seen our team grow from several dozen people to more than 1,100 in a few short years. There are some natural growing pains to overcome growing at that rate and the concept of 'team' becomes increasingly more important. Lencioni's book reinforces the difference between building a good team that simply functions versus building a great team that swiftly executes... If you are looking to build and harness a team that can take quick, decisive action, I highly recommend this one."
--Patrick Morley, CEO of Carbon Black, an endpoint cybersecurity company with more than 5,000 global customers, including 34 of the Fortune 100
16. Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neil
"Let me be honest, the cheap pun got me! I came in skeptical given the premise that highly scaled algorithms are bad for society. However, it turned out to be quite insightful. The author has a deep knowledge of data, the insights derived from them and the implications to the subjects of that data. For example, models trained with biased data carries the biases into the model. The story of how misapplied models did irreversible harm to teachers' careers in the Washington, D.C., school district brings the issues to life. While I don't agree with the overall bent of the author (mistrust of capitalism and big business), this is a good read for people trying to understand how the machine learning revolution can impact their businesses, and for anybody who is interested in understanding how models impact their life."
--Arvind Purushotham, managing director and global head of venture investing for Citi Ventures which is headquartered in Silicon Valley with six global offices
17. Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott
"Learning to accept myself has been almost everything there is to being successful at work, and content in life. Anne Lamott's brief, but deep, book makes space for the complexity of humanity. We're all capable of great good and great mistakes, and Lamott not only embraces that journey but puts it to good use. She offers a kind of hope that's useable: 'Hope springs from that which is right in front of us, which surprises us, and seems to work.'"
--Beth Andrix Monaghan, cofounder and CEO of InkHouse, a PR agency with 96 current clients