If you want to get ahead in business and life, one of the best things you can do is adopt a habit of reading every day. Researchers consistently find that it's a good practice for health and longevity, not to mention the fact that business giants such as Elon Musk, Warren Buffet and Mark Cuban are voracious readers. Here are some ideas on which titles to stack on your nightstand.
1. The Blessing Of A Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel
"Although primarily a book about parenting, I have found the ideas and concepts highly applicable to the business world, especially in how to effectively mentor and get the most out of employees. Mogel emphasizes the importance of a leader who recognizes the unique attributes of their team members. She highlights flexibility as a key approach, and notes that everyone can excel if they are equipped with a supportive environment in which they are challenged to grow in new ways even if they are tasked outside of the traditional purview of their roles (i.e. having someone in a traditionally uncreative role try their hand at creativity). This is an excellent read for any CEO or mentor committed to employee growth and progression."
--Ben Reuveni, cofounder and CEO of Gloat, an AI-based career development platform, matching users with personalized career opportunities while they remain anonymous which works with over 600 companies including Dell, Oracle and Yahoo
2. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman
"This book is an unbelievable collection of stories from Richard Feynman's life and career. He was not only a brilliant physicist who had a hand in shaping the trajectory of modern history, but he found humor and interest in some of the most mundane topics. Feynman's sense of adventure and curiosity, as detailed in the book, are not only relatable to our personal lives, but also our careers. Any challenge can be approached with logic and a childlike sense of 'I can figure this out.' It was a refreshing read, easily broken into short stories, which fit well with my limiting schedule."
--Chuck Cohn, CEO of Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects experts and learners in any subject which to date has enabled students to access more than 3 million hours of live instruction on the platform
3. City of Thieves by David Benioff
"I don't often read novels, but every now and then it's nice to relax and enjoy a story, especially when there's some historical significance to the book. Set during the siege of Leningrad in WWII, this book helps put some corporate stressors into perspective, and reminds you the importance of creative problem solving in the face of adversity (all while keeping a good sense of humor)."
--Joel Milton, CEO of Baker Technologies, a CRM provider for the cannabis industry used by one-third of legal dispensaries in the U.S., and president of TILT Holdings, a merger of four companies aiming to become the one-stop technology, infrastructure and services platform for cannabis businesses
4. Play Bigger by Al Ramadan and Dave Peterson
"I was recently given the book Play Bigger by a VC at Sequoia Capital, who is also an investor of Percolate. The book is based on the premise that category-creating companies and brands, or 'category kings' will win, not only in the hearts of customers, but also in the payoff long-term. As I was reading it, a light bulb went off. This was the opportunity I saw for our company and it changed how our executive team approached the business."
--Randy Wootton, CEO of Percolate, a content marketing platform for enterprise marketeers, recognized as a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Content Marketing Platforms 2018
5. The Founder's Mentality: How to Overcome the Predictable Crises of Growth by Chris Zook and James Allen
"[This book] is a thoughtful and well-researched exploration of challenges faced by companies as they scale, with practical lessons for founders seeking long-term sustainable growth for their company. One of the standout statistics in the book was how over the past 15 years, founder-led firms have performed 3.1 times better on the S&P 500. Successful founders have an insurgent's mission throughout their company's growth, maintaining the mentality they had as a small company. I believe every employee is the founder of their own mission, and so as a company, we at Nutanix have embraced The Founder's Mentality way of thinking and acting. The moment you act like an incumbent, you are dead."
--Dheeraj Pandey, cofounder and CEO of Nutanix, a cloud computing software company that was dubbed 2016's best U.S. tech IPO and has over 10,000 customers worldwide, including JetBlue, AT&T and Subaru
6. The Success Equation by Michael Maboussin
"I am obsessed with the psychology of decision making and frameworks that drive better decision making. If you're interested in this topic then read this book. [It] provides a framework for untangling the role of luck and skill in your outcomes. If you do not understand the blend of luck and skill required for you to achieve your goal, it is impossible to put a great framework for decision making in place. As Maboussin notes, if your goal is primarily skill-based a good process will always yield a good outcome. If there is a measure of luck involved, a good process will yield a good outcome over time. Know what your blend of luck and skill is before putting frameworks in place."
--Fouad ElNaggar, cofounder and CEO of Sapho, an employee experience portal which recently announced it had its second consecutive year of more than 300 percent revenue growth, combined with 100 percent year-over-year growth of its customer base for 2017
7. The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins
"[This book] is the best tool I've found that specifically and pragmatically addresses the very real issue of leadership onboarding. Whether you are going to a new role internally, or joining an organization from the outside you will need to add value quickly. This succinct and practical read, based on Watkin's years of research studying executive success and failure helps you create a focused game plan. As a new leader, the first 90 days are critical in determining whether you thrive in a new role or crash and burn. [This book] positions leaders for success with mental preparation and an executable plan for their entry starting on day one."
--Mary Good, chief people officer at Fuze, a cloud-based communications solution provider which has received $484.8 million in funding to date
8. True North by Bill George
"About 10 years ago, I came across this book when I was doing some serious soul searching of who I was, and what it meant to be a leader. I studied various leadership models at business school, but the more I learned, the more I became confused about what kind of leader I wanted to be. This book, based on Bill George's interviews with 125 leaders from different backgrounds, taught me that the common characteristic that successful leaders have is authenticity, honed in through their life events ('crucibles'). Reading through these stories, I realized that I did not have to emulate someone else to be a great leader. Instead, I already possessed many life stories that shaped who I am, and if I am true to myself, I can become a great leader. This book has had such a profound impact on me, with lessons which still to-date guide me in many ways, especially when things get tough."
--Yong Kim, cofounder and CEO of Wonolo, an on-demand staffing platform that connects hourly workers with available jobs and the company serves thousands of companies in the U.S. who face unpredictable hiring needs
9. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins
"[This book] helped reaffirm what I was already certain of when it came to building my company: that good ideas, rooted in personal experience, hard work and the right partners, are the ones that have the best chance of being successful. Oftentimes in the startup or entrepreneurial community, it's easy to assume the flashiest founder or the buzziest technology are the ones who will prevail, but this book recounts some of the most successful companies of all time and the unconventional paths that led them to success. It's a humbling reminder that while luck and timing do play a role in a company's success, at the core of it all, there needs to be a meaningful solution to a problem that real people are facing."
--Ritu Narayan, cofounder and CEO of Zūm, a Sequoia-backed startup offering an award-winning platform that has transported more than 400,000 children, and supported over 1,000 schools with transportation
10. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
"This is one of the books that I come back to frequently to reread chapters before making difficult decisions in my own business. It serves as an excellent manual on how to get through the tough times that come to every startup. Books on starting a business often gloss over the difficult parts, only presenting clean case studies. But the author, Ben Horowitz, dives deep and provides practical stories and advice for situations that every founder will face if they keep going long enough through "the struggle."
--Scott Clark, cofounder and CEO of SigOpt, an optimization solution that automates the tuning of machine learning models which has raised $8.8 million in funding and is used by various Fortune 500 companies as well as hundreds of academics
11. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
"I was never an athlete, unless Academic Decathlon counts, but I love a good, inspirational Michael Jordan poster. This book is about how a ragtag crew team from the University of Washington overcame the sport's privileged elites and ultimately won gold at Hitler's 1936 Olympics. There are so many memorable lessons on building a high-performance team that apply to both sports and business, from having a shared purpose to trust to leading from within."
--Gaurav Tuli, partner at F-Prime Capital, a venture capital firm associated with the parent company of Fidelity Investments and one of the oldest VCs in existence with more than 50 years of experience investing in early-stage tech companies, with recent investments including Axoni, Even Financial, Flywire, Protenus, RiskRecon, Unison Home Ownership Investors and Benchling
12. American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road by Nick Bilton
"The story about Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the Silk Road, and the team that tracked him reads like fiction given all of its twists. This is a great read for those interested in the genesis and downfall of the Dark Web's famous marketplace (as well as the man behind it)."
--Frederic Kerrest, cofounder and COO of Okta, an independent provider of identity for the enterprise serving more than 4,700 organizations, including 20th Century Fox, JetBlue, Nordstrom, Slack, Teach for America and Twilio
13. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates by Daniel Pink
"[This book] has been hugely influential in developing our company's culture. Pink claims that what drives top talent is the need to be intrinsically, rather than extrinsically, motivated. He defines intrinsic motivation as 'a desire to do things because they matter, because we like it, because they're interesting and they're part of something important.' He asserts that the drivers of intrinsic motivation are freedom (the urge to direct our own lives), mastery (the desire to get better and better at something that matters) and purpose (wanting to do work in the service of something bigger than ourselves). Pink's theory has underpinned our thinking about how to attract and retain top talent and create an environment where they can thrive."
--Callum Negus-Fancey, cofounder and CEO of Verve, a word-of-mouth marketing platform that has 170 employees working across the globe which has raised over $35 million in venture funding to date
14. Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?: What it Takes to Be An Authentic Leader by Robert Goffee and Gareth R. Jones
"The messages in [this] book have been extremely formative throughout my professional career and it is something I often refer back to, even today. Through extensive research, the book explains the importance of being an authentic leader and how this is key to running a successful team. Being confident in embracing my own unique abilities is necessary in creating a strong business foundation for Timbuk2. Realizing this helps inspire me and my colleagues to stay true to themselves, no matter the path. I strongly believe that people feel more confident when they have a leader to look up to, who inspires that same message."
--Patti Cazzato, CEO of global bag company and pioneer of sustainable urban manufacturing Timbuk2, which makes 70,000 custom bags a year in its 23,000 sq. ft. factory in San Francisco's Mission District
15. The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni
"While the topics of strategy, product and marketing often tickle the intellects of most business leaders, the greatest learning I have had over my 20 years as an executive in innovative, rapid-growth businesses is the importance of people and teams. Patrick Lencioni succinctly captures and communicates actionable behaviors that underwrite organizational performance for any enterprise. This is not a book that regurgitates the tired concepts of values, missions and goals. Instead, it elevates them through practical application and provides tools that act as reassuring reminders, as opposed to 'too smart for their own good' attempts at quantum breakthroughs. A must-read for any member of an organization. If you have the opportunity to attend a Lencioni event, don't miss it!"
--Gregg Kelley, CEO of olive oil company California Olive Ranch, a producer of U.S. extra virgin olive oil that recently received the largest equity investment ever made in the domestic olive oil industry of $35 million
16. The 7 habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey
"I read this book during my first year as a manager and it was a game changer. The wisdom of all seven habits are equally impactful yet I always come back to 'You have to water the flower you want to grow.' Steven Covey eloquently explained how our relationships operate like bank accounts. We have to make more deposits than withdraws or we will be overdrawn. It's 25 years later and I still take this to heart in my personal and professional relationships. It gives me pause when I need to practice restraint through my words or correspondence. I think of it when I offer praise but more importantly, express gratitude. We have our own emotional wellbeing accounts for which we are responsible. This book serves as a great reminder of how easily they can be overdrawn when neglected."
--Traci DeForge, founder of Produce Your Podcast, a global podcast consulting and production firm with triple digit year-over-year growth
17. Principles by Ray Dalio
"This is one of the books that resonated with me over the years. The biggest impact it had on my career was helping me understand my own limitations, highlighting that one can't see themselves objectively and need outside support and input. It also taught me how to seek and find support and how to really focus on building the strongest relationships with people (and yourself). It has influenced a lot of my thinking about my own values and principles, relationships (work and personal), and my own development. I'm conscious of things I highlight in books and one moment really stuck with me: 'Every time you confront something painful, you are at a potentially important juncture in your life--you have the opportunity to choose healthy and painful truth or unhealthy but comfortable delusion. The quality of your life will depend on the choices you make at those painful moments.'"
--Dan O'Connell, GM of VoiceAI at Dialpad, the maker of UberConference that recently raised a $50 million Series D and acquired real-time speech recognition and artificial intelligence company TalkIQ and in the last year added 10,000 new customers with doubled recurring revenue
18. Forged in Crisis by Nancy Koehn
"Nancy dives into the personal histories of five famous leaders. But rather than highlight the events that made them famous, she explores the earlier experiences in their lives that formed their leadership skills. She calls those formative times the 'Gathering Years.' In a time when so many young people are rushing to be in charge, it is a clear reminder life is a journey, a career is a series of skill building experiences, and not to undervalue the formative events that ultimately build up to readying someone for that time when they are called to leadership. For me, all my experiences to date have led me here, to start Unusual. I wasn't ready until now. And while many of the scars I have from past experiences were painful to get, they made me strong and conditioned me to take this next step. I would encourage everyone to embrace their Gathering Years and be less eager to reach the ultimate destination they have in mind."
--John Vrionis, founder and managing partner at Unusual Ventures, a seed-stage venture capital firm focused on giving mentorship and guidance to entrepreneurs; prior to founding Unusual Ventures, John was a General Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners and an investor in a number of successful companies including AppDynamics, CloudBees, DataStax, Mulesoft, Nicira, and Nimble Storage
19. Microserfs by Douglas Coupland
"I was a punk kid around 16 who didn't know what I wanted to do, but knew I wanted to make an impact. I spent my energy on all the wrong things and constantly got in trouble, but loved reading and one day found [this book]. This was way before startups were a thing and I read it and for the first time in my life realized that business could be exciting, that I could combine my interest in computers with something that was fun, challenging the status quo an creating a real change. I was hooked and less than 24 months later I started my first company. It gave me the courage to do something (even if I failed) and I never looked back."
--Christian Lanng, cofounder and CEO of Tradeshift, a business commerce company which connects over 1.5 million companies across 190 countries and processes over half a trillion U.S. dollars in transaction value
20. Culture (series) by Iain Banks
"Most futurist/sci-fi works either portray a dystopia where machine intelligence is malevolent or indifferent to humans (SkyNet, etc.), or else avoid AI altogether. Iain Banks's Culture series describe a plausible universe in which humans and AIs live in great harmony and respect. It serves as a reminder that technology is neither good or bad; we determine how it's used, whether to our detriment or benefit. Entrepreneurs working in technology make a small contribution in determining this outcome, but it's still a great responsibility and an inspiring viewpoint."
--AJ Shankar, CEO of Everlaw, a litigation platform which raised $25 million from Menlo Ventures this spring, and serves U.S. states' attorneys general, corporate law departments like Zenefits, and law firms ranked in the American Lawyer 100
21. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
"David McCullough is a wonderful story teller. Reading about two humble brothers from Ohio reaching their dream of flying with no formal college education, no experience in working with others, and no technical training was both inspirational and educational. Orville and Wilbur were ahead of their time. So many of the attributes they possessed that led to those first flights on December 17, 1903, are incredibly relevant for today's leaders, in today's working world. Innovation, perseverance, grit, collaboration, fortitude, failing fast, and having the will to improve are all traits that any great leader can learn from. Of course, loving American history makes this a great read as well."
--David M. Gordon, a 35-year veteran of the restaurant industry, who serves as president of the $2.6 billion restaurant company The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated
22. 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done By Peter Bregman
"Like most senior leaders, one of my greatest challenges is time or lack thereof. There is a constant demand to do more with less that stretches way beyond the workplace--balancing careers with parenthood, caring for aging parents, pursuing hobbies or special interests, giving back to the community--the list goes on. [This book] provides a simple yet effective framework for identifying your top priorities (both inside and outside of work) and then aligning your schedule, hour by hour, to achieve your goals. He also provides practical tips and tricks to manage the daily distractions that threaten to take you off course. I enjoy reading it every January as a way to chart out my annual plan to focus my time on the things there are most important to me."
--Ana Perez, VP of marketing for League, a digital benefits platform which serves hundreds of corporate customers across the U.S. and Canada including KPMG, Unilever, Shopify, Mogo, Intelex Technologies and L'Occitane en Provence
23. Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore
"It's a brilliant discussion of the challenges involved in taking a product from early to mass adoption. I was lucky enough to have breakfast with Moore at Buck's in Woodside (like a scene from a movie, with everyone seemingly knowing him and coming over to chat). One thing that stuck with me was that he didn't start with the Chasm model and work backwards. He distilled it from research into what was really happening at thousands of different companies. I think that's a big reason for the book's success. Its diagnosis rings true and its recommendations work."
--Mark Orttung, CEO of Nexient, a 100-percent U.S.-based software service partner of Fortune 500 brands including Bill.com and Williams-Sonoma