Richard Branson is sometimes called the world’s most inspiring entrepreneur alive today. Certainly, he’s one of the most original and colorful of the entrepreneur icons, both characteristics reflected in his list of favorite books:
1. An Inconvenient Truth
Subtitle: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It
Author: Al Gore
5 Second Summary: The former Vice President lays out the case for climate change and warns of the inevitable disasters if it’s ignored.
Why It’s Inspiring: Climate change provides a way for entrepreneurs to truly “change the world” for the better by using their political clout to overcome the entrenched interests of the “I don’t care who dies as long as I get rich” energy industry.
Fun Factoid: Climate change deniers have focused on a handful of errors in this book as “proof” that man-made climate change isn’t real, despite mountains of evidence that it is.
Best Quote: ” Many people today assume mistakenly that the Earth is so big that we humans cannot possibly have any major impact on the way our planet's ecological system operates. That may have been true at one time, but it is not the case any more. We have grown so numerous and our technologies have become so powerful that we are now capable of having a significant influence on many parts of the Earth's environment. The must vulnerable part of the Earth's ecological system is the atmosphere. It is vulnerable because it is so thin. Indeed, the Earth's atmosphere is so think that we have the capacity to dramatically alter the concentration of some o fit basic molecular components. In particular, we have vastly increased the amount of carbon dioxide–the most important of the so-called greenhouse gases.”
2. In-N-Out Burger
Subtitle: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules
Author: Stacy Perman
5 Second Summary: A tasty look at the Southern California burger joint that’s stayed true to its origins for decades, creating a cult following.
Why It’s Inspiring: The continued success of this family business provides a counter-narrative to the endless mantra of “disruptive innovation.”
Fun Factoid: The guy who wrote the In-N-Out commercial jingle made enough in royalties to support himself for several years.
Best Quote: “When famed restaurant The French Laundry reached its 12th anniversary in 2006, its Michelin starred chef Thomas Keller, a longtime fan, celebrated with his staff by having three hundred In-N-Out burgers and a small mountain of fries delivered to the restaurant. That same year, in something of a tribute, Keller was photographed in the April issue of Food & Wine magazine sitting at a booth in the Napa Valley In-N-Out wearing one of the chains paper cadet hats, the restaurant’s manager sitting across from him.”
3. Long Walk to Freedom
Subtitle: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
Author: Nelson Mandela
5 Second Summary: A revolutionary is imprisoned for decades due to his opposition to race-based segregation, only to emerge as the country’s national leader.
Why It’s Inspiring: It’s Nelson Mandela. What more do you need?
Fun Factoid: When President, Mandela used South Africa’s near-mania for Soccer to create solidarity among the country’s many ethnic groups.
Best Quote: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Subtitle: The Unknown Story
Author: Jung Chang and Jon Halliday
5 Second Summary: An expose of the ruthless and murderous pursuit of power by the most mythologized figure of the 20th century.
Why It’s Inspiring: If China can recover--as it apparently has–from being ruled by a monster then any company can recover from a run-of-the-mill sociopathic CEO.
Fun Factoid: Chairman Mao’s embalmed corpse remains preserved in the Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall at Tiananmen Square.
Best Quote: “Mao Tse-tung, who for decades held absolute power over the lives of one-quarter of the world’s population, was responsible for well over 70 million deaths in peacetime, more than any other twentieth-century leader.”
5. Swallows and Amazons
Author: Arthur Ransome
5 Second Summary: The first volume of a whimsical series of novels about two imaginative families.
Why It’s Inspiring: It's the sort of gentle story that appeals to children young and old
Fun Factoid: A new movie based on the series is being filmed in the Lake District of England.
Best Quote: “Better drowned than duffers, if not duffers won’t drown.” (You have to trust me on this one.)
6. The Dice Man
Author: Luke Rhinehart
5 Second Summary: A psychiatrist begins making life decisions based upon random dice throws, eventually inspiring a cult following.
Why It’s Inspiring: It provides insight into humanity'sneed to be surprised in an increasingly predictable and rapidly shrinking world.
Fun Factoid: This book has nothing whatsoever to do with Andrew “Dice” Clay, who is colloquially known by the same title.
Best Quote: “To change man, the audience by which he judges himself must be changed. A man is defined by his audience: by the people, institutions, authors, magazines, movie heroes, philosophers by whom he pictures himself being cheered and booed."
7. Wild Swans
Subtitle: Three Daughters of China
Author: Jung Chang
5 Second Summary: Three generations of women endure and prevail against the tides of change in 20th century China.
Why It’s Inspiring: It provides incredible insight into Chinese culture and, by extension, its rise as a capitalist power.
Fun Factoid: While not particularly well-known in the United States, this book was a huge international bestseller with 13 million copies printed in 37 languages.
Best Quote: "Iwas extremely curious about the alternatives to the kind of life I had been leading, and my friends and I exchanged rumors and scraps of information we dug from official publications. I was struck less by the West’s technological developments and high living standards than by the absence of political witch-hunts, the lack of consuming suspicion, the dignity of the individual, and the incredible amount of liberty. To me, the ultimate proof of freedom in the West was that there seemed to be so many people there attacking the West and praising China.”
PS: This list of titles originally appeared in the must-read site Favobooks.com. which I heartily recommend to bibliophiles everywhere.