The scene: Two college students, running to class, checking their phones, and finding emails from Fortune 500 CEOs.

Is this real life?

This is what happens when a desire to learn collides with the generosity of America's top business leaders. We (Grant Hensel and Julia Wittrock) graduated from Wheaton College this past May and wanted answers to one question: What business books should we be reading? In our final weeks as students, we wrote letters to each Fortune 500 CEO asking for their book recommendations. We were stunned to receive our first responses a mere three days after mailing the envelopes, and to hear from more than 150 CEOs.

These CEOs gave us a gift we never could have expected, and we want to pass their knowledge to you. We read and summarized each of the top 52 books recommended, and have reproduced the book list below. If you'd like a copy of the summaries for free, use the coupon code INC until December 11th.


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Top 52 books (in order of number of recommendations):


??1. Good to Great by Jim Collins

2. Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

3. Great by Choice by Jim Collins

4. The Outsiders by William Thorndike

5. Competitive Strategy by Michael Porter

6. Built to Last by Jim Collins

7. The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

9. The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey

10. The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni

11. The Bible by Multiple


12. Moneyball by Michael Lewis

13. The Innovators by Walter Isaacson

14. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

15. In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters

17. The Leadership Pipeline by Ram Charan

18. Management by Peter Drucker

19. Leadership Is an Art by Max DePree

20. Who Says Elephants Can't Dance by Louis Gerstner

21. Leadership by John Wooden

22. Our Iceberg Is Melting by John Kotter

23. Leading Change by John Kotter


24. The Five Temptations of a CEO by Patrick Lencioni

25. True North by Bill George

26. American Icon by Bryce Hoffman

27. Lincoln on Leadership by Donald Phillips

28. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

29. StrengthsFinder by Tom Rath

30. Titan by Ron Chernow

31. Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury

32. Global Tilt by Ram Charan

33. Abundance by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler

34. Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

35. The Strategist CEO by Michel Robert

36. The Big Short by Michael Lewis


37. The Will to Manage by Marvin Bower

38. Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

39. Business Adventures by John Brooks

40. How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins

41. Winning by Jack Welch

42. The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt

43. The Power of Many by Margaret C. Whitman

44. Taking People With You by David Novak

45. Switch by Chip and Dan Heath

46. Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath

47. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

48. Barbarians at the Gate by Bryan Burrough

49. Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove

50. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

51. Give and Take by Adam Grant

52. Playing to Win by A.G. Lafley