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- Many business leaders credit books for giving them the knowledge that helped make them successful.
- Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates have recommended many books over the years, from biographies to leadership guides to sci-fi novels.
- Here are 25 books that they say have taught them a lot about business, leadership, and the world.
You learn by doing, but you also learn a lot by reading.
Many influential business figures, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. say they learned some of their most important lessons from books.
The trio has recommended countless books over the years that they credit with strengthening their business acumen and teaching them about leadership.
Here are 25 books recommended by Bezos, Musk, and Gates to add to your reading list for 2022:
Some of Jeff Bezos’ favorite books were instrumental to the creation of products and services like the Kindle and Amazon Web Services.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
“The Remains of the Day”
This Kazuo Ishiguro novel tells of an English butler in wartime England who begins to question his lifelong loyalty to his employer while on a vacation.
Bezos has said of the book, “Before reading it, I didn’t think a perfect novel was possible.”
“Sam Walton: Made in America”
In his autobiography, billionaire Walmart founder Sam Walton recalls his career building one of the world’s largest retailers.
“Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies”
This book draws on six years of research from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business that looks into what separates exceptional companies from their competitors. Bezos has said it’s his “favorite business book.”
“Creation: Life and How to Make It”
Steve Grand discusses artificial life through the lens of his 1996 computer game Creatures in this book.
“The Innovator’s Dilemma”
Harvard Business Review Press
Clayton Christensen examines various companies’ successes and failures in disruptive innovation in this book.
“The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement”
Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox examine the theory of constraints from a management perspective in this novel.
“Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation”
Simon & Schuster/Amazon
This book imparts lessons about improving efficiency based on case studies of lean companies across various industries.
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
Nassim Nicholas Taleb popularized the term “black swan” with this book, in which he defines such events as highly improbable, unpredictable, and impactful.
Elon Musk’s must-reads include a number of sci-fi novels and books on artificial intelligence.Elon Musk, Tesla CEO
Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images
“Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future”
Peter Thiel shares lessons he learned founding companies like PayPal and Palantir in this book.
Musk has said of the book, “Thiel has built multiple breakthrough companies, and Zero to One shows how.”
“The Lord of the Rings”
Musk has said he read a lot of fantasy and science fiction novels as a kid and once quoted a line from Tolkien’s famous trilogy on Twitter.
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”
In the same vein, Musk read “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” as a teenager and has even said the spacecraft in it is his favorite spacecraft from science fiction.
“Benjamin Franklin: An American Life”
Musk’s reading list isn’t without biographies, including this Walter Isaacson book on Benjamin Franklin.
“Einstein: His Life and Universe”
Musk enjoyed Isaacson’s biography on Albert Einstein as well.
“Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies”
Musk has also recommended several books on artificial intelligence, including this one, which considers questions about the future of intelligent life in a world where machines may become smarter than people.
“Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era”
On the subject of AI, Musk said in a 2014 tweet that this book, which examines its risks and potential, is also “worth reading.”
Bill Gates is known to make book recommendations quite often.
Leon Neal/Getty Images
“Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2012”
One of his favorites is Warren Buffett’s “Tap Dancing to Work.”
“A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety”
Gates also likes former president Jimmy Carter’s “A Full Life.”
“Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think”
This book probes the thinking patterns and tendencies that distort people’s perceptions of the world. Gates has called it “one of the most educational books I’ve ever read.”
“Origin Story: A Big History of Everything”
Little, Brown and Company
David Christian takes on the history of our universe, from the Big Bang to mass globalization, in this book.
“Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World”
“Range” explores the idea that, though modern work places a premium on specialization, being a generalist is actually the way to go. Gates has said Epstein’s ideas here “even help explain some of Microsoft’s success because we hired people who had real breadth within their field and across domains.”
“The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History”
Elizabeth Kolbert plumbs the history of Earth’s mass extinctions in this book, including a sixth extinction, which some scientists warn is already underway.
“Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street”
Gates has said this is “the best business book I’ve ever read.” It compiles 12 articles that originally appeared in The New Yorker about moments of success and failure at companies like General Electric and Xerox.
“The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age”
This Archie Brown book examines political leadership throughout the 20th century.
“Making the Modern World: Materials & Dematerialization”
Vaclav Smil examines the materials and processes that made our modern world in this book.
“What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions”
Randall Munroe, creator of the hit web comic xkcd, proposes funny yet informative answers to life’s wildest hypothetical questions in this book.