These are the 30 books Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates think you should read to get smarter about business and leadership
Many executives say they learned some of their most valuable business lessons from books.
Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates have recommended many over the years, from biographies to sci-fi novels.
Here are 30 books 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 Twitter, Tesla, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk; Amazon founder Jeff Bezos; and Microsoft cofounder 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 30 books recommended by Musk, Bezos, and Gates to add to your reading list:
Some of Bezos' favorite books were instrumental to the creation of products and services like the Kindle and Amazon Web Services.
"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."
"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."
"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.
"Sam Walton: Made in America"
In his autobiography, the billionaire Walmart founder Sam Walton recalls his career building one of the world's largest retailers.
"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 Solution"
This book on innovation explains how companies can become disruptors. It's one of three books Bezos made his top executives read one summer to map out Amazon's trajectory.
"The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement"
Also on that list was "The Goal," in which Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox examine the theory of constraints from a management perspective.
"The Effective Executive"
The final book on Bezos' reading list for senior managers, "The Effective Executive" lays out habits of successful executives, like time management and effective decision-making.
"Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation"
This book imparts lessons about improving efficiency based on case studies of lean companies across various industries.
Elon Musk's must-reads include a number of sci-fi novels and books on artificial intelligence.
"What We Owe the Future"
One of Musk's most recent picks, this book tackles longtermism, which its author defines as "the view that positively affecting the long-run future is a key moral priority of our time." Musk says the book is a "close match" for his philosophy.
"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 might 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."
"Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence"
In this book, MIT professor Max Tegmark writes about ensuring artificial intelligence and technological progress remain beneficial for human life in the future.
"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 J.R.R. 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 sci-fi spacecraft.
"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.
Bill Gates is known to make book recommendations quite often.
"How the World Really Works"
In his 2022 summer reading list, Gates highlighted this work by Vaclav Smil that explores the fundamental forces underlying today's world, including matters like energy production and globalization.
"If you want a brief but thorough education in numeric thinking about many of the fundamental forces that shape human life, this is the book to read," Gates said of the book.
Also on that reading list was speculative fiction novel, "The Power." Here, author Naomi Alderman explores gender roles and gender inequality by centering on a world in which young women suddenly gain the ability to shoot deadly electrical jolts from their hands, coming to wield more power, literally and figuratively, than men.
"I gained a stronger and more visceral sense of the abuse and injustice many women experience today," Gates said of the book.
"Why We're Polarized"
Ezra Klein argues that the American political system has became polarized around identity to dangerous effect in this book, also on Gates' summer reading list last year, that Gates calls "a fascinating look at human psychology."
"Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2012"
Another one of Gates' favorite books is "Tap Dancing to Work," written by one of his closest friends, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett.
"A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety"
Gates also likes former President Jimmy Carter's "A Full Life."
"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.
"Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think"
This book investigates 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"
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 puts 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.
"The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age"
This Archie Brown book examines political leadership throughout the 20th century.
"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.
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