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 such books, recommended by Bezos, Musk, and Gates:
Some of Jeff 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. “Before reading it, I didn’t think the perfect novel was possible,” Bezos has said of the Ishiguro classic.
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. It is, apparently, Bezos’ “favorite business book”.
The Innovator’s Dilemma: Clayton Christensen examines the successes and failures of businesses 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: 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.
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. “Thiel has built multiple breakthrough companies, and Zero to One shows how,” says Musk.
The Lord of the Rings: Musk has said he read a lot of fantasy and science fiction novels as a kid and once tweeted a line from Tolkien’s famous trilogy.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: In the same vein, Musk read Galaxy as a teenager. He has said that the book contains his “favorite spacecraft from science fiction”.
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life: Musk’s reading list includes 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 “worth reading”.
Bill Gates is known to make book recommendations quite often.
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 autobiography.
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: 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: For best business book, this has been Gates’ vote. 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 and 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 Webcomic proposes funny yet informative answers to life’s wildest hypothetical questions in this book.