Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders Share their Favorite Books


Reading has long been connected to success and personal advancement around the world. It’s no wonder then that some of our most admired entrepreneurs and business leaders are so vocal about their love for books. And in the summer months, many of these busy leaders become busy readers, retreating to their hideouts to recharge and dive into some of their favorite books.

With only a few weeks left before summer ends, there’s still time to sit back on the beach or by the pool with a great book. To give you some ideas, we pulled together a couple summer reading recommendations from a diverse group of business leaders. 

1. Rick Rubin

Rick Rubin has been called “the most important [music] producer of the last 20 years” by MTV. He is the former co-president of Columbia Records, and, along with Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam Records. Through his work with the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and Run–D.M.C., Rubin helped popularize hip hop music nationally and globally.

Known as something of a zen master, Rubin recommends Stephen Mitchell’s translation of “The Tao Te Ching” - a book comprised of 81 short pieces that could be looked at as poems. As Rubin says, “This is a book that if you read it today you would get one thing from in, and if you pick it up in two years and read it again it would mean something entirely different. It’s always exactly what you need to read at the moment, always on the money. A magic book, it always fits.”


2. Marissa Mayer

One of the United State’s highest paid CEOs, Marissa Mayer of Yahoo was Google’s employee No. 20 and has been called the "Geek Queen" of Silicon Valley. Before moving to Yahoo Mayer spent a dozen years running Google’s “search” business, impacting everything you saw and clicked on while "googling." It’s safe to say that she has had an enormous impact on your day-to-day life, even if you didn’t know it.

Mayer revealed that her favorite book is “The Design of Everyday Things” by Donald A. Norman. This book on design breaks down how and why some products satisfy customers while others disappoint. Mayer stated that she thinks “a lot about design and products and how things should work.” And that it is “cool to be able to articulate and discuss that on a level that is really accessible and interesting.”


3. Peter Thiel

Peter is one of America's most prolific serial entrepreneurs and a billionaire investor. He has been involved with some of the most dynamic companies to emerge from Silicon Valley in the past decade, both as a founder and a funder. Peter’s first start-up was PayPal which was sold to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion. Peter also launched Palantir Technologies, an analytical software company which now tops $1 billion in revenue per year. He was the first outside investor in Facebook, and has backed more than 100 startups.

Thiel has stated that the book he has gifted most to other people, and that has influenced him the most personally, is René Girard’s “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World.” He says of the book: “Girard gives a sweeping view of the whole human experience on this planet — something captured in the title of his masterwork, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World — but it’s not just an academic philosophy. Once you learn about it, his view of imitation as the root of behavior is something you will see every day, not just in people around you but in yourself.”


4.  Ed Catmull

Ed Catmull is co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios (along with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) and president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation. As such, Catmull is responsible for making many of you and your children’s favorite movies and characters a reality. For that we all owe him a great deal. The Academy recognizes this too: Ed has won 5 Academy Awards for his work over the years.

Catmull recommends the children’s book “One Monster After Another” by Mercer Mayer, having stated that it is his favorite children’s book to give as a gift. This is a fantastic book full of strange-yet-lovable creatures with fantastic names like the Stamp Collecting Trollusk, the Letter Eating Bombanant and-my favorite-the Wild N' Wooly Typhoonagator. It is one of our favorites, too.


5. Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg is one of the most respected people in tech. She was the Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google and Chief of Staff for the United States Secretary of the Treasury before taking on her current role as the Chief Operation Officer of Facebook. She has been listed as one of the world's 100 most powerful women by Forbes, named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, and received many more accolades over the years.

In a 2013 interview with the New York Times, Sandberg states that one of the books she comes back to time and again is Anna Quindlen’s “A Short Guide to a Happy Life.” Of the book, she states,”I’ve read it before -- and I will read it again -- and just knowing it’s at my bedside gives me comfort.”

Justin Reyes
Justin Reyes