BOOKS

Books Extremely Successful People Read

Sep 17, 2013

What is it about successful people that makes them so successful? Sure, they're smart, they're confident, maybe they've got a little je ne sais quoi to boot.

We think it also has a lot to do with who and what they've been influenced by. We've rounded up some of the most successful people's favorite books. While there is some overlap (Toni Morrison, Shakespeare), we still think there's plenty to keep you busy for a while. After polishing off this list, you just might start your own Fortune 500 company. Or, who knows? Maybe you'll end up being the President of the United States!

barack obama smiling

President Barack Obama: President Obama's favorite books are listed on his Facebook page and are as follows: "Song of Solomon" by Toni Morrison, "Moby-Dick" by Herman Melville, "Parting the Waters: America in the King Years" by Taylor Branch, "Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson, and "Self-Reliance" by Ralph Waldo Emerson. He also enjoys reading the Bible, Shakespeare's tragedies, and Lincoln's collected writings.

bill clinton

Bill Clinton: Former president Clinton has a long list of favorite books (full list here), but some of the highlights include Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," Marcus Aurelius's "Meditations," "Living History" by Hillary Clinton (aw, cute!), "The Four Quartets" by T.S. Eliot, and "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison.

oprah

Oprah: "To Kill a Mockingbird" is her "favorite book of all time." Zora Neal Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God" is her "favorite love story of all time." Other favorites include Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye."

bill gates

Bill Gates: In his Reddit AMA, Gates stated that his favorite book in the last 10 years was "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined" by Steven Pinker. He noted, "It's a long but profound look at the reduction in violence and discrimination over time." Another favorite is Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye."

sheryl sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg: Some of Sheryl Sandberg's favorites include anything by Michael Lewis, Anna Quindlen’s “A Short Guide to a Happy Life" and “Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution" by Caroline Weber. She's also got some recommendations for all of you budding executives out there. She believes that “Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values” by Fred Kofman is the book that every business executive should read.

stephen king

Stephen King: King contributed his top 10 favorite books to J. Peder Zane's compilation piece "The Top Ten: Writer's Pick Their Favorite Books." Some of them include "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," "The Satanic Verses" by Salman Rushdie, "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding and "Bleak House" by Charles Dickens.

mark zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg: While Orson Scott Card's "Enders Game" is the only novel listed under "favorites" on his Facebook page, Zuckerberg told The New Yorker in 2010 that his favorite book is "The Aeneid" by Virgil.

steve jobs

Steve Jobs: In Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, he lists quite a few books that influenced Apple's founder. Some include Shakespeare's "King Lear," Clayton Christensen's "Innovator's Dilemma," Paramahansa Yogananda's "Autobiography of a Yogi," and Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick."

marissa mayer

Marissa Mayer: In an interview, the Yahoo! CEO revealed that her favorite book is "The Design of Everyday Things" by Donald A. Norman.

jk rowling

JK Rowling: If JK Rowling could only bring three books to a desert island, they would be the collected works of Shakespeare, the collected works of P.G. Wodehouse, and the collected works of Colette. She also has several favorite books that carried over from childhood: “The Little White Horse” by Elizabeth Goudge, “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott and everything by E. Nesbit.

madeleine albright

Madeleine Albright: Albright has lots of favorites. Some of these include “Sister Carrie,” by Theodore Dreiser, "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen, "Love in the Time of Cholera" by Gabriel García Márquez, and "Cry the Beloved Country" by Alan Paton.

warren buffett

Warren Buffett: Some of Buffett's favorites include "Bull!" by Maggie Mahar, "The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron" by Bethany McLean and "In an Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington" by Robert Rubin and Jacob Weisberg.

colin powell


Colin Powell: Colin Powell has reread “The Armed Forces Officer" by Brigadier S. L. A. (Slam) Marshall and “The Professional Soldier” by Morris Janowitz over and over again. One of his favorite books growing up was “My Antonia” by Willa Cather.

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