The most powerful people in business spend much of their limited free time on a quiet, contemplative pursuit — reading books.
For example, the third-richest person in the world, Warren Buffett, says he spends 80% of his day tearing through the written word.
We've pored over interviews with some of America's most influential execs — from Bill Gates to Jeff Bezos and Oprah Winfrey — to find out what they read.
Here are the favorites.Berkshire-Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett: "The Intelligent Investor" by Benjamin Graham
When Buffett was 19 years old, he picked up a copy of legendary Wall Streeter Benjamin Graham's "Intelligent Investor."
He remembers it as one of the luckiest moments of his life, because within the book was the framework he would use for making investments.
"To invest successfully over a lifetime does not require a stratospheric IQ, unusual business insights, or inside information," Buffett said. "What's needed is a sound intellectual framework for making decisions and the ability to keep emotions from corroding that framework. This book precisely and clearly prescribes the proper framework. You must provide the emotional discipline."Buy it here >>
Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates: "Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street" by John Brooks
On the recommendation of Buffett, Gates became obsessed with a book called "Business Adventures," a collection of New Yorker stories by John Brooks. The book reminds him that the foundations of successful businesses stay constant, Gates says, regardless of the decade.
For one thing, there's an essential human factor in every business endeavor. It doesn't matter if you have a perfect product, production plan and marketing pitch; you'll still need the right people to lead and implement those plans.
Lots of publications — including BI — are getting into the book, too. Slate wrote that it's "catnip for billionaires."Buy it here >>
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos: "The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro
When Bezos was asked what the most influential book for him was, he didn't say a business book — he gushed about a novel: "The Remains of the Day," which deals with age, memory, war, love, and Britain.
"Before reading it, I didn’t think a perfect novel was possible," the Amazon CEO said. "I am entranced by that: the idea of the impossible achieved."
With Amazon — an aggressive, but still profitless company — disrupting retail and publishing alike, it seems his business is doing much the same.Buy it here >>
Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh: "Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization" by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright
Hsieh told USA Today that one of his favorite books is "Tribal Leadership," a book that takes an anthropological approach to how people form groups in organizations.
"'Tribal Leadership' codifies a lot of what we've been doing instinctually and provides a great framework for all companies to bring company culture to the next level," he said.Buy it here >>
Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent: "The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World" by Niall Ferguson
Kent recommends "The Ascent of Money," by British historian Niall Ferguson. The book traces the role of cash from Mesopotamia to today.
"I love books on economic observations," he said. "This is one of the best."Buy it here >>
OWN Network CEO Oprah Winfrey: "To Kill A Mocking Bird" By Harper Lee
Since Winfrey was a little girl, her favorite book has been Harper Lee's staggering coming of age story.
"I remember reading this book and then going to class and not being able to shut up about it," she said. "I read it in eighth or ninth grade, and I was trying to push the book off on other kids. So it makes sense to me that now I have a book club, because I have been doing that since probably this book."Buy it here >>
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: "The Aeneid" by Virgil
Zuckerberg may be a poster boy for millennial progress, but the Facebook founder's reading taste skews classical.
His favorite: "The Aeneid" by Virgil, an epic poem that tells the the story of Aeneas, a legendary hero associated with the birth of Rome and the fall of Troy.Buy it here >>
ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson: "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand
Tillerson — chief executive, oil king, and maker of $28 million a year — lists "Atlas Shrugged" as his favorite book.
He's one of many powerful people, including Paul Ryan, to name the book as a fave, which might not be too surprising considering its content.
"If you're not familiar with the novel, it depicts a world where corporate CEOs and one-percenters are the selfless heroes upon which our society depends," Salon writes, "and basically everyone else — journalists, legislators, government employees, the poor — are the villains trying to drag the rich down out of spite, when we should be kissing their rings in gratitude that they allow us to exist."
While it's certainly a thought-provoking text, we question some of its business advice.Buy it here >>
IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond: "Life" by Keith Richards and James Fox
Widescreen exec Gelfond loves the autobiography of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards — a memoir full of drug busts and rock and roll.
"The guy's had an incredibly eclectic and interesting life that no one else has ever lived," Gelfond said.Buy it here >>
Now that you know what execs read, here's what they write:
11 Books By CEOs That Will Teach You How To Run The World >>
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