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These are the 25 books Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates think you should read to get smarter about business and leadership

·5 min read
Jeff Bezos Bill Gates Elon Musk
From left, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk.Susan Walsh/AP; Joshua Roberts/Reuters; Axel Schmidt/Getty Images
  • Many business leaders credit books with giving the knowledge that helped them become successful.

  • Bezos, Musk, and Gates have recommended many over the years, from biographies to sci-fi novels.

  • Here are 25 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 the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, and the 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 books recommended by Bezos, Musk, and Gates to add to your reading list for 2022:

Some of Bezos' favorite books were instrumental to the creation of products and services like the Kindle and Amazon Web Services.

Amazon founder and chair Jeff Bezos pictured here in front of a giant image of a book.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

"The Remains of the Day"

'The Remains of the Day' by Kazuo Ishiguro
Vintage International/Amazon

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."

Buy it here >>

"Sam Walton: Made in America"

'Sam Walton  Made in America' by Sam Walton
Bantam Books/Amazon

In his autobiography, the billionaire Walmart founder Sam Walton recalls his career building one of the world's largest retailers.

Buy it here >>

"Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies"

'Built to Last  Successful Habits of Visionary Companies' by Jim Collins
HarperCollins Publishers/Amazon

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."

Buy it here >>

"Creation: Life and How to Make It"

'Creation  Life and How to Make It' by Steve Grand
Amazon

Steve Grand discusses artificial life through the lens of his 1996 computer game Creatures in this book.

Buy it here >>

"The Innovator's Dilemma"

the innovators dilemma
Harvard Business Review Press

Clayton Christensen examines various companies' successes and failures in innovation in this book.

Buy it here >>

"The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement"

'The Goal  A Process of Ongoing Improvement' by Eliyahu Goldratt
Amazon

Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox examine the theory of constraints from a management perspective in this novel.

Buy it here >>

"Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation"

'Lean Thinking  Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation' by James Womack and Daniel Jones
Simon & Schuster/Amazon

This book imparts lessons about improving efficiency based on case studies of lean companies across various industries.

Buy it here >>

"The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable"

'The Black Swan' by Nassim Taleb
Random House

Nassim Nicholas Taleb popularized the term "black swan" with this book, in which he defines such events as highly improbable, unpredictable, and impactful.

Buy it here >>

Elon Musk's must-reads include a number of sci-fi novels and books on artificial intelligence.

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, stands at a press event on the grounds of the Tesla Gigafactory.
Elon Musk, Tesla CEOPatrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

"Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future"

Zero to One
Amazon

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."

Buy it here >>

"The Lord of the Rings"

lord of the rings cover
Amazon

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.

Buy it here >>

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"

hitchhiker's guide to galaxy
Amazon

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.

Buy it here >>

"Benjamin Franklin: An American Life"

Benjamin Franklin
Amazon

Musk's reading list isn't without biographies, including this Walter Isaacson book on Benjamin Franklin.

Buy it here >>

"Einstein: His Life and Universe"

einstein
Amazon

Musk enjoyed Isaacson's biography on Albert Einstein as well.

Buy it here >>

"Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies"

superintelligence
Amazon

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.

Buy it here >>

"Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era"

our final invention
Amazon

On the subject of AI, Musk said in a 2014 tweet that this book, which examines its risks and potential, is also "worth reading."

Buy it here >>

Bill Gates is known to make book recommendations quite often.

Bill Gates smiling.
Leon Neal/Getty Images

"Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2012"

tap dancing buffett
Penguin

One of his favorites is Warren Buffett's "Tap Dancing to Work."

Buy it here >>

"A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety"

a full life
Amazon

Gates also likes former President Jimmy Carter's "A Full Life."

Buy it here >>

"Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think"

"Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think," by Hans Rosling
Amazon

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."

Buy it here >>

"Origin Story: A Big History of Everything"

origin story david christian
Little, Brown and Company

David Christian takes on the history of our universe, from the Big Bang to mass globalization, in this book.

Buy it here >>

"Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World"

range
Amazon

"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."

Buy it here >>

"The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History"

“The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” by Elizabeth Kolbert
Amazon

Elizabeth Kolbert plumbs the history of Earth's mass extinctions in this book, including a sixth extinction, which some scientists warn is already underway.

Buy it here >>

"Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street"

business adventures
Amazon

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.

Buy it here >>

"The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age"

the myth of the strong leader
Amazon

This Archie Brown book examines political leadership throughout the 20th century.

Buy it here >>

"Making the Modern World: Materials & Dematerialization"

vaclav smil making modern world
Amazon

Vaclav Smil examines the materials and processes that made our modern world in this book.

Buy it here >>

"What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions"

What If
Amazon

Randall Munroe, creator of the hit web comic xkcd, proposes funny yet informative answers to life's wildest hypothetical questions in this book.

Buy it here >>

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