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Books that inspire Billion-Dollar visions: CEOs’ must-reads

What are the world’s top business leaders reading? The books that capture the attention of CEOs can offer insights into the minds driving today’s most influential companies. From traditional business tomes to unexpected literary picks, the reading lists of powerhouse executives provide a unique window into their intellectual curiosities and priorities.

This curated collection of book recommendations from renowned CEOs spanning tech titans, finance moguls, and industry disruptors reveals the literary fuel propelling some of the most innovative and ambitious leadership visions of our era. Discover the transformative ideas and narrative inspirations shaping the stratosphere of global commerce and entrepreneurship.

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight

Recommended by Tim Cook, CEO, Apple Inc.

In the beginning, there was a $50 loan, a dreamer, and the trunk of a lime green Plymouth Valiant. From these humble origins, Phil Knight sprang a revolution that would conquer the world, predicated on his vision to build an empire on the creed of sweat and calculated risks. Armed with resilience and a ragtag crew of misfit believers, he faced down every hurdle the universe threw his way. Failure loomed like a hungry lion, but the dream burned brighter than a thousand suns.

With each pivot and persevering step, an iconic brand took shape. A brand not just for athletes, but for every underdog daring to chase the horizon of their potential. The swoosh emblazoned on the world’s consciousness, a footprint seared into history.

In this uncompromisingly raw memoir, the wizard behind the curtain speaks his truth for the first time. Get ready to go deep into the beating heart of Nike’s genesis – to witness how a dream deferred can ultimately change everything.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Recommended by Jeff Bezos, Founder, CEO, and Chairman of Amazon

The Remains of the Day is a poignant novel by Kazuo Ishiguro set in post-WWI England. It centers around Stevens, an aging butler who undertakes a road trip reminiscing about his decades of devoted service at Darlington Hall. Through his recollections, Stevens reckons with the compromises and regrets of his uncompromising commitment to dignity and professionalism.

The story explores nuanced themes like the costs of repressed emotions, the complexities of life’s choices, England’s role in WWII events like fascism’s rise, and an understated tragic love story between Stevens and the housekeeper.

Bezos highlights the book’s profound exploration of life’s inherent messiness despite our efforts for order. Stevens’ belated realizations about missed opportunities and societal upheavals he ignored while singularly focused on buttling symbolize life’s bittersweet lessons. The novel offers a delicate meditation on finding meaning among duty, discarded dreams, and personal awakenings however late they arrive.

The Earned Life: Lose Regret, Choose Fulfillment by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter
Recommended by Marc Rosen, CEO, JCPenney

Drawing wisdom from Buddhist teachings, Goldsmith unveils the secret to living a life unburdened by regret: cultivating the habit of earning achievements that align with a higher purpose beyond mere career success. By anchoring our accomplishments to a noble aspiration, he illustrates how we can sidestep the alluring trap of wallowing in regret.

Goldsmith urges readers to reject the pervasive Western mindset of “I’ll be happy when…” and instead provides pragmatic guidance and exercises to shed the obstacles – particularly the failures of imagination – that impede our pursuit of truly fulfilling lives. With this book as a roadmap, readers can bridge the chasm between their plans and realized achievements, evading the existential regret that derails destinies and haunts our memories.

Chup: Breaking the Silence about India’s Women by Deepa Narayan
Recommended by Zubaida Bai, President and CEO, Grameen Foundation

Do you take pride in being a strong woman? Do you aspire to embody that strength or support those who do? Do you consider yourself a feminist?

This groundbreaking book argues that the likelihood is you engage in behaviors antithetical to those ideals. Based on 600 in-depth interviews with women and some men across India’s metropolitan cities, social scientist Deepa Narayan’s rigorously researched work identifies seven key habits that may pervade the everyday lives of women, irrespective of their education, success, financial standing, or family backgrounds. Though these behaviors may appear innocuous, each exerts a profound impact, amounting to one sobering reality – Indian women are conditioned to habitually erase their own identities. Shocking, disturbing, and revolutionary, Chup forces you to confront your own reflection – and you may not like what you see.

The Coming Wave: Technology, Power, and the Twenty-First Century’s Greatest Dilemma by Mustafa Suleyman (with Michael Bhaskar)
Recommended by Reid Hoffman, Cofounder, LinkedIn; partner, Greylock

A stark warning of the unprecedented risks AI and other rapidly advancing technologies pose to the global order, and how we might contain them before it’s too late – from a co-founder of the pioneering artificial intelligence company DeepMind. We stand at a critical juncture in human history, on the precipice of a seismic shift. Soon, our lives will be surrounded by artificial intelligences – orchestrating our daily routines, powering businesses, and governing core societal functions. We’ll inhabit a world of DNA printers, quantum computers, engineered pathogens, autonomous weapons, robotic assistants, and abundant energy. Yet none of us are truly prepared.

As a co-founder of DeepMind, the pioneering AI company under Google’s umbrella, Mustafa Suleyman has been at the vanguard of this revolution. He argues the coming decade will be defined by this tidal wave of powerful, proliferating new technologies. In The Coming Wave, Suleyman reveals how these forces will catalyze immense prosperity, but also imperil the nation-state – the bedrock of the global order. While our fragile governments sleepwalk toward disaster, we face an existential dichotomy: catastrophic, unprecedented harms on one side, and the specter of dystopian, overbearing surveillance on the other. Can we forge a precarious path between these extremes?


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