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15 Awe-Inspiring Books Successful People Read And Recommend

By Admin | 27 October 2016 |

If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what book he reads.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Great leaders and successful people come in all shapes and sizes of personalities and cover a vast range of professional fields. Their experiences are as diverse as their backgrounds, skills, and the path to success. However, in spite of all the glaring differences there might be, there are some essential traits that all the successful people share irrespective of their background or area of expertise.

One such key habit that runs common among all the great leaders, is their love for reading. Pick any successful person across any industry, be it politicians, entrepreneurs, or celebrities, they all can reel off a long list of their favourite books that they not only read but also highly recommend to others. You can partake from their bounty of knowledge, gained through reading, by inviting them as motivational or celebrity speakers at your corporate events.

The simple act of reading has many benefits. From enlarging a person's capacity for empathy to strategic decision making, reading is one of the most beneficial habits one can cultivate. Warren Buffett perfectly put it into perspective during one of his interviews. When asked what he considered as the key element of success, he pointed to a stack of nearby books and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day.” According to him, knowledge builds up like compound interest through reading.

So, if you are aiming for the stars and looking to climb that ambitious corporate ladder, you need to crank up the heat on your reading habits. Choose any genre, and you will find that the choices you are faced with are endless. Written by many distinguished authors, each book gives the reader a unique point of view into any subject and brings interesting thoughts and ideas to the table. This will enable the reader to broaden their ability to think, understand, and perceive any matter from many different angles, hence, bringing richness and depth to their decision-making process.

If you are wondering what kind of books successful people stack up in their libraries, and are looking for some suggestions to compile a good reading list, given below are 15 books read and recommended by the great minds.

1. Business Adventures by John Brooks

This book encapsulates 12 classic tales from Wall Street, showcasing the most critical moments in American industry. This makes it a must read for all the business people and entrepreneurs out there, or even for those looking to gain some inside insight into the dynamic world of Wall Street. The book teaches lessons about people, how they act, what makes them thrive and flounder, and what devilry they are likely to get up to if left to their own devices. This highly celebrated author and his book are all about understanding human nature in the context of business, and though technologies and best practices change, people never do. This is a business classic about America's corporate and financial culture written by a long-time New Yorker contributor. His reportage is full of personality and critical details that is bound to keep the readers turning the pages.

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2. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

This controversial book came out at a time when the burgeoning American industrial economy had made the country prosperous, and the younger generation was expected to conform to the entrenched social rules. Holden Caulfield, one of the best loved fictional characters in literature, was looked upon as an unfettered individual in the face of oppression. Having been published during the 1950s and '60s when the counter-culture revolt was at its peak, this tale of an individual's alienation within a heartless world resonated loudly with the young people who were under pressure to conform to cultural norms, disengage from meaningful human connection, and restrict their own personalities.

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3. The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton Christensen

The author, who is a professor at Harvard Business School, offers revolutionary insights that could transform the way entrepreneurs do business. He outlines a theory about how large, outstanding firms can fail “by doing everything right”. He describes companies whose successes and capabilities can actually become obstacles in the face of changing markets and technologies. He talks about sustaining technologies that improve product performance, and disruptive technologies that bring about innovations that result in worse product performance in the near term. It is considered as one of the most, if not the most, important books chronicling how innovation takes place, and why it's common that market leaders fail to seize the next wave of innovation in their respective industries.

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4. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

A story of monomania aboard a whaling ship, this is a tremendously ambitious novel that not only serves as a documentary of life at sea, but also as a vast philosophical allegory of life. No sacred subject is spared in this scathing critique where he satirises religious traditions, moral values, and the literary and political figures of the day. The book has drawn inspiration from the works of Shakespeare and Milton, as also stories in the Bible, and drew on sources from popular culture as well. Though considered a literary failure in its early days of publication, it was later rediscovered and promoted by literary historians, and is now heralded as one of the greatest novels in the English language.

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5. Influence: Science and Practice by Robert B. Cialdini

Written in a narrative style combined with scholarly research, the author combines evidence from experimental work with the techniques and strategies he gathered while working as a salesperson, fund-raiser, advertiser, and in other positions inside organisations. By reading this book, readers will get insights that they can use to make business and personal decisions. This book is not specifically for entrepreneurs or marketers or programmers, but any individual from any profession who wants to understand the psychology of compliance, i.e., uncovering which factors cause a person to say “yes” to another's request.

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6. Life Is What You Make It by Peter Buffett

As the son of one of the most successful businessmen of today's times, the author writes about the four core values he learned growing up in the Buffett household: the world is fundamentally a good place and people at the core are well-intentioned, tolerance for other's viewpoints, an approach to life with curiosity and an openness to what others have to teach us, and a personal work ethic. Though classified as a self-help book, it is not one in the normal sense. There are no easy steps to self-fulfilment and no foolproof method to financial success. This book will leave its readers questioning their future and nudging them to follow their heart and forge their own path.

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7. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

This book is for achievers and those looking to join their ranks. It is all about falling in love with practice. The elite don't just work harder than anybody else. At some point, elites fall in love with practice to the point where they want to do little else. According to the author's study, more than crediting natural talent for achieving success, it is practice that enables one to make improvements and perfect their skills. Be it a successful violin player, a football player, or an excellent software developer, it is practice that brings them to that point. No shortcuts, no naturals.

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8. Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan 

The author was among the earliest engineers to be hired at Google, who believes that world peace can be achieved only if people cultivate the conditions for inner peace within themselves that comes from nurturing emotional intelligence. He created a 7-week personal growth programme named “Search Inside Yourself” with startling positive results. He then decided to open-source this programme by making its principles available to other companies, and also published a book by the same name. In reading this book, readers will gain knowledge in cultivating a balanced awareness of their surroundings, and also learn how they can use emotional intelligence to relate better with other people.

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9. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston 

One of the strengths of this novel is that it can be studied in the context of a number of different American literary traditions, with its rural Southern setting and its focus on the relationship between man and nature, the dynamics of human relationships, and a hero's quest for independence. The novel is also important in the continuum of American feminist literature and the author is viewed as the first in a succession of great American black women writers. As this is the literature of post-war prosperity, marked by a sense of freedom and experimentation, followed by the era of Depression and an end to the cultural openness, it will help readers in developing their self identity. It brings to the fore the interplay of speech, silence, and power within a racist society.

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10. The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau 

At its core this book is a how-to Bible for anyone with high aspirations, shallow pockets, a laptop, and a slight disdain for authority. This book is not reinventing the wheel, as books about setting up online businesses on a shoestring budget have been popular for some time now. The author does an incredible job explaining how we can take our professional lives, no matter what state of dysfunction, and turn it into a dream business. As the author puts it, the hard way to start a business is to fumble along, uncertain whether your big idea will resonate with customers, while the easy way is to find out what the customers want and find a way to give it to them. The subtitle of the book, “reinvent the way you make a living, do what you love, and create a new future”, is exactly what the readers need to get out of their slump.

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11. The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker

Known as the father of modern management, Peter Drucker's book is one of the most helpful books on the subject of effectiveness in the workplace. When you are in charge of a business, the most important job you have is not simply to ensure that “things get done”, but to ensure the right things get done at the right time and in the right way. This is the knowledge this book aims to equip its readers with, by teaching them to set clear priorities, focus the strengths of the people on those priorities, and make tough choices on what to do and what not to do in the face of uncertainty. The author argues that every executive should have core set of personal skills like effective time management, clear communication, and ability to make solid decisions based on the available data, which are not just inborn abilities. 

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12. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

It is ranked as one of their favourites by many known personalities and a highly recommended classic, given how its descriptive luxury contrasts with its portrayal of the shallowness of the pursuit of great wealth and the American Dream. It is a highly specific portrait of American society during the roaring '20s with a story that is as old as America itself; a man claws his way from rags to riches, only to find wealth cannot afford him the privileges enjoyed by the upper class. The narrator, Nick Carraway, believes greed and dishonesty have irrevocably corrupted both the American Dream and the dreams of individual Americans. The author explores themes of decadence, idealism, resistance, social upheaval, and excess. 

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13. The Ten Commandments For Business Failure by Donald R. Keough

The author, a former president of Coca Cola company, and now a director of Berkshire Hathaway and chairman of Allen & Co., has witnessed plenty of failures in his 60-year career. In his book, recommended by some of the business greats, the author has poured his vital corporate experience and reveals how great enterprises get into trouble. Even the smartest executives can fall into the trap of believing in their own infallibility, leading them to make more bad decisions. As the author states in his book, “after a lifetime in business, I've never been able to develop a step-by-step formula that will guarantee success. I guarantee that anyone who follows my formula will be a highly successful loser.” Essentially. this book gives ten commandments for failure in business, and, if you want to be successful, you need to be careful not to follow any of these. Readers will be taken through a humorous, compelling, and entertaining journey of what not to do to succeed in business. 

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14. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki


This book is like an instruction manual about how to practice Zen, Zen life, and the attitudes and understanding that make Zen practice possible. Zen mind is one of those enigmatic phrases to make you notice yourself, to go beyond the words, and wonder what your own mind and being are. That is the whole purpose of Zen teaching, to help you answer the deepest expression of your own nature. There is a common notion that practising Zen is difficult because it is hard to keep our mind and practice pure in its fundamental sense. Readers will be encouraged to realise their own nature and discover their Zen mind. “In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few.”

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15. The Pumpkin Plan by Mike Michalowicz

The author wrote this book for the stressed out, cash strapped entrepreneur, who is working too hard and hoping that the next big client they land will solve all the problems in the business. This book will help business owners who are already well underway, but could also be a great primer for how to start a profitable business from day one. After reading an article about a local farmer who had dedicated his life to growing giant pumpkins, the author realised the same process could be applied to growing a business. It is highly recommended by many successful people if you are ready to stop struggling in your business and get on the right track to massive growth. He tested the Pumpkin Plan on his own company and transformed it into a remarkable, multi-million dollar industry leader. And, now he is doing it for others. With his witty and conversational style of writing, the author ensures his readers have a fun ride while also gleaning some powerful concepts. 

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Reading indeed has lifelong benefits. This is one of the most important habits that has minted many key successful people across various industries. They strongly believe reading is the gateway to learning and knowledge, and are very selective about what books they obsess over. Corporates can invite these successful individuals as motivational speakers to their corporate events, which in turn will serve as an inspiration to the employees, and instil in them this fundamental habit of reading.

They come armed with stellar success stories in their respective field, thanks to the knowledge imbibed from devouring tons of books, which gave them the right perspective, the drive, and invaluable tips on how to succeed. 

So, for all the future dreamers, achievers, entrepreneurs, and world-changers, it is time to start flipping those pages now!

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