What books do Indra Nooyi, Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella, and other leaders read?
Last year this time, on the topic of books, someone remarked that Indian founders and investors only read term sheets. That was the time when startups were mushrooming fast and thick in the downpour of easy funding that probably did not leave them with much time to read, they pointed out.
Well, things are different now considering the dry spell in the funding season. So, hopefully, some leaders are spending time between the covers to help get their mojo back. So if you are an entrepreneur or know one, do tell us your book recommendations. We will keep updating this list with your help.
Leaders the world over have always turned to books to get inspiration and motivation. Thus, it may be worthwhile to know their book recommendation and understand what drives them towards greater success.
"Books are treasure troves of knowledge. They give you the strength to face life," Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly said once. And though he swears by India’s rich ancient texts to draw inspiration from, he confessed during an Obama-Modi Mann ki baat that Benjamin Franklin's biography inspired him a lot.
Modi said, "I got an opportunity to read the biography of Benjamin Franklin. He lived in the 18th century…His biography is so inspiring - how a person can intelligently try to change his life. If we feel excessively sleepy, how can we reduce that? If we feel like eating too much, how can we work towards eating less? If people get upset when you cannot meet them, because of the pressure of work, then how to solve this problem? He has addressed such issues in his biography. And I tell everyone, we should read Benjamin Franklin's biography. Even today, it inspires me."
With Amazon taking over the number one position in the e-commerce space in India, it would be interesting to know what the reading list of its Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos looks like. Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day is among his favorite books. The book’s underlying theme about life and regret scores for Bezos. "If you read The Remains of the Day, which is one of my favorite books, you can't help but come away and think, I just spent 10 hours living an alternate life and I learned something about life and about regret," he said in a 2009 interview with Newsweek. For business books, Bezos recommended Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, according to Business Insider.
Reviewing The Road to Character by David Brooks, for The Fortune magazine, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, reportedly says, “Beyond provoking valuable self-reflection and introspection, it sparked a wonderful discussion with my two daughters about why building inner character is just as important as building a career. In fact, the two go hand in hand—the moral compass of our lives must also be the moral compass of our livelihoods.”
The Apple CEO is often found recommending books to his employees. A must-read in his recommendation list is Competing Against Time by Jr. George Stalk.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer reportedly swears by The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane, where the author provides powerful advice to charm and influence people. Business Insider names The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman as one of her favorite books too. She is quoted as saying, "I think a lot about design and products and how things should work. But it makes you notice things that can be infuriating. Like, why does my sandwich shop have meat all the way over there? At the same time, it makes you think about design in new ways, because when you use something everyday it needs to be absolutely efficient and not get in your way. It’s cool to be able to articulate and discuss that on a level that is really accessible and interesting."
Microsoft Co-founder Bill Gates picked Business Adventures by John Brooks as his go-to book following a recommendation by Warren Buffet. He also reportedly likes the all-time classic J D Salinger’s coming of age book, The Catcher in the Rye.
Following Bill Gates’s footsteps, the current Microsoft CEO also takes out time to read. His picks include The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris, Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism by Judy Wajcman, and The Organised Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin.
In a 2010 New Yorker profile, Facebook’s Founder Mark Zuckerberg named The Aeneid by Virgil as one of his favorite books. According to Business Insider, “He first read it while he was studying Latin in high school, and he recounted the story of Aeneas’s quest and his desire to build a city that, he said, quoting the text in English, “knows no boundaries in time and greatness.” Moises Naim’s The End of Power is also on his must-read list.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, must be perhaps one of the top recommended books of all times, but what does Sheryl herself read to draw inspiration from. Apparently a lot. Some of her favourites include: Now, Discover your Strengths by Donald O. Clifton and Marcus Buckingham, A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen, The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries, and Bossy Pants by Tina Fey.
Though it is difficult to say with certainty that Google CEO Sundar Pichai is a GOT and a sci-fi fan, this tweet by him pretty much comes close to it.
The enterprising Founder of Khan Academy, Salman Khan’s reported favourite book list includes Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, The Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov, and Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger.
Serial Entrepreneur, Partner, GrowthStory.in and Chairman, Portea Medical, K Ganesh’s book recommendations include: Ronnie Screwvala’s Dream With Your Eyes Open. Ganesh calls it, “Refreshingly honest, must-read for everyone. One of the rare books about the Indian milieu. It talks about how to handle failure.” His second recommendation is Reid Hoffman’s The Start-Up of You. He told YourStory, “It is a great read whether you are an entrepreneur or a corporate executive. It shows you how to take control, see opportunity, take risks, and think big whether in life, career or business.”
The Co-founder and CEO of Homelane.com, Srikanth Iyer, recommends Uncommon Service by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss. “In Uncommon Service, the authors show how in a volatile economy where the old rules of strategic advantage no longer hold true, service must become a competitive weapon, not a damage-control function. That means weaving service tightly into every core decision your company makes. A very insightful book explaining why a company can't be GREAT at everything it does, so it needs to choose the one or two important things it wants to be great at and focus on that,” Srikanth told YourStory. His other book recommendation is Wings of Fire, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam's autobiography. “Whenever I feel low on confidence, one chapter of this book is enough to charge me up. What stands out is his optimism under all circumstances, something worth trying to emulate!”
The queen of American television swears by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. According to Business Insider, she reportedly 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."
The real life Iron Man, Elon Musk, who celebrated his 45th birthday this week, had reportedly confessed that he was often bullied in school. To escape the bullying, he would often retreat into fantasy and science fiction to cope. Accordingly, his favourite books include: The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. "The heroes of the books I read always felt a duty to save the world," he told The New Yorker.
Though the world draws inspiration from Steve Jobs's life, Steve himself was influenced by Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, as well as George Orwell’s 1984, and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.