A book list for leaders: perspectives, life lessons, and more


Urban professionals – especially leaders and entrepreneurs – are a busy lot. Even so, the most successful ones around the world manage to get a lot of reading done despite their hectic schedules. Mark Cuban reads for more than three hours each day. Mark Zuckerberg read a book every two weeks back in 2015. Warren Buffet considers his stash of books the real reason for his success. Bill Gates reads 50 books a year and recently shared his top picks for the year on social media.

What is it about reading that attracts leaders and entrepreneurship circles to it so? Knowledge, opportunities to remove oneself from day-to-day monotony to make space for fresh perspectives, and life lessons from others’ experiences are among the many ways in which reading helps professionals.

Entrepreneurs and leaders don’t always need to read books about business, trends, and emerging sectors or books that help them become better readers. They can also seek answers to questions in books that they can perhaps not find in the world from people, be it peers, mentors, or family. Here is a list of books, mostly fiction, from which leaders and managers can draw life lessons.

A Man In Full, Tom Wolfe

A novel by noted journalist and author Tom Wolfe, A Man In Full is the story of Atlanta’s high society and its struggles and privileges. It is a satire on nuances like race, gender, status, business, and most importantly, capitalistic, profit-driven societies and their greed for more. At a time when social good, bigger purpose, and economic inclusion are becoming important considerations for businesses in order to succeed, this book from the turn of the century becomes much more relevant.

A reflection of our times, A Man In Full can be pivotal in inspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs to do more than just generate revenue.

Zorba The Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis

In a culture that constantly reminds you that true success is only about professional success, the classic novel Zorba The Greek is a refreshing read. It is the story of two friends and their travels and imparts lessons in living life in-the-moment and having a good time. For those who pick up the nuances, the story does an extraordinary job of pitting the instinctive against the intellectual, and the impulsive against the over-thinker.

The book reveals that there are many “correct” ways of being and that happiness and success are allowed to be subjective issues. But most importantly, Zorba The Greek makes for a fascinating read about travel and friendship.

The Path Between The Seas, David McCullough

The Path Between The Seas is McCullough’s epic memoir about the construction of the Panama Canal. It records the engineering feat and the story of tragedy and triumph of the men and women who fought to construct this passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The book won McCullough several accolades, including the National Book Award for history, the Francis Parkman Prize, the Samuel Eliot Morison Award, and the Cornelius Ryan Award (for the best book of the year on international affairs). For leaders and entrepreneurs interested in the history of technology, international issues, and human drama, The Path Between The Seas is a fascinating read.

Wild, Cheryl Strayed

Wild is Cheryl Strayed’s epic memoir of her 1,100-mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail at 22, following personal tragedies like losing her mother, heroin addiction, and divorce.

A story of human emotions and drama, self-discovery, and eventually overcoming grief, Strayed’s book records both physical challenges and emotional upheavals through her journey.

Leave the Light On, Jennifer Storm

Jennifer Storm talks straight from the heart about her own life and challenges. In a very simple and straightforward manner, she shares her trauma, pain, and emotions, and also the strength to find to face it all. The book’s message is that we need to value and understand the worth of our lives.

This Jennifer Storm’s second time allowing readers into the devastating challenges, pains, and traumatizing situations she has faced and worked her butt off to overcome. She speaks, without emotional walls or filters, about her stints in recovery, finding the strength to face her troubling past, and ultimately discovering that, like the rest of us, our lives are very much worth living.

What is common to all of these books is that they deal with issues that are important in the current discourse of business, economy, and social. The holidays might be a good time to go beyond tweets and op-eds and get more perspective on these issues through long-form reading.

What are you going to read this December? Share your picks with us in the comments.


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