Reading the stories and thoughts of chief executive officers (CEOs) offers many great insights about how to build, grow, and lead a global business in the 21st century.

Filling your shelves with books by CEOs can provide you with great information and many excellent insights on business. CEOs” stories and opinions offer a great look at real-life business conditions from people who have been there and done that.

There are many wonderful books by CEOs out there, including biographies, philosophy books, self-help books, opinion books, and other works. Adding these titles to your libraries can increase your knowledge of business and help you become a better entrepreneur and investor.

Top 20 Best Books by CEOs

Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella

The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone (2017)

Available on Kindle, Audible or Print

Nadella was given a seemingly impossible job, making Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) relevant again. Nadella shares his thoughts on the immigrant experience, preserving and enhancing corporate values and coming technological changes.

Nadella shares one fascinating thought that displays his worldview and management philosophy. That thought is, “Ideas excite me.” If the Microsoft CEO can teach you one thing, it is the importance of ideas in business and technology.

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Blinkist Audible


How Google Works by Eric Schmidt (2017)

Available on Kindle, Audible or Print

Two insiders, a former CEO and a former Senior Vice President of Products explain how one of the world’s most lucrative companies Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG) works.

Schmidt and Rosenberg recount how they had to unlearn everything they knew about management to work at Alphabet. For example, they had to learn how to attract and retain a new breed of employees they call “smart creatives.”

Plus, the two successfully argue that the only sustainable business strategy in today’s markets is to create superior products to please increasingly powerful consumers. If you want to understand the culture, strategy, decision-making process, and innovation of one of the most successful companies in history, How Google Works is a must-read.

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The Ride of a Lifetime by Bob Iger

Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company (2019)

Available on Kindle, Audible or Print

Iger recounts his improbable rise from TV weatherman to admired CEO of the world’s most prominent and successful entertainment company. Under Iger’s leadership, the Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) purchased Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm (Star Wars), and 21st Century Fox.

Iger shows how Disney came to dominate the global box office and shape the world’s entertainment. Iger reveals how he took the risk of buying undervalued companies such as Lucasfilm and Marvel and capitalized on them.

The Ride of a Lifetime shows the importance of personal relationships to business success. Iger claims the relationships he built with Star Wars creator George Lucas and 21st Century Fox chairman Rupert P. Murdoch facilitated Disney’s purchases of 21st Century Fox and Lucasfilm. Plus, Iger shows how his friendship with Apple’s Steve Jobs led to Disney’s purchase of Pixar and the revival of Disney animation.

The Ride of a Lifetime offers an interesting look at the inner workings of the entertainment industry and giant corporations. Iger shows how values such as integrity and honesty, helped him succeed in a brutal corporate environment.

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Blinkist Audible


The Bezos Letters by Karen Anderson (2019)

Available on Kindle, Audible or Print

The Andersons analyze the famous letters Jeff Bezos has written to Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) shareholders over the last 20 years. From their analysis, the Andersons identified 14 Growth Principles Bezos used to build his empire.

If you want to understand the thinking of one of today’s greatest business visionaries, The Bezos Letters is a fascinating read. Anybody trying to make money in retail, e-commerce, technology, marketing, or investments needs to read The Bezos Letters.

Bezos is one of the most important figures of our age. An understanding of his thinking is vital for investors and entrepreneurs.


Losing My Virginity by Sir Richard Branson

How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way (2011)

Available on Kindle, Audible or Print

Richard Branson is one of the world’s best known and most colorful entrepreneurs. Yet he started with little more than a mailing list.

If you need an inspiring and colorful account of business success, Branson offers one. He relates how he built a successful airline in competition with the mighty British Airways, for instance.

Branson’s story shows how old-fashioned courage, ingenuity, and daring can succeed in today’s world. Even if you consider Branson, a charlatan, his story is sure to entertain and inspire.

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Blinkist Audible


Zero to One by Peter Thiel

Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future (2014)

Available on Kindle, Audible or Print

In 2012, PayPal (NASDAQ: PYPL) and Palantir co-founder Peter Thiel taught a course on startup businesses at Stanford University. Thiel and Masters based Zero to One on the notes of that class.

Zero to One is a different kind of business book because it reveals a CEO’s philosophy rather than offering anecdotes. Thiel offers some provocative thoughts, including the controversial notions that “competition is for losers,” and monopolies are good.

Such honesty from a business leader is refreshing and thought-provoking.

In addition to philosophy, Thiel offers concrete lessons in business planning and his thoughts on the nature of business success.

If you are looking for revelations about the thought processes of a successful CEO, Zero to One is a great book. Beyond that, Thiel offers a unique perspective on business and the future of technology that all investors and entrepreneurs need to consider.

If you have thought about using Thiel’s ideas in your company, or are already doing so, this is the book you need.

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Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose (2013)

Available on Kindle, Audible or Print

Tony Hsieh founded the popular and iconic shoe and fashion retailer Zappos and sold it to Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) for $1.2 billion.

In Delivering Happiness, Hsieh tells founders to make corporate culture their number one priority. To that end, Hsieh encourages founders to make employ happiness and growth priorities.

Hsieh inverts classic business thinking by telling founders to make great customer service the goal of the entire company. Yet, Hsieh recommends business leaders ignore traditional customer service methods.

Instead, entrepreneurs need to study behavioral science and apply its principles to customer service. Hsieh emphasizes behavioral science because he wants executives to think of customers as human beings rather than consumers.

In Hsieh’s vision, satisfying customer needs is the main goal of the company. Delivering Happiness is Hsieh’s effort to share that vision.

If you are seeking a new theory of customer service for a new century, Delivering Happiness is an important book. It delivers a new theory of customer service created by somebody who has succeeded in one of today’s most brutal markets.

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Blinkist Audible


The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers (2014)

Available on Kindle, Audible or Print

Rap fan and co-founder of the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, Ben Horowitz, offers a unique take on business planning and startups.

Horowitz encourages you to ask what do I when I encounter a problem; they do not teach in business school or cover in business books? Horowitz tells you to think about and plan for problems you never anticipated.

Andreessen Horowitz has invested in some of the biggest names in tech, including Lyft (NYSE: LYFT), Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), Groupon (NASDAQ: GPN), Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ: ZNGA), and Slack (NYSE: WORK). Horowitz brings the knowledge he learned from those companies and their founders to his book.

From that knowledge base, Horowitz offers a new perspective on management. You will encounter the unexpected, so you must prepare for unanticipated problems.

However, few business courses, or books, teach entrepreneurs to think about or prepare for the unexpected. Horowitz tries to correct that flaw.

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Blinkist Audible



Taking People with You by David Novak

The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen (2013)

Available on Kindle, Audible or Print

David Novak thinks business is about people rather than money or market share. As CEO of Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM), Novak applied that philosophy at some of the biggest brands in fast food, including Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Pizza Hut.

Under Novak’s leadership, Yum! Brands enjoyed a 13% growth rate for ten straight years. Novak attributes that growth rate to his “Taking People with You” program of employee development.

In the program, Novak tried to help every Yum! employee improve as a person and a professional. Taking People with You combines education with leadership by example. Novak helped Taco Bell shift managers fill orders and set up education programs for workers, for example.

Beyond philosophy, Taking People with You offers step-by-step guides to business planning, team building, and goal setting. If you are seeking a practical guide to success in a franchise business Taking People with You is worth reading.

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The Impact Equation by Chris Brogan

Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise? (2012)

Available on Kindle, Audible or Print

Smith and Brogan ask the vital question: how does a brand or company attract positive attention in today’s media-saturated world?

The co-CEOs of Owner Media Group and Breather try to answer that question by a formula for successful publicity. The formula is The Impact Equation, a data-based method for building and connecting with an audience.

The Impact Equation is a good introduction to modern publicity for entrepreneurs seeking to utilize social and digital media.

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Rework by Jason Fried (2010)

Available on Kindle, Audible or Print

Basecamp CEO Jason Fried offers an interesting and contrarian perspective of entrepreneurship and business development in this entertaining book.

Instead of recounting war stories or proposing plans, Fried promotes a simple and straightforward strategy and philosophy. The strategy is to put action first but being quiet and getting to work.

Contrarian strategies Fried recommends include not seeking outside investment and ignoring the competition. If you want a basic strategy for building a business with limited resources, Reworked is for you.

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Blinkist Audible


Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey

Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business (2014)

Available on Kindle, Audible or Print

If you wonder what a better and more humane capitalism could look like. Whole Foods founder John Mackey offers a unique vision.

Conscious capitalism is a must-read for entrepreneurs who want to learn how to make money, build a business, and keep their values. Mackey offers a philosophy and strategy for ethical capitalism any businessperson can implement.

Mackey bases his strategy on four simple concepts: higher purpose, stakeholder integration, conscious leadership, and conscious culture and management anybody can apply. If you want to become an ethical leader and build a humane organization, Conscious Capitalism is a vital resource.

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Smart People Should Build Things by Andrew Yang

How to Restore Our Culture of Achievement, Build a Path for Entrepreneurs, and Create New Jobs in America (2014)

Available on Kindle, Audible or Print

What happens when a successful entrepreneur turns philanthropist and tries to use capitalism to fix his nation’s problems? Andrew Yang found out when he tried to create jobs by encouraging smart young people to launch new businesses in America’s heartland.

Yang has gone from the founder and CEO of a successful test prep firm to founder and CEO of Venture for America to presidential candidate. In Smart People Should Build Things, Yang examines the reasons for America’s cultural and economic decline and offers solutions.

Yang’s main message is that America’s best and brightest need to ignore Wall Street and Silicon Valley and start businesses that create jobs for ordinary people. Factories that build machines, for example.

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Blinkist Audible


The War on Normal People by Andrew Yang

The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future (2019)

Available on Kindle, Audible or Print

How does an entrepreneur become a left-wing radical promoting disruptive policies, such as single-payer health insurance, and the basic income? Yang explains how his experiences as a philanthropist trying to create jobs radicalized him in his second book.

In The War on Normal People, Yang offers radical solutions for America’s problems, including a basic income. Additionally, Yang issues a frightening warning about the danger of job loss to automation and artificial intelligence.

If you are wondering about the roots of Yang’s’s political thought and his surprisingly successful presidential campaign, You can find them in The War on Normal People.

Yang is one of the most original and practical thinkers today. Those seeking solutions to some of the big problems facing the United States and other countries need to examine Yang’s writings. Yang offers a new perspective on capitalism that thinking people need to consider.

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Radical Candor by Kim Scott

Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity (2017)

Available on Kindle, Audible or Print

Dropbox CEO Kim Scott offers a package of solutions for bored and burnt out managers. At the heart of Scott’s solutions is retaining your humanity in the corporate environment.

Successful executives need to care personally about employees and the business, Scott writes. She believes caring is at the basis of all business success. Scott’s belief is that caring can change a manager and an organization by transforming the decision-making process.

Beyond caring, Scott writes about making smart decisions, moving forward, giving feedback, and leading others. A great guide to modern business from a woman who has worked at Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG). Radical Candor is a vital resource all business leaders can benefit from.

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Blinkist Audible


The Start-up of You by Reid Hoffman

Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career (2012)

Available on Kindle, Audible or Print

The founder of Linked-In, Reid Hoffman, offers his advice on starting and building a business. Hoffman also offers some fascinating career advice in The Start-Up of You.

Hoffman makes the interesting observation that the skills a startup entrepreneur needs are the same attributes a job hunter needs in today’s employment market. Those skills include networking, creativity, planning, intelligence gathering, and risk-taking.

Therefore, studying Hoffman’s ideas can help you find a job or build a career. Hoffman sold LinkedIn to Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) for $26.2 billion in 2016.

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Blinkist Audible


Built from Scratch by Bernie Marcus & Arthur Blank

How a Couple of Regular Guys Grew the Home Depot from Nothing to $30 Billion (2001)

Home Depot changed the way Americans shop for hardware and created a new category in American retail. The category was big-box discount home improvement and appliances, and it did not exist before Marcus and Blank created it.

Blank and Marcus built a 761-store empire from scratch. The two succeeded in the face of stiff competition from such established retail giants as Sears and Walmart.

Anybody who wants to enter a new business or test a new business model can draw inspiration from Blank and Marcus’s story. When Blank and Marcus began, there was no evidence Americans would change the way they shopped for hardware. When they finished, the mom-and-pop hardware store was history.

Thus, Built from Scratch shows entrepreneurs can succeed by trusting their instincts and ignoring conventional wisdom. That is a lesson all innovators need to take to heart.

TouchPoints by Mette Norgaard

Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments (2011)

Available on Kindle, Audible or Print

Norgaard, the former CEO of the Campbell Soup Company (NYSE: CPB), thinks personal relationships and connections are the basis of successful business leadership.

In TouchPoints, Norgaard offers a formula for personal interaction leaders can use for contact, persuasion, and team building. She recommends that leaders try to recruit people by appealing to their heads, hearts, and hands.

TouchPoints offers a different perspective on leadership every entrepreneur needs to consider.

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Who! by Geoff Smart and Randy Street (2008)

Recruiting and hiring people is often the most important task entrepreneurs face. Yet, many founders do not know how to locate and hire the people they need.

Smart and Street developed a method for hiring based on 1,300 hours of interviews with 20 billionaires and 30 chief executive officers (CEOs). Who lays out that method and the philosophy behind it.

If you need to understand recruiting and hiring Who! could be the most valuable business book you can read.

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Miracles Happen By Mary Kay Ash (2003)

Mary Kay Ash was a marketing genius who built a multi-billion dollar company in the male-dominated 21st century.

Miracles Happen recounts the fascinating story of an unlikely CEO.

If you need inspiration and renewed faith in capitalism, Miracles Happen is an interesting read.

Those facing prejudice and discrimination can draw inspiration from this book.

Books By CEOs Summary

Reading books by CEOs can give you a glimpse of the real business environment and an understanding of philosophies and strategies that work. If you need to learn what business is, the best place to start is to read the words of the CEOs.

There are many wonderful books by CEOs out there, including biographies, philosophy books, self-help books, opinion books, and other works. Adding these titles to your libraries can increase your knowledge of business and help you become a better entrepreneur and investor.

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