Top 20 Best Books by CEOs for Executives & Entrepreneurs

The CEOs Reading List for Executive & Start-up Entrepreneurs. The Best Books by CEOs Provides Cutting Edge Thinking From the Top CEOs of Our Age

Reading the stories and thoughts of CEOs offers many great insights into building, growing, and leading a global business in the 21st century.

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

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

1. Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella

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

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.

Get this book for free on:

Blinkist Amazon/Audible


2. How Google Works by Eric Schmidt (2017)

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.

Get this book for free on:

Blinkist Amazon/Audible


3. The Ride of a Lifetime by Bob Iger

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

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. In it, Iger shows how values such as integrity and honesty helped him succeed in a brutal corporate environment.

Get this book for free on:

Blinkist Amazon/Audible


4. The Bezos Letters by Karen Anderson (2019)

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

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

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



5. Losing My Virginity by Sir Richard Branson

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

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. For instance, he relates how he built a successful airline in competition with the mighty British Airways.

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 will surely entertain and inspire.

Get this book for free on:

Blinkist Amazon/Audible


6. Zero to One by Peter Thiel

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

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 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.

Get this book for free on:

Blinkist Amazon/Audible


7. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

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

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 and encourages them to prioritize employee happiness and growth.

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 must 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 company’s main goal. Delivering Happiness is Hsieh’s effort to share that vision.

If you seek a new customer service theory 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.

Get this book for free on:

Blinkist Amazon/Audible


8. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

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

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 do 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.

Horowitz offers a new perspective on management based on that knowledge base. 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.

Get this book for free on:

Blinkist Amazon/Audible


9. Taking People with You by David Novak

The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen (2013)

David Novak thinks business is about people rather than money or market share. As CEO of Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM), Novak applied that philosophy to some of the biggest fast-food brands, 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” employee development program.

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, for example, helped Taco Bell shift managers fill orders and set up education programs for workers.

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

Get this book for free on: Amazon/Audible


10. The Impact Equation by Chris Brogan

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

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 with a formula for successful publicity: 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.

Get this book for free on:

Blinkist Amazon/Audible


11. Rework by Jason Fried (2010)

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

Instead of recounting war stories or proposing plans, Fried promotes a simple strategy and philosophy. The strategy is to put action first, be quiet, and get 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.

Get this book for free on:

Blinkist Amazon/Audible


12. Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey

Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business (2014)

If you are wondering 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. Anyone can apply these concepts. Conscious capitalism is a vital resource for becoming an ethical leader and building a humane organization.

Get this book for free on: Amazon/Audible


13. 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)

What happens when a successful entrepreneur turns into a 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 the founder and CEO of Venture for America to a 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.

Get this book for free on:

Blinkist Audible


14. The War on Normal People by Andrew Yang

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

How does an entrepreneur become a left-wing radical promoting disruptive policies, such as single-payer health insurance and 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 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 big problems facing the United States and other countries must examine Yang’s writings. Yang offers a new perspective on capitalism that thinking people need to consider.

Get this book for free on: Audible


15. Radical Candor by Kim Scott

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

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

Scott writes that successful executives need to care personally about employees and the business. She believes caring is the basis of all business success and can transform a manager and an organization’s 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 from which all business leaders can benefit.

Get this book for free on:

Blinkist Audible


16. The Start-up of You by Reid Hoffman

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

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

Hoffman observes that a startup entrepreneur’s skills 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. In 2016, Hoffman sold LinkedIn to Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) for $26.2 billion.

Get this book for free on:

Blinkist Audible


17. 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 how Americans shopped for hardware and created a new category in American retail. The category was big-box discount home improvement and appliances, which did not exist before Marcus and Blank created it.

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

Anybody wanting to enter 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 how 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.



18. TouchPoints by Mette Norgaard

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

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.

Get this book for free on:



19. 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 needed people.

Smart and Street developed a hiring method 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.

Get this book for free on:



20. 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.



Summary: Books By CEOs

Reading books by CEOs can give you a glimpse of the real business environment and an understanding of the 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, including biographies, philosophy books, self-help books, opinion books, and other works. Adding these titles to your libraries can increase your business knowledge and help you become a better entrepreneur and investor.

Barry D. Moore
Barry's 25 years of experience with Silicon Valley Corporations such as IBM, Compaq, Hewlett Packard, Hewlett Packard Enterprise & DXC Technology enables him to share his knowledge of succeeding in today's professional corporate environments and develop a great work life for yourself.


  1. Very enlightening and alot of p[owerful messages, reading and knowledge. Thoroughly inspiring at a time of my life when i need to lok at myself for a new start. Thank You. I need to believe and help achieve in all. Great reading.

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