These are the 6 best business books of all time, according to top CEOs

You have probably heard the phrase, “Leaders are readers.” Whether you’re a manager, small business owner, aspiring CEO, or even just a big fan of reading, you know the importance of routine reading. 

Business leaders know how vital reading is to their success. That is why you may have heard that the average CEO reads four to five books per month or 60 per year! Warren Buffet once stated that he reads an average of 500 pages per day. 

While you might not need to read quite that much, it is important to keep in mind the average millionaire reads at least two books a month. And if you’re in the business world, reading is a habit you should highly consider.

That is why we created this list of the best business books according to some of the world’s top CEOs.

1. Steve Jobs – The Innovator’s Dilemma

Perhaps no CEO is more renowned than the late Steve Jobs, so if he has a favorite business book, it’s probably worth the read. 

Written in 1997, The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, author Clayton M. Christensen explains how meeting current customer needs can lead to failure in the long run. The book explores industries of all sorts, from computers to pharmaceuticals, and perhaps no one person applied the concepts taught better than Jobs. 

Jobs was perhaps the best at this, and his infamous quote sums it up quite nicely, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research.”

2. Warren Buffett – The Intelligent Investor

Warren Buffet has been quoted as saying that The Intelligent Investor changed his life, a powerful statement from one of the world’s wealthiest men. He has gone as far as saying that Intelligent Investor is one of the best investments he has ever made

In 2006, the tried and true principles author Benjamin Graham is updated routinely to fit market trends. Still, his philosophy holds as one of the best advisors – value-based investing. While investing is commonly thought of as just a monetary thing, investing in yourself and others is key to any business success. 

3. Bill Gates – Shoe Dog

In 2016 Bill Gates, an avid reader said that Shoe Dog, the memoir of Nike founder Phil Knight’s journey, was one of his favorite business books of that year. If you haven’t read the book, do yourself a favor and get a copy ASAP. 

The book is highly recommended by Arian Huffington and Warren Buffet’s likes as Knight details his journey as a small-time business owner on the side to the Nike brand he created. You will laugh, you might cry, and you will definitely learn the grit behind being successful in business! Whether you love Nike or hate them, the story behind their rise is compelling.

4. Arianna Huffington – Principles

Arianna Huffington has some clout. She also has a massive book list she shares. But the business book that sticks out the most that she loves is Principles by Ray Dalio. Dalio is widely regarded as one of the most brilliant minds, regardless of industry, in the world. As the founder and CEO of Bridgewater Associates, he happens to be one of the largest hedge fund managers. 

In his semi-memoir, semi-lesson on business, book, Dalio shares the ‘Principles’ he has learned and used leading a cutting-edge company for the last 45 years. This is a great read for anyone looking for structure in upper-level management! 

5. Safra Catz – Connecting The Dots

The CEO of Oracle, Catz, didn’t get to where she is in life without reading a few books. In early 2021, she recommended Connecting The Dots: Lessons for Leadership in The Startup World by John Chambers.

A West Virginia kid turned Silicone Valley business leader; Chambers details what it is like being the CEO of a company for 20 years. With many principles and behind the scene lessons, Connecting The Dots is a great read for the aspiring entrepreneur and the current and eventual business owner. 

6. John Maxwell – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

John Maxwell is widely considered one of the top business leadership gurus in the world. He has authored countless books himself, some that might appear on the list later in this article. That said, as the CEO of The John Maxwell Team and as a professional speaker, Maxwell claims The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a must-read for business folk. 

To be a great leader, you first must be great at leading yourself. This means having good habits (like reading business books), and there is no better place to start than with this classic read. If you want a great alternative option, also consider Atomic Habits by James Clear. It happens to be one of the top-selling books on Amazon for over two years. 

A few more business books to consider:

While these might not have made the list of some CEOs, these are great reads that can help you with business, productivity, and yourself! 

  • 12 Week Year – Learn to finally get productive and stop setting goals you don’t hit! 
  • 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – A classic Maxwell book on leadership! 
  • Culture Code – Creating a business culture is everything; this book can help! 
  • Turn The Ship Around – Looking to turn a business around? Learn from  Navy Submarine Officer David Marquet, who did just that. 
  • Extreme Ownership – Leadership is all about owning everything, according to Navy Seals! 

The verdict 

Reading has its benefits. Not only does it offer amazing health benefits such as reducing stress, improving brain connectivity, and aiding in reducing blood pressure, the act of reading will separate you from most of your peers. 

While Pew Research shows the average adult reads twelve books per year, the truth is that number is skewed because of all the book worms out there. In all actuality, most read less than four books per year. 

If you’re looking to get an edge in the business industry or with your own personal leadership, reading is a simple habit you can add to your daily routine. Start with the list above and set a goal to read one per month if you’re not an avid reader. If you read often, read one book every two weeks for a year!