What are the books successful people read?
That’s so last millennium, right? With the bite-size pieces of information everyone is consuming these days from Twitter to Instagram to Pinterest, it seems like nobody has the time or inclination to dive into an actual book or sit down to read more than 140 characters. And the evidence seems to back this up: In 2015, only 43 percent of Americans did any reading not required for work or school.
But don’t jump to conclusions.
It turns out the world’s most successful people ranging from Warren Buffet to Tony Robbins to Mark Cuban are voracious readers, and they attribute much of the success they’ve had in life to their reading habits.
Books Successful People Read For Knowledge
The stereotypical idea of someone taking the time to read a book is to escape from the world and be entertained in a fictional land populated by elves or zombies or aliens from outer space. Most successful people, however, read for their ongoing self-education and to develop a competitive edge.
As Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban writes: “I read books about successful people. In fact, I read every book or magazine I could get my hands on. I would tell myself one good idea would pay for the book and could make the difference between me making it or not.”
He's not the only one.
Berkshire Hathaway CEO and investment guru Warren Buffet have devoted a significant part of each day to reading for his entire life. He begins his day by combing through several newspapers and then spends up to 80% of the rest of his day reading. So, it’s no surprise what his “secret” to success is: “Read 500 pages … every day. That's how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”
Books Successful People Read For Transformation
Reading isn’t productive just for the knowledge, it also changes the people doing the reading. After all, reading allows us to see a world beyond what’s immediately around us, engage with the thoughts of people far away and long ago, and find kindred spirits. Reading allows us not only to know ourselves but also who it is we want to be.
This was the case for life coach Tony Robbins. He describes growing up in a violent household with an alcoholic mother – not the most nurturing of environments – but he discovered reading as a way to persevere: “I had no role models. … I started reading Emerson’s essays, [James Allen’s] As a Man Thinketh, Viktor Frankl’s Man's Search for Meaning – they rocked my world. They made my problems look like nothing.
I get emotional thinking about it today, all these years later. It makes me believe that a) anything can be changed and made better, and if you couldn’t change the physical circumstance, you could still change your experience of it; and b) it made me think that reading could transport me to another world where I could find the answers.”
Buffet also says his reading habits allow him to have a more thoughtful mindset: “I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think, so I do more reading and thinking, and make fewer impulse decisions than most people in the business.”
Sure, the latest installment in a never-ending string of cat memes is always funny. But it’s never going to transform who you are into the person you have the potential to be.
The Books Successful People Read
So, what are the books successful people read?
Here’s a list of recommendations from Buffet, Cuban, and Robbins.
- Warren Buffet: The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham, Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits by Philip Fisher, and Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises by Tim Geithner.
- Mark Cuban: Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, and The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton Christensen.
- Tony Robbins: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Linchpin by Seth Godin, and Getting Everything You Can Out of All You've Got by Jay Abraham.
It can be a thin line separating success from failure, and the difference may be one key piece of knowledge somebody else doesn’t have. Mark Cuban figured this out a long time ago: “Everything I read was public. Anyone could buy the same books and magazines. The same information was available to anyone who wanted it. Turns out most people didn't want it.”