Running a billion-dollar business empire is nothing if not time-consuming, so you can be pretty sure that the men and women atop these companies only spend their time on activities that offer rich rewards. Perhaps you’d be shocked to know that, for many of the world’s top entrepreneurs and execs, that includes reading novels.
Even President Obama, who is perhaps the No. 1 example of a guy with too much on his plate, swears by fiction. “When I think about how I understand my role as citizen, setting aside being president, and the most important set of understandings that I bring to that position of citizen, the most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels,” he told The New York Review of Books.
Which books exactly do the super successful recommend to reap all the EQ-boosting, perspective-shifting, empathy-expanding potential of novels? Blog Farnam Street recently did readers a favor by compiling several billionaires’ favorite fiction reads into one long list. Here are a few examples:
Bill and Melinda Gates constantly re-read The Great Gatsby.
You probably had to read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic in high school, but chances are decent you haven’t picked it up since. That’s not the case with Bill and Melinda Gates. The Microsoft founder calls it, “the novel that I re-read the most. Melinda and I love one line so much that we had it painted on a wall in our house: ‘His dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it.'”
Jeff Bezos’s favorite book is The Remains of the Day.
The story of a reserved English butler slowly coming to terms with his dark past, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro clearly touched a nerve with the Amazon founder. “If you read The Remains of the Day, which is my favorite book of all time, you can’t help but come away and think, I just spent 10 hours living an alternate life and I learned something about life and about regret.” (Full disclosure: It’s one of my personal favorites too.)
The Foundation Trilogy was a huge influence on Elon Musk.
This sci-fi trilogy by Isaac Asimov has had a huge influence on the thinking of Elon Musk. According to Farnam Street, the book taught him that “the lessons of history would suggest that civilizations move in cycles. You can track that back quite far — the Babylonians, the Sumerians, followed by the Egyptians, the Romans, China. We’re obviously in a very upward cycle right now and hopefully that remains the case. But it may not. There could be some series of events that cause that technology level to decline.”
Musk has also mentioned The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as one of his favorite reads, claiming it taught him that “the question is harder than the answer. When we ask questions, they come along with our biases. You should really ask, ‘Is this the right question?’ And that’s hard to figure out.”
Check out the complete post for several more titans of business recommending their favorite fiction.