There’s no shame in finding business tips and tricks on TikTok. But if you want to follow in the footsteps of your favorite entrepreneur or tech titan – think Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett or Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg, for instance – you might want to crack open one of the books where they picked up some of their most valuable lessons.
Zuckerberg, for instance, wrote in a 2015 Facebook post that he liked to read “first-hand accounts about how people build great companies.” The 37-year-old billionaire turns to those books, he said in another post, for insight into “what causes innovation — what kinds of people, questions and environments,”
He’s far from alone, especially among his fellow successful business leaders.
Below, four entrepreneurs share the books that shaped their careers, business strategies, and — in a few cases — the way they think:
1. Mark Zuckerberg
In 2015, Zuckerberg read “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration,” by Alice Wallace and Edwin Catmull, co-founder of Pixar. It tells the story of how the animation studio became a titan of entertainment innovation.
It appears Zuckerberg took at least one lesson from the book: “Don’t wait for things to be before you share them with others,” Catmull wrote in the book. “Show early and show often. It’ll be pretty when we get there, but it won’t be pretty along the way.”
“Done is better than perfect” was painted on Meta headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
Zuckerberg wrote he was also struck by Jon Gertner’s “The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation,” which tells the history of Bell Labs – which was founded by Alexander Graham Bell and is now owned by Nokia.
“Shark Tank” investor Daymond John told CNBC Make It in 2018 that a handful of books changed his life. Some of those titles include “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey and “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter.
But John – and fellow Sharks Barbara Corcoran and Robert Herjavec – have also recommended Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich.” The 1937 business book contains interviews with Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and Charles M. Schwab, and it dissects the psychology behind why people earn fortunes – or why not.
“The book teaches you: If you can imagine it, you can accomplish it,” Corcoran said in a 2017 documentary based on the book, called “Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy.” She also said the book taught her she could “always hire the attributes in the next guy that you don’t have yourself.”
3. Warren Buffett
Buffett also learned the best business advice comes from people who know the industry. In the documentary “Becoming Warren Buffet,” the billionaire investor said as a 7-year-old he’d already “virtually memorized” F. C. Minaker’s “One Thousand Ways to Make $1,000.” The book – now out of print – contains anecdotes about retailer James Cash Penney, of J.C. Penney fame, and other successful entrepreneurs.
In 1988, Buffett told Fortune magazine that the book – which discloses practical business lessons about compound interest, sales and investing – inspired him to start selling Coca-Cola, newspapers and gum door-to-door.
To develop business acumen, prominent businessmen Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have also recommended “Business Adventures,” journalist John Brooks’ breakdown of notable moments in the histories of iconic American companies like Ford and General Electric. Buffett loaned Gates the book in 1991 and Gates noted he still had it in a 2014 blog post.