The books we read throughout our lifetime can have a great influence on our intellectual and emotional development. You can tell a lot about a person by their favorite book, which is why it’s so interesting to know the favorite books of famous and successful people. Here, we have put together a list containing ten of the most influential people of the past century and what the book which had the greatest impact on their life was, starting with:
10. Jeff Bezos: The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro
Though he’s one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and he himself confessed he read a lot of science fiction when he was growing up, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos` favorite book is neither a business book nor one belonging to the sci-fi genre. Instead, it’s Kazuo Ishiguro’s 1989 novel The Remains of the Day, about an English butler named Mr. Stevens who tells the story of his life through his diary and flashbacks. Bezos was impressed with how perfectly written the book was, and how it touched on the subjects of life and regrets.
9. Will Smith, Madonna, and Pharrell Williams: The Alchemist, by Paolo Coelho
Though unlikely to ever win a Nobel Prize, Brazilian author Paolo Coelho has written a number of extremely popular books, none more successful than The Alchemist.
The story follows a young Andalusian shepherd named Santiago on a fantastical journey through Egypt, following his Personal Legend. The book, and its core theme, articulated as “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it,” has been an inspirations to countless people, including celebrities like Will Smith, Madonna, and Pharrell Williams.
8. Ronald Reagan: That Printer of Udell’s, by Harold Bell Wright
Ronald Reagan is revered by American conservatives for his socio-economic policies, but also for ramping up the so-called War on Drugs and for his strong stance against the soviets. All of these policies can be traced, to some extent at least, to Reagan’s favorite book growing up: That Printer of Udell’s, by Harold Bell Wright.
The book has Christian themes at its core, and inspired the future president to become a Presbyterian. It also gave him an unshakable belief that good eventually triumphs over evil – something which definitely guided him in his policy towards the URSS during his presidency.
7. J.K. Rowling: Emma, by Jane Austen
J.K. Rowling is one of the world’s most celebrated living authors, the first person to become a billionaire from writing books. So her choice of favorite book should be quite interesting.
That book is Emma, by another great English writer, Jane Austen. The novel, published in 1815, is a comedy of manners about the young, beautiful, and rich Emma Woodhouse, who doesn’t want to marry but likes to get involved in everyone else’s private lives. Rowling was particularly impressed by the mystery surrounding the relationship between two of the characters, Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax, who are secretly engaged throughout the story, and how well that part of the story was written. She also liked the way the character of Emma was developed, even stating that she identified with her to a great extent.
6. Sergey Brin: Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, by Ralph Leighton and Richard Feynman
As one of the people who created Google, Sergey Brin is one of the most important people in the tech industry today. So it’s somewhat fitting that his favorite book was about one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, and certainly one of the most influential scientists of the past few decades, Richard Feynman.
That book is a collection of anecdotes gathered together under the title Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, and it tells various stories from the great physicist’s life, like when he tried his hand a safe cracking, studied various languages, and even ventured into the arts and samba music. Feynman was a true polymath, determined to suck up as much knowledge as it was humanly possible, which is not too different to what Google’s mission is.
5. Tim Cook: Competing Against Time, by George Stalk Jr. and Thomas M. Hout
Alongside Steve Jobs, Tim Cook was one of the key people in turning the fortunes of Apple around back in the late 90s, making it the tech juggernaut it is today. It’s no surprise, then, that he took over as CEO of the company after Jobs died in 2011. Before Apple, Cook also worked at the likes of IBM and Compaq.
Cook’s favorite book is Competing Against Time, by George Stalk Jr. and Thomas M. Hout, which deals with the importance of time management in a modern company. By treating time like another resource, whether it’s in production, distribution, or R&D, companies can get ahead of their competition – something Apple has clearly done since Tim Cook has been in charge.
4. Kurt Kobain: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, by Patrick Süskind
If you’ve ever listened to Nirvana, you know their front man Kurt Kobain wasn’t exactly a sunny character – so it’s no surprise his favorite novel was a pretty dark one: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, by German author Patrick Süskind.
The book tells the story of an orphan named Jean-Baptiste Grenouille living in 18th century Paris. The boy has no scent, yet possesses an unusually keen sense of smell. The story takes a disturbing turn as the boy starts murdering girls in order to preserve their scent and create the perfect perfume for himself.
Kobain said he read the book at least ten times and always carried it around with him. The novel also inspired the song Scentless Apprentice from the 1993 Nirvana album In Utero.
3. James Dean: The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Don’t mistake The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, for just another children’s book. The author himself called it “a book for children that is written for adults,” as it deals with the disillusionment of growing up and becoming an adult.
Legendary movie star James Dean read The Little Prince in high school and it became his favorite book. The “rebel without a cause” took it with him wherever he went and one line from the book (“what is essential is invisible to the eye”) appears as part of an inscription on the memorial near his crash site. James Dean died at the age of 24.
2. Mark Zuckerberg: The Aeneid, by Virgil
Mark Zuckerberg’s choice for favorite book is one of the most peculiar on this list. One of the world’s most influential computer nerds, the Facebook founder doesn’t have a science or a science fiction book listed as his favorite, although Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game was the first he “liked” on his Facebook page.
Instead, Zuckerberg’s favorite book is the ancient epic The Aeneid, by the Roman poet Virgil. It tells the story of the Trojan hero Aeneas, who flees the city after its fall in the famous siege, and embarks on a long journey which ultimately leads to the founding of Rome, which would become the greatest empire the world had ever see. Zuckerberg himself started a tech empire and the greatest social network the world has ever seen, so there is parallel a there if that’s what you’re looking for.
1. Albert Einstein: A Treatise of Human Nature by David Hume
Albert Einstein was one of the greatest minds of his time, so people are naturally interested to know which books influenced his development and his thought. Remarkably, his favorite is not a scientific book, but it isn’t some literary work either – it’s in fact A Treatise of Human Nature by Scottish philosopher David Hume.
Published in between 1738 and 1740, the book consists of three parts and deals with rather deep and complicated philosophical ideas, like the origin of ideas, the nature of free will, and the notions of justice and justice. No doubt such an abstract and thorough was quite appealing to a mind such as Einstein’s.