Famous Bookshelves: 15 Nonfiction Books Successful People Recommend

Michael Benninger
7 min readJul 6, 2020


If you’re like many ambitious readers, you likely started this year with a stack of unread books you only dreamed about having the time to finish. But six months and one pandemic later, and there’s a good chance you’ve read them all, leaving you looking for some new titles to tear into.

Finding new books to read can be a challenge if you’re not sure where to look for inspiration or what sources to trust for recommendations. Yet at Blinkist, we’ve found that one of the best ways to replenish your reading list is to consider what books are captivating the minds of today’s most influential individuals. So to help you find your next favorite reads, here’s a glimpse of 15 books recommended by famous people, including notable authors, entertainers, and entrepreneurs.

1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Recommended by Emma Watson, Terry Crews, and Maria Popova

In Man’s Search for Meaning, author and psychologist Viktor Frankl describes the harrowing experiences he faced during his internment at Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. Rather than letting the Holocaust strip him of hope — and his will to live — Frankl explains how this horrific time helped him develop a psychotherapeutic method that allowed him to stay sane in the face of unfathomable atrocities by discovering deeper meaning in his own life.

2. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Recommended by Bill Gates, Joe Rogan, and Whitney Cummings

Offering a captivating look at the history of humanity from the Stone Age through to the present day, Sapiens provides an enlightening overview of our evolution and explains how homo sapiens managed to outlast several other hominid species. By learning about the most significant events in our 300,000-year history, readers will understand our species’ journey from primitive apes to the top of the food chain and into the modern era.

3. Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio

Recommended by Arianna Huffington, Mark Cuban, and Michael Bloomberg

Highlighting the forces that have fueled one of the world’s wealthiest and most successful businesspeople, Principles shares the secrets to success that billionaire Ray Dalio has gleaned from his most meaningful personal and professional experiences. In addition to outlining the factors that influence decision-making, Dalio describes the tools entrepreneurs need to be analytical and successful even during these chaotic and confusing times.

4. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9–5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss

Recommended by Eric Weinstein, Ev Williams, and Tristan Harris

The 4-Hour Workweek explains how to attain the lifestyle you want and become more productive than ever before by automating your income and adopting the mindset of the “new rich.” Author Tim Ferriss explains how, like him, you can ditch your day job to pursue your dreams and enjoy a far more fulfilling life. After all, why spend your days behind a desk, when modern technology makes it easy to live life on your own terms?

5. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build The Future by Peter Thiel and Blast Masters

Recommended by Luis von Ahn, Kishore Biyani, and Andrew Ng

Based on lessons learned during the author’s experience as a venture capitalist, Zero to One explores how startups can better predict the future and how investors and entrepreneurs can take more appropriate actions to ensure their success. Furthermore, the book explains how tomorrow’s innovators are unlikely to resemble the famous ones we’re familiar with today, and how actual progress stems from monopolies rather than from competition.

6. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

Recommended by Larry Page, Marc Andreessen, and Matt Mullenweg

In The Hard Things About Hard Things, author Ben Horowitz explains how the job of a CEO is among the toughest and loneliest occupations in the world. Having to fire friends or lay off an entire division can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety, but fortunately, this guide offers techniques to help chief executives survive challenging times and become incredible leaders, all while accepting ultimate responsibility for their company’s fate.

7. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Recommended by Daymond John, Dustin Moskovitz, and Warren Buffett

How to Win Friends and Influence People provides a step-by-step guide for getting others to agree with you. This self-help classic from 1936 presents basic rules for making a good first impression and convincing others to share your perspective. The book explains how by adhering to deceptively simple tactics such as smiling, listening, and exhibiting appreciation, you’ll instantly appear more popular and persuasive in the eyes of those around you.

8. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

Recommended by Alexis Ohanian, Charlie Munger, and Guy Kawasaki

To meet the demands of an increasingly complex world, our brains create shortcuts when it comes to making decisions. Marketers, salespeople, and advertising executives are especially skilled at exploiting this aspect of our psychology. In Influence, Professor Robert Cialdini explains how readers can use these shortcuts to their advantage and become more skilled persuaders who are adept at eliciting the word “yes.”

9. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Recommended by Bryan Johnson, Derek Sivers, and Stewart Brand

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman explores the dual nature of the human mind, where one side is intuitive and impulsive and the other is calculating and data-driven. Kahneman also goes in great detail regarding the psychological factors that influence our decision-making, and he explains why certain judgment errors are so common and what we can do to avoid them.

10. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker

Recommended by A.J. Jacobs, Eric Schmidt, and Jack Kornfield

Though it seems hard to believe, despite all of the violence making headlines around the world today, we’re actually through the most peaceful era in human history. In The Better Angels of Our Nature, psychologist Steven Pinker details the role of violence in modern society, and he explains why humans exert aggression in certain circumstances yet restrain us from using it in others, leaving us to live in a world where we’re overcoming our primitive urges.

11. Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam Grant

Recommended by Ashton Kutcher, Susan Cain, and Seth Godin

In Give and Take, author Adam Grant demonstrates how generous people are more likely to achieve greatness than selfish individuals who are more focused on competition and taking from others. Through research and historical evidence, Grant reveals that takers don’t always win, and it’s actually givers who can achieve the top positions in society because by focusing on the greater good and see potential in everyone they meet.

12. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

Recommended by Brian Koppelman, Marie Forleo, and Ryan Holiday

The War of Art offers an examination of the negative forces that keep many of us from realizing our dreams, and it explains how we can defeat our fears in order to achieve our most ambitious creative goals. Readers will learn how the force of resistance prevents us from realizing our full potential, and how we can leverage hard work and persistence to realize your dreams and finally stop putting off our projects until tomorrow.

13. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Recommended by Jack Dorsey, Sam Altman, and Anna Kendrick

In Meditations, discover the stoic thinking of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, the quintessential philosopher-king who reigned during the Pax Romana. Featuring philosophical ruminations on the meaning of death and justice, this book also explains the nature of the world and why things happen the way they do. Learn how by embracing the ideas and traditions of Greek Stoicism, you can use self-control and calmness to overcome negative emotions.

14. High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove

Recommended by Brian Chesky, Larry Ellison, and Tobi Lütke

As the nature of work is evolving in unforeseen ways, the responsibilities of managers are becoming increasingly complex. In High Output Management, the former CEO of Intel offers eye-opening tips for successfully running a business, and he explains how managers can effectively encourage their employees to deliver their peak performance. Readers will learn how to make knowledgeable decisions, as well as how to motivate workers to achieve greatness.

15. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Recommended by Elon Musk, Gary Vaynerchuk, and George Raveling

Chronicling the life of the single-minded entrepreneur who co-founded Apple Inc., Steve Jobs is an in-depth biography that recounts the entrepreneur’s early experiences with meditation and hallucinogens and details how his relentless perfectionism led him to become one of the most influential visionaries in history. Discover the forces that shaped this iconic innovator who helped define modern computing while revolutionizing the role of technology in our lives.

Now that you know about the books recommended by many of the world’s most successful people, open the Blinkist app to take a deeper dive into any of these titles. Our library includes more than 3,500 books on topics ranging from science to psychology and fitness to finance. Plus, we add about 70 new titles to our app each month, so there’s always something new to learn. So what will you learn next?

Originally published at https://www.blinkist.com.