Imagine sitting down and having a conversation with an ultra-successful self-made billionaire like Warren Buffett, Mark Cuban or Oprah Winfrey. What could you learn if you spent an afternoon with Richard Branson or Bill Gates?
Can you imagine all the interesting tidbits or helpful advice they might give you? The personalities mentioned above have all lived very different lives but have found their own path to achieve their ambitions. Meeting these people in person is probably beyond reach for most of us, but thanks to the power of reading, we have access to these amazing innovators and groundbreakers.
Many billionaires have written books detailing their lives and the lessons learned as they built their fortunes. Here are 11 fascinating and insightful books written by billionaires that you should read if you hope to follow in their footsteps.
1. Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson
If there’s one thing readers will take away from this book, it’s how much fun Richard Branson has in everything he does. This internationally best-selling autobiography details Branson’s life, from dropping out of school to founding what would become one of the most influential music labels and a transatlantic airline to setting world records in ballooning and boating across oceans.
Since Losing My Virginity was published in 1998, Branson has published a number of other well-received books, including his updated autobiography, Finding My Virginity, which picks up where this one ends.
2. Business @ the Speed of Thought by Bill Gates
Business @ the Speed of Thought is a must read for business leaders who want to use information flow to gain a competitive edge. Although it was published two decades ago, the examples Gates provides are still relevant and insightful today.
Gates argues that businesses need a digital counterpart to the human nervous system. Businesses with an effective nervous system will have access to the information its leaders need to make good decisions and take action. Gates poses questions to get business leaders thinking about how to improve their process. Does your business have the information flow that enables managers to get the data they need to make decisions? Can employees get access to important data on a daily basis? If not, it’s time to build an information system that works.
3. The Essays of Warren Buffett by Warren Buffett
The Essays of Warren Buffet is a collection of wisdom pulled from Buffett’s annual letters to Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholders. Buffett, who is often hailed as the “Oracle of Omaha” for building his immense wealth through wise long-term investing, shares a lifetime of advice in this book. Each essay gives extraordinary insight into his business philosophy.
The book preserves the integrity of Buffett’s words while organizing his letters by theme into a reader-friendly format. This book covers everything from ethics in business to advice on long-term stock investments, and details many of Buffett’s tried-and-true strategies. It offers sage advice and important lessons on how to conduct business, while revealing Buffett’s perspective on how to navigate both personal and professional decision-making.
4. Made in America by Sam Walton
This is Sam Walton’s autobiographical account of how he went from running a single dime store to building his Walmart empire. Made in America candidly shares the story of how he became the undisputed merchant king of the world.
The book was written shortly before Walton’s death in 1992. Walton comes across as humble and modest as he details his ambitions and achievements, as well as the mistakes he made. He shares rich anecdotes about his time navigating both small-town America and Wall Street.
5. What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey has made history with her legendary talk show, launching her own television network and becoming the nation’s first African-American billionaire. But it’s the difficult and often heart-wrenching moments of her life that shaped Winfrey into the amazingly successful woman she is.
In What I Know for Sure, Winfrey shares her experiences and insights into overcoming hardships during her childhood and adult life. Lonely and abused as a child and teenager, Winfrey learned to fend for herself and make her own way in life. Her many struggles have transformed her and taught her resilience, and she used that strength to forge a path toward reaching her full potential as she turned her talk show into a media, entertainment and business empire.
6. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
In Shoe Dog, Phil Knight delves into his past and gives readers an up-close look at the highs, lows and surprising twists behind the creation of what is now the ultra-successful Nike brand. Although a shy and a lackluster salesperson, Knight was daring and resourceful as he followed his vision of selling quality athletic footwear.
With his unconventional yet brilliant team of misfits, he worked tirelessly and weathered lawsuits and scandals. Though many doubted his ability to succeed, he built a company that eventually took on established global powerhouses of athletic wear, such as Adidas, to become the behemoth it is now.
7. Onward by Howard Schultz
This is the story of how Starbucks overcame rocky terrain to become a global coffee chain of behemoth proportions. In 2008, Howard Schultz decided to return as CEO of Starbucks to help restore its financial health and bring the company back to its core values.
In Onward, Schultz is honest with readers about the process and the tough decisions that had to be made along the way. He offers insight into his leadership philosophy: it’s not about winning, it’s about the right way to win. This is a great read for anyone who wants to understand leadership strategies in action and improve the connection between the brand and the customer.
8. How to Win at the Sport of Business by Mark Cuban
Using the most insightful material from his popular blog, Blog Maverick, Mark Cuban gives readers a front-row seat to his unconventional yet highly effective ideas on becoming a successful entrepreneur.
In How to Win at the Sport of Business, the Dallas Mavericks owner and “Shark Tank” investor writes candidly about how he went from sleeping on friends’ couches in his 20s to owning his own company and becoming a multi-billionaire. This concise book offers great gems on building a lucrative business and advice on progressing in both personal and business growth.
9. How to Be Rich by J. Paul Getty
Jean Paul Getty, widely known as J. Paul Getty, was an American industrialist who amassed a fortune acquiring oil companies through often ingenious stock takeovers. He was named as the richest living American in 1957, and was worth more than $6 billion (approximately $24.42 billion in 2019) when he died in 1976.
In How to Be Rich, which was first published in 1965, Getty discloses the secrets to his success and provides a blueprint for those who seek to follow in his footsteps. Getty, who was infamously frugal despite being one of the richest men in the world, also delves into the issues of what to do with your wealth once you accrue it. His insights on how to invest in the stock market are still useful today, as are his many practical tips on business fundamentals.
10. Direct from Dell by Michael Dell
Using personal anecdotes from his entrepreneurial life, in Direct from Dell Michael Dell details his journey to building his multinational computer technology company. He was a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Texas when he used $1,000 to launch his business. But his story begins even earlier, with his childhood adventures and ambitions. As a teenager, he took on a summer job selling newspaper subscriptions.
By analyzing sales, he was able to better target potential customers. Learning these entrepreneurial skills early on helped him as he pioneered Dell’s build-to-order and direct sales business model for selling computers. He remained at the helm of the company, weathering early struggles and watching his company’s stock rise more than 36,000 percent over the next decade. Dell is now one of the largest technology corporations in the world.