Biz Lit – The Private Reading of Business Leaders

by Erin McCune on July 21, 2007

in Biz Lit

Despite the glut of business best sellers touting 10 step guides for high performance, innovation, and wooing investors top business leaders tend toward more esoteric and literary reading.

  • Apple CEO Steve Jobs amassed an extensive collection of books by William Blake the mad 18th Century poet and artist.
  • Phil Knight at Nike collects works on Asian history, art, and poetry.
  • Michael Milken's library is devoted to biographies, plays, novels, and papers on Galileo (link).

An article in today's New York Times explores the literary interests and book collections of a number of CEOs and business leaders. It may prompt you to expand your reading list…


It was the empty library room and its floor-to-ceiling ladder that made Shelly Lazarus, the chairwoman and chief executive of Ogilvy & Mather, fall in love with her house in the Berkshires, which was built in 1740. “When my husband and I moved in, we said, ‘We’re never going to fill this room,’ and just last week I realized we needed to build an addition to the library. Once I’ve read a book I keep it. It becomes a part of me.

“As head of a global company, everything attracts me as a reader, books about different cultures, countries, problems. I read for pleasure and to find other perspectives on how to think or solve a problem, like Jerome Groopman’s ‘How Doctors Think’; John Cornwall’s autobiography, ‘Seminary Boy’; ‘The Wife,’ a novel by Meg Wolitzer; and before that, ‘Team of Rivals.’

“David Ogilvy said advertising is a great field, anything prepares you for it,” she said. “That gives me license to read everything.”

Read more:

Business: C.E.O. Libraries Reveal Keys to Success
The New York Times
Published: July 21, 2007

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