The Best Books of 2018, According to CEOs
The CEO crowd isn’t the best place to go for book suggestions because they have so little free time to read. Nevertheless, we asked in our recent survey of Fortune 500 CEOs: What’s the best book you have read in the last year? And we got a grab bag of answers–some 40 different books, ranging from autobiographies (Long Walk to Freedom) to classics (The Bible) to fiction (I Am Pilgrim) to nonfiction (The Soul of America.)
Only seven books got mentioned more than once, so I’ll highlight those here. Author Ron Chernow wins the prize for writing two of the seven: Grant (3 mentions) and Alexander Hamilton (2). The only book besides Grant to get three mentions was Principles, which is billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio’s effort to share the secrets of his success with the rest of the world. Worth noting that a fourth CEO cited Radical Candor, by former Google executive Kim Scott, who shares a key element of Dalio’s philosophy.
Four other books got two mentions:
— The Rise and Fall of American Growth, by economist Robert Gordon (we didn’t ask whether they actually finished the 785-page tome.)
— Grit, by psychologist Angela Duckworth, which claims to offer the secret to success in any field.
— Hillbilly Elegy, the highly readable memoir of J.D. Vance, which rocketed on the bestseller lists after Trump’s election.
—And the classic guide to business success, Good to Great, written by Jim Collins nearly two decades ago, but still captivating business readers today.
Meanwhile, since it’s Friday, a bit of reader feedback:
D.M., who works as a recruiter, took a cynical view of my report that nearly 15% of Fortune 500 CEOs used the term “servant leadership” to describe their own leadership style. “Not to sound cynical,” he said, but “servant leadership, while noble in theory and widely proclaimed, rarely exists in reality and/or execution…Here’s hoping we see a new trend of ‘practicing what they preach.’”
And P.B. commented on my report that most CEOs, while convinced AI is “very important” to their business, are making only modest investments in it. “The fast follower approach does not bode well for these companies.”
This article originally appeared in CEO Daily, Fortune’s newsletter for leaders. Subscribe.