12 books that CEOs think you should read in 2019

Consider adding these nonfiction titles on entrepreneurship and economics to your reading list.

12 books that CEOs think you should read in 2019

If you’re a founder or aspiring entrepreneur, perhaps you’re looking to round out your reading list for 2019 with a few inspiring business reads. We asked entrepreneurs to offer their book recommendations for the new year, including both recent releases and older favorites. A number of CEOs lauded the first book on this list–one you might have already picked up over the holidays–but keep reading for other titles you may have overlooked.


Becoming by Michelle Obama

Everyone has a journey on the road to success, paved with triumphs and disappointments that are often invisible to the outside world. It’s a gift to read Mrs. Obama’s authentic and candid story that reflects the experience of so many of us. –Lisa Skeete Tatum, CEO of career management startup Landit

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman, the author, is a nobel laureate and psychologist who has dedicated most of his career to understanding the mechanisms for decision-making. This book is an exploration of the two “systems” we use to form judgements: System 1, which is more or less impulse and strongly swayed by emotion, and System 2, which is how we solve long division problems–our slower and more analytical thought processes. What’s fascinating is how often we fall into “cognitive illusions” or “cognitive bias” because of our dependencies on System 1. We are all trying to make better decisions more quickly, and this book gives really actionable advice on how to do this while explaining why we are the way we are. –Nicole Centeno, CEO of food startup Splendid Spoon

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

This is my entrepreneurial bible. So many lessons from this book are applicable daily. I’ve incorporated pieces of it into our executive and employee success playbook internally. –Falon Fatemi, CEO of AI startup Node


Netflixed: The Epic Battle for America’s Eyeballs by Gina Keating

I’m in the middle of the book Netflixed. I’d definitely recommend it to any entrepreneur. It’s about the true startup hustle behind a company that redefined an industry. Netflix succeeded because of great strategy and a great team, but also a few lucky breaks. –Shan-Lyn Ma, CEO of wedding startup Zola

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas

The three books this year that really helped me question the premises we are often building off of and gave me language for things I’ve felt are Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown, Winners Takes All by Anand Giridharadas, and finally Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister. I’m so grateful for those authors and their work to help bring context to our moment in such different but important ways.” –Karla Monterroso, CEO of the diversity nonprofit Code2040

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

I get recommendations for business books all the time that are incredibly interesting, but I sometimes find that the books that actually impact my business are ones that have nothing to do with commerce. I’m a big fan of Brené Brown and her work on vulnerability and empathy. Her book Daring Greatly is a fantastic work that has helped inform how Maiden Home interacts with the ecosystem we’re building between our craftsmen partners in North Carolina, the Maiden Home team in New York, and our customers all over the U.S. –Nidhi Kapur, CEO of furniture startup Maiden Home


High Growth Handbook by Elad Gil

If you are in a position where you establish product-market fit and are now pondering next steps and how to scale, this book makes you feel as though you are consulting and being mentored by past successful entrepreneurs who have established themselves in Silicon Valley. Culture Code by Daniel Coyle is also very cool. When thinking about scaling, you have to consider the culture you are building and in what way the people you bring in to your organization help and build upon that culture. –Jessica O. Matthews, CEO of energy startup Uncharted Power

Power Up: How Smart Women Win in the New Economy by Magdalena Yesil

Magdalena is an entrepreneur-turned-investor who’s been working in Silicon Valley for over 25 years and is well known for being the first investor in Salesforce. Her book, Power Up, is about her experience working in the Valley, and it’s eye-opening to see how many of her experiences felt relevant and resonated with my own 25 years later.” –Heidi Zak, CEO of lingerie startup ThirdLove

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis

This book is about merging areas of study–in this case, psychology and economics. I believe this is super important because it’s time for industries to start collaborating towards a common goal. These unlikely friends were able to discover things they would never have been able to had they remained in their silos. –Alicia Thomas, CEO of fitness startup Dibs

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling

I highly recommend Factfulness because we all need to be reminded that there are many changes in the world to be hopeful about and to build upon. Hans Rosling’s lifetime of helping us see the world more clearly is masterfully distilled in his last book. –Michelle Nunn, CEO of humanitarian aid organization Care


Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins

One of my all time favorite books, Good to Great really defines the reasons why some companies make the transition to greatness, and how to build an organization that can stand the test of time. I regularly pull from it as we are building Flow Kana to sit in that category of “great.” Also, Innovators Dilemma has been a great guide for me and a great way to ground our business as we quickly grow and scale. –Michael Steinmetz, CEO of cannabis startup Flow Kana

Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream by Andy Stern

The former head of the Service Employees International Union–now a friend–writes about Universal Basic Income (UBI). Andy Stern predicts machines will replace half of all American jobs in the next 20 years, aggravating economic inequality even further. With the rise of automation, if you want to end poverty or solve short-term crises (like the increasing number of man-made or natural disasters), giving people money and letting them make their own choices offers greater dignity, increases efficiency, and delivers better economic results. –Daniela Perdomo, CEO of mesh networking startup GoTenna

About the author

Pavithra Mohan is a staff writer for Fast Company.