The Bookshelves of 18 Extraordinary People (Infographic)

by Brendan Brown | March 4, 2021, 5:53 am

What do Donald Trump, Taylor Swift, The Duchess of Cambridge and Noam Chomsky all have in common? Apart from being extraordinarily successful, they love to read.

While research studies have long confirmed that reading is an important neurological activity that can strengthen the brain and improve wellbeing, the reading lists of 18 amazing people demonstrate this fact in real life.

And we aren’t talking thick, super-intense non-fiction (though Noam Chomsky has some pretty heavy titles in his must reads); novels also play an important role.

Reading fiction is known to improve a reader’s ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes and trigger the imagination in a way that is similar to the visualisation of a muscle memory in sports. And the 18 incredibly successful people we’ve profiled below innately know this as novels are common to nearly all their book shelves.

Barak Obama reads Moby Dick with as much vigour as titles by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Bill Gates (who reads a book every week) values The Catcher in the Rye alongside The Man Who Fed the World. Even the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, likes dog-earred copies of the Harry Potter series as much as Now, Discover Your Strengths and Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values.

Unlike the 42% of US college graduates who will never read a book again after graduating college or the 80% of the population who didn’t buy a book in the last year, our 18 super-success heroes opt for reading over other past times, believing that books are a gateway to learning, knowledge and personal power.

What do serious game changers such as Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and Barack Obama have in common? They not only read books on a regular basis, but books have actually changed their lives, affecting the people that they are today. Do you have some favorite books in common with them? Perhaps you can become inspired to read one of their favorite books.

Elon Musk

The first commercial rocket launch from the NASA launch pad was successfully accomplished by Space X and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in early 2017. Although this event is historic, it should come as no surprise for Elon Musk. Rockets have been a fascination for Musk since he was a child. He first got into rocket building when he was 8 years old by reading how-to books on making rockets. He told a reporter that he was “raised by books”. Musk states that book reading has been monumental in helping him become successful. Some of his favorite books include The Lord of the Rings triology, Ignition! An informal history of liquid rocket propellants, and Einstein: His Life and Universe.

Mark Zuckerberg

He adores books. So much so, that in 2015, he hosted a book club on his Facebook account which made a book recommendation to his Facebook followers every two months for the entire year. He focussed upon books which stressed learning about new cultures, histories, and technologies. Some of Zuckerberg’s favorite books include Why Nations Fall, The New Jim Crow, Genome, and The Varieties of Religious Experience.

Gretchin Rubin

Rubin is the author of of four New York Times bestsellers: The Four Tendencies, Better than Before, The Happiness Project, and Happier at Home. Rubin claims that her nightstand is always crowded with books. According to Rubin, the books you won’t find on her nightstand are the ones that carry the theme of “unjust accusation”. “No ‘Atonement,’ ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ or ‘Othello’ for me,” she says. So what books do Rubin favor? The Habit of Being, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Life of Pi are some of her favorites.

Bill Gates

Gates loves to read so much that whenever he goes on vacation, he has to bring a duffle-bag full of books with him. Gates says that he reads 50 books a year, which is about one book per week. He tends to stay away from starting any book which he cannot see himself finishing. He advises everyone to dedicate at least an hour at a time for serious reading. He recommends that pondering over the material can add value to what you are reading. His favorite books include How to Lie with Statistics, The Catcher in the Rye, and How Asia Works.

Jeff Bezos

He is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Amazon, the largest online shopping retailer. He was recognized as the wealthiest person in the world on March 6, 2018. He has a registered net worth of $112 billion, and is the first centi-billionaire. His favorite book is Remains of the Day.

Barack Obama

The former President of the United States posted his favorite books and music of 2017 on Facebook. In 2013, Obama said “Reading is important. If you know how to read then the whole world opens up to you.” His favorites include Souls of Black Folk, Gilead, and Moby Dick.

Pope Francis

The 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church loves to read. Although the Bible is his favorite book, he also enjoys Dostoevsky classics such as The Brothers Karamazov. Other books include The Major Works, and Quo Vadis.

Oprah Winfrey

The famous Oprah Winfrey book club has encouraged many people to open up their lives to book reading. Books have played an important role in Oprah’s life, and she is a fervent advocate for literacy and reading. Her favorites include East of Eden, A New Earth, and The Known World.

Noam Chomsky

The American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, and political activist, is an author of many books himself. He enjoys reading nineteenth century literature during his free time. Some of his favorite books are The Theory of Power, Bad Samaritans, and Whose Crisis? Whose Future?

Larry Page

The computer scientist,co-founder of Google, and CEO of Alphabet Inc. was deeply affected by Nikola Tesla’s autobiography when he was 12 years old. Page is the ninth wealthiest person in the world as of April 28, 2018, with a net worth of $48.3 billion. He invented PageRank, which is Google’s most famous search ranking algorithm. This invention earned him the Marconi Prize in 2004, together with Google co-founder Sergey Brin. His favorite books include What Do You Care What Other People Think?, and Pleasure of Finding Things Out.

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